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Marc Roessler

Aaton XTR Prod, cat on the shoulder - really?

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Hey everyone,

 

I'd like your thoughts on the XTR Prod. It's got a reputation as the "cat on the shoulder", but I always find myself struggling with it.

 

When I put it on my right shoulder and put it snug right against my neck so there's additional stability, I have to turn my head to the left and upward to be able to watch through the viewfinder. Otherwise the viewfinder will end up somewhere where my nose is. The viewfinder having a very small angle from which it is viewable doesn't really help either. Operating the camera like that feels and looks awkward.

 

When I set the camera farher away from my neck, there's much less stability for the camera, somehow this doesn't feel right.

 

I'm also wondering about the handgrip. I feel when mounting it to the front rods, it is too far up so you have to extend your arm upwards in weird way (could be fixed by additional grip stuff of course). Also I find it quite hard to operate the small switch in the hand grip, because it ends up somewhere under the middle of my thumb and not at the tip of it where I'd be able to apply controlled pressure.

 

Has this particular XTR been set up/configured in a strange way or am I just incompatible with its proportions?

 

Greetings,

Marc

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Marc,

 

It sounds, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the camera might be sitting right where your shoulder and neck meet. It may make things more stable– but what I do is kind of let the prod rest in the middle of my shoulder, and here, the VF wraps right around onto where my eye is. Seeing through the camera is one huge priority.

 

People definitely vary in proportions, but one aspect of any Aaton is that it's just about the easiest 16mm sync system to hold. If you find a position that lets you view the image properly but that is uncomfortable, sometimes a wadded up T-shirt on your shoulder can help things. Use the handgrip too, if you have it– that plus the camera's weight against your body should make the experience and the picture-product look perfectly "handheld".

 

Anyway, I understand what you mean. No motion picture camera is really all that fun to have on top of you all the time. I think the Aaton's reputation is based on a number of comparative examples. An SR3 is every bit a wonderful machine, but the SR's flat base digs into you on one side, and you have to cushion them.

 

Cheers,

 

Isaac

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Isaac, thanks for your thoughts on this!

I didn't use an SR as a shoulder camera yet, so I have to admit I don't really know how it rates compared to the XTR. So the SR might be much worse than the XTR in this regard.

 

Maybe I'll be able to break my habit of snugging it against my neck (hmm, cat on the shoulder, purrr..) :D

 

Greetings,

Marc

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Had an XTR and an LTR over the years, as well as an SR, and for me there was a world of difference in the comfort of either Aaton on my shoulder compared to the Arriflex. Any motion picture camera, when loaded with 400ft, lens(especially a zoom) and a matte box, etc., is going to be heavy and somewhat awkward, not exactly cat-like, but I think Aaton did a great job making their 16mm cameras as hand-holdable as possible.

 

Best,

-Tim

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The "cat-on-shoulder" marketing claim is really steeped in history, and comes from a time when shoulder designs were still rare as 16mm cameras where mostly handheld in front of the operator, 1950s-style. Think: Arriflex 16 St or 16 BL (Tim is the master of 16 S knowledge B) ).

 

The comparisons made by others here with flatbase cameras like the Arriflex 16 SR-series is spot-on in terms of the "comfort" camera operators can now benefit from thanks to "cat-on-shoulder", but actually it's a bit of an anachronistic comparison because the SR was presented in 1975, years after Jean-Pierre Beauviala had presented/launched the Aaton 7 back in 1971/3.

 

In fact, André Coutant's Eclair 16 NPR of 1963 was the first shoulder-design camera, and the much-delayed Eclair ACL - already designed by Jean-Pierre Beauviala - developed this form factor further into what Aäton now basically markets as "cat-on-shoulder" ergonomics. The ACL is basically the sketch from which JPB created the Aaton 7 and laid the foundation for his own company.

 

In a way, even after "cat-on-shoulder" was established as the preferred form factor for film-based newsgathering cameras by the mid-1970s, ARRI still had the boldness to bring their own very unergonomic design to market that they only ditched with the 416 roughly three decades later :huh: .

 

Personally, I think the Aatons are still the best cameras to have on your shoulder for any longer time, and the most ergonomic ones to operate. Better than the ACL or similar cameras like the CP 16, News 16 or even the 416. The only camera coming close to the Aatons is in my view the Bolex 16 Pro, a camera introduced in 1970 ahead of the ACL and Aaton which few people know.

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Hey everyone,

 

I'd like your thoughts on the XTR Prod. It's got a reputation as the "cat on the shoulder", but I always find myself struggling with it.

 

When I put it on my right shoulder and put it snug right against my neck so there's additional stability, I have to turn my head to the left and upward to be able to watch through the viewfinder. Otherwise the viewfinder will end up somewhere where my nose is. The viewfinder having a very small angle from which it is viewable doesn't really help either. Operating the camera like that feels and looks awkward.

 

When I set the camera farher away from my neck, there's much less stability for the camera, somehow this doesn't feel right.

 

I'm also wondering about the handgrip. I feel when mounting it to the front rods, it is too far up so you have to extend your arm upwards in weird way (could be fixed by additional grip stuff of course). Also I find it quite hard to operate the small switch in the hand grip, because it ends up somewhere under the middle of my thumb and not at the tip of it where I'd be able to apply controlled pressure.

 

Has this particular XTR been set up/configured in a strange way or am I just incompatible with its proportions?

 

Greetings,

Marc

 

 

 

I've found that I often ended up with the viewfinder arm down quite low and the eyepiece pointing almost upwards (and slightly outwards with the angle of the arm)

 

If i had the viewfinder at 90Deg out from the body, then I'd have exactly the same problem you're describing. Did you try pulling the VF arm lower and then rotating the eyepiece upwards ?

 

jb

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The "cat-on-shoulder" marketing claim is really steeped in history, and comes from a time when shoulder designs were still rare as 16mm cameras where mostly handheld in front of the operator, 1950s-style. Think: Arriflex 16 St or 16 BL (Tim is the master of 16 S knowledge B) ).

 

The comparisons made by others here with flatbase cameras like the Arriflex 16 SR-series is spot-on in terms of the "comfort" camera operators can now benefit from thanks to "cat-on-shoulder", but actually it's a bit of an anachronistic comparison because the SR was presented in 1975, years after Jean-Pierre Beauviala had presented/launched the Aaton 7 back in 1971/3.

 

In fact, André Coutant's Eclair 16 NPR of 1963 was the first shoulder-design camera, and the much-delayed Eclair ACL - already designed by Jean-Pierre Beauviala - developed this form factor further into what Aäton now basically markets as "cat-on-shoulder" ergonomics. The ACL is basically the sketch from which JPB created the Aaton 7 and laid the foundation for his own company.

 

In a way, even after "cat-on-shoulder" was established as the preferred form factor for film-based newsgathering cameras by the mid-1970s, ARRI still had the boldness to bring their own very unergonomic design to market that they only ditched with the 416 roughly three decades later :huh: .

 

Personally, I think the Aatons are still the best cameras to have on your shoulder for any longer time, and the most ergonomic ones to operate. Better than the ACL or similar cameras like the CP 16, News 16 or even the 416. The only camera coming close to the Aatons is in my view the Bolex 16 Pro, a camera introduced in 1970 ahead of the ACL and Aaton which few people know.

 

Sorry for this rant, people, but I can't let so many errors in so few paragraphs go unchecked -- ciinematography.com will only remain a bit authoritative if we don't let 'anything go' with respect to information, albeit historical (but perhaps historically accurate information and the perspective that comes from it is the thing we need most in the face of the ongoing technological upheaval in the field of image production...). So here goes :

 

'The cat on the shoulder' marketing claim was actually Aaton's very own, dating to the mid 70's, by which time many camera designs were shoulder-held. I was meant to advertise a better, more ergonomic design, not just any shoulder-holding (and the target was probably more Eclair than Arri in that respect : Eclair does it well, we do it better!)

 

The Eclair 16 was by no means the first shoulder-held camera : just think of Eclair's own 1947 design, the Caméflex

 

Jean-Pierre Beauviala had nothing to do with the design of the Eclair ACL, which was designed by Coma and Lecœur.

 

The ACL was not 'much delayed'. In fact, it's the Aaton 7 that was 'much delayed', and I'm pretty sure (although I'm ready to be corrected on that), date-wise, it was more like 'announce and '73 and produced in '75), making it a contemporary of the Arri SR.

 

And to give back Beauviala his due, if the ACL was not his 'sketch' for the Aaton 7, he certainly looked at it closely and had one briliant idea to improved on its ergonomics : to move the viewfinder in front of the camera (rather than on its side as on the ACL and many previous designs), so that the body of the camera could be moved back and better balanced, weight-wise, on the shoulder -- that's the genius behind the cat on the shoulder ergonomics of Aaton cameras. Paradoxically, it's also what nearly brought Aaaton's demise when, after much delay, the Aaton 7 was released in the same time frame as the Arri SR (which also has that forward V-F design)and Arri decided to sue Aaton on patent infringement. Putting its great financial weight behind the legal procedure, Arri did bring Aaton to its knees, but Beauviala is also an astute entrepreneur and managed to get his company back on its feet after only a short while.

 

Voilà, end of my rant. But please, Michael, check your facts before posting, next time.

 

 

 

 

 

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