From Frederikshavn to Hollywood
The Danish 65mm Camera Fairy Tale
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The 70mm Newsletter
|Written by: Steen Dalin, Dansk Filmfotograf Forbund. ||Date: 16.02.2019|
|The news about Magellan 65 have created attention from Hollywood to Frederikshavn. Seen here with Danish cinematographer Ben Brahem Ziryab (with the Magellan 65) and (from left) Tommy Madsen, Orla Nielsen, Ben, producer William Lindhardt and director Simon Wasiolek. Picture: Ben Brahem Ziryab|
An Ominous Prologe
Timing is everything. That makes me recall a personal example of bad timing. Through the 90’s Casper Høyberg and I worked on model animation/puppet movies. We tumbled around with heavy, clumsy Mitchell cameras, which were the ultimate tool of that period. Why was that, we thought, when animation only needed a series of single images, whose overall duration rarely exceeded 10 seconds? Why not use a still image camera? On the second Indiana Jones movie Spielberg had, without any problems, used a common Nikon (equipped with 30 metre magazine and Oxberry registration pin) for stopmotion sequences featuring ‘Indy’ and co. as doll models in tippers running along in a rollercoaster-like hunt. Of course he had the advantage that he and George Lucas had already reinvented Vistavision with a horizontal filmstrip in a 24x36mm format. Our 35mm film ran vertically and took up half as much space. My very first camera as a teenager was an upright half format 18x24 with 72 pictures in a roll - so why not revive the format? A Polish engineer, who helped us equip the Mitchells with single-image-motors, was ecstatic about the idea. On his own initiative he put the Technical University of Denmark to work on the project and used half of his family’s fortune on it. But alas, when the prototype was ready, the industry had moved to the digital platforms.
As a summer substitute at Egmont Imagination, who extraordinarily produced commercial animation for England, I experienced with my own eyes the development through three years: We started out with Mitchell, the year after that it was useless video-frame-grab systems and the last summer, before Egmont completely dismantled the animation at Mejeriet Friheden, stop-motion had, in just a few years, gone digital with common and cheap SLR cameras. We had a revolutionary stop-motion camera at the worst possible time.
Back to the Future
However, it looks like the trefoil behind Logmar Camera Solutions have the perfect timing, as they unveiled a brand new 65mm handheld camera in April, which was displayed at Cine Gear in Los Angeles a couple of months later. And quite luckily it coincided with an intense focus on large format at Cine Gear 2018. It did not last long before cinematographer-stars such as Linus Sandgren ("La La Land" & "First Man") and Hoyte van Hoytema (“Interstellar” & "Dunkirk") found their way to Logmar’s exhibition stand.
|Læs mere her:|
The Magellan 65 receives Technical & Scientific Achievement Award
Designing the Magellan 65 Camera
A new hand-held 65mm Camera
YouTube: Magellan 65 i Hollywood
Tommy Madsen & Phil Vigeant from Pro8mm demonstrates Chatham
Test with Chatham Super 8
|Hoyte van Hoytema FSF NSC ASC with the Magellan 65mm camera on his shoulder. Picture: Orla Nielsen|
They have both been nominated for Academy Awards and have great experience in 65mm (and are both members of the Swedish Society of Cinematographers, one might add). Along with other participants at the International Cinematography Summit, they showed great interest in a wide format camera of such small dimensions, with a total weight of just 12 kilograms including 122 meters of film.
• Go to Designing the Magellan 65 Camera
• Go to A new hand-held 65mm Camera
But how is a so advanced machine born in such anonymity, and from a grain silo on a dock in the small coastal town Frederikshavn of all places? It all starts in 2014, when Tommy Lau Madsen retires. As a mechanical engineer he has, among others things, worked for the Aarhus-based lighting company Martin Professional, and now he suddenly has time to cultivate a passion he has had since early childhood: FILM! Not the digital kind but the good old celluloid. He starts off small and begins working on the idea of creating the perfect Super 8 camera. The camera is designed at his kitchen table and Tommy is systematic in his approach. First he has to learn to operate a 3D CAD software on his computer. After that, he buys a 3D-printer so he can make sure the individual pieces fit together in different trial setups. As for the electronic part, he is aided by an Italian living in Switzerland, Rodolfo Zitellini, who is now permanently affiliated to the firm. Tommy’s camera doesn’t look like a classic Super 8 camera: There is no optical viewfinder, but instead just a view-finder screen that is folded out, as on a digital camera. Inside the construction, a small electronic camera reads off a ground glass, which receives its image from a mirror on a super light-weight guillotine-shutter. The built-in plastic pressure plate of the Kodak cassette has been dropped. Instead the film is looped around a sprocketwheel and from there into the camera’s own pressure plate and filmport - which, by the way, has been widened so the format is more similar to the present’s 16x9 format. During exposure, a registration pin ensures optimal picture steadiness, just as on traditional professional 16 and 35mm cameras. However, until now this was unprecedented in the history of 8mm strips. On top of that comes built-in Wi-fi and a digital sound recorder.
Voilà! The world’s first (and best) modern Super 8 camera has been created since VHS eradicated “narrow format” more than 30 years ago. In 2014, 50 cameras are produced, although Tommy does not possess actual production facilities. The individual pieces are produced at a machine shop in Dragør, which also produces camera houses for the medium format camera Phase One. Fitting, adjustments, as well as miscellaneous tests are done by Tommy in majestic solitude. However, distribution and sales are established in collaboration with a company in Los Angeles. Pro8mm is a small business in Burbank, which has specialised in everything to do with Super 8. For years, they have been renovating and rebuilding old Beaulieu and Bolex cameras, to a degree in which they appear better than when they originally left the factory. Moreover they develop super 8 and digitalize all formats in an extensive program. But that is not all. To accommodate the growing revival of the format, they have developed equipment to slice up 35mm film into 8mm strips. These can then be perforated and put into cassettes, so the entire program becomes available from Kodak. Positives as well as negatives.
|Linus Sandgren FSF tries out the Magellan 65mm by the Paramount stand at Cine Gear 2018. Picture by Orla Nielsen|
The Empire Strikes back
At this time, the last man in the triumvirate enters. Orla Nielsen DFF takes on the responsibility of test shootings and the execution of a vigorous testing scheme. The reason being that a well known player has announced its arrival. Kodak has been inspired by Logmar and has decided to make their own new camera.
“They asked us if we wanted in, and have paid us to develop a Super 8 camera, which will soon be released and is very similar to our Chatham. We made ten cameras for them, that were tested in all sorts of ways and even in climate chambers by German standards and with hundreds of rolls in each camera. It became a very good camera but in a more classic version. It does not have registration pins - it was too cumbersome and deemed unfit for use by amateurs - but comes with the extended wide format, viewfinder screen and all the electronic innovations. Furthermore it has C-mount, just like the classic Beaulieu and Bolex’es, so more affordable optics is an option. Kodak wanted to produce the camera themselves and they are now mass produced in China. Our ten Logmar cameras served as inspiration and are now placed on the shelf. They are Kodak’s property but are lent out to famous filmmakers in USA, who enjoy making different projects with them”.
During the process of working with the Super 8 camera, Tommy and Orla acquires a vast number of international contacts with professional players. They have changed Logmar’s address from Tommy’s kitchen table to a new office in the restored Kattegat Silo at the docks in Frederikshavn and in Tommy’s mind a new projects begins to take shape.
Tommy’s own son has provokingly asked why in the world he would mess around with a tiny S8 camera, when he could do something bigger - for example a 65mm camera? Going abroad with the Chatham camera, Tommy often asks about the format but everyone tells him not to embark on such a venture. “There is no future in that” says just about anyone. This just make him want to try even harder. Why not take the technological innovations from Chatham Super 8 and implement them in a professional 65mm camera, which is often big, heavy and clumsy? The development work with Kodak’s cameras are about to end so now Tommy can start the design work for real on his 3D computer, this time with the help of a professional cinematographer, namely Orla Nielsen:
“We found out, that we were virtually alone on the market. Arri does not rent out 65mm and they can not be bought anymore because Arri is betting on digital large format. They made approx. 12 copies of model 765 about 20-25 years ago, which were either rented out or sold and now they must be spread out across the world. Panavision still has a lot of cameras that they rent out but very few can be operated by hand. Most of them are enormous blimped cameras intended for use in studios. Our camera is not blimped and 65mm is certainly not silent. But we have minimized the noise by replacing all rotating metal parts with belt drives. Even the dual registration pins are belt driven so the only thing that can be heard is the film loop. A bit like the Arri 2C, which is used a lot for commercials”.
The minimal weight and the small dimensions of the Magellan camera is due to the new features, which have been upscaled from the Super 8 camera to 65mm.
|Orla Nielsen: “We found out, that we were virtually alone on the market". Picture: Thomas Hauerslev.|
Instead of the traditional rotating mirror, the camera is equipped with a guillotine shutter, which saves both weight and volume. The shutters high-responsive mirror creates an image on the ground glass, that via a diminutive Sony camera ends up on the camera’s fold out screen - or is sent by wi-fi to any monitor or smart phone. Hereby, there is always a well-defined image available in high resolution, regardless of light conditions or aperture. And of course the camera can be remote-controlled, no matter if it is sitting on a crane or the wing of an airplane. The electronics also control frame rates of 2 -54 f/s. and provide information on film usage. And in this article in a cinematographic journal, we have not even touched upon the built-in sound part with 5 pin XLR. The choice of lens mount was the subject of much scrutiny. In the end the entire series of optics for Hasselblad 500CM was chosen. Besides being a standard item at an affordable cost, these magnificent Carl Zeiss optics precisely covers a 65mm image. Arri and other mounts can be installed without problems. The machine shop in Dragør is still the supplier but for the new camera a company from Sønderborg have also been involved. Definitely a 100% Danish-produced camera. So far the two businesses have delivered the parts for five cameras, which are being assembled, tried and exposed to comprehensive test-setups in Frederikshavn.
The previous collaboration with Kodak resulted in the film manufacturer being an active part of the process with the 65mm camera and they have also been very helpful with raw stock and film stock development. It has not been decided whether the camera is to be offered up for sale or if it will be rented out through the different rental houses across the world. Much speaks for the latter option, as such an advanced camera is expected only to be used in top-tier productions and because of that requires massive maintenance. You do not send a Formula 1 car out on the track without several pit stops.
The camera is still being developed. Among other things, it has turned out that the panel on the right side of the camera can be difficult to operate. So, effort is being put in to replace it with a much larger touch screen, which will be directly connected to the powerful NVIDIA computer, which serves as the heart of the camera’s electronic control. But since Magellan saw the light of day in April this year, and well before the presentation at Cine Gear in Los Angeles, there have been talks of a functioning camera.
“We have since been in constant contact with Linus Sandgren and Hoyte van Hoytema”
Orla Nielsen says.
“During the production of "Dunkirk", Hoyte was famous for taking a monster of an IMAX camera on his shoulders, because the hand held look was kind of his style. So he was very excited about a lighter camera, and Linus Sandgren has said that he will use our camera on his new film”.
So the future seems bright for the first serious camera in Denmark since the carpenter J. P. Andersen (also known as the Nellerød-man) created his handmade cameras out of Cubamahogni in the previous century. I wonder if this is not for once a case of extraordinarily good timing?
|Front page of eMagazine "AXEL", DFF, Dansk Filmfotograf Forbund's December 2018 issue.|
If you have wondered about the use of names, Orla Nielsen informs us that Tommy’s family always had a soft spot for penguins and the cameras had to have some name. Well chosen, one might add, as the Chatham penguin became extinct in 1872 (just as the Super 8 camera is no longer in production). A little less well chosen is the Magellan penguin that is only endangered, however still surviving in colonies in Argentina, Chile and the Falklands. Logmar is said to be an old nordic name but I have not been able to track down the origin.
Editor: Steen Dalin
Translated by: Joachim Ulvedal
Photos: Orla Nielsen, Thomas Hauerslev, Steen Dalin -
Layout: Maria Mac Dalland
Proof-reading (Danish): Eva Hammershøy
A thank you to Torben Glarbo
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