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Reflections on shooting on 16mm with the CP-16/A for the first time


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Everyone on this forum was so incredibly kind and helpful that I wanted to make a post reflecting on the things I learned from shooting on 16mm for the first time and my experience using the CP-16/A. Hopefully, those in a similar boat can find some use here. This post is gonna be long but I’ll title each section if people want to hop around. In case anyone is interested here is the film I shot, using the CP-16/A.

https://vimeo.com/480617629

BUYING THE CAMERA

Starting off on this project, I ended up buying a broken/as is CP-16/A for 400 dollars off eBay, which was mistitled as a CP-16/R. This was the absolute cheapest Crystal Sync 16mm camera that I could afford. Through my general research, it seems like the consensus is that the CP-16R is the superior camera because it has a reflex viewfinder and more lens options. That being said It would be wise to not make the mistake I did and purchase a CP-16/A on accident. The best way to tell the difference in hindsight is by the viewfinder. If the viewfinder is coming off the lens with a dog-leg it is a CP-16/A if it is on the side of the Camera body and looks more compact it is a CP-16/R. However, after fixing the CP-16/A (will get into more details later) it ended up working fine. 

From the eBay listing, the seller had stated the camera turned on, and the lens looked to be in good shape, but he had done no further testing. After doing further research the consensus that I found was that if the electronics still worked, there was a decent chance that only the belts would need to be replaced. Buying the camera was still somewhat of a gamble, and I could have easily been burned but this was the only option we could afford. Fortunately, upon receiving the camera and opening it up with hex keys, there was no corrosion on the electronics, the camera did indeed turn on and all that was wrong with it was that the blue take up belt had disintegrated. 

From the prices, I have seen it seems like CP-16/A’s and CP-16/R’s sell for around 400-1,000 used on eBay. 

If the electronics are bad from what I have gathered it is nearly impossible to fix. I would definitely recommend doing a camera test before shooting anything meaningful with these cameras.

REPLACING THE BELTS

As far as I can tell Ken from Whitehouse Audio Visual is the only person that sells the replacement parts needed to fix these cameras. Fortunately, on his eBay store (as of 12/10/2020) he is still selling replacement belt packs which can be found here for $100.00. (https://www.ebay.com/itm/Parts-Kit-for-Cinema-Products-Cameras-types-CP16-CP16R/293882089416?hash=item446cbccfc8:g:1hsAAOSwV~1Zldnr) 

Ken is an extremely good resource, I was able to get in contact with him through his Facebook page and he was willing to help me every step of the way whenever I had a question about the camera. 

One quick note as well the belts are identical to both the CP-16/A and CP-16/R. 

The process of actually replacing the belts is fairly easy. As someone who had never attempted to repair any kind of camera, I had no issue what so ever. The guide by AWCINEMA on YouTube is the best one I can find. 

(Belt Replacement Part 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dC5eBfLlIm8&feature=emb_title

(Belt Replacement Part 2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKlRoavqqQM&feature=emb_title

As far as replacing the black drive motor belt, there is a tutorial in the CP-16 manual on page 22 of 68. This was also a fairly easy and intuitive process. 

(CP-16/R MANUAL PDF) http://canon-s8-repair.yolasite.com/resources/CP-16R/Cinema Products CP-16R User and Maintenance Manual.pdf

REPLACING MAGAZINE DRIVE PULLEY

This process is also fairly simple and can help reduce the noise from the camera. The best guide for this process can be found on canon-s8 repair’s website. Whitehouse AV’s belt replacement kit comes with the necessary parts to do this procedure. Just make sure you are careful and don’t lose or break the tiny screws or pins.

(Drive Pulley Replacement guide) http://canon-s8-repair.yolasite.com/cinema-products-cp-16r.php

LUBRICATING THE CAMERA

It was hard to figure out what kind of oil was needed for this, and perhaps people in the comments could help with this part. Regardless through forum digging it sounded like ARRI makes chronosynth camera oil, which optimal for this procedure but I was unable to source any for a reasonable price. 

The two oils I had seen mentioned as alternatives to ARRI’s was Kluber Catenera KSB 8 and Mobius watch oil. I couldn’t find any exact guide for where to exactly apply any of the oil but after reaching out to a Reddit user with the same question, it seems a few drops on the gears, and other contact points did the trick.   

I ended up using a small combination of both oils for this process, the Kluber stuff is thicker and more expensive and the watch oil is very thin and cheap. I don’t really know if both are needed or which is preferable but using it definitely helped the camera run quieter. There was only one instance when a sound blanket was needed to muffle the camera when we were filming in a really small room. 

(Kluber) https://www.qualitybearingsonline.com/kluber-catenera-ksb-8-50g/

(Moebius) https://www.amazon.com/Moebius-Multi-Purpose-Lubricating-Grade-Swiss/dp/B004GZQSZQ/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=watch+oil&qid=1607623146&sr=8-2

LOADING THE MAGS

Loading the CP-16 mags ended up being a pretty easy and straightforward process, but threading the film through the camera is rather challenging. If your loops are too tight it will result in a very loud chattering sound from the registration pins hitting the pressure plate. I was recommended by Ken from Whitehouse AV to make the bottom loop slightly bigger than what the picture shows to avoid this problem. I found this youtube guide to be extremely helpful in this process. 

(CP-16 Mag Loading guide Part 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-piv7D0Y34E

(CP-16 Mag Loading guide Part 2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkSIRZl7fdA

(CP-16 Mag Loading guide Part 3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGoSHS3BExU

To rewind the film back onto its original side undo all the threading using the back rollers and move your rubber band to the front sprocket and turn it to wind the mag back up. 

I would highly recommend having some dummy film to practice with before you shoot for real. I had to practice loading and threading the film for days to feel confident I could do it when it came time to shoot for real. Also, it is a good idea to take a sharpie and draw little lines on each of the white film rollers that way when you are practicing you’ll know if the film is going through the camera correctly if each one is spinning. 

TYPES OF MAGS

There are a couple of different types of mags that work with the CP-16’s. Most of the ones on eBay will come with either a Mitchel Mag, PLC-4, or a PLC4-A. The Mitchel mags are made of metal and look like mickey mouse ears, and the PLC mags look more rectangular and are made of a high quality plastic material. I ended up buying extra mags and was able to acquire all three of these variations. All the mags worked fine with 400ft loads, however, it should be noted that the PLC-4A was the only style of magazine that I could run daylight spools through without it being too loud. I don’t know if this was just the mags that I had purchased or if this is a general trend. Make sure to check if the mags you purchase are coming with film core adapters if you plan on using 400 feet mags. 

PLC-4 and PLC-4A mags look very similar the best way to tell them apart is to look for the metal identification tag on the middle of the magazine. 

Also, it is really important with daylight spools to push them onto the pin in the magazine really snuggly, you should be able to lift the mag by the spool without it coming off. I didn’t do this for two of our rolls and it came loose and messed everything up. 

I had heard mixed information on if having daylight spools wounded back onto plastic cores was a good idea. There was some concern among people that the plastic boxes would have light leaks. I had no such problems, with light leaks or the film fitting back into the plastic box. Winding the daylight spools back on to daylight take up spool made the camera loud. Just make sure to label that they are on plastic cores. 

THE LENSES

95% of the time if the CP-16/A’s you purchase come with a lens it will be some variation of the  Angenieux 12-120mm F2.2 zoom lens. From my research, there were only a few other lenses made for the CP-16/A that come with the necessary dogleg viewfinder. Theoretically, I believe it is possible to use C mount lenses on the CP-16/A but you would not have any way to view the image.  Pacific Rim Camera has some old sales brochures that show you could purchase a 9.5-57mm and a 12-240mm (links below). I have heard that 9.5-57mm is a good lens, and I know nothing about the 12-240mm. These lenses seem to be very rare and I can’t find any for sale on eBay that fit the CP-16/A at the moment. The CP-16/R has more lens options but they are in CP mount which unless you purchase one with an upgraded PL mount. 

The Angenieux 12-120mm is a pretty average lens, but should totally suffice for most instances. I never used the lens wide open as it was pretty soft in our camera tests. I never went below an F2.8 and if I was able to I tried to keep it at a 3.5 or higher. When shooting outside in Day exteriors I stopped down to an F8.0 and the lens was quite sharp. Another drawback to the 12-120 is the lens’s close focus distance of 5 feet. Luckily the zoom range can easily compensate for this, but keep this in mind if you are going to be filming in small locations. 

To the best of my knowledge, the Lens is Par-focal and it has a 72mm filter thread.

The lens also spins when focusing so keep this in mind if you plan on using clip-on matte boxes. My Angenieux 12-120mm did not come with any focus gears and because of the dog-leg viewfinder and the shape of the lens, it is hard to get seamless gears on it. I ended up using zip tie focus gears like the ones below and they worked great. 

(Zip tie follow focus gears) https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/839296-REG/Lens_Gear_605859_LENSGEAR_UNIVERSAL_LENS.html/?ap=y&ap=y&smp=y&smp=y&lsft=BI%3A514&gclid=CjwKCAiAq8f-BRBtEiwAGr3DgXehS_kmy78qCaFvg89ifnS1pWK9wEv66CMw4gBdvRlF26sQt-aAiRoCZr4QAvD_BwE

The outer window on the viewfinder is the one to use for reference, for what the camera will capture in standard 16mm. I found focusing with the viewfinder to be rather challenging and not ideal, I would definitely recommend getting focus marks with a tape measure if you can. The few times I tried focusing without one I often missed the mark.

It may seem silly but I struggled to figure out how to remove the lens from the camera. You have to loosen the outer silver locking ring. Because these cameras are so old and often not being used frequently this can be challenging I had to use Channel locks on a rubber jar opener mat just to get it loose. I would recommend putting a little bit of grease on the threads when putting the lens back on to avoid this problem in the future. 

If you can’t do a proper lens test, I found this little camera hack to be kinda neat. By taking a piece of semi-translucent material like folded tape and putting it in front of the gate you can test the infinity focus on the lens. This is not optimal but can help in a pinch.

(Testing 16mm focus without film) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TEAukxs8DQ

(Pacific Rim Camera CP-16 Brochures) https://www.pacificrimcamera.com/rl/01360/01360.pdf

    https://www.pacificrimcamera.com/rl/00925/00925.pdf

     https://www.pacificrimcamera.com/rl/00874/00874.pdf

RIGGING THE CAMERA 

The body of the CP-16 is not the most conducive shape for Narrative filmmaking, it was definitely made more for Docu-Style ENG work. It was mildly tricky to rig my matte box, rails, and follow focus but I eventually got to a place where I was able to make it quite functional. I’ll attach a photo below if people have any questions about specific parts on the rig I’d be happy to answer them. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/legoguy830/50703611197/in/dateposted/

To further reduce noise I also attached some rubber car insulation and foam around the camera, since we were going to be filming in very small locations. I had a UV filter, and a heavy-duty sound blanket as well to help with the noise which I only ever had to use once. Once you lubricate the camera it becomes quite quiet. I think the rubber insulation and foam were probably overkill. 

BATTERIES

Often times the batteries that come with the camera will need to be re-celled or new ones will have to be purchased. The battery that came with the camera I purchased still worked, however just to be safe I purchased another one from White House AV’s eBay store. I don’t experience re-celling batteries but I know there are forum posts with tutorials if you should go this route. 

(Replacement Battery) https://www.ebay.com/itm/NC-4-Cinema-Products-Battery-Pack-CP16-CP16R-cameras-/274607377806?hash=item3fefe00d8e

The battery life was really good, I never had to swap batteries while shooting the new Whitehouse AV one lasted me all day, and I would simply just charge it every night. I believe the charge time was about 12 hours so just keep that in mind it takes a while. 

TIPS DURING THE SHOOT.

Our entire crew was a combination of high schoolers and people in film school, so none of us prior had ever shot anything on film. Because of this, there were some definite growing pains that I’ll share that hopefully others who are brand new to shooting film can learn from. Some of these seem obvious but I’ll still mention them.

1. Be diligent in labeling and checking your mags.

I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been which resulted in a potential Snafu where I accidentally loaded a roll of 500T when I thought it was 50D. Luckily I was able to figure out what roll it was and made sure to have it pulled two stops. But it could have been bad. 

2. Make sure your film is snug in your mag. 

I messed up loading two mags because the spool was not tight all the way. This resulted in massive amounts of smearing occurring halfway through the roll making most of the footage unusable.

3.CHECK THE RUBBER BAND ON YOUR MAG. 

I almost forgot to do this twice. If you don’t put the rubber band on the take-up spool of your mag it will run and clump up inside the camera and make a huge mess.

4. Having a digital camera to double-check exposure is not a bad idea.

Because everyone was so inexperienced using film, I brought my GH5 with my Atomos monitor on set to use to double-check exposure and to give the director some reference. I still mostly relied on my light meter but this was a nice comfort to have.

5. You need more film than you think. 

The director and I were very diligent about what shots we actually needed. Obviously, it is really easy on digital to overshoot things from every angle. But on film, you need to be very disciplined because it’s quite easy to mess things up. Having extra film in case something goes wrong, can be a lifesaver. For this short, we used 2500 feet for our 9-page script. We shot about at 5:1 ratio.

6. Allocate how much film you can use for each scene.

Breaking down the amount of film by feet for each scene is hugely important. And will help you stay on schedule.

7. Have a lot of light. 

Coming from digital you get used to being able to crank up the ISO and use smaller light fixtures. But having to shoot low-speed film indoors was quite the challenge and required a lot of creativity to look good with our limited resources. 

DEVELOPMENT

We had our film developed at Fotokem Burbank. They have extremely good student rates and the people who work there where all very professional and kind. I think the grand total for 2500 feet of the film ended up being around 400 dollars. Additionally, make sure you label your mags properly. I messed up the labeling and Fotokem had to call me to clarify my intentions for how I wanted it developed. I also didn’t have camera logs which was a mistake in hindsight as well. Luckily I was able to get everything sorted out and everything was ok. 

SCANNING

I was able to get my film scanned at my University free which was a huge help in saving costs. The scanner used was a Black Magic Cintel one. The film was scanned at 2k resolution. 

POST

I did all the color grading in Davinci Resolve 16, I found the film to have quite a bit of flexibility and could push it as much as I needed. I tried to keep things pretty light but I definitely brought out a lot of color in the actor’s outfits. Some of the film was a little bit too grainy so I ended up needing to use a little noise reduction.

OTHER USEFUL LINKS

http://super8wiki.com/index.php/CP-16

http://www.whitehouseaudiovisual.com/

https://www.facebook.com/WhitehouseAudioVisual/

http://canon-s8-repair.yolasite.com/cinema-products-cp-16r.php

http://www.mishkin.yolasite.com/using-16mm.php

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7604jDy4rrs

http://canon-s8-repair.yolasite.com/resources/CP-16R/evergreen_edu.pdf

http://canon-s8-repair.yolasite.com/resources/CP-16R/CP-16R Technical Manual.pdf

http://canon-s8-repair.yolasite.com/resources/CP-16R/Cinema Products CP-16R User and Maintenance Manual.pdf

 

 

CP16 rig.jpg

Small TF BTS 2.jpg

small TF BTS 1.jpg

Small TF BTS 4.jpg

Small TF BTS 3.jpg

Edited by Elliott Atkinson
Added some BTS photos of the CP-16 In action
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Thanks for bringing back memories (and the many helpful hints). Some years between 1985 and 1988 I shot many miles of high school football games with a CP-16/A and dog-leg Ang. 12-120 all on good old VNF (Video News Film). I also had a few disasters, I think once I lost the first half of a game. Loved the camera though, and it was great to be paid to shoot film ($75 a pop).

Most of the 16/A 's were raggedy, but I borrowed the best one for a 16 minute narrative film. Somewhere I had met a NASA soundman, Pete, who owned an Nagra 3 and wanted to do narrative work. He did the sound free of course and I edited on a four-gang sync and Zeiss MovieScope. An industrial music group had contributed the soundtrack.

Then I went with Pete to the Johnson Space Center one night and he did the final mix-down. An earlier film I had done had an Electro-Print soundtrack, but that window had just closed, so I had to make a real optical track. 

The check-print or whatever they call it was the only print made. I did it at  the late Southwest Film Labs in Dallas. When I was there, there were three 90 year old editors cutting a Fred Williamson movie negative. They had to dust off the Hazeltine and call up the color timer, a woman incidentally, and I think female Hazeltine operators were common.

At the time though, this was still the best way to get a decent movie image made and projected. Thanks again.

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12 hours ago, charles pappas said:

Thanks for bringing back memories (and the many helpful hints). Some years between 1985 and 1988 I shot many miles of high school football games with a CP-16/A and dog-leg Ang. 12-120 all on good old VNF (Video News Film). I also had a few disasters, I think once I lost the first half of a game. Loved the camera though, and it was great to be paid to shoot film ($75 a pop).

Most of the 16/A 's were raggedy, but I borrowed the best one for a 16 minute narrative film. Somewhere I had met a NASA soundman, Pete, who owned an Nagra 3 and wanted to do narrative work. He did the sound free of course and I edited on a four-gang sync and Zeiss MovieScope. An industrial music group had contributed the soundtrack.

Then I went with Pete to the Johnson Space Center one night and he did the final mix-down. An earlier film I had done had an Electro-Print soundtrack, but that window had just closed, so I had to make a real optical track. 

The check-print or whatever they call it was the only print made. I did it at  the late Southwest Film Labs in Dallas. When I was there, there were three 90 year old editors cutting a Fred Williamson movie negative. They had to dust off the Hazeltine and call up the color timer, a woman incidentally, and I think female Hazeltine operators were common.

At the time though, this was still the best way to get a decent movie image made and projected. Thanks again.

That’s really cool! Over all I really loved using the camera. I can’t wait to shoot more projects with it when we can afford to shoot on film again haha.

We got very lucky, for this project. My 16mm cinematography class got nixed cause of covid with everything moving online. But all the film had already been purchased for the class. So I was able to buy about 2000 feet of film for like 300 bucks since no one wanted it.

The part that sucked was that we couldn’t afford to pay to get it scanned so I had to wait like 4 months to know how the film looked, back when I came back to school in September.

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I'm surprised none of your classmates had any interest in the fresh stock especially at that price. Curious if that is a required course where you attend.

Thinking the worst, I assume they think by eventually completing the class they can check off the "shot film," box but don't really want to  shoot film.

Still I think  - if I'm doing the hiring, and I have no doubt I'm wrong  -  the starting on film is the "best," way to learn movie-making. If I'm a passenger in the jet, I want the pilot who learned to fly in a single-engine prop, not a  737 simulator. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Awesome write up, so much detail and covers almost everything!  Thankfully, thanks to google bots, in a few weeks if anyone searches the internet for Cinema Products camera info they will come up with this post in the first page or so of results, a really valuable resource for future CP shooters.

great work, keep shooting, and keep us posted!

Gareth

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Great write up and I feel some of those struggles for beginners. 

When you've done this a long time, some of those things are second nature. For instance, I can look at a piece of film and tell you what stock it is. Every stock has a unique look and as long as the sun hasn't hit for more than a second or two, you get use to what the different stocks look like. Things like that and properly labeling/organizing your rolls with your magazines and in the lab for proper assembly, those are all thing you learn along the way. 

The CP-16 is a very cool camera, very old school in a lot of ways, but very solid build. The only two down sides to the reflex cameras are the loading and the electronics. The non-reflex version limitations aren't the end of the world, no different than a bolex really. I think the key is to shoot with it like you did and understand the limitations of the package and then figure out ways to get around them. The image on film is all ya care about anyway and if it moves the film properly, then everything else can be worked out.

I agree with Satsuki, it's great to see young filmmakers shooting on film. I work with people your age all the time, but very few of them have invested in their own cameras. So bravo! 

Edited by Tyler Purcell
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You need to be careful about avoiding knocking the viewfinder, otherwise the verticals can  be knocked off.  You;re less likely to get unintentional dutch angles with a tripod, but these can happen when hand holding with an off V/F.. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, this is such a great post. Thanks so much for posting this!

I recently bought a CP-16 myself because I've wanted to get into shooting film for the first time. After practicing loading for a bit, I've recently acquired some leftover short ends from a friend and am about to shoot some tests just to see how it all works before I shoot something more serious.

Will definitely be referring to your post along the way! 

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On 12/24/2020 at 1:01 PM, Tyler Purcell said:

Great write up and I feel some of those struggles for beginners. 

When you've done this a long time, some of those things are second nature. For instance, I can look at a piece of film and tell you what stock it is. Every stock has a unique look and as long as the sun hasn't hit for more than a second or two, you get use to what the different stocks look like. Things like that and properly labeling/organizing your rolls with your magazines and in the lab for proper assembly, those are all thing you learn along the way. 

The CP-16 is a very cool camera, very old school in a lot of ways, but very solid build. The only two down sides to the reflex cameras are the loading and the electronics. The non-reflex version limitations aren't the end of the world, no different than a bolex really. I think the key is to shoot with it like you did and understand the limitations of the package and then figure out ways to get around them. The image on film is all ya care about anyway and if it moves the film properly, then everything else can be worked out.

I agree with Satsuki, it's great to see young filmmakers shooting on film. I work with people your age all the time, but very few of them have invested in their own cameras. So bravo! 

Thanks for the kind words, it was a really cool experience and I cant wait to shoot on film again. 

Edited by Elliott Atkinson
typo
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3 hours ago, Elliott Atkinson said:

Thanks for the kind words, it was a really cool experience and I cant wait to shoot on film again. 

Your post gave me the idea to make one about my last shoot. It's nice to hear the bullet points about what went right and wrong ya know? 
 

 

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On 1/12/2021 at 12:07 AM, Tyler Purcell said:

Your post gave me the idea to make one about my last shoot. It's nice to hear the bullet points about what went right and wrong ya know? 
 

 

That is awesome! I think it's a great way to help people learn and get better. Loved reading through your post. 

Edited by Elliott Atkinson
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On 1/11/2021 at 1:14 PM, Jon Salimes said:

Wow, this is such a great post. Thanks so much for posting this!

I recently bought a CP-16 myself because I've wanted to get into shooting film for the first time. After practicing loading for a bit, I've recently acquired some leftover short ends from a friend and am about to shoot some tests just to see how it all works before I shoot something more serious.

Will definitely be referring to your post along the way! 

So glad to have hopefully helped, good luck! 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 12/23/2020 at 6:40 PM, Satsuki Murashige said:

Thanks for the write up! It’s great to hear from young filmmakers who are still interested in learning how to shoot on celluloid film. 

No problem at all! My hope is that more people give it a try it was such a cool and rewarding experience. 

Edited by Elliott Atkinson
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