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35 mm Mitchell BNCR


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#1 LondonFilmMan

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 03:57 AM

I know it sound like a dumb question, but one tries to not assume anything...

Does this type of camera have problems? is it good? is it bad? is it sync-sound? is it good for location work?
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 05:45 AM

I know it sound like a dumb question, but one tries to not assume anything...

Does this type of camera have problems? is it good? is it bad? is it sync-sound? is it good for location work?


Hi,

It was the standard Hollywood camera for over 30 years. Its very heavy when in a blimp for sync sound. These cameras are OK in a studio but I dont think anybody would bother today. Aardman owns about 10% of the cameras made and uses them with Fries modifications for stop motion. The Panavisioin PSR 200 is the camera rebuilt in a lighter housing. Cinema Products did the same. The Arri BL changed filmmaking in the 1970's, as it was easy to hand hold.

Stephen
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#3 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 08:30 AM

As far as I remeber, the BNCR is quite a pain to load (I mean loading the camera not the magazines), it has no reflex viewfinder, so it's a pain to operate. It's very heavy so it's not versatile at all
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#4 Patrick Neary

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 09:38 AM

howdy- the BNCR is reflex - i think he's just discovered the infamous visual products BNCR.

It's the kind of camera (that and the PSR) many of us wish we had the nerve to use on a real shoot, as long as someone else is hauling it around!
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#5 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 11:16 AM

Yes, right ! BNC is non reflex, BNCR is...
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#6 Mitch Gross

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 11:07 PM

Know how Visual Products got a hold of all those BNCRs? When the Fox lot went all digital for their sitcoms (most multicamera sitcoms are shot on the Cine Alta these days), they shipped them off to VP with all the accessories and bits & pieces they'd scavenged over the years. There was a shop at Fox that did nothing but keep these old beasties running, building parts from scratch since nothing had been made for them in 30-odd years. Many of the cameras shipped were non-functional, used for parts to keep the others going.

I guess they work fine for studio use. But they weigh just over 100ibs, which really made me laugh when Visual Products photoshoped an ad with one floating on a Steadicam! I think they removed it after enough novies thought they could actually rig this!

Buying a camera like this is like buying a British sportscar -- expect to be in the shop two out of every three days.
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#7 Stephen Williams

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 05:58 AM

Buying a camera like this is like buying a British sportscar -- expect to be in the shop two out of every three days.


Hi,

I don't think that's fair. I use Mitchell's for motion control, they only seem to need to go to the workshop about every once every 7 years- 10 years.

Stephen
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#8 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 09:51 AM

Yes, one thing one can say about these cameras is that they are very steady. Best registration pins and claw movement one can ever find, alongside Panavision ones. Excellent for multipass etc.
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#9 Nate Downes

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 10:23 AM

Buying a camera like this is like buying a British sportscar -- expect to be in the shop two out of every three days.


This I'd feel is grossly unfair. The Mitchell I worked on was as rugged as a WWII Tank, designed for a beating. While things do wear out (some of them are over 70 years old after all) the overall design is such that reliability should not be a major concern.
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#10 LondonFilmMan

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 11:52 AM

It looks like a fantastic camera, yes, heavy, and probably a hassle on location (to get into the position)... ...would need a car to transport it around the countryside for location shots, for sure. For indoors, probably just fine. The BNCR is reflex? good. I guess that's what the "R" means. On a budget, its always tough isn't it? I have just the budget for one camera and don't want to do 16 mm and the 35 mm cam need to be sync. The search goes on...
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#11 Mitch Gross

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 11:16 PM

I may be railing a bit hard on these cameras, but then again I had a lovely conversation with one of the techs who used to keep these particular pups running for the sitcoms. We were at NAB a few years back and he had only recently packed them all into a truck to ship to Ohio. These cameras were very well-worn. Sure they are a fantastic, super-stabile design, but they also saw LOTs of use.

A Mitchell doing stop-motion is functioning in a pretty gentle environment. I've used BNCR cameras in the past and they are a heck of a nice machine design, but I would worry about who came before me with any camera of this vintage.
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#12 Tim J Durham

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 11:50 PM

It looks like a fantastic camera, yes, heavy, and probably a hassle on location (to get into the position)... ...would need a car to transport it around the countryside for location shots, for sure.


How do you transport lighter weight gear around the countryside?
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#13 LondonFilmMan

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Posted 19 November 2005 - 03:16 PM

Regarding being very well worn. Yeah, after 20-30 years, I'm not surprised. I have asked them about sending parts too. One hopes that after having this cam sent to UK that it won't be a hassle and breaking down etc.
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#14 tomr

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Posted 20 November 2005 - 05:27 PM

Regarding being very well worn. Yeah, after 20-30 years, I'm not surprised. I have asked them about sending parts too. One hopes that after having this cam sent to UK that it won't be a hassle and breaking down etc.


Hi, I guess I'm coming into this a bit late. I bought one of the Mitchells from Visual Products. I had just one problem, which VP was very fast to fix. The switch shorted out and died...long story, one of those "you got the lucky one" type things. The camera has been 100% reliable since and I've used it for feature film work and rock videos (yes...rock videos!!!).

It's big and heavy at about 200lbs on the head. Ugh. Most guys won't want to talk to you if you're using it because it's so darned heavy. The only other negative is that the reflex does not articulate. It's smack dab in the worst spot it can be for most shots/body positons. However, a video tap (which VP sells with the camera) cures this beef.

I'm extemely happy with the Mitchell. It's beyond quiet...in fact, most times I have to watch the take up reel to ensure the camera is actually running. It's easy to maintain...although you do have to be diligent about maintaining it. As for loading and threading...piece of cake. I figured it out the first time and haven't had problems since. And I'd never threaded a 35mm camera before!

It takes GREAT pictures. Nary a scratch, worble, blur, etc. Lenses are a bit tough to find though and you must use BNCR lenses...no mods (due to the position of the mirror for the reflex). It's a 30V camera which makes it a bit of an oddball for rental battery blocks, but you can string 5 6V 7amp gelcels together for about $50. Not bad. If you lose the battery charger, you're a bit hooped. 30V battery charges are really hard to find and most custom guys want about $1000 to build one. If you're into electronics, you could simply set up a switch on your block to switch from series to parallel and charge that way with a 6V charger. Might take awhile though. The old-style cannon power connectors are impossible to find. I made an adapter cable that interfaces the batteries to the cable and it's perfect. Very easy to do and was done with about $4 worth of parts from the hardware store.

As for shipping. Ugh. Cost about $700 USD to ship that bad boy up to me in Canada. Customs took their byte too and I had to rent a van to move it from Customs to home (it shipped on a palette with about 14 boxes). No problems though clearing it through.

Manuals are hard to find. I've posted an HTML manual on my website at http://www.escape-fi...chell/home.html If you decide to buy one, let me know and I'll email the HTML manual directly to you (about 5meg).

Feel free to ask if you have any questions. I put a lot of film through the thing and it works great. As a side, I'd suggest purchasing an inexpensive Arri II for those "gotta run around or fling the camera about" type shots.

Cheers,
Tom
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#15 LondonFilmMan

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 04:29 PM

Tom:

Thanks, its great to know you bought a BNCR from VP. I seriously am considering doing this because it seems like the cheapest 35 mm sync-sound camera you can get. A real cam! Heavy...it seems it is, but I won't be looking to do handheld anyway! maybe some dolly work, but not much at all...a few metres at most as the subjects walk and talk.

I don't want my movie to be full of fancy arty shots, just top quality common sense shots of dialogues, wideshots...i might take it to eastern Europe to film some dialogue in the snow, at night, maybe a slow-mo of snow falling on my face at night...other filming would be in a park...etc.

When I saw the BNCR, I though..mmmmm....a real cam.....I don't want to mess around. My film has real interest but I want to make it from my own money so I won't have any pressures...so would you say BNCR is the way to go then?

I was also thinking of import duty...hope it's not equal to the price of the camera!

The lenses....I need clarity....
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#16 tomr

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 06:20 PM

Just be aware that the camera is REALLY heavy. About 200lbs. (I believe the shipping weight in boxes is somewhere around 500 lbs with all the parts and pieces). It might seem okay the first time you move it, but after a days worth of shooting, the last thing you want to do is move the camera again. Assembled, the camera is about the size of an average car engine.

In regards to lenses: finding BNCR (the type of mount) lenses has proven to be quite a challenge and the folks that have them want a pretty penny (I was quoted $7000 USD). You can't simply buy or make an adapter to convert from PL to BNCR or Arri to BNCR. If I'm correct, the adapters either push the lens into the mirror or sets the lenses too far from the mirror to focus. Panavision UK should be able to better explain it if you give them a call. You're stuck with having to find BNCR specific lenses.

The Mitchell I bought came with a 20-120 Angenieux. Great for most applications, but you're not going to get much closer than a wide head and shoulders shot from about 4-5 feet away. It's also a T2.9 lens (think f2.8 ish). Furthermore, the reflex viewer sucks up 1/3 of a stop.

I bought a set of diopters from Tiffen at last year's NAB. They work great and allow some very cool close up work, but sacrifice depth of field. You can even place multiple diopters in the matte box.

If you want more detailed info on the Mitchell, I've posted the manual as HTML on my website at http://www.escape-fi...hell/index.html (I changed the home.html to index.html)

I also have a few photos of the Mitchell in operation with crew at http://www.7thgatemovie.com I can't remember the precise link, but it's under videos and photo.

As for your purposes with the Mitchell, I can't really say. It's dependent on so many factors. I understand the limitations and restrictions I face with this camera and have accepted them. I see the Mitchell serving me in the short term rather than the long term.
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#17 Mitch Gross

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 10:37 PM

I honestly think that for relatively little more, you could get an Arri BL-1 or BL-2 and be far happier. The camera is VASTLY lighter, uses far more available Arri-Bayo mount lenses (and can be converted to PL) and can much more readily accomodate more modern accessories. The Mitchell BNCR is a super-solid camera, but solid is also used to describe a hunk of granite. It will be a task to shoot with compared to just about any other camera. The only negative on the BL1 or 2 is that the cameras are certainly noisier inoperation. They come with lens blimps just like the Mitchell, and those lens blimps can only use older lenses just like the Mitchell. But you can get an iso-mount PL hardfront conversion for the BL which makes it fairly quiet while allowing you to use a great variety of lenses. Definitely worth looking into. And when you're done with your movie you'll have a far easier time selling that camera or convincing someone else to rent or otherwise use it than you ever would with the Mitchell. There is a financial difference, but there is a lot exchanged in that difference and I would suggest you seriously consider the possibility. Visual Products (among others) offers the BL1 & 2 as well as PL conversions and other products for the cameras.
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#18 Nate Downes

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Posted 25 November 2005 - 09:24 AM

I'd still rather have the Mitchell. Just something about them, altho I'm more a fan of the rackover Mitchells than the Reflex'd.
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#19 Sam Wells

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Posted 25 November 2005 - 10:27 AM

I'd still rather have the Mitchell. Just something about them, altho I'm more a fan of the rackover Mitchells than the Reflex'd.


They are very cool as machines. Like steam locomotives.

But I'd rather have a 235, A-minima, XTR. etc.

I'd get 15 shots and be off to dinner & be knocking back a few Schlivovitz in Eastern Europe before you guys got your first shot lined up :D

-Sam
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#20 LondonFilmMan

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Posted 25 November 2005 - 12:21 PM

Thanks all, tomr, nice pics of your cam on the web site. I also read what was said about the Arri BL.
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