Petrified Forest and Painted Desert: Yes, you can digitize Tru Vue.

I recently got into a discussion with someone who collects Tru Vue to a much greater extent than I – I have a few piles of rolls I bought for cheap because they’re fun, but he’s a bit of a fanatic. Thing is, he has some rare rolls that he therefore doesn’t look at – Tru Vue viewers tend to scratch up the actual images, so the more you enjoy them, the more degraded they become. So I suggest he digitize his rare rolls so that he could look at (and share) them, instead of letting them sit on a shelf. He said that this wasn’t possible – there was no way of safely digitizing Tru Vue to get full-quality scans. Therefore…

A scan of the title frame for Tru Vue #809 “Petrified Forest and Painted Desert”.

…I digitized a roll. For those that don’t know, Tru Vue is a toy format that features only slightly higher image resolution than ViewMaster, who later bought them out in order to obtain their rights to produce Disney content. Basically, a total of 14 (occasionally 15, and sometimes 10) stereo pairs are interspersed on a roll of 35mm film in much the same means as done with Stereo Realist – although this predates Realist by decades. Instead of producing Realist-like pairs that would be mounted, Tru View printed positives from the original negative strips, which would be wound through a viewer capable of advancing the film. The first Tru Vue products were released in 1932, and the company was effectively ended in this format in about 1951.

I’ll get into the “how I did it in under an hour” in a later, instructional post, so that you can digitize your collection too. For now, I’m a bit tired, so I’ll just post the stereo pairs (quickly cobbled together) and anaglyphs and let you enjoy these early Arizona shots:

Of course, I’ve digitized them warts-and-all; since I was prepared to try a number of different methods, I picked a film that I had a dodgy duplicate of – and used that dodgy duplicate. But despite the scratches and stuff, this is still decent photography – miles ahead of certain VistaScreen sets I could mention, and two decades before – and it anaglyphs fairly well:

And that’s how it goes when people tell me what is and isn’t possible: I tend to attempt the impossible. Next up, I’m going to write a proof that black is white and white, black, and get killed at the next zebra crossing.

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