Review of the advantages of the Belgian turntable rollout system for photographing Maya, Peruvian, and other cylindrical art objects; this 70mm film camera offers capabilities over home made systems elsewhere.

The first rollout camera that FLAAR acquired was precision made in Belgium. This is the system that was used to produce the professional rollout photographs by Lin Crocker-Deletaille for the coffee table book, "Rediscovered Masterpieces."

Rollout from 70mm Belgian rollout camera.

Incised Maya vase, Central Lowlands, circa A.D. 730, photographed in Germany.

Since we have three rollout systems we are considering selling the Belgian system.


This system uses 100-foot rolls of Ektachrome transparency film or Agfa You can easily cut it to shorter rolls to have developed as 220 size film in most professional labs worldwide.

The 70 mm film can be easily digitized by using any flatbed scanner. We recommend the Umax PowerLook 3.

Each rollout is about 2 inches in length (by 70 mm high). Large pots such as basal flange bowls are about 8 inches or more in rollout length.

Rollouts from the Belgian system achieve a high order of precision because the mathematics of the turntable speed, vessel circumference, and focusing distance were all worked out in advance by the builder, mathematically, not with trial and error guesses. These measurements were turned into a sliderule-like calculator, the first of its kind on a rollout camera.

Fuzziness in rollout photographs is an inherent result of lack of synchronization and other factors. When the vase and the film are out of synch, then the resulting image looks sort of out of focus. It takes considerable patience to get a dimensionally accurate rollout from any system, but the capable individual who designed the Belgian system obviously recognized the need for avoiding guessing at rotational speed. He was able to work out the complex mathematics involved and incorporate these formulae into a mechanical rollout system.

People who have seen rollouts from this Belgian camera notice the quality of focus and rotational accuracy. You do not notice the defects in a good rollout photograph until you enlarge it. If 50% of your rollouts can enlarge to 11x17 inch size you have a good basic system. If you can enlarge 50% of your rollouts to a meter wide, you have an exceptional system.

The two advantages of a mechanical rollout system are first, that you spare the cost of a computer. And second, you always have an actual piece of film to show the results. In this case a strip of 70 mm film where you can see all the original colors quite well.

These reviews and discussion were posted in March 1999 as background and digital handouts for two lectures Professor Hellmuth is giving at various universities. Dr Hellmuth speaks on the advances in digital rollout technology in art history at the Universitaet Bremen in northern Germany in mid-April and a few days later will address the Dept. of Anthropology at Washington University in St Louis on the role of advanced digital imaging technology in archaeology.

Related links
Woman and deities on a Codex Style vase
Gateway to Maya vase rollouts in Maya-archaeology
Gateway to Maya vase rollouts on another web site,
History of rollout photography (from
Colorful rollouts (enlarged to 14-feet long!) of polychrome Maya vases on another web site, www.
Rollouts of the first all-hieroglyph Chama vase ever discovered
Rollout of Late Classic or possibly Terminal/Post Classic Tiquisate Escuintla vase, Guatemala
Even more links to Maya art and archaeology from another web site,

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