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#1 Joseph Zizzo

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 09:57 AM

i just used the a-minima for the first time, and i must say, i was grossly disappointed! it took forever to reload, the eyepiece is fixed in a not very ergonomic position, and the flexible lens mount situation made a remote focus motor necessary. which means rods and a baseplate, which adds weight and obstructions to maximum handhold-ability. so in the end, not at all what its cracked up to be, imo...
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 10:10 AM

i just used the a-minima for the first time, and i must say, i was grossly disappointed! it took forever to reload, the eyepiece is fixed in a not very ergonomic position, and the flexible lens mount situation made a remote focus motor necessary. which means rods and a baseplate, which adds weight and obstructions to maximum handhold-ability. so in the end, not at all what its cracked up to be, imo...


Hi,

I only used one without an assistant for 2 days. I shot 8 rolls, reloading took about 30 seconds from memory.

Stephen
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#3 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 12:03 PM

. . . and the flexible lens mount situation made a remote focus motor necessary. which means rods and a baseplate, which adds weight and obstructions to maximum handhold-ability. so in the end, not at all what its cracked up to be, imo...


Joe,

What is the flexible lens mount? Do you mean interchangeable lens mount? And why is a remote focus motor needed with any lens mount? I often put a lens on and just grab the barrel to focus--no rods, no follow focus.

I like the standard viewfinder position most of the time, but I have to agree it would be nice to have a moveable design. Reloading takes practice, but, as Steven pointed out, it can actually be done quickly once you get the hang of it.

Thanks,

Fran

BTW, how did your footage look?
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#4 Nathan Milford

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Posted 30 September 2007 - 03:39 PM

I'm sure he's referring to the fact that the shell of the camera floats on a rubber gasket. The mount is attached to the chassis, but the shell can move and float around a bit on the chassis by a few millimeters. This generally gives the appearance of the mount being loose (when viewed in reference to the shell), but in all actuality it is firmly attached to the mount spider, which is attached to the gate... there is enough step-gasket to prevent light leaks if you hang a heavy lens off of it and you will not suffer any focus problems.

As for loading, granted, it is an intellectual leap, but it is absolutely easy, once you get the hang of it. I can load it in under a minute. Perhaps you loading delays would have been shortened by employing an assistant more experienced with the camera.

I have made comments elsewhere on this forum about my disappointment in the viewfinder... but they had to make a manufacturing decision that kept the camera from costing more than they wanted it too. A new A-Minima body goes for less than $20,000.

While not a perfect camera, IMHO, it isn't meant to be one. It is not a general purpose camera but one meant for special circumstances. When size, cost or ruggedness are a factor... the A-Minima is your camera. Otherwise, rent an Xtera or 416.
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#5 Joseph Zizzo

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 05:50 PM

thanks all for your input and sorry for the slow response...

well, today my initial dissatisfaction with the a-minima seems trivial - we now have a problem of missing footage. the director tells me that in the editing process, he is finding that takes we both know we shot just aren't there. i don't know how this could have happened. in some instances, there are gaps in a roll, in others, the roll ends short of what the footage was, and in other cases, there appears to be a roll out. of course as luck would have it, all of the later and (better) takes are missing.

i must say, this is my worst nightmare come to life...

fran, the footage we did get looks amazing, thanks for asking. about the lens mount, i was strongly advised by my ac, who has done an amazing job for me on so many other shoots, to use the focus motor. his reason was that he believed the lens could shift a bit when the focus puller grabs the follow-focus, as a result of the rubber gasket. in very low light - and we rode the edge the entire job - combined with long lenses, he was afraid this little shift could affect critical focus. but this was just a problem that i struggled with, no one else realizes or was affected by it.

before the missing scenes, i thought the biggest problem was the reloads. while he said he had used the camera before, it took him probably 10-15 minutes to reload the camera. not the mag, just the camera! obviously this bacame a tense political situation on set - esp on a music video - but i thought i had weathered the storm when i heard the footage looked great (we shot in ny and they took it back to la for telecine). but now, this... i guess my assistant's experince with the a-minima, was, uh, minimal...

and i thought i had done my homework, too. i searched this and other forums on the subjct of the a-minima, i read over the manual, and i had a conversation with my assistant about the job and my expectations several days before the job. i concluded that since we were going for a handheld, fashion-style look, i could get some great stuff with this camera - and i did. but now, much of it is lost.

has anyone had this problem before with this camera? what the hell happened!!?? did the camera loose its loop, or jam? was it a loading problem, or did the camera malfunction?

thanks to all.
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#6 Zamir Merali

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 06:30 PM

I've never used the A-minima, but i have used many other 16mm cameras and if there was a loop loss or some sort of film problem there would definitely be some sort of exposure on the film. Normally the footage would be really blurred and streaked. The only thing that I could guess happened is that your camera body was faulty so the shutter would not open and close. Another thing that can happen on the arriflex 16s is that sometimes the motor turns and makes a noise but the actual camera is not connected to the motor properly. Again, i'm not sure if that problem ever exists with your camera. if there was always the normal flickering in the viewfinder during each take all of your film should have had something on it.
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#7 Nathan Milford

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 06:32 PM

I'm assuming you didn't rent the camera from Abel or I would have heard.

If it is a private owner's camera, bring it by the office before Friday and I'll give it quick once over.

After Friday I can't promise anything as it's my last day. Moving one to other things >8)

I can only imagine that there is a problem with the pulldown on the camera... but it would have been so loud you couldn't help but notice...

Internally the A-Minima is such a simple little beastie... the only way to get the results you describe would be a series of pretty unlikely events

1) Some scenes were randomly shot with the lens cap on... unlikely to the point of absurdity.

2) The claw was bent to the extent that it teetered between pulling the film down and not. Not unlikely on older cameras with the brownish aluminum claws. Impossible on newer cameras with black anodized claws with steel claw tips. Either way the film might get chewed up or fill the film chamber up with spaghetti.

3) The teflon post, linear cam or spring assembly next to and on the claw is somehow out of whack. If the teflon post is warped it may make the claw occasionally run out of the groove carved for it on the linear cam. Similarly if the spring tension is too low (spec is 60 gr.) the claw might not stay in the groove. If the claw pops the cam it might not engage the perfs. Possible in theory... never seen it. Also it might chew up the film and make spaghetti.

4) The c-clip that holds the claw on the crankshaft/post is missing or backed off too much, also causing the claw to ride out of it's groove on the cam. While it should have some play and the c-clip shouldn't be forced up against the claw, it should be completely off. Same result and likelihood as before.

5) Perhaps the loop lost to the extent the film is pulled out of the gate but didn't catch elsewhere in the film chamber it could have ran film, but not in the gate... again, unlikely.

Did the lab report scratches or tearing?

I cant really imagine any of these really occurring... the owner should obviously have the camera evaluated... but it may just be loader error...
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#8 Joseph Zizzo

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 10:26 AM

thanks for the insight, nathan.

i usually go to you guys when i shoot 16, but in this instance the camera came from handheld, mainly because they had some film from another job to go with it, and it was a "low-budget" - $100,000 - music video. would you still want to look at their camera?

we only had the spaghetti situation once, there are no scratches, and the film never broke or tore. nor was there ever any loud or strange noises coming from the camera. but it did take the assistant a very long time to load it, 15 minutes, and he does have experience with the camera. this was not his first time out with it, and in general he is one of the better assistants in ny. is this a possible indicator of something not quite right with the camera?

on terms of loader error - what would it be, that the loop was not set to the right length?

i am going to call aaton about it right now. hopefully they can lend some insight.

thanks again, and good luck on your new endeavors.
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#9 Nathan Milford

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 11:17 AM

Since the camera is from one of our competitors/friends I'm going to stop publicly speculating.

It is such an odd symptom and it is hard to come up with a mechanical cause for it. And a human cause would show outright incompetance... both situations are highly unlikely... but in the end you still have missing footage...

You can give me a call anytime this week... but after Friday I'll be gone and you'd be better off calling Girvan or Jordan in our LA office.

Calling Aaton in France might be a good way to go as well, call before noon NY-time. Pierre usually sticks around until that time.
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#10 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 08:48 PM

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the detailed explanation on the lens mount. I can see where you are coming from with the long-lens situation. I'm glad to hear the footage looks great. I wish I could help you with the other problem, but I've never seen anything like that before. I know it sounds crazy, but is it possible the camera simply didn't start rolling at those times the footage went missing? You know--it's got that funky double-click on-off switch. I know from experience you have to be somewhat deliberate and time the double-click just right to get it rolling, sort of like a computer mouse. Wait too long between clicks and it isn't really a double click anymore.

FWIW I have only managed to lose the loop on my A-Minima once in four years and about 12,000 feet of film. I heard it making a strange noise right away and imediately knew something was wrong (the camera is fairly quiet most of the time). I opened the camera and mag in a changing tent and I could feel the lower loop had worked it's way down into the lower recess of the body. I discoved the reason shortly after that--I was shooting a 100-foot short roll and had spooled it onto a recycled takeup spool, one that I found on the loading dock at FotoKem. The outer flange of that used spool wasn't snapped down firmly enough and had popped off the core. The footage, oddly enough, was fine.

Hope you find out where the rest of the footage went. Good luck and let us know if you find out what happened.

Thanks,

-Fran

P.S. Good luck, Nathan. Sorry to see you go.
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#11 Joseph Zizzo

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 10:55 PM

fran,

i misspoke there, its that the image can shift a bit, not go out of focus. same difference i guess...

i don't think the camera was ever not rolling. that of course was the first thing i thought of, horrifyingly, but i was using a pistol grip with a side-to-side toggle switch on it, and i always saw the shutter going in the viewfinder. besides, if ever the camera didn't start when we thought we rolled, it would have started when i thought i was cutting, and we would have footage of the crew or the assistant's shirt or whatever. there is no weird footage like that in the dailies, so that probably didn't happen. in addition, some scenes cut out a few seconds in... so the camera definitely rolled, at least initially.

the whole thing is very weird and i am totally freaked out over it. i don't know when i will ever use an a-minima again!

we did loose the loop once early in the day, and we ended up with a bit of spaghetti in the chamber, but we discovered it and covered the scene again. there is no further danmage to the neg according to the lab. i'll keep you posted...
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#12 Mark Lyon

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 09:02 AM

Hi Joe--

I'm also an A-Minima owner (I've had mine for 5 years, and many thousands of feet of film). I've have one film loading issue with the camera, and it had to do with respooled film--if the flexible flanges aren't nice and tight, then the camera could lose its ability to drive the mag. As I understand it, the mechanism really depends on a good connection between the rollers and the edges of the flanges. If the flanges were just hopelessly loose, I can see how it would take a long time to "load the camera," because you'd never get a good flange-to-roller fit, and you wouldn't have any idea why. Of course, in this scenario it seems like you might also see light leaks. And it also doesn't explain the issue starting and stopping. Was your film fresh from Kodak, or was it hand-spooled?

Normally, it's hard to imagine taking more than a minute to thread the camera. I just trained a new assistant, and she did it in a minute on her first try with the thing.

Now, whenever I load the camera, I give the flanges a little clockwise twist between the palms of my hands before loading.
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#13 Michael Lehnert

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 11:55 AM

the whole thing is very weird and i am totally freaked out over it. i don't know when i will ever use an a-minima again!


I would't write the whole A-Minima design off just yet, or even never touch it again, even if your distrust towards it is based on this understandably freakish experience. It's design accomplishes what it sets out to do, and its track record has been really well, as other owners here in this thread attest.

The thing is that all symptoms that would indicate a catastrophic camera failure, like scratched or torn or ripped film, audible alarming noises or shutter/transport irregularities or electronic erratics while shooting, light leaks from the spools, blurred, streaked or overexposed pieces of footage, seem to have been excluded or not yet proven.

Have you been able to see all of the dailies from the material shipped from NY to LA yourself in the meantime, just to doublecheck the claims your director or the lab made to you originally? The reason I ask is the following:
You mentioned that there was some political tension on set due to your AC requiring considerable time for the reloading, and that is was only a $100K project. Without implying anything here, but because of the exceptionality of all this, could it maybe be that there is the possibility of a social or financial fall-out directed at you, that someone is trying to get back at you? Now this would be even more extraordinary, but I just wanted to add another perspective to all this... and it's not that social problems or sabotage never occured in filmmaking history...

Were you able to get hold of Grenoble? What did they suggest to check on that A-Minima?

Edited by Michael Lehnert, 04 October 2007 - 11:56 AM.

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#14 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 07:58 AM

well, today my initial dissatisfaction with the a-minima seems trivial - we now have a problem of missing footage. the director tells me that in the editing process, he is finding that takes we both know we shot just aren't there. i don't know how this could have happened. in some instances, there are gaps in a roll, in others, the roll ends short of what the footage was, and in other cases, there appears to be a roll out. of course as luck would have it, all of the later and (better) takes are missing.

i must say, this is my worst nightmare come to life...


I hope I'm not suggesting something stupid or obvious here, but have you had the negative inspected or taken it back to the telecine and searched through it for the missing scenes.

Just once when i got some rushes back from a lab I discovered that a few shots were missing, the bizarre thing was that the total duration time was exactly as it should have been, then I realized that on some shots there seemed too many takes (they were repeating the same take)

I called up the lab and the person on the phone was adamant that such a thing could not happen, people suggested that I had hit the frame advance button on the Aaton XTR rather than the Run button (of course I wouldn't have been able to see what I was filming) - in the end I took it back to the lab and we found the missing shots on the neg.

Essentially after the operator had graded the footage, he set the machine to record the footage to tape, and it lost its place and recorded the correct length on another shot then returned working normally again, the operator saw the correct running time and assumed all had worked correctly.

Hope you find a positive solution to this problem,
Andy
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#15 william koon

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 11:14 PM

hi,
I hope I am on the this topic, may I seek your advice and tips (1) how to estimate the length of film to be laced on the camera with the 2 loops and (2) how to make sure that the film sprocket hole is engaged to the claw at the gate as the claw is always away and the film is not engaged firmly after the pressure plate is kocked?
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#16 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 08:18 AM

hi,
I hope I am on the this topic, may I seek your advice and tips (1) how to estimate the length of film to be laced on the camera with the 2 loops and (2) how to make sure that the film sprocket hole is engaged to the claw at the gate as the claw is always away and the film is not engaged firmly after the pressure plate is kocked?


William,

There's a Quicktime video on Abel's site that shows how to load the camera: http://www.abelcine....p...2&Itemid=34

-Fran
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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 09:22 AM

I hope I'm not suggesting something stupid or obvious here, but have you had the negative inspected or taken it back to the telecine and searched through it for the missing scenes.


Thanks Andy!
I was going to suggest this but I felt stupid to suggest it but obviously if the shots are still on the actual neg and something went weird during telecine, it would be wonderful news for the poor fellow. It seems like it could be just as possible (or impossible) as any of the other answers in a way as the whole thing is so mysterious.

I hope it's there on the neg and this has all been a bit of minor weird.

The whole story makes me shiver!

love

Freya
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#18 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 01:45 PM

Hi Freya,

Apparently such a thing is not uncommon though I imagine it happens when footage is collected less formally, when it happened to me the short was shot on so little film that we avoided slates unless absolutely necessary - hence the telecine operator didn't have any slates to point out the missing or repeated shots.

Yes it would be great for Joe if they discover the footage on the negative, but checking the negative will also be useful to check what has happened. If it was a mechanical error in the camera it more than likely left its mark on the negative.

Best,
Andy
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#19 Simon Miya

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 02:50 PM

Good call Andy.

I think an error in telecine is the most likely explanation here, especially if there were not slates on every shot and detailed camera reports - very likely given the fact there was only one AC who was barely (or not at all) keeping his head above water with the reloading.

Check the negative ASAP, and please report back. I'm very interested is finding out what went wrong.

Edited by Simon Miya, 06 October 2007 - 02:51 PM.

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#20 Joseph Zizzo

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 01:01 PM

the neg was checked, and i looked at the dailies. we are just missing takes, from two different setups, and unfortunately they are key scenes. both times the camera was locked off, i was at the monitor and the assistant rolled it, so we probably weren't rolling when we thought we were. bummer.

that said, we got a lot of amazing stuff handheld with that camera, that i couldn't have gotten with the prod. their edit won't be what they wanted, exactly, but there is a lot of beautiful stuff there...

sorry there wasn't better news, thanks for all the input. don't let this happen to you!!
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