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Could a Bolex, Arri or other 16mm camera work in the vacume of space?


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#1 Gareth North

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 07:23 PM

Hi All.

Before you ask I?m not shooting my next film on the moon or in space (ha ha) but I have a brilliant idea for trying to quieten some of the noisy 16mm cameras out there.

I own a Bolex SBM and it's been fine for timelpase photography and the stuff I usually do with it which doesn?t require sync sound but I want to use it to do sync sound shortly and indoors as well. As you all know and has been discussed here the Bolex is a really versatile camera which has lots going for it but its one big disadvantage is it makes too much noise when running.

There are various ways people try to quieten these cameras such as blimps and barneys and towels and stuffing and big metal boxes etc etc. Some have had luck some not and most never seem to get rid of all the noise only deaden the sound a bit and make the camera a pain to reload and shoot with with all the baggage attached to the camera to deaden the sound

I watched a science program for kids on the BBC the other day that jogged my memory about one of the major properties of a vacuum. They showed using simple equipment how a smoke alarm put in a sealed box with all the air sucked out isn?t noisy anymore. And I thought what a brilliant idea for getting rid of camera noise!

Surely this has been done before in regard to camera noise? But I cannot find any examples and searching on this site only shows people trying all the usual ways of blimping cameras.

You could put the camera in a lightweight see through case. It wouldn?t have to be that solid so long as the integrity of the seal was maintained. You suck out all the air and bang! 100% no noise!

So some questions!

Can film survive being put in a vacuum?
Can a mechanical device like a cine camera work in a vacume?

I suspect the answer to both questions is yes.

So the only real problem next to solve is how you suck air out while on location.

It seems such a brilliantly simple idea as to how to blimp a 16mm camera has no one tried to do it before?

Gareth
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#2 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 08:47 PM

One of the visuals from the moon landing is some 16mm film that was taken by a time lapse camera on the LEM, and the same project used mechnical haselblad cameras with Extachrome, again on the lunar surface as well as in earth orbit. so You can use a film camera in a vaccuum. I am not sure if the film was prepared specialy- or needed special processing. {I am sure that Kodak would have assigned staff to handhold the project, thoise pictures were highly anticipated back in 1969!)

One problem might be the film getting "freeze dried" and coming to equilibrium at low relative humidity. (static or brittleness)

Problem you will have I suspect is that you really need a "VERY" "HARD" Vaccuum to stop noise. and your hosuing must also be as air tight as an underwater housing.
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#3 Hal Smith

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 11:44 PM

One of the visuals from the moon landing is some 16mm film that was taken by a time lapse camera on the LEM, and the same project used mechnical haselblad cameras with Extachrome, again on the lunar surface as well as in earth orbit. so You can use a film camera in a vaccuum. I am not sure if the film was prepared specialy- or needed special processing. {I am sure that Kodak would have assigned staff to handhold the project, thoise pictures were highly anticipated back in 1969!)

One problem might be the film getting "freeze dried" and coming to equilibrium at low relative humidity. (static or brittleness)

Problem you will have I suspect is that you really need a "VERY" "HARD" Vacuum to stop noise. and your hosuing must also be as air tight as an underwater housing.

One fly in the ointment (vacuum grease?) would be the price of any fitting that has to go through the vacuum seal like a follow focus rig, battery cable, etc. If you think professional motion picture gear is expensive - try buying vacuum equipment - bring a very large credit card with you. And where would you put the vacuum pump itself? Turbopumps aren't too noisy but the forepumps needed to purge them, and that could possibly do this job by themselves, are ridulously noisy. The vacuum wouldn't have to be too hard, I suspect 1 Torr would do - that 1/1000 atmospheric pressure. It's not a bad idea but like many ideas has its own problems. In a studio environment you could remote the pump - the hose would have to be at least 1" ID to get a reasonably quick pump down rate. If your vacuum cage was tight enough you could probably take it out in the field and just pump it down every so often.

Space gear has to have special lubricants. Normal greases will evaporate in high vacuum. Vacuum greases have a very low, almost non-existent, vapor pressure so they don't evaporate. Two clean metal surfaces in a hard vacuum will stick to each other without proper lubrication. Search around through some NASA websites with "Technology Transfer Program" links. Sooner or later you'll find some information about what they had to do to the Hasselblads that went to the moon. Or email NASA at Houston, there might be someone there with enough gray hair to remember the Hasselblads.

Having said that, you do have me thinking since I've got an MOS 35mm and a bunch of high vacuum gear in the shop. My day business is building and fixing radio stations and I've got helium leak detector equipment for chasing transmission line leaks. Look around http://www.leybold.com for good information on top quality vacuum gear. A good place for professional vacuum gear at pretty reasonable prices is http://lds-vacuum.com/. They're kind of the Visual Products of the vacuum business. :)

Edmond, OK
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#4 dd3stp233

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 12:40 AM

I think you have forgotten that the camera would also be mounted inside the vacuum box. While the sound (noise) wouldn't travel through the surrounding vacuum space, it would travel through the camera into the mount and out into the room.
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 08:30 AM

I think you have forgotten that the camera would also be mounted inside the vacuum box. While the sound (noise) wouldn't travel through the surrounding vacuum space, it would travel through the camera into the mount and out into the room.



Which is where I suppose one would devise a very stiff shockmount similar to those inside microphone zeppelins to hold the camera.

Edited by Christopher D. Keth, 25 March 2006 - 08:31 AM.

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