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mitchell camera

branan edgens

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Here's my situation: shooting a no-budget 35mm short. One shot, camera never moves. Shot is 3 min. long. Lens is 18mm. Two speaking actors, both are 20 feet away and somewhat small in the frame. I have access to a FREE 35mm Mitchell (I'm assuming non-synch) or even a FREE ArriBL4

Question: How loud are these things? Also, would anyone risk audio recording a few dozen rehearsals and then using that sound (after a lot of editing and massaging)? Of course, we'd also record the camera takes but the sound might be unusable due to camera noise, and not stay in synch anyway. I have a lot of sound editing experience and think I can put the sound back together but... what a headache!

So, would YOU risk it?


Also: we'd be shooting another part of the movie on a newer camera, maybe Panavision. Am I wrong thinking that Mitchell cameras were famous for rock-steady images?

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The BL4 is a very quiet camera, and it will run at 24 or 25 fps sync speed. You should not have problems recording sound, even if you do it "wild" using a DAT or harddisk recording device.


A Mitchell BNC in its huge blimp housing will be definitely quiet. Different motors can be fitted to it, and a AC model should solve any sync issues.


But there also are Mitchell cameras without that blimp (S35R, NC), and they will not run silent. If you can get a Mitchell BNC (=Blimped Noiseless Camera) everything is fine, and it's a great camera for static shots (if you ever had to carry a BNC... ;) ).

Edited by Christian Appelt
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Go for the BL4 if you can get your hands on it. The Mitchell if it's in good shape will work out I'm sure, you'll have to settle for older lenses. It all depends on whether its blimped and sync or not, of course.


What you're proposing to do, record the rehearsal audio and then try to sync it up to the picture, won't give you good sync even if you slice and dice it to death. Your actors would have to mechanically replicate the rehearsal audio during the take, and that's a sure way to murder a performance. Your actors are either going to become robots or they're going to complain.


If you can't get a quiet enough camera, just post dub it. 3 minutes of final film shouldn't be that hard to post sync. I'm post syncing a feature right now. It's a bit tedious but you can really refine performances that way and get the sound as crispy as possible, separately adding the ambient sound and foley to taste. Check out my article, http://www.geocities.com/gselinsky/nonsync.html


- G.

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That's a good article, George, especially for those working on miniscule budgets!


I'm very glad it's of help!


Post dubbing is usually something that student filmmakers experiment with (when all they're given in an intro course is a non-sync camera but they want to have some sync in their first sound films), and is then forgotten until the ADR stage of a movie. At least that's the case in America. This was a standard method in Russian cinema for ages, as well as many other Euro countries.


From a creative perspective (and this is my personal opinion), this method is actually in many ways preferrable to sync. The amount of control you get over sound is much greater. The idea is that when you're filming on location, with the whole crew there and all that gear, you can leave yourself to concentrate just on the picture element 100%. The sound end of it is left to a separate stage, where you have maximum control over it.


The biggest problem with post sync and probably the number one reason it's not used a lot in America is that it's a bit inefficient financially because when you have big actors it's more expensive to book them for extensive ADR sessions later than just to film the whole thing in sync (esp. if you're filming in a sound stage). You have to confine yourself to a schedule (and pay a facility) and if time and money are getting tight, you have to start accepting less than perfect results. This often happens in Russian films, where entire features are dubbed in one week, with long tedious sessions. The f-it factor increases, and the result is visible on the screen (esp. the big screen). But the audience there is more accustomed to loose lips than here.


Actors tend not to like post-sync for obvious reasons, it's more work for them, they have to recreate their entire performance again, they have to fight off the sense of artificiality. But it's a good chance to improve on things and take things in a different direction sometimes, you can practically recontemplate the expression of every line of dialog (and also, you can refine diction which can be of great help with some actors), and by improving the on screen performance you're making the actors look better too :) You can also get one actor to dub another, which is where it can really get fun.


When you shoot sync you're stuck with what you have pretty much, getting ADR to match with sync audio is very difficult.


Another good issue here is that post syncing forces you to think about your ambient and foley sounds much more carefully, you're forced to recreate everything versus relying on the soundman to get it (and the soundman is primarily interested in dialog, nothing else). You also don't have the continuity issue of a close miked shot being cut into a far miked shot. Yes, some people like this change in proximity effect but you can also reproduce this nicely with an intelligent combo of reverb and EQ in the mix, if so desired.


All in all, post sync works best for low budget filmmakers where actors are working for almost nothing or for nothing period, where you have inexperienced, amateur actors (here is where post dubbing can really bail you out sometimes - although it's not the cure all for bad performances either), and don't have enough time on the set or the personel to get good location audio. The equipment required is actually less expensive than a good location audio recorder and mic package. It's also great if you're shooting over a long period of time where rental of a camera is inefficient and it's better to buy one. You can get a nice light non-sync camera like the Arri II or Konvas instead of getting a hulky BNCR or an Arri blimp, or spending the extra money on a BL 1/2


- G.

Edited by GeorgeSelinsky
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Mitchell models for sound shooting:


NC = Newsreel Camera

BNC = Blimped Newsreel Camera

FC = Fox Camera (65/5, Todd-AO)

BFC = Blimped Fox Camera

NCR = Reflexed NC

BNCR = Reflexed BNC


Mitchell derivatives for sound shooting:


Some early Panavisions


Cinema Products XR-35 (rotating mirror reflex, variable shutter, battery powered, crystal motor with crystal sound speed and adjustable variable speed, magnesium body, under 100 pounds complete, 4-perf or 2-perf, electronic footage counter, BNCR mount, under 26 dB)

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Go for the Arri BL IV. Chances are that tech support will be better.

Just to add a little tidbit of info on post-synch sound. Fellini felt that it was often important to cast for the face and the voice and that often people that had great faces did not have the voice that fit what he wanted to achieve in the film.

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Guest Sean McVeigh
I have a lot of sound editing experience and think I can put the sound back together but... what a headache!


I just wrapped up a 5-minute ADR session for footage shot on a 2C (non-sync) and it's not that big a headache. Having good talent is what will make or break it for you. One of my actors hit their marks flawlessly in post, whereas the other was probably batting the exact opposite (ie. 5%-on as opposed to 95%-on). If you have experience as a sound editor, then it shouldn't be much of a hassle. VocAlign helps.


If I had the choice, I'd probably go with the BL4. It's probably going to be sitting about 30dB below your conversation volume. If you are using a directional mic (shotgun, etc.) and placing the camera far enough from the action, you should have no problem getting your sound recorded. If it's still too noisy after the fact, have your actors back in to do an clean ADR session. As George mentions, it can get fun when you have to break down the foley in a scene.. right down to people breathing and their shirts rustling.

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