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Canned Air for Sr2, and avoiding hairs!


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Hello Film Lovers,

Looking back on my first short film and moving onto the next, I really want to avoid hairs in the camera/mag etc. Being a new to 16mm film, I did not have canned air when we were shooting. In some cases, a hair in the corner just happens, I've seen it in a lot of different films. However, I would like to avoid it as much as possible in the future. Firstly, where can I buy canned air, and what kind/brand do most people use? Secondly, I want to make sure I spray the right parts of the camera and mags, but without doing any damage to the camera specifically. Any tips and advice on how to avoid hairs on my next shoot would be greatly appreciated! Thanks,

Jim Milton

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In my experience a simple air blower/ blowing with your mouth should be enough to do a gate check on an SR2.

Just use a flashlight from inside and out, so you see all the fuzzies, maybe run a moist toothpick around the gate.

Canned air seems like overkill, and this is my anecdotal experience on very small, no budget sets, but my frame is always clean ; )

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NEVER spread canned air into any part of the camera body, only in the the magazine! 

Here's a quote directly from the Arriflex SRII manual

Quote

In the 16 SR II instead of the conventional ground glass a fibre optic viewing screen is used to reproduce the reflex image. With the fibre optic viewing screen definition is better, especially with stopped down lenses, as no ground glass grains are visible.

 

If this fibre optic viewing screen is hit with compressed air it will almost definitely get damaged.

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If a slug of liquid gas comes out because of shaking the can from habit or turning it upside-down which you should not, shock-cooling of any optical glass the gas hits may crack it.

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My 2 ¢, wipe dust and debris with your finger slowly from the aperture plate. Then use a soft toothbrush to clean the corners and everything. Don’t blow towards the aperture with anything. If a rag is used, apply toothbrush afterwards. No microfibre cloth!

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The ground glass is not going to get damaged from spraying compressed air from the back of the camera on the gate. The delicate parts of the optics are ABOVE the ground glass, completely encapsulated, which is why these cameras don't build up a lot of dust on the optics as easy as the Aaton's. 

I hit the gate with canned air and then clean the rails using lens cleaner with Q tips OR Kim wipes and using my finger nail to get the edge clean real good.  You wanna make sure those rails are very clean. 

With SR's I would check the gate after a good take. They have more issues building up static than the Aaton's. 

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I appreciate all of the replies! If I am understanding you correctly, Tyler, is to not spray anywhere near the front of the camera and the lens mount? As far as the mags, I can spray under the roller, and the insert where the film leads in, as well as the plate? I will use some lens cleaner with the rails and the aperture plate? Also, is there a specific brand you use?  Thank you so much for all of the information!!

Jim Milton

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4 hours ago, James Wachtel said:

If I am understanding you correctly, Tyler, is to not spray anywhere near the front of the camera and the lens mount?

Yea, you don't wanna kick up debris in the front of the camera. I mean when we're servicing them, we do spray everywhere, but on site, keep it down to a minimal. You will just push dirt around. 

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As evidenced by the different responses above, people have a variety of opinions on how to safely clean a camera gate! 

I know there are professional ACs who use canned air on camera gates, but my personal preference is not to (unless the gate has been removed from the camera, which you can do with some 35mm cameras). I don't like it because it can potentially blow things into the movement, but I can appreciate that it's a quick and easy method.  I wouldn't recommend spraying canned air inside the mirror cavity towards the back of the gate either, there's just too much chance of things being blown back into the movement or chemical residue getting onto the ground glass or mirror surfaces. The Arriflex manuals for all SR series cameras warn against blowing canned air inside the camera mount, ostensibly to prevent damage to the internal light meter needle (which was actually removed on many cameras), but it's just generally not a good idea IMHO.

Some manuals, including the excellent "Cinematography" by David Mullen and Kris Malkiewicz, do however recommend cleaning away hairs by using canned air from the lens mount side but not the gate side, so I guess there are many ways to skin a cat.

The best way to clean hairs or other debris from the gate aperture in my opinion is to use a bulb blower or a small brush that won't shed hairs itself - a soft bristle toothbrush like Simon suggests is probably ideal. With SRs it's easy to just remove the mag to access the gate area. To clean the gate rails you can use a soft chamois and orangewood sticks or a plastic poker to get into the corners. I don't think it's necessary to use isopropyl alcohol or lens cleaner on the gate rails, and the manuals recommend not using cleaning solvents, but it shouldn't do any damage. Be careful of any painted surfaces though.  Q tips can leave behind lint, or even tufts of cotton if they get caught on a sharp edge, so I don't recommend using them (neither do a lot of manuals), but again it's not a disaster if you do use them, just be careful. 

I think canned air is fine for mag interiors or external camera surfaces, but keep it away from lenses or anything with closely fitted sliding surfaces. I've made the mistake of casually blowing air at mechanisms or bearings to remove a bit of exterior dust only for it to become crunchy due to dirt being forced inside. It's a painful lesson.

On 5/20/2021 at 8:27 AM, Tyler Purcell said:

Yea, you don't wanna kick up debris in the front of the camera. I mean when we're servicing them, we do spray everywhere, but on site, keep it down to a minimal. You will just push dirt around. 

I don't spray air everywhere when I'm servicing a camera, you've got to be careful with air. 

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1 hour ago, Dom Jaeger said:

I don't spray air everywhere when I'm servicing a camera, you've got to be careful with air. 

I mean when the camera is in pieces, when you can actually spray off individual components and not complete assemblies. 

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  • 1 month later...

A groundglass viewfinder screen and a fibre-optic viewfinder screen although serving the same purpose are different in their construction. As I comprehend things, the fibre-optic screen may be a coherent glassfibre bundle, a bonded piece sliced thin and dressed smooth as a projection screen like the groundglass. It may be a longer run of fibres arranged to maintain an erect image whichever way a viewfinder eyepiece is oriented. The bundle may be stablised at each end by a transparent adhesive. A similar arrangement is used in tube-based night vision to invert an image instead of a system of lenses. Hit a fibre-optic slice with a high pressure air jet and fibres may disbond causing a blemish in the viewed image. Heed the advice of better qualified people than I.

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