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How to use an ACL2?


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#1 Jimmy Ren

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 09:06 PM

Hi. I just bought myself a nice Eclair ACL2. I just took it out of the box a few hours ago and I'm just about done drooling over it. Now, it's time to figure out how it works! The problem is that I'm scared to death of breaking it or doing something improper that might mess it up. I've already spent my entire budget on buying the thing, I don't have the mula to fix or replace anything!

Anyhow, I was wondering if anyone out there knows of any online/offline resources or manual that I can read to figure out how to load film, attach the magazines, put on the lense, etc. The camera came with a manual, but it's a little difficult to understand. I was hoping for more of a "ACL for dummies" type thing.

Also, is there anything that I absolutely should NOT do? Help me out here...I'm really green. For example, is it okay if I:

1) plug in and run the camera w/o a lense (didn't come with one) and/or mag?
2) run the camera loaded with a mag, but w/o film?

Will either of these two tests blow up the camera? haha. no seriously. I just want to test the camera and make sure it runs and seems to work properly. Thanks!

Oh, one more thing: why is it that I can't see anything through the Kinoptik viewfinder? the caps are all off, but I can't see any light at all.
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#2 Mitch Gross

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 10:01 PM

There are a number of excellent starter cinematography books out there, including "Cinematography," the latest edition of which was edited by our own David Mullen, ASC. "Anton Wilson's Cinema Workshop" is another great book, which has some specific info on the ACL (or at least the 20+ year old edition I have does). And Doug Underdahl's "16mm Cameras" book (I think that's the title) is a perfect primer for you, and I know it specifically covers the ACL.

Gently fiddling about the camera won't hurt it. Having no lens on is fine, and same with mounting the mag with no film. You probably can't see anything in the eyepiece because the mirror is swung out of the way. In a film camera, half the time light travels directly to the film and the other half it hits a mirror to be deflected up to the viewfinder (and that's when the next frame of film is moved into position). On most cameras this is accomplished with a half-circle spinning mirror. The ACL uses a unique design, with a very small mirror that swings back & forth like a pendulum. This allowed the camera design to be very compact. The motor on the side of the camera under the viewfinder should have a knob that will manually move the shutter forward when the camera is not running. I believe that all ACLs have this "inching knob."

Do yourself a favor and buy a book about basic cinematography. It will be a fascinating read and will help prevent you from making any costly mistakes. This website has a library of some form with lots of info on many books.
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#3 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 10:10 PM

Hi, Jimmy,

You're probably not getting an image because the mirror is not oriented in the viewing position. To do this, simply turn the inching knob that's on the motor counterclockwise very slowly. You will see the mirror come into view and your image slowly appear from right to left. Stop inching when you can see the full frame/field of view. Don't worry if you pass by too quickly; just keep turning counterclockwise, and you will have another chance to center the mirror.

You can definitely run the camera without a lens and a mag at 24 fps or less. If you have a high-speed motor, never run it at more than 24 fps without film (you could also run the mag without film, but I'm not sure why you'd want to). You could perhaps get your hands on some short ends and check the camera out for scratching. Simply run a few feet and check the take-up side, cut the film, take it out of the mag on the take-up side, and with a 5-10x magnifier/loupe, check both the base and the emulsion for any scratches.

The crystal synch light should come on momentarily when you start the camera and go off immediatly when the camera is running in synch. If the crystal synch light (on the top of the motor) stays on, the camera is not funning crystal synch.

I'm giving a workshop soon (October 4th) that will cover all of this and more, but I hope this gets you a little ways further and feeling more confident. You're welcome to call if you need more help or would like some more questions answered as you go along.

Cheers,
Bernie O'Doherty
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#4 Jimmy Ren

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 11:02 PM

thanks guys for the great help! i'm going out to barnes & noble right now to check out the books your recommended!

i was also wondering if I can practice loading and running the camera with some used (but undeveloped) film on 100' daylight spools. I purchased this film new 5 years ago and I ran it through an old bolex as a test, but I found out the bolex was not functioning properly. I never developed the film and it's been sealed in it's container ever since. Would this be safe to practice on to get ready for the 'real' test? Thanks!
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#5 John Mastrogiacomo

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 01:00 AM

thanks guys for the great help! i'm going out to barnes & noble right now to check out the books your recommended!

i was also wondering if I can practice loading and running the camera with some used (but undeveloped) film on 100' daylight spools.


Sure, you can do that.

Before you do anything important, I would strongly suggest you send your camera to Bernie for a checkup.
If nothing is wrong with it, it won't cost you that much. It's a terrible feeling to shoot something important and then find out your camera has a problem. You have been warned!

:)
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#6 Dan Horstman

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 10:23 AM

There used to be a copy of the ACL instruction manual in .pdf format online. Do a google search.
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#7 andres victorero

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 05:16 PM

check this:

http://members.aol.c...r16ACL/menu.htm

good luck
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#8 Jimmy Ren

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 08:15 PM

Hi. Here's another dumb question for you all: I'm checking my 400' magazine and I see that on both sides (supply and takeup) there's a 6" black metal disk that is attached to the axel that is detachable. I'm sorry if I get the terminology wrong here, but I'm assuming this is what they call the flange, right? This flange can detach....I'm assuming so you can load a daylight spool into the magazine.

Here's my main question: When loading film, where do attach the film on the take up side? It doesn't make sense to attach it to the flange. Is there a plastic core (?) that should be there to take up the film? If so, the camera package didn't come with any cores. Where can I get one? Are they easy to find? And how much? Thanks!
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#9 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 12:18 AM

Hi. Here's another dumb question for you all: I'm checking my 400' magazine and I see that on both sides (supply and takeup) there's a 6" black metal disk that is attached to the axel that is detachable. I'm sorry if I get the terminology wrong here, but I'm assuming this is what they call the flange, right? This flange can detach....I'm assuming so you can load a daylight spool into the magazine.

Here's my main question: When loading film, where do attach the film on the take up side? It doesn't make sense to attach it to the flange. Is there a plastic core (?) that should be there to take up the film? If so, the camera package didn't come with any cores. Where can I get one? Are they easy to find? And how much? Thanks!

HI Jimmy,
You need a plastic core...just like you thought.
Now you're going to learn a secret which I normally save for my workshop students.
You can use a Scotch tape roll !!!
I'ts exactly the same inside diameter as a core...1 inch. The outside dia. of a core is 2 inches.
So unroll some tape until you reach 2 inches across and you're ready to roll.
THIS IS ONLY FOR EMERGENCY USE.
Cut your film end in the shape of a V, point out. With a pointed knife (ye olde Swiss Army brand) stab a slot in the tape so you can stick the pointed end of the film there. Wrap the film a few times onto itself, put your Scotch tape core on the core adaptor. You're set to go.
Don't use the tape to stick the film onto the homemade core...labs don't like it. Tell the lab that you have a non-standard core on yout take-up.
Normally rental houses and film labs have lots of these plastic cores around.
This emergency procedure has saved quite a few shoots !!!
Cheers,
Bernie.
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#10 Jimmy Ren

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 12:43 AM

Thanks Bernie...that's an awesome tip! I'm sure that'll come in handy some day soon! By the way, what brand scotch tape roll should I use? Will any kind work? Also, are all 16mm cores standard? Will any one of the ones I buy at a rental house / processing center, work and fit on my ACL flange?
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#11 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 04:12 AM

Thanks Bernie...that's an awesome tip! I'm sure that'll come in handy some day soon! By the way, what brand scotch tape roll should I use? Will any kind work? Also, are all 16mm cores standard? Will any one of the ones I buy at a rental house / processing center, work and fit on my ACL flange?


Well, I'm not Bernie, but I think I can answer your question. There are 2-inch and 3-inch cores available. The 2" are for your camera. The 3" are for lab work (they should put your camera negative on 3" so that there is less tension on the film when it is being telecined or printed). You can get 2" cores for free at your local film lab - just say you're loading on a production and you need 16mm cans, cores, and black bags. It's standard practice - you'll need these for downloading short ends. The lab will then get these back when you process your film. Also, as you shoot, you'll build up a collection of 2" cores - save 'em!

I've never heard of using scotch tape rolls, and I don't know if I'd do it personally. The 2" cores are made to fit perfectly onto the flanges, and since you can get them free, there's really no excuse not to use them. If you're not near a lab, you'll probably have to buy them at a local photo store (that services motion picture film). In my neck of the woods (SF Bay Area), that'd be Action Camera. (415) 564-0699. They should be about $0.40 a piece.
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#12 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 08:26 AM

Thanks Bernie...that's an awesome tip! I'm sure that'll come in handy some day soon! By the way, what brand scotch tape roll should I use? Will any kind work? Also, are all 16mm cores standard? Will any one of the ones I buy at a rental house / processing center, work and fit on my ACL flange?


Any brand of Scotch tape will work, and any camera (not lab) core will be the standard 2 inches. Three-inch cores, apart from being used in labs, are also used for mag transfer machines. The fullcoat mag sound film is normally placed on the three-inch cores, but that doesn't apply to you and what you're using.

Of course it's always best to use a real camera core. I was just talking about what you might do in the field if you're stuck, and the Scotch tape cores will fit perfectly in a pinch.

Good luck!

Cheers,
Bernie
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#13 Robert Glenn

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 11:05 PM

sorry for the dumb question, but does a new 400ft spool come on any sort of core?
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#14 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 01:45 AM

sorry for the dumb question, but does a new 400ft spool come on any sort of core?


Yes, 400' rolls always come on a 2" core. 100' daylight spools obviously have no core, but you can use them in the ACL2 magazine by removing the flange. I think you can get 200' daylight spools with some weird wind (for use in the A-Minima, if I'm not mistaken) - someone please correct my if I'm wrong about that. I don't know if Kodak makes a 400' daylight spool, but if it exists, it probably wouldn't fit into a 400' magazine.
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#15 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 08:26 AM

Yes, 400' rolls always come on a 2" core. 100' daylight spools obviously have no core, but you can use them in the ACL2 magazine by removing the flange. I think you can get 200' daylight spools with some weird wind (for use in the A-Minima, if I'm not mistaken) - someone please correct my if I'm wrong about that. I don't know if Kodak makes a 400' daylight spool, but if it exists, it probably wouldn't fit into a 400' magazine.


Hi, Satsuki,

You're absolutely right about the 400' rolls and the 100' daylight spools. In times past you could get 400' daylight loads, but now I think you cannot even get them on special order from Kodak. The 200' daylight is still available (in the standard wind), but this is totally separate from A-Minima loads.

Cheers,
Bernie
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#16 Mitch Gross

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 10:49 AM

I would have to be pretty desperate to use a Scotch tape core. Proper film cores are free from any motion picture film lab. I don't know where ou arte located, but Kodak has information on labs on its website. A proper film core has a locator slot and is the exact same width as the 16mm film. And most importantly it has an angled slot into which the end of the film can be folded & inserted to hold it in place.

The reason the Eclairs have the flanges is that they never had the strongest take up tension in the world. The flange keeps the film from dishing out and unravelling when you unload it.
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#17 Jimmy Ren

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 03:23 PM

thanks again for everyone's great advice, tips, and information. I was wondering if anyone out there has had any experience shooting an ACL with a Nikon lense using the c-to-f mount adaptor. i've seen the adaptors for only $50.00 on eBay and my brother has quite a few lenses for his nikon SLR. So this seems like a nice, cheap alternative to buying a lense, at least until i save up enough for a nicer lense.

anyway, i was wondering if this is a good alternative. since the 35mm SLR nikon lenses are not designed specifically for 16mm camera use, does this take away from the quality (sharpness, grain, etc) of the shot? I understand that this is completely subjective: dependent on what type of nikon lense you're using, what type of lense your comparing it to, and what you define as "quality." but I just want to get a general sense of whether this is a good alternative. Whether I choose to go this way or not, I'd like to understand the advantages, disadvantages, and limitations. Thanks!
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#18 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 06:43 PM

A lot of times when people get these kinds of adaptors off of eBay, I have found that they are not calibrated to the Nikon 46.5mm focal depth. They tend to be slightly longer and need some trimming so that you can focus properly with your Nikon lenses (or rather, your brother's lenses!). Of course it is important to ensure that your C mount is set at 17.52mm on your camera. If either of these measurements are off, you can have great lenses (however you define that :)), and they're never going to look good through the viewfinder or on film. You may need to bring your camera and your adaptor to a technician to have the distances checked out and adjusted.

Otherwise, you can use 35mm lenses in 16mm format, but the field of view will be different (i.e., the focal length values will be altered). For example, a 50mm lens (in 35mm) will look like 25mm on a 16mm camera, 100mm will end up looking approximately like 50mm, etc.

Hope this helps!

Cheers,
Bernie
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#19 Scott Bullock

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 08:05 PM

Hi Jimmy;

Yes, Nikon lenses will produce fantastic results if, like Bernie pointed out, everything is calibrated properly. I've been using Nikkor lenses myself for awhile now and absolutely love the results. If you can, avoid using zoom lenses and auto focus lenses. Nikon zoom lenses can be used but not to do actual zooms with because the back focus on them won't remain consistent while you zoom. That said; you can use them as a 'variable prime' type of lens. Auto focus lenses, even when in manual mode, simply don't have enough travel when focusing, so finding a precise focus can be very difficult. The Nikon lenses I use are all primes (fixed focal length), manual only operation, that are either designated AI or AI-S. If you stick to this you will have some consistency with contrast and color saturation. The main problem that you will run into with SLR lenses is that you'll have a tough time on the wide angle end of things. For example, I have a Nikkor 15mm lens that is pretty wide angle, especially in Super 16, but it's slow (f/3.5) and doesn't accommodate the use of front mounted filters. For the time being, you could use a Cosmicar (I believe these are made by Pentax) lens that is 12.5mm. It's a fairly decent lens and can be obtained on eBay for about $25.00. It has an odd filter size though -- I can't remember what it is offhand -- but you can probably find filters for it at a regular photo shop. Additionally, if your camera is regular 16mm, you can use behind the lens gel filters in the ACL.

I agree with a previous poster who recommended having your camera checked out by Bernie (Super 16, Inc.) before doing any major shooting. Bernie (HI BERNIE!) is one of the best camera techs in the world and will not steer you in the wrong direction. He also knows the Eclair ACL like the back of his hand, maybe even better! In fact, I'm about to send my ACL 2 to Bernie for a tune-up. My ACL was modified to Super 16 by Bernie and has also had his famous "Laser Brightening" done to it. This is something that you should really consider; you'll need it in lower light situations.

By the way, you can take the flange out of the magazines and use 100' or 200' daylight loads in them, just don't expect the camera to run as quietly as it would otherwise. Other than that, congratulations on your purchase! I love the Eclair ACL and, if treated and maintained properly, it will be a workhorse for years to come. Lastly, for now, the "Professional Cameraman's Handbook" has a detailed section on the Eclair ACL. And don't hesitate to use that website that was mentioned earlier, it's simply awesome. Here's a link:
Eclair ACL

Happy shooting!
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