New Arri 16mm camera has all 35mm elements

Arriflex Corp. rolled out a new film camera last weekend, plus a computer accessory that could speed up the film editing process.

The company unveiled its new 16mm camera, the 16 SR-3, loaded with the same electronic features as Arriflex’s latest 35mm platform, the 535, which was introduced last summer. The SR-3 will be ready in the second quarter of this year.

One of the most advanced features on both cameras is the ability to alter the film speed over a given time period, speeding it up or slowing it down at will. The technique allows in-camera special effects, such as Dracula’s spooky gliding movement across the castle floors in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” created by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus.

Arriflex rival Panavision Intl. is taking a different approach to its product line, offering many of the same features as Arriflex’s, but as add-ons to be easily picked by its customers rather than having them built-in. “We have accessories that give you the same results,” said Phil Radin, Panavision’s exec marketing VP.

The new Arriflex 16mm, however, also appears timed to take advantage of its growing use in episodic TV, where 35mm is by far the dominant format. But 16mm’s advantage is that the smaller film stock immediately yields a 25% cost savings, according to production managers.

Now, by adding a high-quality video camera, plus the same range of lenses available for the 535 on the SR-3, Arriflex hopes to continue to expand this market.

“The great advantage is the lens, which Arriflex never invested as much as with the 35,” said Gary French, production manager on “The Commish,” which is produced in 16mm.

“Sixteen has been decimated by new technologies,” like 8mm video, said Volker Bahnemann, president of Arriflex. “Now, this is the comeback. We can pack the same production values into the 16mm” for TV.

About 90% of TV productions are shot in 35mm, then transferred to video for editing and broadcast. The film is kept for archival purposes, or as the source material for different formats in foreign markets.

But recently developed high-speed films with low grain have helped popularize 16mm. Shows done in 16mm include “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and “In the Heat of The Night.”

Meanwhile, Arriflex has teamed up with Metro Information Systems, which markets D/Vision, an off-line editing system made by Chicago’s TouchVision Systems Inc.

Metro put D/Vision onto a rugged portable Dolch computer for off-line editing. The system taps directly into the 535 or 16 SR-3 cameras, converting film to digital images that can be played back at 24 frames per second. Each take can be called up on a monitor, played back and then cut together on site.

The Dolch comes stocked with one gigabyte of memory, and a compression scheme that squeezes the images so that 60 minutes will fit on one disc. The system will be available for around $ 25,000.

The ability to do rough edits in the field, said Todd Brown, Metro’s product manager, means eliminating pickups and test shots.

“On location, we capture the image, record it and can spit out camera reports or download it to a monitor for editing,”said Brown.

The same computer system can be used to program and store for replay motion-control special effects sequences–such as the Enterprise maneuvering through space–by using a software program by Stargate Films.

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