In most cases, film slates provide basic information about the scene that follows. In our military holdings, the slates tell us the unit, who the cameraman is, and the film’s subject. Sometimes the camera model is identified and the location and date are included.
Slates are meant to be functional and pass by quickly. In fact, we usually barely notice them at all.
Last week was an exception. After spending a good chunk of time transferring a researcher request that consisted of half-hour long reels of silent unedited footage of Vietnam-era river patrol boats (also called PBRs for their official name, “Patrol Boat, River“), I came across this slate:
I think I can safely say that in all the hours of unedited footage I’ve inspected or transferred, I have never before seen a shark boat. This slate serves as a reminder that when dealing with moving images, even the most ordinary aspect can contain extraordinary detail. Don’t blink or you might miss it!