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Jason Hinkle (RIP)

ACL Teardown Video

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This is awesome! Thanks so much for finding this and putting it together.


I thought so too. I doubt I'll be taking my camera apart anytime soon but it's nice to see some of the maintenance things he's talking about. I contacted Tony who made the video & he said he's planning to post the final part where he replaces the shutter. He's located in Hollywood and does rental and repair work on Eclair cameras, which is nice since George at Optical-Electro retired.

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I was interested in the comment about the bronze and metal washers in the ACL I. I got a cheaper ACL I body on ebay which I figured would be good for parts, when I tried a motor on it, it was surprisingly quiet.

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Hey guys, watch this video for your entertainment, but proceed with caution... Tony seems to have started 'servicing' ACLs last year and he hasn't bothered to look around for serious information about the cameras...

Several things are downright wrong in what he says, like : a) a shorted bloop light would not cause flicker, it would burn out the film continuously ; B) you don't set the timing on the camera from the rear drive axle, because you need to see precisely where the shutter is with respect to both the claw and the mirror, instead, you do so by loosening the shutter (without removing the set screws completely) ; c) you don't need to remove the filter or filter holder to remove the main mechanism plate, and in fact, you don't even need to remove the motor if you're careful and you know what you're doing....

Also, you can tell he's not serious about servicing cameras just by looking at the workbench and the tools he uses. I'm not being pedantic, it's extremely important since Eclair screws are very special, with a specific pitch, so you don't want to use crappy tools and break the screw head. If you're going to open an Eclair camera, start by going to the tool shop and buying a set of good quality screwdrivers (flat ones, Eclair didn't use Philips screws) in all the sizes beginning with 1.5mm.

And many things about the explanations are just not clear or downright misleading. The ACL he is opening up is not a regular model. Many things have been modified, including an important fact : once you have removed the two bits of back covering, there is normaly yet one more screw that holds the mechanism plate to the body. This is important, since you should be able to run the camera without its back covers when you service it, so that plate has to be set firmly into the body.

And what about the claims that 99% of rattling noises on ACLs come from a bent shutter ; that the best motor for the ACL is the CP model ; that an ACL is not made to run over 25 fps -- come on !

I could go on to mention another number of approximations and confusions, but the point is : before you post a video or some other bit of information about something as specific (and more importantly, as dear to their owners) as a 16mm movie camera, please, please do your homework !

Some of us spend years just gathering up original technical information to make it available on sites like eclair16.com (I wrote a history of the evolution of the ACL on the site, just to debunk all the wrong information that was floating around the internet thanks to overnight 'specialists'), so it's really annoying to see all that work being undone by another guy's desire to be the next Eclair technician in Hollywood, now that the people with proper training are disappearing.

And I'm not saying that just because I'm a snotty French ;-)

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I have to second the comments made by Boris.

I especially cringed when I saw him laying down the opened mechanism plate (starting at 5:09 of part 3) and applying downward pressure.

This could very easily damage the plastic gears on the other side. Yikes!

Eclair had a special stand for working safely on the camera like this. Otherwise, hold it in your hand while loosening the screws.




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Thanks Jean-Louis.

I should also add that you should be thinking not twice but three times before removing the prism from the mechanism plate, or even just loosening its screws. the ground glass is glued to it, so that is where the viewfinder image is formed. In other words, if it's not placed within extremely stringent measurements, the viewfinder image will be off and most of your shots will be out of focus.

The idea to mark its position on the mechanism plate before loosening it may seem good, but without a lot of further testing with film afterwards, you're likely to be just off for those difficult low light shots at wide opening (and shallow depth of field), whereas all looked good ad wider opening or with wide angle lenses... Tinkerers, beware !

The point is not to scare film-makers from touching their gear and to say that only factory-trained technicians should open up a camera (in fact, nobody has been trained by Eclair for at least 25 years, when the company closed), but to realise that if you decide to do any service by yourself, you should be well informed, well equipped, and well endowed (I mean : with a steady hand, a good head, and a lot of patience, of course!), and you should be very critical with your own work and test, test, test before shooting anything important.

In fact, it's by opening an ACL that you realize the engineering genius that went into designing such a small camera 40 years ago. It's not just that the rotating mirror was replaced with the ACL's swinging arm mechanism (making for a smaller overall size), but also that the whole mechanism of the camera fits on that single mechanism plate : motor shaft, claw mechanism, shutter and drive, spindle mirror, viewing prism and ground glass, magazine drive shaft, and of course, the picture gate -- in other words, the whole heart of the camera (and that's why you need to proceed with more caution than Tony shows in this video when you work on that incredible mechanism plate...).

An amazing camera indeed -- love it, open it, but don't botch it !

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Very informative comments but, as a frustrated ACL owner, I must give credit where credit's due: I've tested Tony's fix for the flicker problem which is so common on s16 ACLs and it definitely works. (It seems to be something to do with the pilotone circuitry that causes a tiny flash on every other frame, which I think is what Tony was getting at – not the bloop light.)


I previously sent my camera to two expert techs to have this flicker problem fixed (including Les Bosher, who did the original s16 conversion) and none of the stuff they tried worked. I'd pretty much given up on the camera because the flicker was ruining everything I shot and it seemed unfixable, so figured I had nothing to lose by opening it up and having a go myself. Turns out it took about five minutes to repair and, as you're only removing the base to unplug the connector, it's not as risky as opening up the main camera body - not something I'd want to tackle myself either. I've tested the camera thoroughly and it now works perfectly. (I know another ACL owner who has also had success with this fix so I know it's not a fluke.)


Irrespective of the other issues raised here, the flicker fix is extremely useful and I'm very glad it's been posted - I wish I'd known it a lot sooner.

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I found Tony's videos quite interesting and useful also. But I sympathise with Boris and Jean-Louis. Tony comes across on the video as sort of too relaxed. I diddn't agree with all that Tony said, but I still found it useful, if that makes sense.


Re precautions when working on the mechanism plate, TI thought Tony had put some screws back into it so that he could rest the plate on the screws.


Something that needs to happen, maybe we need a separate named thread for it. Workshop manuals and service manuals for ACL I and II need to get in the public domain. The number of experienced ACL camera techs is diminishing, but there are lots of skilled camera techs who know Arri, Aaton, Panavision ... ACLs are quite simple cameras (so I'm told) and if some documentation was available some of these guys would happily service them. So we need to find and make public domain the service docs.


Also, I think camera owners need to document the service record of their gear. What was done, and by who.




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