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Rotary prism cameras in Openheimer


massimo losito
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Very interested- this was my day job for 4 years (the high-speed camera bit, not the atom bomb bit, they were down the road😉).

Most of the article is accurate but the errors don't detract from a useful piece. The image isn't particularly unsteady, at least as steady as the Steenbeck- I've just checked something shot at 5000pps on it. We used to run up to 10000 with a half-height frame on the E10. One 400-foot roll per shot. The edge of the E10 shutter rotates at up to Mach 1.

https://www.nacinc.com/datasheets/archive/E-10 Film Camera.pdf

I understand Nolan didn't want to use CGI so he had to do his explosions properly.

Edited by Mark Dunn
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Very interesting Mark. Did you work at Photo-sonics? Yes rotary high speed camera are not stable, but they are the only option above some speeds.. The Nac E10 it's an amazing camera! I shot once with it.

Yes, Nolan like to shoot "in camera effects" . So the only way is to shoot an explosion for real 😉

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Vision Research Phantom cameras can go well beyond the 2,500 fps rate mention in the article. From Wikipedia:


The Phantom TMX 7510 is currently the company's fastest camera as of November 2022, it can record video at up to 76,000 frames per second (fps) at its max resolution of 1280x800, and can record at 1,750,000 frames per second at a resolution of 1280 x 32, or in binned mode with a resolution of 640 x 64.

The Phantom v2512, the company's fastest camera as of August 2018, can record video at over 25,000 at its full one megapixel resolution, and up to one million frames per second at a reduced resolution of 256 x 32 pixels. The Phantom v2640 records 6,600 fps at its full resolution of four megapixels, and 12,500 fps at full HD resolution.

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On 12/29/2022 at 9:53 PM, massimo losito said:

Very interesting Mark. Did you work at Photo-sonics? Yes rotary high speed camera are not stable, but they are the only option above some speeds.. The Nac E10 it's an amazing camera! I shot once with it.

Yes, Nolan like to shoot "in camera effects" . So the only way is to shoot an explosion for real 😉

No, for the Ministry of Defence here

https://www.qinetiq.com/en/shoeburyness/about/mod-shoeburyness-timeline-and-history

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If you ever get a chance, check out Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie, by Pete Kuran.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114728/

I worked with Pete back in the late 90's, he used to own PMP, an effects stage up in the west end of the San Fernando Valley.

One day in the late 90's I was shooting miniatures there and he walked out on the stage and started handing out DVD's of his pet project, which was finding and cleaning up archival footage of the atomic tests from the 50's and 60's.

Turns out that Pete's dad was also a cameraman, and was involved in the national defense effort filming nuclear tests. It was apparently a big, organized thing that nobody talked about. The Department of Energy leveraged their proximity to Hollywood and maintained a technical facility up in the Cahuenga Pass and employed  a small, secret group of working cameramen and technicians to staff it.

Pete's dad was one of these guys. Pete says he remembers when he was a kid every once in a while his dad would mysteriously disappear for a couple of days without explanation to a "location project" he would never seem talk about. Pete always thought it was suspicious but only three decades later did he find out that Pop was driving up to Nevada to film big things going boom.

Once Pete figured out the story it sparked his interest and he spent years digging around for the old footage of these tests and used downtime at his facility to clean up and remaster the film, eventually releasing it as two CD's

He also dug up a lot of really interesting technical information - for example, he found out that Kodak manufactured special film for the bomb test that was kind of like color film, but it was actually three B&W layers that had wildly different ASA's - say 400, 20 and 1. The idea was that as one layer saturated, the next one would be reaching a good exposure window, and by printing it three times with different color filters to pull out the three layers of interest you could effectively get a B&W film with extreme dynamic range - useful for very bright events.  

 

Edited by Steve Switaj
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3 hours ago, Steve Switaj said:

He also dug up a lot of really interesting technical information - for example, he found out that Kodak manufactured special film for the bomb test that was kind of like color film, but it was actually three B&W layers that had wildly different ASA's - say 400, 20 and 1. The idea was that as one layer saturated, the next one would be reaching a good exposure window, and by printing it three times with different color filters to pull out the three layers of interest you could effectively get a B&W film with extreme dynamic range - useful for very bright events.

Wow that is SO cool!! 

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4 hours ago, Steve Switaj said:

He also dug up a lot of really interesting technical information - for example, he found out that Kodak manufactured special film for the bomb test that was kind of like color film, but it was actually three B&W layers that had wildly different ASA's - say 400, 20 and 1. The idea was that as one layer saturated, the next one would be reaching a good exposure window, and by printing it three times with different color filters to pull out the three layers of interest you could effectively get a B&W film with extreme dynamic range - useful for very bright events.  

I wonder why b&w films now only have two layers? If you had a b&w stock with three layers (or even four, as there is plenty of room) you'd have a film stock with more DR than the best digital cameras.

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On 12/30/2022 at 2:20 AM, Karim D. Ghantous said:

That is so cool. I wonder if digital cameras can get there one day? Perhaps sensor size will be the limiting factor. 

It wasn't that long ago that video cameras were limited to 30fps or less. Even very expensive ones. But some 8mm cameras from the 1930s could reach 64fps.

data rates and readout speeds are the limiting factor. The data rates are pretty insane in even the very basic digital camera running at normal resolutions and framerates so it is understandable that one will get lots of issues if multiplying that by couple of hundreds or 1000.  Processing the sensor signals to usable image data will take so much processing power that it is very difficult to arrange in any situation.

in high speed cameras the higher framerates are possible by first limiting the vertical resolution of the output image to reduce the readout time of individual frames so that the sensor and data busses can keep up, and when that does not help enough one can limit the horizontal resolution as well. You can see this in all high speed cameras, when needing high framerates they first limit the vertical resolution and after certain limit both the vertical and horizontal are limited.

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I have two Visual Inst. Hycam-II cameras (built in 2002) and we used to do allot of work for Pratt&Whitney on FAA mandated tests for jet engines and other high speed camera work for military engines, including for the F-35.

The largest test I worked on for them was a engine for the A380 and there was 27 Hycam-II 16mm cameras shooting SO-19 (7219 on Estar) at FR between 6000PPS and 11,000 PPS along about a dozen digital high speed cameras. The test was lit with 500 1K Lowel Omni quartz lights. The newer Hycam-II cameras have new motor control electronics which allow for the camera to get to full speed within 50-75ft of a 400ft roll.

P&W would "rent" the lab for a day and we would process the negative and then do a transfer to video, but then cut the negative down to the sections they wanted to really see and make a timed 16mm print. I remember holding about 850ft of negative and thinking it cost about $35 Million to produce it. Picture clarity and detail was really excellent and far exceeded the digital cameras even very recently. The digital cameras would also have issues failing due to the very high vibration environment of a full running 80,000lb thrust engine blowing up.

It was only in the last five years that they switched entirely to digital for this work.

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On 1/3/2023 at 2:19 AM, Karim D. Ghantous said:

I wonder why b&w films now only have two layers? If you had a b&w stock with three layers (or even four, as there is plenty of room) you'd have a film stock with more DR than the best digital cameras.

I think it's just a matter of market demand.  Even before digital, all the stock development was geared toward color stocks.  And these days, most people who want black and white want the double x sort of look.  

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2 hours ago, Dan Finlayson said:

I think it's just a matter of market demand.  Even before digital, all the stock development was geared toward color stocks.  And these days, most people who want black and white want the double x sort of look.  

I would think that if you offered to buy 25 million feet of film from Kodak they would figure out how to use multiple layers of Vision 3 emulsion without the color dyes and couplers for a theoretical new monochrome stock.

Probably at a $1.00/ft or more price.

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On 1/4/2023 at 9:57 PM, Robert Houllahan said:

I would think that if you offered to buy 25 million feet of film from Kodak they would figure out how to use multiple layers of Vision 3 emulsion without the color dyes and couplers for a theoretical new monochrome stock.

You're describing a customer that likely doesn't exist

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8 minutes ago, Dan Finlayson said:

You're describing a customer that likely doesn't exist

Not any more. But 30 years ago we were ordering long pitch 16mm. ECN and VNF by the containerload. Our store cupboard alone must have held 100,000ft. On a big trial we'd use a couple of miles a day, and we thought nothing of burning 1000' of fresh film just to test continuity of cabling.

We had our own processing lines, so we could confirm a result in a couple of hours, and a security-cleared London lab for workprints. Coincidentally it was the one my college used. Probably not coincidence, come to think of it- it must have been one of the last.

There must have been dozens of government establishments bigger than us.

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15 hours ago, Dan Finlayson said:

You're describing a customer that likely doesn't exist

That client was the US Military Industrial Complex and that was fractions of pennies on the hundred dollar bills they happily burned through. Certainly not any more but it was only within this decade that Hycam cameras were mostly replaced for this kind of work by digital substitutes.

The US Air Force had a few very substantial labs of their own.

I bet Kodak would do a special run for the overall cost of a master roll now and I was exaggerating a bit about the 25M feet intro cost.

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The biggest order I ever made was for 4 million feet of print, interpos, dupe neg and sound recording stock when we got an unexpected grant from the National Film Preservation Board.

Kodak was very happy.

That will never happen again AND that stock lasted us about 5 years...

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