Film camera build

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Like most projects on this site, I'm posting on this after I started! I'll make a project in future for this one, but for now a diary entry will suffice.

I've been slowly building and customising my own film camera rig. I've been designing it to fit into my other projects that revolve around character animation and motion capture. So, this one is pretty important. It's the first place images will come from, so I need to get a few things right.

I'm being very particular in the items I acquire for this rig. The rig is being designed around a 15mm rail system, with matte box, focus controls, camera and a few accessories to suit. So far I have a camera, rails, some mounting pieces and a matte box on its way.

I'm also designing and 3D printing some prototype parts for the rig. The first was a lens support. The lens I'm going to use on these projects is a cinema grade lens. It's big and it's heavy. So I want to make sure it's properly secured. The lens alone weighs nearly 2.7kg (that's around 5.9 pounds). And I don't want to rely on just the camera mount to hold it. The matte box at the front will take some weight, but I'd like a piece underneath the lens to secure it more firmly to the rails. The lens actually has a support mount that you can screw into. The manufacturers recognised that it was heavy, and included the mount into the lens frame. A great thought. So I'll use this to support the lens on the rials. The support is already made, I just need to find a machinist who can turn it into an aluminium piece. I'll try getting a quite from a local engineers workshop.

Further to this, I'm designing and building my own handle accessories. I'm using my 3D printer to prototype. I've made some errors along the way, but that's OK. Aside from the wasted plastic, I'm learning. New ones are being printed as I type! I'm hoping if they fit and feel right, I can find a way to cast them into aluminium for strength. I know this will add to the rig's weight, but I'm not worried about that. I prefer a heavy rig anyway because it helps to minimise vibration. This will be especially helpful for the kind of images I'm trying to get.

I'll make another post sometime with some pictures of the custom parts and camera rig. I'm also having to design a custom camera control station. Because I'll be a sole operator in this quest, with a manual cine lens, I need a fairly intuitive camera control system that's easy to access and use. I'm yet to start prototyping the station, mainly because I'd like to add the lens support and handles first to see that process through. Doing the lens support and handle prototypes first will help me understand the process, and what I can and can't do. While thinking about the needs of my rig, I've also designed the custom handles to include some sections that I can add on to later. It means some of the camera control parts could be screwed into the handles, or added onto it later. Thinking ahead. Don't quite know how it will all work together yet, but the prototypes are making me feel positive.

I'm probably going to replace the camera as well. Aside from some windsurfing shots and me playing around with some old Canon FD lenses, I haven't got anything out of the camera yet. That's mostly due to the lens taking so long to get here. But with the new cine lens now in my hands, I really feel the camera needs to go. A shame, because the raw format was great to work with in post. But it's just got terrible rolling shutter. And because I'm working in a visual effects environment, it's just not up to the task. So, I'm planning to replace it sometime soon. I know what I'll replace it with, but I'm going to wait a few more pay-cheques before ordering one.