Filmmaker Creates Large Format Video Camera

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

I don’t know about you. But I love it when a filmmaker experiments and makes his own stuff. Whether it’s building your own lens, like the “crapinon,” or just about any other DIY gear we’ve shown here before, it only proves that sometimes you need an exact tool to get the right shot. And if you can’t buy it, you gotta make it. But can you really make a camera with an image the size of a piece of paper? One filmmaker did just that. Sort of.

I just completed designing and building an 8×10 large format digital video camera, the first in the world that I know of. Essentially its off-axis reimaging of a projected image.  It’s a bit like IMAX, but waaaaay bigger. – Zev Hoover

The rig was built by Zev Hoover, and if you look at his blog, called “FiddleOak,” you kinda get the feeling he likes to tinker. A lot. This time around, he’s taken an old fashioned bellows camera front end and built and 8×10 large format camera box around it. But he didn’t really have an 8×10 image sensor, so he did the next best thing. He used the basic principles behind Camera Obscura to get a large format image projected on a super white background, and then shot that image with Sony a7s full frame in 4K. “You lose some light, but with advances in large aperture wide angle lenses (I am using an Irix 15mm f2.4 Firefly) and sensitive cameras (a Sony a7s in my case) this sort of camera is now a practical possibility,” Hoover adds.

Hoover had a few problems to tackle in creating such a device, however. His imaging camera, the Sony a7s was mounted underneath the box of the Camera Obscura. To be able to capture an image that wasn’t off axis, he had to create a series of off-kiltered filters to compensate for the shift in camera angle.  “The light from the main lens is coming straight in, while the secondary camera is shooting from an angle,” Hoover explains. “So I applied 12mm of shift to shoot off axis and not get any perspective issues.”

The white background that the image is put on is made with a matte white material from an artist’s palette, which was the whitest screen he could get to be able to project the image without any additional loss of light that he was experiencing with the Obscura technique.  Then, Hoover mounted the entire array onto a camera slider, with the bellows and lens on the front end mounted to the sliding mechanism itself. The bellows is from a Ukranian company and it came with a huge large format lens on the front. This gives Hoover a very wide field of view capable of bringing in as much light as possible. It also provides an extremely shallow depth of field. Then, thanks to the Sony a7s uncanny ability to image in extreme low light, Hoover is making the image all it can be.

With the slider, Hoover is able to rack focus smoother than handheld, since he won’t have any jitter in the process. He just pushes and pulls to get the desired focus. The slider also doubles as a shoulder mount, freeing it from a locked down tripod configuration.

Hoover came up with that idea while virtually building the camera inside of Cinema 4D. Thanks to the ability to use virtual cameras, Hoover was able to see the field of view and make sure that the slider wasn’t in any shot. To round out the design, Hoover added an external monitor that was connected via HDMI to the Sony a7s.

Now I’m not saying that this is the future of filmmaking. But what Zev’s large format camera does is give the image a very old fashioned, tin type like vibe that would be ideal for shooting a vintage project or montage. One of my favorites is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which was told with Deguerro type still images. Imagine what that would have looked like shot with this camera and introducing a little movement? And if you want that IMAX vibe without breaking the bank, well, it’s something to consider.

Great job, Zev! Can’t wait to see what you come up with next. You can follow his exploits on Youtube here.





About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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