captured memories of a motion picture photographer, my time behind a film camera.
my time behind a film camera
Published on August 24, 2009 By filmcan In Entertainment

 

Yes, and in fact, many are. No modern movie camera is more precise than those classic pin-registered film movements. They really knew how to build them in 1926, and the cameras still work, millions of feet of film later.

To get a particularly difficult shot, it's not uncommon for visual effects cameramen to dust off a trusty 35mm Mitchell GC, NC, or BNC film camera. To alter time, fast or slow, just add a stop-motion or high-speed motor.

Build the camera on its rig, set the focus, aperture, shutter, and tachometer. Now you can shoot a cartoon, stop- or slow-motion movie sequence. Just like movie cameramen have been doing for a century.

There is much recent talk about new digital movie cameras. Filmmakers line up at seminars and shows, just to see one. Nevertheless, digital cameras still only provide 6% of the footage for feature movies. 94% of movies still are on film.

Mitchell NC

The Mitchell rack-over BNC was the camera of choice for major motion picture production from just before the beginning of World War II through to the advent of the Mitchell BNCR in December 1967. The first was made in 1934, the second in 1935, and third 1937. Because of the war, there was only one camera made between 1939 and 1946, (sno.18, in June 1941). After the war production by Mitchell Camera Corp. increased dramatically and by 1947 they were making 32 a year!, (serial nos 32 - 64). The age of Hollywood in the 1950s' was about to roll and a Mitchell BNC was still the camera of choice, but Mitchell were unable to satisfy world demand, for several years a copy was made under licence by Newall Engineering Ltd. in Peterborough, England.

Mitchell manufactured 364 BNCs, #1-365, (there is no #13), many now over 60 years old, are still the work horses of the animation and motion control industry, renowned for the precision and accuracy of the film transport mechanism -better that of many modern cameras.

NC stood for News Camera, BNC was the blimped version (a huge aluminium cast housing). more on the Newall 

lenses: most sold with Bausch+Lomb Baltar lens BNC, or Cooke, Cooke pancros (in BNC mount).  

 

Mitchell 35R

The NC but now as a reflex camera... from 1967 to 1980s.

The picture shows a model (sn around 175) with 110 Volt Mitchell Synchronous Motor and rotating 3 lens turret, other versions have single BNCR mounts, video assists, Fries (24/25 & variable crystal speed 4-150fps) or more sophisticated Jackson Woodburn (digital crystal speed 0-150 fps) for/rev, 28v motors. Variable shutter, 400/1000' mags top or rear mounted. The Panavision Gold uses the same film transport/gate mechanism, see Panaflex.

 

lenses: most sold with Bausch+Lomb Baltar lens, at best f2. but there are Canon, Arri and various anamorphic lenses etc in BNCR. Some cameras are modified to PL mount.

 

I got a job as a lab technician at Rank. He hated sitting all day in a dark room, supervising the film going into the bins. "One day," I was taking care of a film, and I fell asleep. I was awakened by someone shaking my shoulder and to my terror found myself wrapped in celluloid. A large section of the film was destroyed. I was fired on the spot. But the shop steward said, 'How old are you, son?' 'Sixteen,' I told him. 'You're too young to be on a negative machine,' he said. And I got my job back." I got a new job as a lighting technician and I got the most disciplined of Rank's training in film studio lighting work. One day I saw the cinematographer Henri Decae and Samantha Egger walk towards me from a dark alley between two stages. That image of this beautiful actresses and a cinematographer made me decide film portraits was the job for me." Only now in my 60,s have I started on my portraits.

 

After that I started out working Gainsborough Studios as a lighting technician and then a working as a focus puller on various films and camera man.(see list below), My big break came in the mid-sixties with his first film for Kubrick, 2001:A Space Odyssey. When that landmark film's original director of photography, Geoffrey Unsworth had to leave the project half-way through its two-year shooting schedule because of other commitments, Alcott, who had been his assistant, stepped ably into his shoes. It was his work with Kubrick that gave Alcott the best opportunity to develop his ideas about "natural" lighting. One can indicate as examples of his skill the now famous scenes from Barry Lyndon which were shot entirely by candlelight. This was an idea that Kubrick and Alcott had discussed as far back as 2001. All the above Mitchell NC and the Mitchell rack-over BNC it was these camera I cut my teeth on.

 

1968 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick) (additional photography)

 

1971 Fangio (Hudson); A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)

 

1973 David Niven (Burder—doc)

 

1974 Little Malcolm (Cooper)

 

1975 Barry Lyndon (Kubrick)

 

1977 The Fiesta Story (Worth); March or Die (Richards); The Disappearance (Cooper)

 

1978 Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (Too Many Chefs) (Kotcheff)

 

1980 The Shining (Kubrick); Fort Apache, the Bronx (Petrie); Terror Train (Spottiswoode)

 

Director/Producer Spielberg/Lucas Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) Directed by Ridley Scott, the film Blade Runner (1982) the list of film work and product photography as focus puller, cameraman and gaffer. The next film Directed by Sydney Pollack out of Africa (1985) Directed by Roland  Joffé. The Mission (1986) Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Full Metal Jacket (1987)

 

1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (Hudson); Miracles (Kouf)

 

Alcott could not shoot Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987), which commenced shooting in 1985 and -- like any Kubrick shoot -- would involved a substantial commitment of time -- as Alcott was committed to other projects. (Kubrick hired me I had been Alcott's focus puller on "Barry Lyndon" and "The Shining", to shoot "Jacket").

 

Director/Producer Spielberg/Lucas Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) Directed by Ridley Scott, the film Blade Runner (1982) the list of film work and product photography as focus puller, cameraman and gaffer. The next film Directed by Sydney Pollack out of Africa (1985) Directed by Roland  Joffé. The Mission (1986) Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Full Metal Jacket (1987)

 

George Lucas (story) George Lucas (screenplay) ... Star Wars: Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (USA), Star Wars II: Attack of the clones (USA), which as just been made and still on going is Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (USA).and that me.


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