Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Panavision Elaine

Published : 17th December 2003


Hey All!

I'm starting a feature soon with the Panavision Elan (their "New Filmmakers" program camera). I'll have a day to prep with it and whatnot, but are there any suggestions or tips anyone would like to share about it?

Roderick
Az. D.P.
www.restevens.com
12On / 12Off



Roderick,

Is this the Panavision Elaine 16mm camera or another?

Randy Miller



I've used the Elaine before - it's a really nice camera but it's seems to be designed with studio use primarily in mind and is happiest on a dolly, sticks, etc. I wouldn't want to shoot a lot of handheld with it. Think of it as a Panaflex which hasn't quite grown all the way up yet.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net



The Elaine should appear rather familiar considering you own an Ultracam. It's basically a shrunk down version of a Panavision Gold-2, with a classic Mitchell-style movement.

It was developed for TV work for all the guys who were used to shooting on Panavision 35 gear. Always seemed crazy to me as the Arri and Aaton designs were so much easier to deal with in 16mm, especially the quick change mags.

I believe the lenses are all the standard popular 16 lenses, remounted for this camera, and that includes Zeiss SuperSpeeds and zooms from Zeiss, Cooke, and Canon. I do recall the camera having a nifty little hook on the back to hang one's eyeglasses while operating.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



Mitch Gross wrote:

>I do recall the camera having a nifty little hook on the back to hang >one's eyeglasses while operating.

I believe that innovation (on many Panavision cameras) can be credited to Steven Poster...

Jeff Kreines



I used the Elaine quite a lot back in the 80's. Arri SR's were the only other rental alternative where I was working then and the Elaine was a complete system and familiar after shooting with Panavision 35mm equipment. As Mitch pointed out it is best suited to studio/tripod/dolly work. Hand holding will get uncomfortable after a while.

One thing that bit me in the ass and should be checked in prep if you intend to shoot any TV's or monitors is when the sync bar is phased out of the image. The only way to be sure is to bore sight through the gate to a monitor with the camera running, sync box attached. If memory serves the Elaine also had a 200 degree shutter setting.

Last I knew the cameras were somewhat hard to get during sitcom season because Panavision made a 1200' magazine and the Elaines were popular for that kind of 16mm production. I guess the F900 changed that.

All in all I liked working with the camera and at a time when the SR was really more of a doc camera, the Elaine was a welcome system that drew on Panavision’ s expertise at figuring out all the little things that make a production camera easy to use.

Randy Miller, DP in LA



I ran 11 Elaine kits out of Cine-Europe during the '80s. Nice, steady, quiet camera. About the same size and weight as an SL though...

We must have done dozens of Dramas with these cameras. Very popular. "Inspector Morse" was shot entirely on this system.

The only drawbacks were the "Panavised" Zeiss primes and zoom ( 8mm thru 135mm & 10-100 T2 ) which were re-shelled to fit the Panavision accessories, but were mechanically suspect. The only other glass was a PV'd 9-50 Cooke.

We ended up PL mounting ours, that caused a stir at Tarzana!(1980's remember ) A full studio rig with 1200' mag, Cooke Varotal and 6.6" mattebox was something to be seen......

As far as I know, 32 were produced, ours were all capable of running super 16 by the time they were handed over to PV UK.

Andy Taylor
Camera Engineer
Arri Media
3 Highbridge
Oxford Road
Uxbridge
Middlesex UB8 1LX
UK
www.arrimedia.com
www.arri.com



Andrew Taylor wrote:

> I ran 11 Elaine kits out of Cine-Europe during the '80s.

Did they change the name to "Elan" or is this just an error in the
original post?

Jeff Kreines



Jeff Kreines wrote :


>Did they change the name to "Elan" or is this just an error in the original >post?

I'm assuming that to be the case....

We were not encouraged to call it the " Elaine ", named after ( I believe ) a girl working in the Panastore. We were to call it just the Panaflex 16.

The only place the name "Elaine" appears is on the loading diagram sticker inside the door...

Andy Taylor
Camera Engineer
Arri Media



>Did they change the name to "Elan" or is this just an error in the original >post?

Yeah, that's me. For some reason I thought I had seen it spelled Elan somewhere, but I just confirmed over the Panaphone that the correct Panaspelling is Elaine.

Variable shutter . . . neat. That's a first for me. Everything I've ever shot had a fixed shutter.

For what reason would one shoot a 200* shutter? Is it just to gain some exposure, or is there a noticeable effect on movement?

Roderick
Az. D.P.
12On / 12Off



Roderick wrote :

>For what reason would one shoot a 200* shutter? Is it just to gain some >exposure, or is there a noticeable effect on movement?

A friend of mine worked a job with a Canadian DP (who I think is part of this list but who’s name escapes me) who said that he would use 200’ (when available) as an alternative to diffusion filters. I guess the slight movement of the film while the shutter isn’t quite closed may soften up the image a little bit, and probably add the slightest streak to the highlights? Anyone around here ever use/hear of this technique.

Speaking of shutter streaking and adding exposure – does any one remember the scene in Chungking Express when the lights go out in the little fast food joint. Everything looks to be lit with candles. In the flames of those candles we see a slight streaking.


Does anybody have any ideas on what may have been done to get this. I would imagine that removing the shutter completely would cause the streaks to go across the whole image, and I don’t see a point in mistiming the shutter besides getting the slight streak in the flames. But now that I think of it, maybe the shutter was removed since the film would stop for that one moment of exposure and then move again, so the streak wouldn’t be at the same strength throughout the whole frame.

Oh well… any ideas?

Joe Zovko
AC
LA, CA



Joe Z. said :

>who said that he would use 200' (when available) as an alternative to >diffusion filters.

That's exactly what I was thinking when I posted the question - how it might create a certain type of softness, unique to wider shutter angle.

Roderick
Az. D.P.
12On / 12Off



I doubt the extra 20 degrees of shutter angle really makes much of a difference in terms of motion rendering. The advantage is in a little more light getting to the film for exposure.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



Roderick wrote:

>That's exactly what I was thinking when I posted the question - how it >might create a certain type of softness, unique to wider shutter angle.

200 degrees simply provides a shutter speed of 1/43 sec. How this could provide any diffusion escapes me. It will give you 1/3 stop more exposure.

I used the Mitchell 16 and Maurer 16 for years, both with 235 deg. shutter angles. There was no diffusion effect from these, just 1/37 sec. exposure time for 1 /2 stop more exposure than 1/50. A very desirable side effect, however, was that I never had any strobing on pans or action moving through the frame. When the image displacement reached the point where strobing would have occurred the slower shutter speed blurred the movement. Very smooth and realistic.

I'd love to have a 235 deg. shutter on a modern camera.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614



Wade Ramsey said :

>200 degrees simply provides a shutter speed of 1/43 sec. How this >could provide any diffusion escapes me. It will give you 1/3 stop more >exposure.

Yeah, diffusion is not the word. Softness. I wondered if that extra 20 degrees added any amount of motion blur that was noticeable. This would add a certain softness (like using a slow shutter on a video camera). I didn't figure 20 degrees was enough of an increase, but a fellow CML’er said they'd worked with a D.P. who always chose the 200 degree shutter for just that reason. Curious.

>A very desirable side effect, however, was that I never had any strobing >on pans or action moving through the frame.

Yes, what I'm wondering about is akin to this.

Roderick
Az. D.P. (175 degree Ultracam)
12On / 12Off



I recall that there was a problem with the Elaine. Apparently the lens seating was prone to shift or was difficult to set or maintain. Lens seating is critical on all cameras, of course. Panavison cameras have that ability to adjust the lens mount and even do it in the field. Having the lens mount separate from the film transport is one of the reasons Panavision cameras are so quiet. In 35mm you have a little tiny bit of leeway or room for error and still make sharp pictures. In 16mm, however...

I had a problem with an Elaine on a concert video. They wanted to use that camera for the 1200 foot mags. Unfortunately, all the footage from my camera was soft. The producer accused me of having my diopter set wrong. I tried to explain how that wouldn't effect focus. Without getting too specific, it would, of course, make it harder to focus, but it wouldn't give you a sharp image in the eye piece and then be soft on film. UNLESS you have a camera with the seating out of adjustment. (One of the nice things about Arriflex- what you see is what you get.) What got me mad is that the producer was given this poorly set diopter theory by someone from the local Panavison franchise.

A while later I found out that this was a reoccurring problem. One
assistant even placed a classified in American Cinematographer asking for other people's experience concerning this. He was trying to rectify a bad experience that he'd had.

Edwin Myers, Atlanta DoP



Edwin M. said:

>I recall that there was a problem with the Elan. Apparently the lens >seating was prone to shift or was difficult to set or maintain.

Hmmmm . . . I'll certainly ask about that.

Roderick
Az. D.P.
12On / 12Off



The way I understand the story, many years ago most if not all of the Panaflex-16 cameras in the US were hauled back to LA and Panavision Hollywood took it upon themselves to extensively reengineer most of the camera and lens kit. Up until then the cameras had a bad reputation for electronic and optical/mechanical problems. P'vsn H'wood made them reliable and successfully rented them on serial television and lots of other stuff for quite a while. They are OK to work with if a bit clunky but they are very, very quite. Threading one up is like being Andre The Giant threading a Panaflex.

I'm sure Dan Donovan at Panavision Hollywood could give you the complete and accurate background on the camera as well as what to look out for and what they can and can't do well.

Rod Williams
Motion Picture First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California
U.S.A.



Roderick wrote :

>That's exactly what I was thinking when I posted the question - how it >might create a certain type of softness, unique to wider shutter angle.

The old Bell&Howell 16 has a 240 degree shutter. We had very slow Gevaert at the time and the extra 1/3 came in very handy. Little strobing on car wheels, dancing and swimming looked much better than with the Bolexes (180) our competition was issued with. (CBC vs CFRN). The images were not softer : I got hair sharp shots with the Angenieux 25mm, f 0.95, but movement became more fluid.

Must've shot 10,000 hours with it, loved it so much I finally stole it when I retired...

Robert Rouveroy
The Hague, Holland

I plan to live forever. So far, so good.



>I'm starting a feature soon with the Panavision Elaine... are there any >suggestions or tips anyone would like to share about it?

The Elaine has a very good viewing system and the eyepiece extension can be used without dramatic loss of brightness and/or clarity. A critical eye can still judge focus in shot. Very important if you will be using a Panahead. Check your lenses carefully. I had a Zeiss 10-1 panaconversion that was fine until you made an extreme tilt up, and then an element would shift and the lens lost focus. Proper threading is critical on the reloads and I suggest the assistant "always" manually inch the movement before turning on power as many a fuse has been blown due to slight mistakes in threading (every 'B' camera assistant that came in and even our 2nd would sometimes get bit).

Solid camera with steadicam conversion kit avail. (rather heavy for 16mm). Many of the Panavision accessories you may be used to.

David Campbell
Operator



>I suggest the assistant always manually inch the movement before >turning on power

I don't really operate in the PanaWorld but wouldn't you always do this with *any* Mitchell type movement ? I sure did with S35R's.

Sam Wells



Roderick Stevens wrote:

>"I'm starting a feature soon with the Panavision Elan (their "New >Filmmakers" program camera).

As I write this I have a Panavision Elaine from the New Filmmaker Program sitting in my living room. I'm not sure how many packages they send out as part of this program; you may very well get the same camera I have (serial number ELCV 126). This is my first experience with this model; here are my impressions so far:

The Elaine does not seem to be quite as refined and well-sorted as Panavision’ s other models, although it is still a good camera, and hard to beat at New Filmmaker Program prices.

You will need a good AC who is well familiar with Panavision. The camera is not particularly user-friendly to load, and is in fact designed to blow a fuse when mis-loaded. We had to change the fuse once after a minor mis-step by our AC. Make sure you have extra fuses on hand, as well as the proper-sized Allen wrench to remove the side cover for fuse access.

There is an out-of-film function that prevents the camera from running when film gets low. It is possible to override this function, but this is not recommended as the camera will blow a fuse if it rolls out.

During prep, one of the mags had an intermittent problem with the take-up motor not working. The prep tech concluded that it was a problem with the mag, which was then replaced. The same problem recurred with a different mag during the shoot, so the problem was apparently with the camera, not the mag. We pushed down on the mag (towards the camera body) in an effort to better seat the electrical contacts between the mag and camera body. The problem went away and did not recur. The contacts are likely dirty or shorted. We will inform Panavision of the problem.

The viewing system on the camera is not the greatest. During prep, verify that the lens markings are accurate. Then trust them during shooting rather than relying on the apparent sharpness in the viewfinder.

Our zoom lens is a Panavised Cooke 9-50. It is a bit milky when used wide open. Best to stop down to at least f/4.

The camera is very quiet, and came with a decent level of basic accessories. We asked for a few extra which Panavision happily supplied. Panavision did an excellent job of walking our AC through the camera, and they were very up-front about its minor shortcomings, which helped us to avoid pitfalls during our shoot.

I hope this information is helpful. Good luck with your shoot.

Keith "beggars can't be choosers" Sikora
DP, Los Angeles