Thesis » Update: Week 4

2 minute read

Still more office hours w/ faculty (though fewer this week than last):

Early last week I tracked down a Steenbeck repair and maintenance business out of Boston and sent an inquiry to the generic email contact address.

I got a reply from Dwight Cody (pretty sure he’s a one man operation) and was completely thrown when he asked if I was using the parts for an art project. It took me a few but I realized my school email signature mentions ITP. He must have done some googling. Another round of email and I had photos and quotes for the parts I’m looking for.

It was thrilling to have tracked down a vendor but I had to exercise some restraint to keep from impulse buying without first laying eyes and hands on something physical. So I wrote Natalie LeBrecht, the Program Admin for Graduate Film at Tisch, in search of a Steenbeck.

Natalie was at a loss but later that night I ran into classmate Ryan Grippi who works at Tisch full time in Production. He pulled out his phone, made a call, hung up and said I’d find what I was looking for at 721 Broadway in Room 1171, adding if I asked for Ben Pessin in Post I’d probably make his day.

That was Tuesday.

On Wednesday I found the flatbed shoved in an alcove, forsaken and all but forgotten, in a room full of students cutting video on high end workstations.

Steenbeck flatbed film editor console.

Detail of Steenbeck flatbed film editor console.

Detail of Steenbeck flatbed film editor console.

Detail of Steenbeck flatbed film editor console.

I went out of my way to tell the TA what I was up to but he must have narc’d on me because Ben Pessin showed up not five minutes after I started playing with the console. Nice guy. He looked vaguely amused when I told him what I was up to but eager to help and gave me contact info for a Paul Tomasko in Saugerties who also maintains and refurbishes Steenbecks.

I gave Paul Tomasko a ring the next day. Another nice guy. Old school film technicians are often lovely people. Can’t say for sure what was going through Tomasko’s head when I told him I was sourcing Steenbeck parts to build a control surface for reading electronic text but he stopped to think when I asked him if he could describe the difference in ‘feel’ between the two different designs (detents and cam-actuated microswitches vs magnetic steps and a pot). He had a hard time giving it language and kept defaulting to lever position and speed in frames per second but he seemed to appreciate that I was interested in specifics.

I suppose the kooks who started this whole ‘physical computing’ thing at ITP must have had some idea what they were doing.