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American Cinematographer (1981) - Cine equipment over fifty years




During the half‑century which has elapsed since the BKSTS began, equipment available to film technicians has made enormous advances.

Developments in the Camera and its Use

Fifty years ago, when our Society was founded, perhaps quite appropriately, cinematography was just emerging out of the chrysalis of the black and white silent screen into the type of images we know today.

Only a few years earlier, in 1928, Baynham Honri, a past President of our Society (1946‑48), had been on a mission to Hollywood on behalf of a leading British Film director, Alfred Hitchcock, to investigate developments in sound‑on‑film recording and reproduction and brought back and operated a recording system which was introduced into the then half-completed film, BLACKMAIL.

If the coming of sound did nothing else, it established the electric motor as the sole means of driving both the camera and the cinema projectors in order to make the frames‑per‑second rate more consistent than was possible with hand cranking. Gone was the regular use of creative camera speeds, both to enhance the action and to anticipate and correct for the inevitable variations in projection speeds which our American sister society of the period, the SMPE noted in 1925, "satisfied the public desire to have its picture drama injected under greater pressure with an increasing dose, bigger than life and one and a third times as fast."

Another effect of the coming of sound was that the cameras, after a brief period in soundproof booths, were for many years to be swaddled in blimps to make them quiet, an incarceration from which they did not emerge until comparatively recently.

In the early days the sound engineers ruled the roost. No matter where the images had to be photographed the sound departments would attach their synchronous motors to the cameras and lay out heavy cables to their distant recorders, f...

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