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Moving from Bolex to Arri


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#1 Ray Noori

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 04:03 PM

Hello,

About a year ago I moved from digital production to film, shooting Super-8 on two Canon cameras and doing a few short films using a spring-loaded Bolex Rex-4 with a Switar zoom lens. Lately I have been thinking of making the move to a better camera that is a) quieter than the Rex-4, B) could take 400' magazines, and c) is motorized.

I looked at Bolex EBM, but upon further research I found that Arri might have better options for what I'm after, so I've been looking at a few auctions for Arriflex 16BL.

1) http://cgi.ebay.ca/w...t...A:IT&ih=007

Does anyone know if the zoom lens that comes with this package is any good?

2) http://cgi.ebay.ca/w...t...A:IT&ih=005

This auctions is much more questionable. Not only is it being sold essentially AS IS (always to be avoided), but it seems to be a piece of hardware: "The hardware that holds the mattebox to the blimp is missing. It was missing when I got it, so I always gaff taped it on. They're just screws, so replacements could easily be found, I was just lazy." I'm not sure exactly what the missing piece of hardware is or how I could go about replacing it.

These cameras seem to be far more complicated than the Bolex ones that I'm used to so I would appreciate any help, any tips or advice for venturing into the Arri world. Anything to look for, anything to avoid, etc.

Thanks,
Ray
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#2 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 12:17 AM

I looked at Bolex EBM, but upon further research I found that Arri might have better options for what I'm after, so I've been looking at a few auctions for Arriflex 16BL.

Does anyone know if the zoom lens that comes with this package is any good?

These cameras seem to be far more complicated than the Bolex ones that I'm used to so I would appreciate any help, any tips or advice for venturing into the Arri world. Anything to look for, anything to avoid, etc.


Hmmm. I know little about Arris, except that the 16mm Arri cameras from the era of the BL were pretty much the standard of the industry at the time. So there is no doubt an Arri 16BL can be a great machine. I am supposing the Zeiss 10-100 is the f2.8 model, a very good lens for its time also, and a big improvement over the Ang 12-120 that was usually used back in the day.

I think it comes down to this, the Arri is in a different class than the Bolex, and you can be assured that repair and service costs will be high, and likely required, to have the camera operating as designed. It looks unlikely that the current owner treated it like someone who made their living from it. If you decide to purchase it, be prepared to put some real money into it, or perhaps find out that it would not be cost effective to repair and/or service.

I see lots of great gear being sold on ebay by professionals that take care of their equipment. Their stuff costs more because it usually has more value.

I have to admit, I have bought a lot of camera and support gear through ebay. Much of it has been great, some of it required expensive repair, some of it was unrepairable junk sold by people who I like to think didn't know any better. You take your chances. Like used cars, I am better off buying an old car from the little old lady from Pasadena than the third owner that ran it into the ground.

Good luck!

Bruce
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#3 Ray Noori

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 12:03 PM

Thanks Bruce. I totally agree with you about the nature of buying such complex and in this case old machinery from eBay. I bought my Bolex Rex-4 on eBay and luckily I had a great experience. The guy from the first listing that I talked about below got back to me with detailed responses to a few questions that I had. He seems genuine and helpful, but then again, like you said, most people who get you stuck with poor equipment just don't know better. Two things:

a) His package doesn't have a battery. How easy is it to find a 12Volt XLR battery to use with the system?

B) In trying to learn more about Arriflex 16BL I came across a very informative article on CinemaTechnic.com (http://www.cinematec.../arri_16bl.html). The article starts with a disclaimer saying that CinemaTechnic discourage filmmakers from buying this specific Arriflex model because the parts are hard to find and very few people can maintain them. Is this true? Does anyone know of a repair house in Canada that does maintenance on Arriflex cameras?

Thanks,
Ray
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#4 John Sprung

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:02 PM

Ray --

On (a), it's very easy to make your own. All you need is a sealed lead acid battery such as is used in computer UPS's, the XLR female connector, a box, and an ordinary car battery charger.

On (B), I'd ask Tim at Arri16S.com. He's here on this forum a lot, and knows the whole vintage Arri line, not just the S.




-- J.S.
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#5 Ray Noori

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:24 PM

Thanks John. I'll try to get a hold of Tim with my questions. In the meantime, the plot thickens once again! From CinemaTechnic.com:

"ARRI did the same with the introduction of the Arriflex 16SR3 in 1992. Today all new 16mm cameras are Super 16 compatible. All professional grade 16mm cameras can be converted to Super 16, with the exception of the Arriflex 16BL."

Does anyone know if that's explicitly true?

Thanks,
Ray
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#6 Ian Cooper

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:50 PM

Afraid I don't have any personal knowledge myself, but This Thread discussed the subject of super-16 conversions on the 16BL.
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#7 Damien Bhatti

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:52 PM

Thanks John. I'll try to get a hold of Tim with my questions. In the meantime, the plot thickens once again! From CinemaTechnic.com:


Hi Ray, its a great suggestion asking Tim's opinion on things, he knows alot about the Arri S, amongst other cameras. Visit arri16S.com for some more info on the S, http://www.arri16s.com/

I am thinking of changing to the Arri S, and after talking to Tim, I am convinced that it will be my next upgrade but buying a camera from Ebay is a minefield. Although the cameras costing $1200 above and with good feedback and history are usually a good bet. anything else needs an overhaul. a good bit of advice he gave me was to take time and watch the auctions for a couple of months. , thanks,
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#8 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 05:27 PM

These cameras seem to be far more complicated than the Bolex ones that I'm used to so I would appreciate any help, any tips or advice for venturing into the Arri world. Anything to look for, anything to avoid, etc.


Tim is obviously the guy you need to speak to here, but otherwise the reputation for the Arri BL stands as:

1) Its a a little noisy for a sound camera, and requires a little work for shooting sync sound in interior locations, lens blimping, covering in coats etc....

2) Its known as being a bit of a brute, its big and heavy for 16mm camera!

3) The viewfinder is not orientable, rather disorientating!

4) The camera can definitely NOT be converted to Super 16.

5) Its built by Arri, so is otherwise close to fantastic.

Now there are many Arri BL owners who love their BLs (some found here) because its like a good reliable car, its gets you to the destination. Though they can't be used for Super 16, they have been used for some iconic feature films, including the Evil Dead, and Christopher Nolan used one (along side a bolex) for his debut film Following (which is a must see, if you haven't.)

Why have you decided to buy your self a sync 16mm camera? Renting for when you actually have shoots may enable you to use a more up to date and slim-lined camera that can do super16, but I suppose that depends on where you are based?

Best of luck, Andy
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#9 Tim Carroll

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 06:06 PM

I agree with everything stated above.

The Arriflex 16BL was a great camera for its day. Although its day has come and gone pretty much.

If you can find one in pristine shape, with all the accessories, then expect about a $1500 overhaul cost (and Axel Broda is about the only one I know who still services the 16BL, though he is retiring soon) to get it up and running well and get it as quiet as possible.

The two auctions you listed above I would avoid. Both cameras are missing crucial parts, in particular the lens blimp. I have a university client who I've been trying to locate a complete lens blimp for, and it has been a real nightmare.

If you are on a budget and looking for an older Arriflex 16mm camera, you may want to consider the Arriflex 16S, 16S/B or 16M, as there are many more available high quality, low price lenses for these cameras than for the 16BL. They are also much simpler to service, and most parts can still be found. You give up the "silent" option, but the 16BL is not really that silent to begin with.

But if you really want a "sync sound" 16mm camera (and I highly recommend the Arriflex line), I would start looking for an Arriflex 16SR. That is a camera that can be converted to Super 16 very successfully, has many high quality lenses available for it, is a professional production camera that will run for decades, and the prices of them are plummeting.

The bottom has really fallen out of the 16mm camera market. I know individuals who are selling 16SR cameras and cannot even get $5000 for them anymore. I would expect them to be in the $4000 range by this fall.

And unlike the 16BL, ARRI still services the 16SR and can get the parts.

Best,
-Tim
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#10 Ray Noori

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 07:59 PM

Gents,

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of very useful responses, thank you all.

Ian,

Thank you very much for directing me to the previous thread on the Arriflex 16BL Super 16 conversion. Some very nice and detailed discussions there.

Damien,

Thanks for the advice on buying cameras from eBay. It IS a minefield, but sometimes you can find some real gems. I try to keep a close eye on the going auctions even when I'm not actively looking for a camera, to get a better idea of things.

Andy,

Thank you for all the tips. Not only is 16BL as bit noise as you said, but as Tim helpfully pointed out to me neither one of the auctions I was looking at had the lens blimps, which pretty much makes them useless as sync sound cameras. I have indeed seen Following, several times, with and without director's commentary. Immense film. It really shows what you can do with modest equipment as long as you have a great script and dedicated people. I'm based in Waterloo, ON. I'm only an hour away from Toronto, but going back and forth to rent and return cameras could be quite cumbersome. Also, there aren't that many rental houses in Toronto that rent film cameras. Lastly, I had a fantastic experience with buying my first film camera (the Bolex Rex-4) and learning on my own time, shooting test footage, etc. I thought maybe I could do something like that again.

Tim,

Glad to finally make your acquaintance! Based on your helpful comments and those of others on this thread I think I'm going to give the 16BL a pass. Same with 16S, 16S/B and 16M. At this point the sync sound aspect is quite essential to me. So I'm going to try and look for some reasonably priced 16SRs or even look at Eclair ACL or NPR. One question though. Like you said, a camera like Arriflex 16SR is quite professional and will run for a while, so why are the proces falling so quickly? One of the things that I remember hearing years ago about shooting film was that film cameras will always retain their value, more or less. And I've found it to be true so far. So why the change? If it is because of a massive exodus towards digital I'm going to jab myself in the eyes.
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#11 Nick Norton

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 08:49 PM

start jabbing.
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#12 Tim Carroll

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 09:00 PM

One question though. Like you said, a camera like Arriflex 16SR is quite professional and will run for a while, so why are the proces falling so quickly? One of the things that I remember hearing years ago about shooting film was that film cameras will always retain their value, more or less. And I've found it to be true so far. So why the change? If it is because of a massive exodus towards digital I'm going to jab myself in the eyes.


It is mostly the digital thing. You have to look at the market. Individuals, buying the cameras for their own use, are not a big market. Rental houses and universities are the big market. And as I have been seeing with my university clients, they are having a hard time getting money to invest in film cameras and service. The folks at the universities who are making the "money decisions" are not the artists in the film programs. They are "bean counters" in administration. When they look at the cost of a film camera and its upkeep, then look at a digital video camera, which become obsolete so you just throw them away every few years (which means they can depreciate the whole cost of the camera over those few years) and they do not have to spend any money to have them serviced, they see the digital camera as a "better investment". It's really a shame.

So, with universities no longer buying used Arriflex 16SR and 16SRII cameras, and both of those cameras being too old for rental houses to purchase now, the market has really dried up. And there were quite a few of them made. When folks are trying to sell them, they are finding no buyers.

Film camera do hold their value when you look at the long run. If you bought an Arriflex 16SR today, and kept it in good shape, you would still be shooting motion picture film with it in twenty years. If you bought the latest HVX-300 RED TurboMax WhizBang HD Digital Video Camera today, in twenty years it would be worth less than a doorstop (okay, maybe about the same). The recording format would more than likely be obsolete, you probably could not get tapes of recording media for it anymore, and it would be worth nothing.

So if you want to shoot film, then buying a used camera may be a good thing for you, especially if you are miles from a rental facility and you shoot around "actor's" schedules. It is not going to be a good investment, as in you're not going to be selling it at a profit in five years, but if you want to shoot film, having your own camera is going to make that possible.

Best,
-Tim
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#13 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 01:06 AM

At this point the sync sound aspect is quite essential to me. So I'm going to try and look for some reasonably priced 16SRs or even look at Eclair ACL or NPR.


Ray,

Have you given a thought to the CP16R? I might as well throw in a plug. I have one that I am not using and I need to get rid of it. It can be converted to Super16 (Visual Products), but I don't think that would be a good investment. It was serviced just before I bought it, and I only ran about 1200 ft through it. It's crystal sync, quiet, comes with a sharp 12-120 Canon macrozoom, a couple of batteries, charger, orig case and 2 400 ft mags. The CPs were not elegant machines like the Eclairs and Arris, but they work well and are inexpensive. $1200, and I guarantee if you thread correctly it can make nice pictures!

Bruce
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#14 Ray Noori

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 09:46 AM

Tim,

This is not the first I hear of schools moving to digital just so they can write-off their costs more easily, and I cannot tell you how saddened I am to hear it again. I am not strictly a traditionalist. I do believe in progress. But not at the cost of art. The truth is, I want to make The French Connection, The Conformist, or In the Heat of the Night, not The Incredible Hulk or Speed Racer. And you simply cannot do that with what you refer to as "the latest HVX-300 RED TurboMax WhizBang HD Digital Video Camera today". At least not yet. I don't mean to sound like an elitist jackass or put down The Hulk or Speed Racer, they may have their own merit, they're just not what I want to make.

Bruce,

Thanks for the heads up on the CP16R. I know very little about that particular camera, but I will be researching it more thoroughly along with the other candidates that I have in mind, Arriflex 16SR, Eclair NPR and ACL.

I am going away to Italy tomorrow until the end of June, so I'll have to leave my decision until I get back. I shot a short recently on my Bolex Rex-4 and I was hoping to get the rushes back before leaving the country, but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen, which means I'm going to be spending my vacation thinking about whether or not I indeed have in the can what I think I have in the can. The mantra goes "Shoot film. You can trust film." Why do I find it so hard to trust film then? :unsure:

Sorry about the tangent.
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#15 John Sprung

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 01:17 PM

Thanks for the heads up on the CP16R. I know very little about that particular camera, but I will be researching it more thoroughly along with the other candidates that I have in mind, Arriflex 16SR, Eclair NPR and ACL.

The CP-16 was a Bach Auricon conversion. It's a strange single claw pulldown, very big claw that looks like a sickle. Registration is no better than your old Bolex. The Arri SR is the only one of the others worth considering. The 16BL isn't noisy at all compared with the Eclairs, they're by far the loudest that were ever sold for sound use. I've heard of a guy in Australia who does super 16 conversions on the Arri BL, nowhere near as easy or cheap as on an Eclair, but not out of the question.




-- J.S.
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#16 Tim Carroll

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 01:25 PM

I've heard of a guy in Australia who does super 16 conversions on the Arri BL, nowhere near as easy or cheap as on an Eclair, but not out of the question.


And I know a guy who serviced one of the cameras the guy in Australia converted to super 16, and after talking with him, I, personally, would never try to have an Arriflex 16BL converted to Super 16.

Again, just my opinion.
-Tim
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#17 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 05:22 PM

This thread is interesting to me on many levels, both as an AC and as a technician who happens to work at a university. I am amazed and grateful that the school I work for, Savannah College of Art and Design, has put time, money, and energy into both 16mm AND 35mm film equipment. Very recently, as in, 2 brand new super 16 cameras. Not only that, but three months ago, they hired me to take care of it! In the next couple years, I will be "next in line", so to speak, in learning how to service many of the older cameras: the 16S, 16BL, and of course, our favorite workhorse, SR and SRII. I am deeply honored to be carrying on the knowledge for future generations.

Like Tim said, the parts are scarce and the people to assemble the parts, are also few and far. Just like the Bolex market. I personally find it really sad. So many people buy these cameras and fail to realize that there is maintenance involved. The cameras sit around for years and it almost becomes downright abusive. You let a mag get dirty, put that mag on the camera, run film through the camera anyway, and all the dirt gets dragged into the camera. God help you if your cases aren't air and moisture-tight.

Maybe this is part of what scares people and universities away from buying cameras too...but it shouldn't. It's a hell of a lot easier to change a clutch pad on a mag than to get into the service menu of an SDX900, send the boards back to Panasonic, etc. It turns my stomach to think of people who go to "film school" and never end up shooting film. I've had people tell me that in 5 years I won't have a job because "it's all going digital." That is a conversation I basically refuse to have anymore, and if I do, YOU'RE buying the drinks. :P

That being said, if you really want a Super 16 camera, keep your eyes peeled for a used SR (with the German motor, not the French one). From what I have heard, the 16S and the 16BL are both pretty awkward to convert.

I am looking to convert most of SCAD's SR cameras to Super if the budget gods are friendly to me. I'll keep everyone on the board posted as to how it goes, since it seems to be a very common question.
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#18 Tim Carroll

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 05:31 PM

I am looking to convert most of SCAD's SR cameras to Super if the budget gods are friendly to me. I'll keep everyone on the board posted as to how it goes, since it seems to be a very common question.


Annie,

Who are you going to have convert SCAD's SR cameras and how many SR's are you looking at having converted?

Best,
-Tim
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#19 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 07:41 PM

1. Me.

2. I don't know yet. 3 or 4 would be nice. All 8 would be better, but I don't know if the school would go for it....
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#20 Tim Carroll

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 07:46 PM

1. Me.

2. I don't know yet. 3 or 4 would be nice. All 8 would be better, but I don't know if the school would go for it....


You are going to convert Arriflex 16SR cameras to Super 16? I didn't know you had training in that. Didn't know you were a precision machinist. I guess I learn something new everyday. Best of luck with that.

Best,
-Tim
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