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John Rizzo

Hand Cranked Camera

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A client has asked me if it is possible to rent a hand crank camera in 35mm or 16mm does any one know if that is possible?


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I'm not familiar with the rental options in your neck of the woods, but there are plenty of cameras that can be hand-cranked or modified for it.


Old Mitchells like the NC or GC have both 1:1 and 8:1 shafts for hand-cranking which you might still find in working order (we have an NC with a hand-crank, only goes out as a prop these days, but still works fine.) Eyemos can be easily set up for hand-cranking, plus many older studio cameras like Bell & Howell 2709s or Debrie Parvos. They were so well built many of them still function, but finding them might be tricky.


Arri 2Cs and 35-3s can be modified for hand-cranking, which certain rental houses may still carry. (I believe Clairmont have a hand-crank 2C as well as some hand-cranked 16SRs.) You can also use a 435 with an Arri hand-crank accessory:



With 16mm you could easily set up a Bolex for hand-cranking (although it helps to have a longer crank handle made rather than use the tiny Bolex rewind one), or any number of other old wind-up cameras - Cine-Kodak Specials, Filmos, Pathe Webos, etc. For a higher end option some SRs have been modified (as mentioned, try Clairmont).


Most hand-crank gears use an 8:1 ratio, so achieving the old silent frame rate of 16 fps is easy enough with 2 turns per second, but getting up to 24 fps is pretty hard work!

Edited by Dom Jaeger

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What sort of frame rates are required? If you are looking for low frame rates with beautiful smeared images could you just glue a crank to the inching knob of an arri 2 and try it? I had, still have, a Cinefelx 35, an American, almost copy of an Arri II from WWII when copright was not an issue. The side mount for the motor allows a crank possibility. My pet bucket list project involves dragging this camera on weells, like a Buzzy Bee toy, with the wheels driving the camera movement

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It is possible, and people are doing it!


Apart from some high profile examples like Tony Scott's "Man on Fire" and "Domino" (where they used a modified Arri 2C) there are quite a few indy projects that have used hand-cranked cameras.


Some links:





That last one is from Pro Video Coalition's Adam Wilt, documenting a shoot utilising a Bell & Howell 2709, including lots of great photos of the camera set-up.


This interview with Tony Scott and Dan Mindel after the release of "Domino" goes into some interesting detail about their hand-cranking exploits:



There are even cinematographers like John Adderley who have made a speciality of shooting on old wooden hand-crank cameras:



Old timey filmmaking is alive and well!

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