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Eclair ACL or A-Minima for doc?


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#1 Alec Eagon

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 10:23 PM

Hey Everyone,

I am shooting a short Super 16mm documentary, mostly going to be filming in a recording studio in a mixing room (so fairly close quarters, acoustically tuned, etc). The two set-ups that I am looking at investing in are roughly as follows:

************************************

ECLAIR ACL 1.5 SUPER16 KIT:
- Eclair 1.5 (converted Super 16mm) (newer motor, very well kept)
- 1 Zeiss Super Speed T* 16mm f/1.2 Arri Bayonet for S16mm
- 2x 400ft Spools (1 Barney)
- 2x 200ft Spools (1 Barney)
- Anatomical Grip, Rails, Matte Box

STRENGTHS:
- Full Package ready to go
- NOISE: 32db for the Eclair (w/o barney) [might be close to the 29db for the Minima w/ barney???]
- MUCH CHEAPER (1/4th the cost of the A-Minima)

WEAKNESSES:
- Lots of Parts
- Might want to upgrade again a year or two...
- Repairs may be difficult?
- Might not hold its value as well (would be more of a purchase than an investment)

*********************************************************

AATON A-MINIMA KIT:
- A-Minima Camera (Non-Rental)
- Canon T 2.4 Super16mm Lens
- potentially some other goodies... (tripod, matte box, etc...)

STRENGTHS:
- Warranties, resell guarentees (Purchasing from a big name re-seller)
- Smaller Overall/Less parts (camera, motor, mag are all in one...easier to travel with in the future??)
- Canon T 2.4 is Remarkable (from what I understand???)
- A-Minima is a current industry standard (B-Cam to be sure on bigger productions)
- A-Minima might retain value more???

WEAKNESSES:
- Significantly MORE EXPENSIVE (3-4x more expensive than Eclair Package)
- No 400ft Mag capability option

*****************************

The filming for my next project is going to be extremely low key (gonna be more photographic, more demonstrations and potentially will be more like 2 or 3 mini-docs around 5 mins in length), so the 6 minutes (200ft spools) vs. the 400ftrs on the Eclair pack shouldn't be that big of a deal (I may be speaking too soon though).

Both cameras packages are within my price range for the project, however the A-Minima package is, as stated above, (4x more expensive).
I've learned a ton in the last few years, but I am still very much a rookie when it comes to experience, which is why I really need some advisement here. Want to make sure I am not going for the cotton candy (w/ the A-Minima) or stopping short with the Eclair.

Any wisdom that could be offered to me on this would be MOST APPRECIATED!!!

Thanks a lot!

- Alec

Edited by Alec Eagon, 21 July 2011 - 10:27 PM.

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#2 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 02:47 AM

You did a good breakdown of the pros and cons of the two camera systems. The A-Minima ((A-M)) is a very nice modern film camera, but besides the price, it has a big disadvantage over the ACL --which I own and love, despite it's 30 years in use and its general quirkiness-- namely the A-M requires its own special A-winded film, which it is generally harder to find and more expensive than the B-wind used by all other cameras. For some of us, this is a big thing, since re-cans of B-wind film are infinitely easier to find than A-winded re-cans.

Given your choices, I'd go for the ACL with the fast glass and spend the difference in actual film and telecine. In North America, techs like Bernie O'Doherty and others will keep any of these old and newer cams purring along, so fear not. BUT if you must consider an Aaton, have you priced LTR or XTRs? I have a fairly earl model LTR in addition to the ACL that I also really like, again, it being really quirky and in need of pampering, even more so than the ACL, really. But later model LTRs and XTRs are more reliable and a joy to shoot with hand held.

Not to be overlooked, Arri SRs are getting really cheap of late, and they are great reliable cameras, if less "hand-held friendly" than the LTR/XTR Aatons. It really is a buyers film camera market out there, it has been for the last several years. You may want to keep on doing research, you'll thank yourself for it later.
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#3 Will Montgomery

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 09:13 AM

...namely the A-M requires its own special A-winded film, which it is generally harder to find and more expensive than the B-wind used by all other cameras. For some of us, this is a big thing, since re-cans of B-wind film are infinitely easier to find than A-winded re-cans.

Good points all around but as long as you can get access to those A-minima reels and have a good relationship with a local lab, I would think that winding down some recans onto the 200' spools wouldn't be that big of a deal; maybe a little planning involved but I'd just get a large stock of those reels or hold on to your empties and you should be ok.

However, a very slight increase in jamming has been noted in this forum with film that has been spooled onto A-minima loads. But if that happens you'll know pretty quick due to the wonderful noise the camera will make.

The real decision should come down to your shooting style; if you need that ultra-portability of the A-minima then go for it. It does produce very steady images.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 09:33 AM

I'd stay away from the Minima myself for a doc; if only due to the 200' loads. I'd rather have 2x the run time on a mag. Also Looking into the Aatons and the Arris, I know some of them even can carry 800' mags, really useful for documentary stuff (I even saw a 1200' SR mag before... though no idea where to get 1200' of film on a core.) The XTR/LTR and the SRs are fantastic cameras but if you can't go with that then the ACL is also a fine choice. The A Min is a great little camera for it's purpose; but I wouldn't call that purpose as being the main camera on a shoot. It's much more for when you need something small to rig somewhere or to sneak somewhere.
And while you could, in theory rent out either camera to other productions; chances are you won't.....
Also you need to factor in the costs associated with the cameras such as
matt box/filters/tripod/batts/follow focus/changing tents ect. That being said I'd say the ACL being cheaper will allow you to purchase more accessories which will help round you out to a full package (and can cost substantially more than the camera itself...)

The nice thing about a film camera is that the camera is almost a non-factor. What matters most is the lens and the film therein (though obv you'd need a quiet camera for sync).
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 07:13 PM

A, you make a great point: 5 min. versus ten. You going to tell someone in the middle of a long-winded dialogue about how her husband was killed in a war by his own troops you need to reload?

Even 10 is tough sometimes.


A, one thing I read, forget which model Arri it is but think an SR, is that there is actually a (rediculous looking) 1200 foot coax mag available, looks like half of a "Mickey Mouse ear" almost twice the square size of the camera from a side perspective, but they should still be floating around out there?

WIll have to look up the model number in my cameraman's handbook.



B-Wind versus A-wind? Should be solved most easily in a rental house darkroom, or your own with a pair of cheap, free second-hand rewinds.

I mean, if you know how to wind emulsion out to emulsion in, you are worthy of some second grade paste-up stars. It's not that hard to accomplish, even with the lights off.


Noise is DEFINITELY a consideration.



I hate to say this, because I am a HUGE film advocate. I will go down rolling 35mm, one of the last rolls at least in color unless I get struck by lightening before I hit the POST button. 16mm is ENDANGERED these days, as is color film of all kinds.


I wouldn't count, with certainty, on either of these cameras being color film loadable in a decade, even five years. I blame the 2011 ACVL conference for my outspoken opinion on this matter.
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#6 K Borowski

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 07:19 PM

EDIT: You mentioned the 1200 foot mag and I missed it. It is still available, albeit in special order sizes, direct from Eastman Kodak in quantity. Therefore it is obtainable by anyone shooting a decent ratio on a doc. That sounds like a lot of film, but I wouldn't want to shoot on anything less than 800 feet in these situations, even if the stock costs more. Considering that the people at Kodak selling you film are business majors who know nothing about film or coating it, it should be relatively easy to convince them that your buiying 3x as much film, with 2 less cuts (less work on their part), in volume should entail a lower price :-)

Considering Kodak makes a whopping FIVE STOCKS now, should be easy to get any of them (except maybe the discount 500T) in 1200's

Edited by K Borowski, 22 July 2011 - 07:20 PM.

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#7 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 08:55 PM

EDIT: You mentioned the 1200 foot mag and I missed it. It is still available, albeit in special order sizes, direct from Eastman Kodak in quantity. Therefore it is obtainable by anyone shooting a decent ratio on a doc. That sounds like a lot of film, but I wouldn't want to shoot on anything less than 800 feet in these situations, even if the stock costs more.
Considering Kodak makes a whopping FIVE STOCKS now, should be easy to get any of them (except maybe the discount 500T) in 1200's


I think I have seen hints Kodak works from a 2000 ft master roll in 16mm. (slightly larger to handle the tests and trims.) So every 1200 ft rolls gives them two 400 ft rolls to sell. (or 6 100Ft Spools with leader) Because they like to work to order, I would not expect any discount from buying the film is 400 ft rolls.

TV production used to use that size for telecine. A half hour show less commercials.
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#8 Alec Eagon

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 11:31 PM

Geewiz! Thanks everyone for all the info.

I actually had an A-Minima body online today for about half of the price of the one I listed above....almost went for it till I read the posts here (and also when I got real with myself and realized how much time and money it will take to track down a decent matte box ($1-2000) and extra magazines ($1800 each --ouch!!). I only have 3 weeks.

Conclusion:

A-Minima will likely be way more money than it appears in the long run. Though the AATONCode is really really really tempting, if I am honest with myself, it is only that, and the airs of owning a current industry standard camera, that are keeping me with the A-Minima. I actually really like how solid and robust the A-Minima is as well, but I guess its size (thought a luxury in travel) may not be in shooting. Even though this doc is very very simple, I do want to capture genuine moments in their entirety, and a 400ft spool seems like it will allow me more opportunities to do that.

Based on the fact that almost none of you guys mentioned anything about cost in your critiques of the A-Minima, but rather about functionality, the Eclair Package seems altogether much much more practical.

Thanks again a ton to everyone!!!
-Alec
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#9 K Borowski

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 02:47 AM

I think I have seen hints Kodak works from a 2000 ft master roll in 16mm. (slightly larger to handle the tests and trims.) So every 1200 ft rolls gives them two 400 ft rolls to sell. (or 6 100Ft Spools with leader) Because they like to work to order, I would not expect any discount from buying the film is 400 ft rolls.

TV production used to use that size for telecine. A half hour show less commercials.


Charles, I thought everything was from 5- or 6K feet. So four or five 1200s, twelve or fifteen 400s.



I just really like the versatility (with the obvious tradeoff of size) of having 20+ minutes shooting. Most documentaries really scream for the ability to keep rolling. *Edit* Even if you can only get, say, 800, 1000 foot lengths of 16mm in an oversized magazine, I feel the extra bulk is worth it except in extreme situations of cramped quarters, areas where a small form factor is essential (a firefight in a war zone, a funeral, a hidden camera).

Alec, glad to be of help. Need an experienced AC, DP, gaffer on the East Coast, please feel free to look me up! I've never worked on a 16mm doc. Good for you for sticking with the good stuff. 16mm looks GREAT for this work (watch any Michael Moore doc for what the image quality aesthetic - don't want to start a political argument debating the quality of the content - accepted today has degenerated into. . .)

Edited by K Borowski, 23 July 2011 - 02:49 AM.

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#10 Kip Kubin

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 02:34 PM

What studio? Would be my first question... that will, to some extent, motivate my answer.

With out any consideration of actual camera specs I'd go with the smallest camera footprint for an "in recording studio" doc... so A-Minima...I'd also have a Kinopik 5mm in there for vocal booth/small spaces.

Having not seen the studio space...but speaking from having several record deals and now directing about 5 to 10 of these a month artists like their environments how they like them... and so do the engineers... generally under-lit and top lit...bring in a light and you'll spoil the vibe...or they think you will... the recording studio is where an artist will be the most self conscience and at their most vulnerable .... that's the part that will be tricky for you...

Anything with a larger mag and body may call too much attention to you and what you're doing.

If you do go with a larger cam/mag I'd suggest being there and not rolling...faking it... just for a bit, (Scratch vocals and tracking or working on arrangements) so the band is used to you and the cam on your shoulder....even an established artist can be thrown by a non-band member being in the studio or vocal booth... you have to get good at it...being there and not being there in a 5x4 booth

In any case with some good studio etiquette you should be successful no matter what camera you choose.


I admire your wanting to shoot 16mm in that environment it will be tough but really rewarding...please post the resulting videos.

DM me if I can help further.
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