I now own 112 100-foot 35mm plastic reels that I’ll be using in place of plastic cores to hold individual shots before they are assembled on my larger steel reels.
112 reels will hold 11,200 feet of film, more than enough to store the selects for the short films I’ll cut by hand. With this purchase I now have all of the equipment necessary to complete all of my goals.
The polar vortex is upon me. For several weeks the weather where I live has alternated between sub zero temperatures and heavy snow. All of my production activities have come to a halt, including the second camera test I had planned.
I’m using my time inside to organize my editing bench and my film production books. While sorting through my materials I rediscovered the booklet pictured above. It was purchased eighteen months ago at an antiques show in Milan, Ohio and dates from 1923. I thought it was lost during my move last year.
I’m using SN 2708 to make documentaries that often require detailed prose treatments. I don’t have a project to edit right now, so I’m going to develop a written scenario for one of my films over the next few months using the hints in this booklet. I hope to have something completed in the next few weeks for production in the spring.
Writing my previous post on the anniversary of Serial Number 2708 made me reflect further on everything that’s happened in the last six months. Here are two important things I realized:
1) I am terrible at math. I posted my first entry to Serial Number 2708 on May 11, 2013. That means the six month anniversary fell in November, not January. Oops.
2) I’ve answered the central question I’ve posed: will this camera work in the modern age? The answer is yes, the camera does work. SN 2708 exposes film that is then easily transferred to a digital format. That’s the basic requirement for a camera to work.
I think the question I’m really trying to answer is if SN 2708 is useful, and I’ll be able to answer that question by making progress towards each of my goals. This will be my focus over the next six months.
Serial Number 2708 turned six months old on the 16th and I did not notice. I’ve been busy dealing with frightful weather and my car’s even more frightful oil leak. The oil leak has been fixed. The weather has not.
Shortly before Christmas a reader of Serial Number 2708 and collector of DeVry cameras and ephemera was gracious enough to send me scanned copies of several sales booklets for the Standard A. The picture below and its caption immediately jumped out at me.
These pages caused me to reflect on why I have chosen to use SN 2708 to make films on natural history. There are a lot of professional and avocational researchers doing important, ground-breaking work on the history of life on our planet, and that is going largely unexplored. I hope that by filming their work I’ll be able to present it to the public, but I know that my efforts will provide a lasting visual record of this moment in time.
Since posting the first test of SN 2708 in December I’ve received some technical advice on how to resolve the transport issues that are apparent in the test. I have a second test shoot scheduled for the end of January and I will share the results when the film returns from the lab.
My 450-foot camera test arrived from the lab today. Above is a (very) rough assembly of some of the footage I shot of fossil hunters from Eastern Michigan University. I’m very pleased with the results of this test. SN 2708 is light tight, moves film through the gate without mangling or scratching it and the lens is reasonably sharp and free of defects.
There is some bad news. The footage in this test is consistently unsteady. This could be due to improper loading, or it could be that something on the camera needs to be adjusted. I’ll be investigating this over the next few days, and this issue must be resolved for SN 2708 to be truly useful. There’s also dust or dirt in the gate. I didn’t thoroughly clean SN 2708 before shooting this test because I wasn’t sure the camera would work. I now regret that.
I also missed focus on a couple of shots, and I hope this will not happen in the future. I was very distracted while shooting this test, but now that I know SN 2708 functions properly I can concentrate on correctly operating the camera.
This footage was transferred to video at 24 frames per second. The motion of the subjects appears natural, but I’m still not sure what frame rate SN 2708 is running at. I had attempted to film a stopwatch in order to determine the camera’s operating speed but the face of the watch has a nasty glare on it and is unreadable.
The next test of SN 2708 will be done with 400 feet of black and white film. I’ll be shooting that as soon as possible.
Thanks to everyone at Video and Film Solutions for all your hard work.
I purchased four 1000-foot pressed steel 35mm reels for use with my rewinds. Reels like these are contemporary with SN 2708 and I’ll be using them along with my split reels when I start editing to hold works in progress for projection in a theater or reviewing on a Moviola.
The pioneering Dutch documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens shot Rain in fragments over a period of two years. I had thought that Ivens used a Zeiss Ikon Kinamo, a camera similar to the DeVry Standard A, to shoot this film, but in his autobiography Ivens writes about using a DeVry to produce some segments of the film as well as parts of his previous film The Bridge.
I find Rain to be an uncomplicated and beautiful film, and I’m sharing it not just because portions of it were shot with a DeVry, but because I find this film inspirational. I feel that Rain shows what an individual filmmaker, working alone, can accomplish with planning, technique and time.
I hope that you enjoy this film as much as I do.
I was finally able to get out and shoot some film with SN 2708 over the past week. I exposed approximately 450 feet of Kodak 5201 I had been storing in my refrigerator. SN 2708 performed very well. None of the sprockets on the film were torn or damaged as they passed through the camera and the camera never jammed during operation. I was both impressed and relieved.
I had been invited to accompany a geology class from Eastern Michigan University on a fossil hunting to trip at a former quarry located in Milan, Michigan, and exposed 200 feet of film there. If you look closely at the photo above you might spot some Devonian fossils surrounding my insert slate. I also exposed 200 feet on a family trip to a pumpkin patch and the remaining 150 feet were exposed at the Leslie Science and Nature Center where I am a volunteer.
I had SN 2708 mounted on my tripod during the geology field trip. At the other two locations I shot handheld. I only used SN 2708′s motor when shooting. I did not shoot any tests hand cranking the camera.
Here are my initial thoughts on operating SN 2708:
- it is difficult to frame subjects closer than five feet away with the top mounted viewfinder. This is especially true when SN 2708 is mounted on a tripod.
- it is heavy and very awkward to carry SN 2708 without a shoulder strap or handle. I’m going to have to find/make one.
- SN 2708 seems to work better shooting short, fragmented shots hand held rather than longer takes when mounted on a tripod.
- I need to do more tests/gain more experience with SN 2708 before I do any serious filming.
SN 2708 seems to be mechanically sound. The spring runs very smoothly, and even seems to move film a little faster than 18 frames-per-second. I shot a stopwatch to determine what frame rate SN 2708 is running at.
Hopefully the camera case is light tight. If it is I should be OK as far as exposing film goes. I’m also not sure how clean the interior of the case is. I did not clean it or the lens before my shoot.
The exposed film will go off to the lab as soon as I decide whether to print the negative or have it scanned. With this amount of footage the cost is even for either one. I am leaning towards having it printed.
I am also having more film spooled down to continue testing SN 2708 — black and white this time.
Today I placed SN2708 on my tripod in order to practice loading the camera, winding the spring and running the motor. I was worried that the action of the spring unwinding would be uneven and cause the tripod to pitch up and down, moving the camera and making the filmed image unsteady. I needn’t have worried; the spring unwinds smoothly and does not cause the tripod or camera to move at all.
I did discover another, unexpected issue. The latch that locks the tripod mounting plate into place blocks the winding handle from making a complete turn. This means that the camera cannot be wound when it is mounted on the tripod, and that it will be very difficult to operate the camera quickly and efficiently in the field.
The solution is to either completely remove the camera from the tripod every time it has to be wound, partially remove the camera and tilt it out of the way of the latch or to build a riser that slightly raises the camera.
I’m working on building a riser.
In a recent post I mentioned looking for a helicoil that would adapt the threads on SN2708′s tripod mount to the smaller mounting screw on a modern tripod. Turns out I had one all along.
A few months ago I purchased a Bolex RX 1 camera body but had not spent a lot of time examining it. I pulled the camera out today and, to my surprise, found that the Bolex had a helicoil screwed into its tripod mount. On a hunch I removed it and it easily fit SN2708′s tripod mount – not perfectly, but enough to secure SN208 to my tripod.
Now I can pan and tilt to my heart’s content.