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Shooting with the 1923 Kodak 16mm hand-crank


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#1 Bryan Darling

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 06:25 PM

I aquired an original 16mm Kodak camera from circa 1923. It was the first (and only, I believe) 16mm camera Kodak manufatured. I took it apart and greased & lubed it up. Here's the deal it says 2 turns per second for the crank. Which I assume is for 16 fps. The problem I have is in keeping time properly. I remember hearing from a much older friend that "back in the day" there used to be a song method for keeping time that the old cameramen used in the silent days.

I'm curious as to if anyone knows what it is. However any simple method I can learn to help me develop a rythym for cranking the camera would be great. I don't know if anyone here has seen one let alone used one, but the camera is a beautiful box with the old EKC logo with a very Edwardian look and feel. The frame counter looks like an old industrial pressure meter.

Thansk,
Bryan
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#2 dancordle

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 09:24 PM

I aquired an original 16mm Kodak camera from circa 1923. It was the first (and only, I believe) 16mm camera Kodak manufatured. I took it apart and greased & lubed it up. Here's the deal it says 2 turns per second for the crank. Which I assume is for 16 fps. The problem I have is in keeping time properly. I remember hearing from a much older friend that "back in the day" there used to be a song method for keeping time that the old cameramen used in the silent days.

I'm curious as to if anyone knows what it is. However any simple method I can learn to help me develop a rythym for cranking the camera would be great. I don't know if anyone here has seen one let alone used one, but the camera is a beautiful box with the old EKC logo with a very Edwardian look and feel. The frame counter looks like an old industrial pressure meter.

Thansk,
Bryan


Bryan,
I've used many antique still cameras and was always interested to see what results the old, sometimes damaged lenses would yield. Some of the resulting images were spectacular.

I've always wondered what it would be like to shoot with an old hand cranked cine camera, but know the attempt to do so, would provide my wife with the last bit of evidence she needs to have me institutionalized. She nearly did so when I spent two days trying to build a camera out of a flat-bed scanner. A brilliant idea, (someone elses), and it would have worked if I had known what I was doing! To my credit, I reassembled the scanner and now we have two scanners -the one we used to have, and the one I bought... so I could turn it into a camera.

However, there is something rational and interesting, (at least to outward appearances) about using hand cranked movie cameras. I don't know the song you're looking for, but in the spirit of the camera you're using, why not use an old wooden metronome?

You've probably seen it, but if you haven't, check out "Lumiere et Compagnie" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113718/) You'll see many interesting little films, all shot with a hand cranked camera.

It would be great to hear what results you get.

Best of luck with your experiment,
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#3 Boris Belay

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 09:33 PM

Hey Bryan, Sounds great, and I'm jealous !
I can't remember the name of the sound either, and the one I heard of is French anyways... that old cine rivalry ! Anyways, that song was meant for 35mm. cameras -- are you sure the gear ratios are the same on the first 16mm. camera ?
Where's the Kodak technical docs ?? Maybe a score was included !
Great stuff !
B.
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#4 Bryan Darling

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 09:39 PM

I like how you think Dan, an experimental brethren at heart. I too love using all sorts of unconventional and weird approaches to things. None of my cameras, still or otherwise, are newer than the late 70's I believe, haha. One in particular is an old Exa with a screwed up Zeiss lens. It gets some great pictures. I through a roll of Fuji 800 NPZ and push 2 stops, guessing on the f-stops & shutter. I'm an available/natural light fanatic. I print the results on Kodak Metallic Paper by hand. I love seeing what comes out from all that. My approach to cinematography is much the same way.

In my opinion once you know the basics you can go just about anywhere.
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#5 dancordle

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 10:28 PM

I like how you think Dan, an experimental brethren at heart. I too love using all sorts of unconventional and weird approaches to things. None of my cameras, still or otherwise, are newer than the late 70's I believe, haha. One in particular is an old Exa with a screwed up Zeiss lens. It gets some great pictures. I through a roll of Fuji 800 NPZ and push 2 stops, guessing on the f-stops & shutter. I'm an available/natural light fanatic. I print the results on Kodak Metallic Paper by hand. I love seeing what comes out from all that. My approach to cinematography is much the same way.

In my opinion once you know the basics you can go just about anywhere.


My latest experiments involved no lens: pinhole photography. It was less traumatic than the scanner experiment. I've never printed on metalic paper. But I did consider making my own photographic paper from lint gathered from a clothes dryer. The wife never found out about that one. To my credit, I never followed through with that plan.

Lately, I'm becoming interested in finding which filters and lenses were used in the old movies to achieve effects that would be done today on a computer. I just saw a film from the seventies called "The Swimmer" in which a filter was used at various times that created a delusional, dream like feeling. It's a very odd film.

Simultaneously, I'm becoming interested in the new lenses being used for still photography and am wondering if the technology is being used by filmmakers in any way. Check this out from http://www.dpreview....psfluidlens.asp

"The Philips FluidFocus lens consists of two immiscible (non-mixing) fluids of different refractive index (optical properties), one an electrically conducting aqueous solution and the other an electrically non-conducting oil, contained in a short tube with transparent end caps. The internal surfaces of the tube wall and one of its end caps are coated with a hydrophobic (water-repellent) coating that causes the aqueous solution to form itself into a hemispherical mass at the opposite end of the tube, where it acts as a spherically curved lens. The shape of the lens is adjusted by applying an electric field across the hydrophobic coating such that it becomes less hydrophobic ? a process called ?electrowetting? that results from an electrically induced change in surface-tension. As a result of this change in surface-tension the aqueous solution begins to wet the sidewalls of the tube, altering the radius of curvature of the meniscus between the two fluids and hence the focal length of the lens. By increasing the applied electric field the surface of the initially convex lens can be made completely flat (no lens effect) or even concave. As a result it is possible to implement lenses that transition smoothly from being convergent to divergent and back again."

That's exciting!
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#6 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 03:09 AM

The french song was "Sambre et Meuse".
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#7 Robert Edge

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 01:39 PM

However any simple method I can learn to help me develop a rythym for cranking the camera would be great.


If you go to a music store, you will find compact battery-operated metronomes. You can set them at whatever speed you want and the beat can be set as a sound or a flashing light. They are not expensive.
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#8 Herb Montes

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 01:53 PM

In the PBS series "Hollywood - The Golden Years" they interviewed some cameramen of the silent era and some said they played the "Anvil Chorus" from the opera La Traviata (I think) in their heads to maintain a constant speed. I have several 35mm cameras I can handcrank (two are Russian) as well a 16mm. The 16mm is an old B&H Filmo that was used once as a USAF gun camera and had the clockwork drive removed. I attached a handcrank to the shaft that was driven by a motor and handcranked my first 16mm movies many years ago.

On a similar note I have several 35mm DeVry cameras and mechanisms and they can be handcranked. But one turn of the crank on these cameras only exposes 6 frames instead of the usual 8. My two Russian 35mm cameras (a Rodina and a Konvas) can expose 8 frames per turn of the crank.
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 03:08 PM

That sounds pretty awesome, I'm jealous. When you shoot something with it, make sure to post it :)


Herb, about the 16mm filmo. Could you describe how you made it hand cranked in a bit more detail? I've been looking for a way to have a hand cranked 16mm for a while and this is the first plausible clue I've had. I've never had a filmo in hand so it may be simpler than I think, but I would appreciate a more in-depth explanation of what you had to do.
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#10 Bryan Darling

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 04:32 PM

Thanks for all the replies guys. I like the idea of a song more than a metronome purely from an aesthetic point of view, however I think I will look into both. It'll be a little while but after I'm done I'll put somthing up online. I'm shooting a roll of Double-X and a roll of color as well.

B-
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#11 Herb Montes

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 10:09 PM

That sounds pretty awesome, I'm jealous. When you shoot something with it, make sure to post it :)
Herb, about the 16mm filmo. Could you describe how you made it hand cranked in a bit more detail? I've been looking for a way to have a hand cranked 16mm for a while and this is the first plausible clue I've had. I've never had a filmo in hand so it may be simpler than I think, but I would appreciate a more in-depth explanation of what you had to do.


There are several 16mm cameras which can be handcranked. Any Bolex H16, the Kodak Cine Special, the Kodak K100 (though handcranks for this one are impossible to find), and most recently I discovered the Pathe 16mm can. I just bought a Pathe and I'm waiting for it to be delivered.

The Filmo was my first 16mm which I acquired several decades ago. I had cut my filmmaking teeth with regular 8mm and wanted to get into bigger gauges. I lived not far from the Nasa Space Center in Texas and there was a local electronic surplus store that had some cameras that had been used to film rocket launches. They were high speed 16mm cameras but had been cooked by the heat of the rocket exhausts. The insides had film melted all over the mechanisms. The place also had some old film gear. I picked up my first 16mm projector there, an RCA model with a broken claw. I made a new one out of stainless steel by filing it by hand. Among the stuff at the store I found a 16mm Filmo body. It had "USAF" scribed on the body. There was no viewfinder, the turret was disabled with screws so it only held one lens and the clockwork drive was removed. A shaft came out of the body and I guess it was powered by an external motor. So this was probably used as a gun camera.

What I did was I got a handcrank off an old radio and stuck it on the shaft. I made a wireframe viewfinder for it but later adapted an old Bolex finder to the body. Turning the crank exposed 11 frames per turn so a two turns per second gave me a speed of 22 fps. I made a few films with this camera until I purchased a B&H 240. Later I would get many more cameras: a K3, several Bolexes, more B&H 240s, Cine Specials and K100s. The Pathe is my latest acquisition.

Recently at the Houston Camera Collector's show (held twice a year) I have seen a whole bunch of B&H Filmos being sold by a local dealer. I saw at least a dozen models including DR and HR models. He had one with a 400 foot magazine and zoom with reflex finder. I have his business card in case anyone wants to buy a Filmo from him. I bought a 150mm Schneider telephoto from him for my Bolexes.

I recently got some 35mm short ends I plan on shooting with my handcranked DeVry. Anyway here is an old pic I have of the Filmo:

Posted Image
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#12 Matt Irwin

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 10:17 PM

I heard somewhere that the english language song they used was the one that goes "hello my honey, hello my baby, hello my ragtime gal..." (don't know the title).
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#13 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 11:15 PM

Herb, about the 16mm filmo. Could you describe how you made it hand cranked in a bit more detail?


Many of the 70 series Filmos have a crank port at the side. It is just at the edge of the spring housing, at the lower front. In fact I stated another thread trying to get enough detail to see if I could rig that feture to bypass the spring motor to get a longer run. As usual the group responded with quite a few details if you read that thread you will have more ideas.

The regular filmo crank will not get you fully hand cranked, because the Camera's Speed govenor is still active to keep you from cranking faster than the speed setting.
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#14 Boris Belay

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 08:09 AM

Yes, and as Herb stated, any mechanical Bolex H16 can be handcranked, with the speed governor limiting going over the set speed. It's as simple as using the rewind position (motor srping Off, release locked in run position), setting the speed and cranking it forward rather than reverse.
A nice trick would be to craft a better handle than the tiny original rewind handle, especially since the spring-motor handle is not necessary.
Also, with a broken spring, you can crank the camera with the main motor handle.
Since you can still get new SBM's from what's left of Bolex, they're probably the only guys to sell factory-fresh hand-crankable cameras today ! Obviously, in terms of cost, you're better off getting one with a dead spring off eBay...
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#15 Robert Hughes

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 06:53 PM

Any Filmo from the 70 DA onwards can be handcranked. If you wish to take the speed governor out of the loop, just turn your fps dial up to 64 - you'll never be able to turn it that fast. Many Filmos use the handcrank slot for electrical motor feed, so you can run a whole reel of film in 1 take. You can see old news photos from the 60's showing NASA launches, with newsreel crews and their motorized, 400' magazine load filmos lined up in a row.

PS as far as a song goes, any tune with a 120 beat will work. That includes many old Disco songs. For 24fps filming, you need a 180 beat; think Strauss waltzes.

Edited by Robert Hughes, 17 November 2005 - 06:57 PM.

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