China Girl (film term)
China Girl is a descriptive phrase in the motion picture industry referring to an image of a woman accompanied by color bars that appears for a few frames (typically one to four) in the reel leader. A "China Girl" was used by the lab technician for calibration purposes when processing the film. The origin of the term is a matter of some dispute, but is usually accepted to be a reference to the models used to create the frames - either they were actually china (porcelain) mannequins, or the make-up worn by the live models made them appear to be mannequins.
Originally the "China Girl" frames were created in-house by laboratories to varying standards, but in the mid-1970s engineers from the Eastman Kodak Company developed the Laboratory Aim Density system as a means of simplifying the production of motion picture prints. Under the LAD system, Kodak created many duplicate negatives of a single China Girl and provided them to laboratories to include in their standard leaders. These LAD frames were exposed to specific guidelines and allowed a laboratory technician to quickly make a subjective evaluation of a print's exposure and colour tone by looking at the China Girl herself. If a more objective evaluation was required, a densitometer can be used to compare the density of the colour patches in the LAD frame with Kodak's published guidelines.
In keeping with changes to the modern laboratory process, Kodak also provide a "Digital LAD" to be incorporated in the film-out process to check the accuracy of the film printer and processor.
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