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Quiet 16mm cameras, for a beginner


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#1 Chris Hurn

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 05:25 AM

Hey guys.

I was just wondering, what sort of price will I be looking at for a used (ebay or similar) 16mm camera that is quiet? I'm a high school student (final year), and I'm really keen to try some actual film. Right now I'm just doing some research on super8, 16mm etc.

It would be nice to have something that's quiet. I'm not looking for a new model or anything, but something that is reliable.

If this isn't at all possible, then I guess my next question would be what's a good 16mm camera to begin with? I've been reading things like some 16mm cameras people are buying have 20 second limits and all sorts of things. I don't want limits like that, if possible!

Also, if I have this right...for black and white film I'd probably be looking at roughly $20-25 for 100ft...which is like 2 minutes, correct? Which would mean if I wanted to shoot a 5 minute film, and had lots of rehersals etc. I could probably squeeze a 3:1 ratio, so maybe like 700ft of film? (roughly)

Thank you, and I appologize for my complete lack of knowledge on the subject, I'm just starting out.

-Chris

Edited by Chris Hurn, 22 December 2005 - 05:28 AM.

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#2 Michael Carter

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 12:26 PM

Quiet cameras that run endlessly in sync cost the most.

However, I have a Bolex H-16 RX1 that a local, Pittsburgh PA, camera tech serviced a little bit and it is now quiet. I never heard a Bolex so quiet. Usually they sound like an old sewing machine. Other Bolex cameras are louder because they have not been properly cleaned and lubricated. That is something to have done to ANY and all cameras.

Several other 16mm cameras were in the trash heap because they were so screaming loud or not moving at all. I shot them with spray lube (not the lens) and now they are quiet. Not as quiet as the Bolex, but filming. There was nothing to loose in trying to DIY lube the junkers and they are back from the dead.

My gear is low end and works great. I make good movies with Keystone A-7 and A-9s, 50 foot magazine load cameras, Cine Kodak Specials and low end Bolex. Reflex viewing is not required.

RX-4 and up Bolex cameras are considered borderline high end and more expensive.

Even an Auricon, which is made to be quiet for sound on film audio recording while making images, may have noisy magazines and need to be serviced.

Cameras are $20, $50, $150 and up to around a grand with lots of goodies and make great 16mm movies even with one 25mm lens.

The microphone is placed close to the actor and the camera is put farther away for wild sound at 24fps with S8, R8, or (not so quiet) 16mm cameras. Works good enough. A longer lens would be needed for a close up of the actor that way, say, 75mm.

Another method is to script the actors and have them dub in the sound later on a PC. You can watch the video and record audio at the same time. A cheap Radio Shack stereo desk PC mike with a sock over it worked for me.

You can also have actors look away or cover their mouths while talking to avoid exact sound sync needs.

Try to get a camera that has already been proven to work properly or checked out some. Sometimes the shutter is out of alignment, that happened to me and much film was not perfect. They can and should be looked at first if one can get hands on and has a little know-how. All my e-bay buys have been fine.

Michael Carter, Pittsburgh PA

Edited by Michael Carter, 22 December 2005 - 12:31 PM.

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#3 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 02:17 PM

Unless you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO shoot sync sound, you can make great films with a noisy non-sync camera. I've made several on our school's Bolexes, which are non-sync and must be wound with a hand crank before each take. They are very easy to use and pretty good for a beginner. Each take can be up to ~20-25 seconds, but honestly it's almost never been an issue for me. These sorts of limitations make you more creative!
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#4 Mitch Gross

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 03:13 PM

Way to not be helpful guys.

For a quiet sync sound camera you're looking at something like $2000-$5000 for an old CP-16, Eclair NPR or ACL or Arri 16BL. But these are quite old cameras (could be twice your age!) and may have reliability issues in the long run. For $5000-$10,000 you can find an Arri SR1 or an Aaton LTR package. These are newer and can take most modern accessories and lenses, although they are still older than you.

Read in the archives about the different cameras, plus the cost for film & developing. There's lots of helpful info available.
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#5 Chris Hurn

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 04:02 PM

Okay. Thanks guys. I think for now I'll be starting non-sync.

-Chris
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#6 Michael Carter

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 06:02 PM

Okay. Thanks guys. I think for now I'll be starting non-sync.

-Chris

Cheap camera on e-bay
I have one of these and have shot film with it and it came out perfect. Chambles sells the film in mags loaded already, send it back and he will process it. Or, like me, unload, keep the mags and reload them yourself, spool off the film onto old spools and take the 5 rolls to a local lab. It IS a lot more difficult than the normal 100 foot loaders but the pocket size of the camera and ease of magazine loads (once loaded) makes it a winner to me.
Probably best to hold out for a 100 foot load camera.
But, if you are willing to try it, here is the film:
film

Edited by Michael Carter, 22 December 2005 - 06:10 PM.

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#7 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 09:20 PM

I will also say that if You can get one in working order the old Keystones are a great little camera. Bear in mind that they are from "before the war" and Yes I have a couple in the drawer that really need a clean and lube. as well as having 24 Frame marked - they were only marked 16, and High speed.

For some reason only the A-3 was set up for single perf film, which is basicaly all you can get conveniently. The finder is incredibly small, and has a tiny box in the center which happens to be the area covered by a 3 inch lens. If you can get one with the f1.9 focusing lens you will get better results than the fixed lens. They take c-mount lenses so you can put on all kinds of accesories.

See ebay Item number: 7574994759 to see what one looks like. (not my item, just one I found looking for an example.

OF course I like my Filmo better! but those run about 100 bucks or more.
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#8 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 09:58 PM

I have a soft spot for the first film camera I ever used, an Eclair NPR. Extrememly durable camera with coaxial mags (easier to load). Only thing I would say about it is to have the motor overhauled id it already hasn't been. You could also check out an Arri 16 BL, but the lens blimp limits your lens choices and it's not as quiet as NPR.
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#9 K Borowski

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 12:47 AM

Chris:
Welcome to the world of 16mm filmmaking! I purchased my first 16mm camera as a senior in high school (November '04). I went with an Auricon. It is very very quiet, allows for optical sound, and has an extensive selection of lenses (although they aren't the most current gass). Since you're in high school, you probably don't have $10-$20K to throw down on an A-Minima :-) I believe the Auricon I bought set me back ~$400. You should be able to get one for around the same price. Look on ebay, and in the local film community to see what's available. Try TV stations, film societies, and ask around at film festivals. While it cannot do S16, I feel that the very reasonable price and rock-solid construction make it a true bargain for the beginning filmmaker. Optical sound isn't the best, but if you're making a print, that's the only track you can get for 16mm now anyway, plus you can always upgrade to synched magnetic tape later on. You can look to spend maybe $100 for an optical sound amplifier that will plug directly into the camera. Then a microphone should cost another $50-60. The Auricons were originally designed for shooting the 10 o'clock news, so the mikes aren't the most ideal for dramatic filmmaking, but it's definitely doable. As for size, I have the 1200-foot model. It is an absolute tank and it is probably impossible to use it without being inconspicuous, but I am a very small build, maybe 135 lbs., and I can still manage to shoulder mount the thing and cary it around for filming. As for the lens, I purchased a 12-120mm Angenieux zoom lens that is really a great all around lens. I also have a pair of primes for it for when extra sharpness or a wide-angle lens is needed. Any further questions feel free to PM or email me. Good luck with filmmaking!

Regards.

Karl Borowski
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#10 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 07:42 AM

Hi,

I get the impression that there's a wide variety of "quiet" and a wide variety of "noisy" in cameras, and the extremes of each range are closer together than you'd imagine. I have shot with a much-modified SR1 and had sound problems, which we eventually buried under ambient sound.

Phil
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#11 Robert Hughes

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Posted 25 December 2005 - 08:54 PM

I have an Auricon "chop top" conversion with an AC synchronous motor which is very quiet; if I throw a leather jacket over it I can hardly tell it's running. I bought it together with a Nagra 3 for $250. It's the forerunner of the Cinema Products CP-16, which will put you back several hundred dollars more at least for a working one.
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#12 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 25 December 2005 - 09:24 PM

Each take can be up to ~20-25 seconds, but honestly it's almost never been an issue for me. These sorts of limitations make you more creative!

I was thinking when I was out and about today that if you look at almost any DVD, and start timing the shots, if you ignore the "talking head dialoge" shots, you will probaly find that if a shot does last more than 30 seconds, they editor has sliped in some sort of Cut-away or reverse angle in almost any case.

So if the run limit does force you to do a shot as two related takes, their are a dozen ways to work arround that.
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#13 Ron_mc_Don

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 12:30 PM

"As for the lens, I purchased a 12-120mm Angenieux zoom lens that is really a great all around lens. I also have a pair of primes for it for when extra sharpness or a wide-angle lens is needed"

What did you mean by "extra sharpness"?

Tony.
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#14 K Borowski

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 10:54 PM

"As for the lens, I purchased a 12-120mm Angenieux zoom lens that is really a great all around lens. I also have a pair of primes for it for when extra sharpness or a wide-angle lens is needed"

What did you mean by "extra sharpness"?

Tony.


Sorry I missed your post until now Tony. What I mean by extra sharpness is that primes are always going to give you a sharper image than zooms since primes have fewer glass elements to scatter the light. It's funny how video camera manufacturers are now touting "glass lenses" as if a lense's being made of glass is the last word in quality. As a rule, the sharpest lenses are primes. Zooms can be sharp, but generally are softer. A lot of people say that you shouldn't shoot the 12-120 any wider than f/2.8 because that is where you can really see the limitations of the lens elements shine through (pardon the pun).

Kind Regards.

Karl Borowski
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#15 Joe Gioielli

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Posted 15 January 2006 - 07:26 PM

Dear Chris,

Check out a k3. Yes it is a wind up which does limit shooting time between rewinds, but it has a low going for it. It is cheap, a reflex viewer, rugged as heck, and you can get additional lens for it at low cost.

Good luck
Joe
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#16 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 19 January 2006 - 02:09 PM

Dear Chris,

Check out a k3. Yes it is a wind up which does limit shooting time between rewinds, but it has a low going for it. It is cheap, a reflex viewer, rugged as heck, and you can get additional lens for it at low cost.

Good luck
Joe


The Russian Camera! Krasnagorsk 3. That was the other option we had in school, besides the bolex. Never used it.

Chris: The Bolex is the camera that almost every film student should learn on. It can do so much, and it always reliable; even after it's dropped. I'm not sure about the cost for one, but check into it, and also the K3.

Sync sounds is not something to be worrying about when starting out making films. There might be a good chance that your actors won't be nailing lines left and right anyways, so there is nothing wrong with going the ADR route. (automatice dialogue replacement +/- other definitions).

It's a little hard, but it get's the job done, and saves you tons of money on buying a sync camera.
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#17 Ron_mc_Don

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 10:31 AM

Sorry I missed your post until now Tony. What I mean by extra sharpness is that primes are always going to give you a sharper image than zooms since primes have fewer glass elements to scatter the light. It's funny how video camera manufacturers are now touting "glass lenses" as if a lense's being made of glass is the last word in quality. As a rule, the sharpest lenses are primes. Zooms can be sharp, but generally are softer. A lot of people say that you shouldn't shoot the 12-120 any wider than f/2.8 because that is where you can really see the limitations of the lens elements shine through (pardon the pun).

Kind Regards.

Karl Borowski



Thanks for that!

When you say that you "shouldn't shoot the 12-120 any wider than f/2.8 because that is where you can really see the limitations of the lens elements shine through", is this because you are letting more light in and therefore there is more light being scattered?

Tony.
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#18 Chris Keth

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 10:50 PM

Thanks for that!

When you say that you "shouldn't shoot the 12-120 any wider than f/2.8 because that is where you can really see the limitations of the lens elements shine through", is this because you are letting more light in and therefore there is more light being scattered?

Tony.


Lens design is really just an intricate series of give-and-take decisions. One of those is what aperture to optimize the lens for. Old view camera lenses are often optimized for f22. Photography lenses are commonly optimized for f8. Cine lenses tend to be optimized somewhere in the range of f4 or f5.6. He's just talking about shooting with the lens on a more optimum stop, since it's not the sharpest glass.
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#19 Kirk Anderson

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Posted 22 April 2006 - 12:07 AM

if you got cash to roll film longer than 20 seconds with out worry, you got enough cash for an aaton.
go for it homeboy.
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