Aaton  -  ARRI  -  Moviecam  -  Panavision




In 1967, Jean-Pierre Beauviala, a young engineer and a great cinema fan, decided to make a film. When he realized that the equipment he wanted to use did not exist, he decided to design it himself. He built a prototype, whose main originality was that it gave a single reference to both film and audio takes. The exact time the images and the sounds were captured was recorded on both the film stock and on the magnetic tape: "time-marking" [in-camera timecode - AatonCode].

When the management of Éclair saw photos of what Beauviala had produced, they hired him as a consultant engineer. At Éclair, Beauviala brought out the first lightweight 16mm camera with single system sound. After Éclair had been bought out by the British producer Harry Saltzman, Beauviala set up his own company, Aaton s.a.[1970]. Several technicians and engineers, mostly from the Éclair days, were tempted by the ambition and the spirit of the adventure, and joined Beauviala in Grenoble.

Jean-Pierre Beauviala with doph Agnès Godard

© Nelly Florès

One of the projects was the 'cat-on-the-shoulder' 16mm camera, an intelligent camera, meeting both the physical and technical requirements of the filmmaker or camera operator: lightweight, rational, ergonomic. Plus the famous universal time marking. Intended to alter the working conditions of all users, it also presented much more promising commercial perspectives for a company that was perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy. The 'cat-on-the-shoulder' project made rapid progress, soon winning over camera operators, technicians and buyers at the BBC, Swedish Television, and then Société Française de Production and French Channel One. The first mock-up of the 16mm camera was shown in 1971 - it would ultimately be delivered in 1973 as the Aaton 7A.

Jean-Pierre Beauviala eventually achieved his initial objective: clear time marking on the film stock and on the audio tape. By altering the shooting conditions for both small independent filmmaking and editing, he made it possible for reportage and investigative filmmakers to work outside of the norms set out for 35mm studio work. His solutions were so seminal that major international film and video equipment manufacturers attempted to imitate or steal them. In February 1985, Arriflex sued Aaton, thus causing the company to go into receivership; however the firm was born again from its ashes. [From article by Jean-Michel Frodon on the Aaton website.]

The newest Aaton: the Penelope:


The absolutely quiet 'Penelope' 35mm 2perf/3perf camera. Shaped for the shoulder, it is also extremely well 'socketed' for the tripod. 'Penelope' is very light: extracted at six kilos from the carrying case, it ends up at eight kilos with a 400ft load, one battery and a prime lens, ready for a nine minute take [24fps w/2perf pulldown].

See also: 35mm/2-perf

Go to the AATON website.

August Arnold [?-1983] and Robert Richter [1899-1972] founded their company in 1917 in Munich, Germany. The company started with producing film printers and film processing machines. In 1924 they developed their first [amateur] 35mm film camera, the Kinarri 35. In 1928, the Kinarri 16 appeared in 2 versions, hand-cranked and with a spring mechanism. In 1937, the Arriflex 35 was introduced. This professional 35mm camera had a revolutionary and groundbreaking continuous through-the-lens viewfinding system by means of a mirror surfaced shutter set at 45° to the lens axis, which allowed the cameraman to view the exact framing without any parallax errors. The camera was designed by Erich Kästner [1911-2005], chief engineer, and August Arnold. The first film made with the Arriflex 35 was 'Menschen, Tiere, Sensationen' [1938, Harry Piel; ph: Karl Hasselmann, Bruno Timm and Fritz von Friedl]. In its initial form, the Arriflex 35 had a 200ft magazine and all the cameras were painted smooth gray. The film was transported by a simple single claw driven by an equally simple double-cam gear. The detachable magazines incorporated the sprocket drive which was pre-threaded when the camera was loaded. These magazines could be changed very quickly, and taking into account its light weight it was ideally suited to its wartime use as a combat camera. The first notable use of the hand-held possibilities of the Arriflex in the USA was in the subjective camera opening sequence of 'Dark Passage' [1947, Delmer Daves; ph by Sidney Hickox].

August Arnold & Robert Richter


1924    Introduction Kinarri 35

1928    Introduction Kinarri 16

1937    Introduction Arriflex 35

1952    Introduction Arriflex 16 ST, the first professional 16mm camera with a reflex mirror shutter

1965    Introduction Arriflex 16BL, a self-blimped 16mm camera

1972    Introduction Arriflex 35BL, a self-blimped 35mm camera

1975    Introduction Arriflex 16 SR [1982: SRII; 1992: SR 3 (16mm & s16)]

1989    Introduction Arriflex 765, a compact, light and silent 65mm production camera

1990    Introduction Arriflex 535 [1992: 535 B]

1995    Introduction Arriflex 435

2000    Introduction Arricam camera system, developed by ARRI and Moviecam

2004    Introduction Arriflex 235, a small and lightweight 35mm camera

2005    Introduction Arriflex D-20, a HD digital camera

2006    Introduction Arriflex 416, a Super 16 camera

2008    Introduction Arriflex D-21, a HD digital camera

2009    Introduction Arriflex Alexa, a digital camera

See also: Digital Cameras - ARRI

Go to the ARRI website.

Kinarri 35

Arriflex 35

Arriflex 16ST

Arriflex 35BL

At the end of the 1960's, Fritz Gabriel Bauer [1941-] set up his own film production company in Vienna together with director of photography Walter Kindler. They called their company the Moviegroup, and produced a succession of commercials. Bauer was dissatisfied with the performance of the cameras then available. Only the Mitchell could approach the registration steadiness he sought. He decided to buy a Mitchell and see what he could do with it. Together with Anton Zögl, the special-effects expert at Moviegroup, they took the Mitchell to pieces. As Walter Kindler recalls, 'Fritz began to draw like mad, you could not talk to him. Day and night he sat at the board. First he built a mirror and a reflex viewer system into a new housing. On it he built a video tap. The drive, movement and magazines of the old Mitchell remained in use with some alterations. Then he exchanged the BNC lens mount for an ARRI mount, in order to be able to use the lenses which were most widely used in Austria at that time. Finally a new camera was born. He called it the Moviecam.'

The Moviecam 1 was equipped with ultramodern features, but it still had the relatively old-fashioned shape of the Mitchell: an angular box with round double magazines. In 1975 Bauer bought a Mitchell Mk2 movement and built the Moviecam 2 around it.

Because Fritz Gabriel Bauer did not want to subdue the noise of the camera through sound attenuation - as competitors did, but wanted to reduce it at source - he thought about constructing a new, noiseless movement. He designed the BN Compensating Link Movement with double pull-down claws and two register pins. Its gentle movement caused relatively little noise, and proved both simple and extremely reliable. With it, and in combination with further silencing measures, a noise level of under 20dB was achieved. Since 1978, this Moviecam movement has been built into all the company’s cameras.

Further development led to the Moviecam Super, which Bauer developed with the American market in mind. It was eventually named the Moviecam SuperAmerica.

Fritz Gabriel Bauer

Fritz Gabriel Bauer [1984]

At the beginning of the 1990's, he brought out the Moviecam Compact, a versatile modular system which enabled the cinematographer to configure the device accurately to suit the needs of the actual shooting situation.

In 1997, ARRI offered Fritz Gabriel Bauer an opportunity... he should design the new ARRI camera generation. Bauer saw in this offer the chance to combine ARRI's tremendous range of experience, e.g. in the field of electronic controls, with his visionary world.

ARRI subsequently bought the company. At ARRI, Bauer developed, together with Walter Trauninger and their camera development team, the Arricam System, which combined the basic movement and design of the Moviecam systems with the precision electronic parts and complement of camera accessories already designed by ARRI. The Arricam cameras were released in 2000 and remain the flagship camera line of ARRI's 35mm products. Despite the fact that Moviecam cameras have not been manufactured for almost ten years, their quality and features have kept them in service to meet their consistent high demand by feature film shoots.

Go to the MOVIECAM website.

Panavision is a motion picture equipment company specializing in camera, lens, and grip equipment, along with related accessories. After starting out as a small partnership that created anamorphic attachments for projection lenses, Panavision has slowly but steadily expanded its operations and product lines while maintaining a high level of design and quality. It has thus become a prestigious brand name in the eyes of film crews. Unlike most of its competition, including rival ARRI, Panavision operates exclusively as a rental house and owns its entire inventory.

Robert Gottschalk [1918-82] and John Richard Moore [1925-; later doph and member of the ASC] founded Panavision, Inc. in 1953 while they were working at the Campus Camera Shop in Westwood, California. Gottschalk had met the person who had the American dealership for the Aqualung, invented by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. This inspired Gottschalk to design and build an underwater housing for a Bolex 16mm camera. 'We soon found that the refraction index of water made the field of view too narrow,' Richard Moore recalls. 'Gottschalk then discovered anamorphic lenses that had been made in France many years earlier. We shot an anamorphic demo reel on 16mm film, and Harry Eller, president of the Radiant Manufacturing Corporation, asked to see it. His company made projection screens for theaters. He proposed an association with us providing anamorphic lenses that could be used to adapt theatrical projectors for showing CinemaScope movies.' Gottschalk and Moore assembled a small team, including cinematographer Meredith Nicholson, optical engineer Walter Wallin and optics manufacturing company owner William Mann in order to manufacture a prismatic [rather than the then-favored cylindrical] anamorphic projection attachment [Super Panatar], which made it possible to change the aspect ratio of the projected image during projection from 1.33:1 to 2.66:1. Panavision lenses ultimately replaced the lenses originally produced for the CinemaScope process by Bausch & Lomb.

After the financial disaster of 'Mutiny of the Bounty', MGM sold it's camera department to Panavision. The company now owned cameras and started modifying them.

In 1965, Panavision, Inc. was sold to producer Sy Weintraub [president of Banner Productions, Inc.]. The deal involved a cash payment of $3,600,000. Gottschalk remained president and Weintraub became chairman of the board. In 1967, Panavision modified the Mitchell BNC to make it a reflex camera which was named the PSR [Panavision Silent Reflex]. In 1968, Panavision developed a hand-held 65mm camera. This camera was not silent and was only suitable for 'wild' shooting.

In 1968, Weintraub received an offer from the conglomerate Kinney National Service, Inc. The transaction involved more than $10,000,000 in stock. Gottschalk still remained president. One year later, in 1969, Kinney bought Warner Bros.-Seven Arts and changed its name [in 1971] to Warner Communications, Inc. The deeper pockets of the new owners allowed a massive expansion in inventory and a leap forward in research and development.

The first 'real' Panavision camera was the lighter and more compact Panaflex, introduced in 1972 after four years of research and development. The camera was introduced in the same year as the Arriflex 35BL. Both were revolutionary cameras in that they operated virtually silently, thus no longer needing a heavy and cumbersome sound blimp, and could be used for sync hand-held work. The Panaflex set itself apart by also including a digital electronic tachometer and magazine motors for the take-up reel. The first film shot entirely with the Panaflex was 'The Sugerland Express' [1973; ph by Vilmos Zsigmond].

When Warner Communications faced financial trouble in the mid-1980's, Panavision was sold to a consortium led by Ted Field, John Farrand and Alan Hirschfield. Warner had stated that it had positioned Panavision as a company which supplied 65% of the worldwide feature film market with its equipment. Within a few months of assuming his new position as president, Farrand found that this was not true. In reality, Panavision supplied only 25% of the world­wide feature film market. According to John Farrand, it was a growth company, not one to be left on its own while the management sits back to wait for the investment to be returned. So, the new management brought sweeping changes to the then-stagnant company. Optics testing was computerized and the new Panaflex Platinum camera was built [1986].

In 1987, the company was sold to Lee International, also a supply company of the motion picture industry [primarily of light equipment]. The management of Lee International reasoned that by purchasing Panavision, it could become a more complete service company. However, the purchase was over-financed and the company couldn't repay the bank. In 1989, E.M. Warburg, Pincus and Co., a major investor in New York, took over. In 1998, Panavision was acquired by Mafco Holdings, a company solely owned by Ronald Perelman.

As the end of the 1990's approached, it was clear that the movement for digital cinema was gaining in popularity, and so Panavision moved to capitalize on this by both improving its film camera systems and approaching the vanguard of high-end digital camera development. For the former, the Millennium replaced the Platinum as the flagship camera system [1997], followed by the Millennium XL [1999]. The XL series not only made for a much smaller camera body suitable for interoperability between studio, handheld, and steadicam work, but also marked the first significant change to the film transport mechanism since the Panaflex: two smaller sprocket drums for feed and take-up instead of one large drum to do both.

In the case of digital cinema, a joint partnership with Sony produced the HD-900F High Definition Camera System. Panavision followed this up in 2004 with the Genesis HD Camera, a full bandwidth HDSDI camera with a Super 35-sized recording area. [Using quotes from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, an article by Adriaan Bijl (1991) and from the website (2004).]


1954    Introduction of Micro Panatar

1954    Introduction of the Super Panatar projection lens

1955    Introduction of the Ultra Panatar projection lens

1955    Introduction of the Camera 65 process

1956    First film made in Camera 65 [Ultra Panavision]: 'Raintree County' [ph: Robert Surtees]

1958    Release of Super Panavision in theatres

1958    Introduction of the Auto Panatar taking lens

1959    Release of Ultra Panavision 70

1967    Introduction of the 35mm Panavision Silent Reflex [PSR] camera

1968    Introduction of 65mm hand-held camera

1972    Introduction of the Panaflex

1974    Introduction of the Panaflex X

1976    Introduction of the Panaflex Gold

1977    The Panastar high speed camera is released

1981    Introduction of the Panaflex 16

1986    Introduction of the Panaflex Platinum

1990    Primo series of prime lenses becomes available

1997    Introduction of the Millennium Camera System

1999    Introduction of the Millennium XL Camera System

2000    Introduction of the HD-900F High Definition Camera System

2004    Introduction of the Genesis HD Camera

2004    Release of the Panaflex Millennium XL2

See also: Film Formats - Panavision

See also: Digital Cameras - Panavision

Go to the PANAVISION website.