Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

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Feel free to discuss any topic related to the Mitchell Camera. Both 35 mm and 16 mm models are welcomed here. Also consider posting topics of other major motion picture cameras that you feel are important to the development of the Mitchell Camera.

Update: You may have noticed that we have returned to just one category as opposed to dividing the forum into 7 different areas. Apparently, it was an unpopular change and returning to the old format will allow posters to find their submissions more easily.
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marop
Posts: 53
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby marop » Tue Sep 16, 2014 10:48 am

Okay, here is one of the first I found for my Standard. Searching images on the internet using various words and phrases, like "Paramount Director" I came up with probably one of the best photos I could ask for. Again, you can not see my camera but the blimp is marked with it's serial number. This is Josef Von Sternberg (the man who "found" Marlene Dietrich) on the set of The Scarlet Empress, staring Marlene Dietrich.

Another photo is from the set of The Sound of Music. I actually ran across it and later connected with a fellow collector who owns the camera. Almost every photo I find with serial numbers I keep, just in case. The camera is a BFC, which is a 65mm format. Looks like a BNC but on steroids!

Anyone else have some photos showing Mitchell camera serial numbers?

Mark
Attachments
Sound of Music BFC 1.jpg
On the set of The Sound of Music, showing Mitchell BFC 1
Von Sternberg Scarlet Empress_email.jpg
Josef Von Sternberg with a Mitchell Standard

mrcinephd

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby mrcinephd » Tue Sep 16, 2014 11:41 am

Best thread here ever! These "investigation tips" are invaluable. I'm learning here, and with the phd and all - that says something! But the photos are extra special too, the last one with the BFC and riding boots is over the top classic!

Keep on filmin'

followthefocus1

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby followthefocus1 » Tue Sep 16, 2014 12:06 pm

Hello Mark. I agree with the others, who commented about your photos. Top flight shots. Great information that you are providing in all aspects. I think it's safe to say that you are making a giant difference here. As somebody else said here, please keep it coming.

Respectfully,
Followthefocus1

marop
Posts: 53
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby marop » Thu Sep 18, 2014 10:49 am

Since some are asking for additional photos, here goes, although I had some trouble reducing their file size from a very large file. I am not sure how good these will be. Here is the story behind the photo;

This forum has talked about many types of Mitchell cameras but I have not seen anything about their "Elephant Ear" camera. This was the nickname for the Mitchell VistaVision camera. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Paramount Camera department, apparently working with Technicolor, came up with their own film format during the Widescreen movie battle of the 1950's. This is the camera they came up with. Because it's large 2000 ft. magazines were large and drooped down below the bottom of the camera, it was likened to an elephant ear. This format used regular 35mm film but exposed it horizontally rather than vertically, just like a 35mm still film camera. This created a bigger picture and the final release print looked better and could be printed in different formats. The downside was it exposed twice as much film, which is why they made a 2000 ft. magazine instead of the standard 1000 ft., which would give you the same amount of shooting time.

As to my investigation, I was trying to find history on a particular VistaVision camera. Mitchell had only made 32 cameras and they were only used in the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s (until Lucas Film re-found the format, but that's another story). I traveled to the Los Angeles area library that I previously mentioned and randomly looked through various VistaVision movie photographs. What I was looking for the usual behind the scenes shots that would show the blimps. Paramount would paint the camera number on the outside of the blimp, as they had done years earlier. Although there is some evidence that this may not always guarantee that the numbers matched.

I ran across a photo that showed a camera outside the blimp. But of course you can not see the serial number on their acorn ID tag. However, Paramount gave an inventory number to all their equipment. All the numbers I have seen begin with a "C" and then an ever increasing number. through magnification I was able to read that number, painted in white, just below the ID tag.

I did not have that number when I was looking through the photos as I did not even expect to see it. Upon later examining the camera I could just barely see that there even was a number painted on the camera, but no way could read it. I then examined the rest of the camera and found a "C" number stamped into the metal body of the camera. I compared that number to the number in the photo and Bingo! It was a match. I could now say that the Mitchell VistaVision had worked on the Court Jester, staring Danny Kaye! So as I said, it is really an investigation, and a lot of work BUT a lot of fun at the same time.

Another way of identifying cameras is through the ever elusive "camera reports". If there is interest I could discuss those and include a photo of one in another story.

Mark
Attachments
Court_Jester_11x14.jpg
Danny Kaye with Mitchell VistaVision
MVV_sn.jpg
Mitchell VistaVision Camera showing inventory number

35mmKing

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby 35mmKing » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:22 am

Hey Mark, thanks for those. I love the VistaVision cameras. I see some pictures in another thread but not the action shots like you have shared. Yours are very nice.

King

lolly

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby lolly » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:25 am

Yes on the Camera Reports, Mark. Please? Just my 2 cents, lol

lolly

mr. pebbles jacksonville

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby mr. pebbles jacksonville » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:37 am

Hello Mark and lolly. Yes, we ALL would be interested in the Camera Reports. This is great, I'm learning so much and many thanks!

pebbles

marop
Posts: 53
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby marop » Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:35 pm

...this is probably a lot more information than asked for, but just in case I have included quite a bit for those that may appreciate it.

Camera Reports; I have not worked in the industry so my information my be lacking, but this is what I have learned: A camera report is for an individual camera for each day it was used on a production. Basically it documents the production info, scene numbers filmed, amount of footage exposed, and other information (see photo). These records were kept by the studio for various amounts of time. Most have since been dumped, some are in a few film related libraries. They are the single best piece of evidence that one can have to show the history of a camera. In the case of the camera report in the photo, it is for the movie "Among the Dead", which was the working title for Vertigo, 1958, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

This particular camera report documents the information for MVV-7, how they typically referred to the Mitchell VistaVision camera, which is an abbreviation of the type of camera and serial number. The beauty of this particular report is it shows Hitchcock as the director (as opposed to a second unit director). For those that don't know what I am referring to; a "First Unit" is the crew that films scenes involving principal actors. A "Second Unit", which usually has it's own director, is for all other scenes. For instance, a first unit would film a close up of an actor skiing, where you actually see their face. A second unit would film a wide shot of a double skiing down a hill, where you can't see details of the face. Generally speaking in the past (before Panavision took over supplying the cameras for most studios) the first unit would use the same camera through-out the production. For a collector it is generally more desirable to obtain the camera that filmed the actors & primary director, if one has a choice that is. But again, it is fairly unique to identify specific productions, at least with proof.

A very special bonus came with this particular camera report, I believe it is called the "script notes" . I have only seen this with this particular production. This is very fortunate as it documents the specific scene the camera filmed! Otherwise you just don't know what the camera did, specifically, which makes this a real plus. The script notes are matched by the date and actually was paper clipped or stapled to the camera report. What I did not realize at first is that the notes document ALL scenes filmed that day by ALL cameras. I eventually realized that you can match it up by Scene number/Slate number, referred to differently in each document. In the camera report they call it a Scene number and in the script notes it is referred to as the Slates number.

In this case, camera MVV-7 filmed scene 138X. In the script notes you can see that in scene 138X they used a 35mm lens, it was an exterior shot at Lincoln Park Art Gallery. It further shows that it was a low shot where "Scottie" (Jimmy Stewart) enters the scene from camera Left and walks into the gallery. You can match this up to the movie and know exactly which camera filmed it! This particular camera was one of several location cameras used in San Francisco, Big Basin and San Juan Batista. It was used with the direction Hitchcock himself as well as the second unit director.

I maintain a list of all cameras I run across through the various records searches and photograph searches I do. This is the information I have, on occasion, shared with a couple museums and several collectors. There is no single source for all this info and the library or institution that holds the information may not know specially what they have. As example, the Museum of Moving Image in New York, has a Mitchell VistaVision. If I recall correctly it is MVV-4. I was able to tell them it was used by Cecil B. Demille on location in Egypt filming The Ten Commandments. It was one of four location cameras used on location.

So if you have a Mitchell VistaVision I may have some info on it. I also have some info for some BNCs as well as Technicolor and Technirama. Yes it is spotty but one never knows unless one checks. I have been lucky with Paramount records. I checked by found nothing on BNCR 198 (posting above). That is a great camera and to have all those lenses with it!

I have met a lot of great and interesting people in this hobby, a security guard, a Director of Photography, a person in the special effects industry that worked on the Star Wars (1977), as well as one of the biggest collectors in the field, Martin Hill.

So if anyone finds photos with camera numbers in them, Post Them! Please! Although I may already have it, but I still do find new ones. If you have any questions or want some research guidance, ask me!

Mark
Attachments
Camera_Report.jpg
Camera Report
Camera_Script_Notes.jpg
Script Notes to match up to the Camera Report

marop
Posts: 53
Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby marop » Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:01 pm

Here is a picture of MVV-7 on short term display at the old San Francisco Mint building. They were showcasing San Francisco in the Movies! They had a room devoted to Vertigo and of course this camera was in that room.
Attachments
VistaVision_on_Display.jpg
MVV-7 on Display in San Francisco

followthefocus1

Re: Mitchell Cameras; ownership history

Postby followthefocus1 » Mon Sep 22, 2014 8:08 am

Hello Mark. Fantastic post and even better in regards to the in depth information you provided. I really enjoyed reading all this, and I know others will too. It takes a lot of time to put together such a great post (with pictures) and you just made my day. Thank you.

Respectfully,
Followthefocus1


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