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Panavision Gold II, Destroyer of Worlds


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#1 Daniel Hamilton

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 01:48 AM

Hello all,

I'm currently working as a 1st AC with the Panavision Gold II in L.A., and had a rather...interesting...experience on set with it today.

I've always been very, very wary of Panavision's dubious decision to make all the non-handheld carrying handles attach to the magazine ports; it just seems stupid and like you're asking for trouble. A dedicated, body-integrated or at least body-mounting carrying handle makes a lot more sense, and with a mag set up in the shoulder-carry position, the only handle available on the top of the VERY heavy camera is the magazine port cover handle on the top port.

Today, my fears were confirmed when, after completing a troublesome handheld shot, I was bringing the camera back to our tripid set-up to secure it and check the gate with my 2nd right next to me. I was carrying the camera with one hand on the top mag port handle and another on the bottom handheld adjustable pistol grip.

Without warning and without being bumped against anything or given a shock, the top carry handle just popped entirely free from the mag port lock mechanism, and as I was using that handle to support most of the camera's weight and was using the bottom handle mostly just to steady it and take some of the strain off my right arm, the camera swung away and went crashing to the ground...the mag port handle still grasped firmly in my right hand.

My 2nd and I went into full scramble mode as everyone else on set froze (it was already tense after the DP and the Director had exchanged some choice words), working to secure the light leak now coming through the totally open top mag port, to get the back-mounted mag off so that she could get it into the bag and make sure the impact hadn't broken it and flashed a couple hours' worth of work.

My first thought was that I had improperly mounted the top handle onto the mag port locking mechanism, that it had been at a strange angle and wasn't seated properly, or that I hadn't locked it all the way, but the lock switch was still firmly all the way to the right andboth stages of the click-lock were engaged, and I distinctly remember being very, very careful in seating the handle when we converted the camera to hand-held mode. Doing some testing once the exposed film was secured, I found it impossible to mismount the mag port handle and still be able to engage the locking mechanism; any misalignment caused the lock to jam and not close.

The gaffer helped me out and took a firm grip on the camera, and I found that by pulling hard on the re-attached mag port handle I was actually able to flex the metal around the locking mechanism, conceivably enough to break the light seal and to pull the handle right off the camera.

I spent a few minutes make sure the camera was okay and still working properly (luckily, our matte box took the brunt of the crash...the whole thing splintered and accordioned in on itself, probably saving the lens in the process), and we were back up and running about fifteen minutes later once I was totally satisfied that the camera was in operating condition, but I used some photo black matte tape to tape the hell out of the port cover (now using the simple flat port cover, without the handle) I was so nervous. Our DP told me he'd heard of this happening before, but I've worked with a Gold II quite a few times now and I've never heard of this kind of equipment failure...

At the end of the day I did some more inspecting and I'm satisfied that everything was installed properly and fully locked down...the lock just flexed from the weight of the camera (not a light one, the Gold II), until the dovetail on the handle slipped from the catch and the whole camera dropped to the ground.

This is the first time I've dropped a film camera (I dropped a DVX a while back, and never forgave myself) and I'm pretty upset with myself...I know it was an equipment issue, and the DP holds no blame on me at all and is being very cool about the whole thing, but I still feel like I should have known about it and been prepared.

Has anyone working with a Gold II ever had the same problem? Did you talk to Panavision about it? What did they say?

I haven't yet worked with more modern Panavision cameras (XL2, etc.)...do they have the same top mag port handle design, and have you ever heard of handle failures on those cameras?

And, in general, what do you do if you drop the camera? I have to admit that I was so shocked and embarassed that I lost my tongue for a while and it took me a while to get back in stride. Are there any DPs who have advice for young ACs on how to deal with mistakes like this?

Thanks,

Daniel Hamilton
1st A.C.
Los Angeles
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#2 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 02:02 AM

Odd, I've worked for many years with GIIs and have never had this happen/ seen it happen. I was, however, always taught to carry the camera when using the top handle with my thumb pushing against the release switch to be extra safe.

The safest thing is probably to throw the camera over your shoulder with the lens facing towards your back (if that makes any sense), then you are just balancing the camera on your shoulder.

Once again, odd problem, never seen it happen before. Doesn't sound like you could have done anything different.

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 02:17 AM

I've never seen the handle fail before, but you are talking about a 20-year-old camera probably, so maybe there is some age-related issue here.
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#4 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 03:50 AM

Ive actually heard of this happening quite a few times. When i was an AC it was an unwritten rule that you never used that handle as a carry handle, or if you had to you did as Kevin suggested and secured the release switch with your thumb. An LA Operator who was one of the first to use the G2 told me that the top and back mag ports were designed to be break awayable in case of an emergency that required you to release the mag from the body in extreme situations, so as David suggested maybe in its age thats become a liability.
Count yourself lucky - there was a weekly "behind the scenes" programme that used to run in the UK regularly years and years ago that as part of its opening titles featured the same thing happening to an AC in the states. Look on the bright side - its one less G2 in the world:)!
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 10:36 AM

Most AC's I've seen pick up the camera by the handle but put in on their shoulder to carry, so there isn't a lot of weight supported by the handle after the initial pick-up.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 11:35 AM

I was taught to hold the locking latch tight when holding the camera by a handle only. That said, the guy who taught me that picks the camera up often by the attached magazine without any problems or worry.
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#7 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 01:37 PM

I would never pick the camera up by it's mag. The GIIs do indeed have breakaway mag throats that can not handle that weight.

One hand on the handle and other below the rods should be fine, or as I said, over the shoulder is best.

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#8 Patrick Neary

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 04:47 PM

>I would never pick the camera up by it's mag. <

I would think that could be a great way to get fired, or at least announce your incompetence to the rest of the crew. I can't really think of any camera, 16 or 35 where it's a good idea to hoist it up or carry it around by the mag.
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#9 Bill Totolo

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 04:54 PM

As I've always been told by Panavision (they offer a weekend assisting program and I interned there when I was a younger man) the mag port handle is just that and not to be used to support any of the weight of the camera. Although without this information it certainly looks exactly like a handle meant to assist in bearing the weight of the camera body.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 20 May 2007 - 05:10 PM

>I would never pick the camera up by it's mag. <

I would think that could be a great way to get fired, or at least announce your incompetence to the rest of the crew. I can't really think of any camera, 16 or 35 where it's a good idea to hoist it up or carry it around by the mag.


True, perhaps, but the assistant whom I saw do this regularly is a VERY experienced assistant. I won't name him, but he worked on many features for very well known directors and DPs.
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#11 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 07:46 AM

Most of the assitants I work with will pick the camera up by the mag and rods and put it onto their shoulder. I rarely see a Panaflex picked up by the handle. I assume they do it this way because of the aforementioned issues with the mag port handle. However you pick it up, I think the best way to carry it is on your shoulder.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 12:11 PM

Most of the assitants I work with will pick the camera up by the mag and rods and put it onto their shoulder. I rarely see a Panaflex picked up by the handle. I assume they do it this way because of the aforementioned issues with the mag port handle. However you pick it up, I think the best way to carry it is on your shoulder.


Most comfortable, too. I don't think there's a 35mm camera built that can be comfortably held by only the handle.
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#13 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 05:20 PM

Most comfortable, too. I don't think there's a 35mm camera built that can be comfortably held by only the handle.

I have to disagree. The 235 isn't bad at all. The SL wouldn't be bad either if there was a handle.
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#14 Daniel Hamilton

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 10:29 PM

I just don't really understand the design logic behind a handle like this...why put a handle on something if you're not supposed to pick it up by that handle? The more experience I get with Panavision cameras the less inclined I am to recommend them to producers or to D.P.s who consult me before putting together equipment lists. They're just full of stupid, useless design elements like this, and while I understand that the movements are superb and the Panavision glass is great (thanks to Nikon...), there are a lot of great cameras out there and most most of them make a bit more sense.

If you're not supposed to pick it up by either of the mag port handles, what are you supposed to pick it up by? Someone here mentioned the magazine itself, which seems to be inviting disaster, and really the only other firm gripping points on these cameras are the matte box rods (which unless you tighten so tight that you can never loosen them again, are prone to slip) or the video assist/eyepiece prism assembly directly above the lens port?which, again, seems like a very stupid place to be picking up a forty to fifty pound camera setup.

I carry the camera on my shoulder whenever I can, but you still have to get it ONTO your shoulder in the first place.

I honestly don't know much about Panavision's history in the industry or how they came to be such a powerful force in modern cinematography, but after working with several of their cameras I can say that I don't believe solid, user-oriented design has much to do with their dominance.
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#15 Max Jacoby

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 04:18 AM

I understand that the movements are superb and the Panavision glass is great (thanks to Nikon...),

Leitz Canada actually.
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#16 Daniel Hamilton

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 04:50 AM

Leitz Canada actually.


Thought that Primos were Nikon?
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#17 Stephen Williams

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 05:03 AM

Thought that Primos were Nikon?


Hi Daniel,

You can't believe everything you read on internet forums. Max knows what he is talking about.

Stephen

FWIW the Panavision movement is Mitchell based.
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#18 Eden Lagaly-Faynot

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 05:21 AM

Thought that Primos were Nikon?


Hello,

Sorry for the little off topic, but is Nikon supplying glasses for any cine lens company ?

Thanks,
Eden.
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#19 Max Jacoby

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 05:56 AM

Sorry for the little off topic, but is Nikon supplying glasses for any cine lens company ?

Apparently Panavision's E-Series anamorphic lenses are based on Nikon glass. There are also rouhoused Nikon stills lenses available in PL or PV mount, like their 17-35mm T2.8 zoom for instance.

Actually the look of a lens is more determined by how it is designed than by who makes the glass for it.
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#20 Eden Lagaly-Faynot

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 06:25 AM

Thanks for the input Max.

Actually the look of a lens is more determined by how it is designed than by who makes the glass for it.


Yes I agree, I just asked by curiosity :) .

Eden.
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