Documentary Premiere: RIP Letterpress, A 3D Video by Ken Love

Dan Staff Image

Pittsburgh is a newspaper town. At one time, readers in Pittsburgh could choose from several daily newspapers ranging from those that are still publishing, or at least were in recent memory (Post-Gazette, Courier, Pittsburgh Press) to many papers that were important to the communities that they served, including many non-English titles, but have long since ceased publication and are all but forgotten. The University of Pittsburgh’s University Library System lists dozens of titles in its collection mostly on microfilm, by the decade in which they were published; and here at CLP, we also have dozens of titles in a variety of formats, primarily held on the third floor of the Main Library. That’s a lot of news!

And even with today’s decidedly bleak outlook for daily newspapers, the Pittsburgh market still has two major dailies and a number of weekly publications, such as the New Courier, that, at least for now, suggest that to some extent print, and definitely reading in general, still has a place in people’s news consumption habits.

The Post-Gazette evidently feels confident enough in the future of print newspapers to invest significantly in a high tech new printing facility which, in 2014, replaced the old press facilities on the Boulevard of the Allies, from which millions of newspapers rolled out every day for 88 years, first for the Pittsburgh Press and, since 1962, for the Post-Gazette.

March 7, 2004 Old media: Goss newspaper press from the 1950s with a pile of newsprint on the floor. Photo by Jim Mendenhall.
March 7, 2004 Old media: Goss newspaper press from the 1950s with a pile of newsprint on the floor. Photo by Jim Mendenhall.

The significance of this move, and the closure of what at the time was one of the oldest operating printing presses in the nation, was not lost on filmmaker Ken Love. Love is a Pittsburgh native whose career has included photography and film production for National Geographic and whose locally-focused work includes One Shot: The Life and Work of Teenie Harris. He had recently begun working in a new 3D format that required no glasses for a virtual tour of Fallingwater for people who cannot navigate the steps, and saw an opportunity to use this technology to capture the experience of the massive antique presses at PG facility. He managed to get the appropriate permissions and was able to film inside the presses right before they were set to close.

The resulting film, The Letterpress RIP: A 3D Video by Ken Love, will premiere at CLP – Main from 1-4pm this Saturday, July 30th. The premiere event will include screening of the film at a variety of stations set up around the library and a panel discussion with Ken, men who worked the presses, journalists and CLP’s President and Director Mary Frances Cooper. There will also be refreshments and activities for the whole family.

Here’s a description of the film:

Remember watching the old Pittsburgh Post-Gazette presses through the windows on the Boulevard of the Allies? In this technologically innovative documentary 3D film by celebrated photographer and documentary filmmaker Ken Love, with 3D content remastering by Rembrandt3D, see behind the glass of a story that follows the paper on its serpentine journey through the presses, history and technological change. Rembrandt 3D will be providing glasses‐free 3D LCD displays for this special premiere event. A panel discussion about the presses, the workers, the history of the newspaper, technology and change, and insider info from the filmmaker, will follow the screening.

I am one of only a handful of people who have had an opportunity to view this short film, and it is truly a remarkable documentary. The 3D format provides great depth, and as I watched the papers wind through the press and listen to the stories of the people who worked long hours in this hot, loud, and ink-covered facility, it really made the appearance of that paper on my stoop every morning seem all the more miraculous. This film celebrates the history of Pittsburgh and the role of working women and men in creating that history.

I hope you can join us for the premiere, but if you cannot make it on Saturday, the film, which is under 30 minutes long will be on exhibition in the Main Library through the fall, so you will have plenty of time to see this fantastic film.

-Dan

Dan is a librarian who works on outreach, partnerships, and all sorts of other library work. If he managed to finish half of the books (mostly big novels and nonfiction) he starts, he’d be pretty well-read. Alas, most weeks the poems and restaurant review in The New Yorker will have to suffice.