Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Aaton A-Minima


Anyone used one yet? Reports?

Simon Minett E.U based DP

I shot some tests with one and wrote an article outlining the camera and various aspects of it. It's a great little tool. I'm thinking of buying one to keep as a "grab" shot type of camera for some of the productions I do. In the archives there is some discussion about it, and I believe Jeff Kriens bought one.

Mark Woods, Director of Photography

Stills That Move
Pasadena, CA

I have been using one on a job for about 2 weeks now.

The design of the camera is very clever in many of its aspects, from the method they have devised to prevent the film from being fogged if you remove your eye from the viewfinder while shooting, to the very clever method of driving the edge of the takeup spool with the edge of the takeup sprocket wheel, while at the same time, spreading the flanges apart a tiny amount so the film can exit the spool quietly without scraping.

We did a two pass steady test before starting and found the camera to be very steady.

We are shooting material that will be telecined for use in a series of Dodge TV commercials.

The autos and trucks are being shot in 35mm film, and the "wrap around" material is being shot in super-16.

The camera is fitted with a PL mount and we are using a mixture of 16mm format Zeiss PL primes, the Century 6mm and an Angenieux 7-80 mm zoom.

It is really a simple camera to learn how to operate.

At first, the threading path makes you scratch your head, but once shown how, it is quite easy.

The magazines, as you can discover from their web site, are loaded with film that is wound by Kodak onto special 200' daylight load spools, and can be loaded and unloaded in the daylight.

We are not doing that because if you do, you loose as much as the first and last 15 feet of each spool due to edge flashing.

To solve that problem, we load and unload the mags in a loading bag, photo dark room, or sometimes just loading / unloading them in the darkened hotel room does the trick.

We thread up the camera in the shade, again to reduce the possibility of fogging the head and tail of the roll.

We are shooting 7245 (50D) and 7246 (V-250D). We have done frame rates as slow as 3 fps, and as high as 50 fps without any difficulty.

We particularly like the fact that the camera is so small it goes un-noticed and allows you to get shots that would otherwise be be impossible.

Tremendous fun.

Bill Bennett DoP

Los Angeles

We used it for some NASCAR shots for FX and found it to be a good tool. I have a short article about it and how to load it on my website.

Bret Lanius - Camera Assistant -
Atlanta GA, USA

Hi All, a few things about the minima:

1. Loading: (UN)LOAD IN THE DARK !!!!!! Although AATON claims to have daylight friendly spools for the minima, loading and especially unloading the magazines should be done in the dark.

Why ? First, you loose about 15 feet from the beginning and the end of each roll due to exposure. A far more important (and a pretty unknown) fact is that the daylight spools are made of plastic (rather thin) which can be bent easily.

When trying to pull out the spools from the take up side (in daylight), there is the possibilty of light leaking into the spool, causing flashed edges.

2. Spools If you wind film yourself, or have it done in the lap, make sure, it is wound really tight. Also, it has to be wound really flat, otherwise the flanges of the spool might be pushed out to far by the film, and that causes problems with the film transport. Do not wind the film with the flanges on the bobby, because the lips of the flanges might scratch the edges oth the film, causing dust.

3. Threading When threading the film, pay attention to the loop lenght. Aaton recommends it to be about 45 frames long, in my experience it is useful to keep it rather a little shorter... If you have pulled out more film than you need to set the loop length, be careful with just stuffing it back into the mag (I know, it's tempting, but don't), this might cause a few problems. You can push about 3 frames back into the mag without causing problems.

4. PL-Mount When using focus motors, it is possible that the motor moves the lens around, changing the framing. Since the Mount,the movement, the gate and the pressure plate are also moved, flange focal distance/focus is not a problem.

5. Camera Door Watch out for light leakage in the area of the camera door. Check the rubber seals regularly.

6. Power The minimas up to No. 100 offer the possibility to power the camera via the LEMO6 plug at the back of the camera. The LEMO6 plug works as a power in/out.his feature is removed for safety reasons in newer cameras (starting from no. 100), only power out is available.

7. New Software There is an interesting improvement with the new software version (don't know the software number, sorry). You have to doubleclick the RUN-Button to start the camera. Funny idea, but very useful (at least in my experience). And also a great way to test an operators intelligence, if you know, what i mean....

That's all for now.

Matthias A.

Doesn't that slow down getting the camera running?

There's already a little latency in the switch... for those of us who make documentaries, any delay in getting the camera started is a very very bad thing.

Also, this would completely eviscerate my onboard Minidisc recorder start-stop system, which depends on a single pulse to start and stop the recorder.

Two pulses = twice the headaches... Is this "feature" disable-able? Please, say it is...

>The LEMO6 plug works as a power in/out.his feature is removed for safety reasons in >newer cameras (starting from no. 100), only power out is available. Meaning you can >only run it from lithium batteries?

I like the lithiums... but don't you need an external battery for speeds above 32 fps?

Jeff "doesn't need 32 fps, but might like external power" Kreines

We are a rental facility and now have 3 Minimas here and are awaiting our 4th unit.

It is a wonderful little camera which complements our long form packages very well.

We have now shot 4 features with the Minima and are currently in production for 2 more.

We do mainly tv drama and features here and the minima has proven to be an excellent second camera.

Both cost effective, and a true alternative to a heavier unit such as an XTRprod, allowing a truly distinctive cinematography, much like mini dv, while remaining in film.

My main advice to operators/producers is "do not try to dream the camera into something it is not". Once you've put Iris and focus motors, an LCD monitor, OB battery, additional hand grip, etc... It becomes almost as large as an XTRprod, so when you put on the blimp for that close-up sync sound, you end up with a unit which will be more cumbersome than what you expected, defeating the purpose of this small wonder.

The camera is designed to be a small, lightweight, handheld unit running at 27db. It is great for car shots, skateboard, running, hand crane, step ladder, spiral stair, jet ski, snow ski, cliff hanging and other "extreme" applications. It is not great for two people whispering in a small room.

If you need the type of shot that the Minima can offer, the reliability of the camera to deliver these shots is more than satisfactory. Image stability is perfect, and the camera performs flawlessly in harsh weather (Paris harsh, of course, not Groenland harsh...)

If you use the minima to save a little on camera rentals, this is a false savings. Work on your shooting schedule to have the unit available when you need it, and have the Xprod for those "talking head" days. This combination will make your life much easier.

Danys BRUYERE Dir. OPerations

Groupe TSF / Iris Camera

Hi All, a few more things about my favorite little gadget...

Jeff was concerned about the "double-click" feature.

Actually, I don't know if it is possible to disable the double click. But if you click fast enough, the camera seems to start as fast (or as slow) as it did before the upgrade. The reason why I like this feature is, that it prevents the camera from accidentally being started. Before the software upgrade, a lot of people played around with the camera and started it accidentally, while playing with it.

Another question was about the LEMO6 plug. With the new minimas, there will be three ways of supplying power to the camera: 1. the Lithium batteries (which will only run up to 32 fps), 2. an external battery via the Aaton power base (either XLR4 or LEMO6 connectors), which will enable the camera to run up to 50 fps and last but not least, you can plug a LEMO6 plug into the plug that is usually reserved for the powerbase. Aaton is currently working on developing an onboard battery for the minima, so once this becomes available, there will be four ways to power the little thing.

The reason for disabling the power-in function of the plug was that the fuse for this power input is inside the camera, and once it is blown, it means you have to take the whole camera apart to change it.

There is one thing about the video tap, which is worth mentioning... the distant eye viewfinder permits the operator to take the eye off the viewfinder without fogging the film. I tested this with a 650 Arri compact and there was no exposure at all on the film. But, unfortunately, it does not work for the video tap.

So if you are working with a video tap, the eyepiece must be covered in order to not "fog" the video image. The image on the film will be fine, but the director might get nervous....

Any more questions ?

Matthias A.

OK, shameless self benefitting pitch, for which I will no doubt need to pay a tithing to CML.

Oppenheimer Camera Products has introduced the Aaton A-Minima Battery Handle System.

We showed this in prototype to a group of Aaton Agents at NAB in April and to the general public at ShowBiz and Cinegear in May/June.

The system consists of a carry handle for the camera which is also an interchangeable NiMh battery, a 3-port charger, a "Swan Neck" attach to the camera, and a small interconnecting power base for the camera.

This week, final preproduction versions are available for viewing/testing at Able NY, Able Burbank, and ICE London.

Deliveries will soon follow. The product is being distributed via the network of Aaton Agents. Oppenheimer will sell direct only in areas lacking Aaton Agents. These components are the tip of the iceberg. Oppenheimer is developing a group of products including on-board monitor, mini-disc bracket, cutaway mini-Euro release plate, and others.

Marty Oppenheimer

I saw this at Cinegear and it looked like a great piece of kit.

Now if you'll just forward the Beychevelle to my home in time for my birthday on Friday.......

Cheers Geoff Boyle FBKSTS
Director of Photography EU based
CML List Owner & Sysadmin


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