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The electronics in current 16mm cameras


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#1 Robert Edge

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 01:55 PM

The current Aaton and Arri cameras contain electronics that will do everything except make coffee.

Does anyone know how integrated the electronics are? Will a failure in the electronics, computer, software or memory unrelated to the basic functioning of one of these cameras bring it to a halt, or will the viewfinder and motor keep working?

How reliable are the electronics? Would you take one of these cameras for a few weeks to a remote area without worrying about gremlins in the electronics causing the camera to go dead.

What are the most recent 16mm synch sound cameras in which the functioning of the viewfinder and motor are clearly independent of other functions?

Thanks.
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#2 Robert Morein

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 01:40 AM

The current Aaton and Arri cameras contain electronics that will do everything except make coffee.

Does anyone know how integrated the electronics are?  Will a failure in the electronics, computer, software or memory unrelated to the basic functioning of one of these cameras bring it to a halt, or will the viewfinder and motor keep working?

How reliable are the electronics?  Would you take one of these cameras for a few weeks to a remote area without worrying about gremlins in the electronics causing the camera to go dead.

What are the most recent 16mm synch sound cameras in which the functioning of the viewfinder and motor are clearly independent of other functions?

Thanks.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Your question addresses two related questions:
1. The motors in these cameras have electronic driver circuits of incredible complexity, driven by a reference crystal oscillator. These motors do not resemble AC induction motors in household appliances. They cannot turn without the circuitry.
2. You are asking as well about the interdependence of the timecode circuitry. I do not believe that there is shared microprocessor circuitry, except in the case of the XTR Prod, where one control panel runs both. Both the motor and timecode circuitry probably share the same voltage regulation circuitry. Hence there are central points of failure.

All things equal, additional complexity means greater possibility of failure. However, all Aaton, Arri, and Eclair cameras are made of aero-space grade componentry. All these cameras are extremely reliable. The chances of failure are small, but, in projects involving a large number of people, such as a feature film, there are always backups.

One tip to keep the cameras healthy, electronically: do not run off car power or AC power. A battery is the only completely safe form of power.

The other principle danger to electronics is salt water, or immersion. The cameras are built to withstand dampness.

None of these issues has any relation to the functioning of the viewfinder. The viewfinder will always function. If by chance it does not stop in the viewing position, use the "inching knob."

The Aaton LTR54 does not have timecode or digital setting of motor speeds. In simplicity, it resembles the Eclair ACL. Both have extremely complex motor driver circuitry. The Arri has a different motor design, but also lacks a digital control panel.
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#3 Robert Edge

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 10:35 AM

Thanks very much. I gather, then, that there is no electrical aspect to the use of fiber optics for viewfinders.
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#4 Rik Andino

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 12:57 PM

Viewfinders systems are usually independent of the camera's electronics
Heck the viewfinder system in the Aaton is completely independent of the camera
You can remove it and add another with no problems...
And the camera can run without it...but who'd do that...

The camera electronics are quite precise
And they are very reliable
I mean we're talking about equipment that cost new more than a luxury sedan
So it better be on point or people would stop using it quickly.

With that said a camera needs to be treated well and serviced regularly...
So make sure next time you rent a camera
Make sure it's from a good dealer and properly serviced.
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#5 Nathan Milford

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Posted 12 May 2005 - 03:11 PM

They're fundamental to the camera's operation and they have been from the start. If you have an LTR7 and the electronics have an unrepairable problem the camera becomes an expensive doorstop (you can't put a new base or new electronics on it). The electronics run the motor and rectify it's speed. If the light meter dies or you have a blown LED somewhere... you're OK... but there are electronics that are absolutly essential to the camera's operation on all cameras, new and old alike (mostly those in the base). It's the same on the Arri SR's. I own an Arri SB and it's a pretty simple little block of metal... but the tobin motor has electronics... The analog Tachometer (which is pretty essential to the camera's usability) is a pretty damn sensitive part. I'd expect that to give out, before any electronics in the motor.

Rik is correct (hello Rik!) in that the VF on the Aatons are removable, but the light meter electronics aren't in the VF but are just beneath the front housing near the fiber screen. Just as a note: if you ever take off the VF and replace the screws, make sure they're the same length or they'll kill the light meter electronics just below.

Generally I wouldn't worry about electronics failure. Aatons have been many places (Antartica, Deserts even space!) with no problems. Electronics issues occur irregardless of the situation and I personally believe the mechanical components are much more delicate. Just keep a few spare fuses and DON'T RUN 24v IN THE CAMERA!

- nate
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