Mitchell Camera Corporation

Mitchell Camera Corporation was founded in 1919 by Henry Boger and George Alfred Mitchell. Their first camera was designed and patented by John E. Leonard in 1917, from 1920 on known as the Mitchell Standard. Features included a planetary gear-driven variable shutter (US Patent No 1,297,703) and a unique rack-over design (US Pat No 1,297,704).

There were several off-springs of the Mitchell, namely the Fox-Grandeur Wide Film Camera (70 mm) in 1928-29, the Beam-Splitting Three-Strip Camera for the Technicolor Corporation in 1932, the CinemaScope-55 Camera (55-mm film) in 195?, and the Todd-A. O. Camera for 65-mm film in 1955, an adjustment of the Grandeur.

Cinema Products Corporation was an American manufacturer of motion picture camera equipment. It was formed in 1968 by Ed DiGiulio, a former director and vice-president of Mitchell Camera Corporation. Their first product was a Silent Pellicle Reflex conversion of the Mitchell BNC 35mm Motion picture camera.

Cinema Products made a custom lens for Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon the Cine-Pro T9, the company grew with the introduction of CP-16. The CP16 sound on film camera was the most widely used by TV news cameramen before compact hand held video camcorders such as Sony’s betacam based cameras displaced the “film at ten” CP16.

The Mitchell BNC conversion to reflex was followed by the studio quiet XR35. The Cinema Products XR35 had a Mitchell NC camera inside a light weight housing or blimp. The blimp was so close in size to the original camera, it looked small compared to the blimps made for Mitchell or Arriflex cameras. The XR35 was a crystal controlled 35mm motion picture camera considerably lighter than the Hollywood studio owned blimped Mitchells. The X stood for crystal, the R for reflex. The reflex was based on a spinning mirror shutter, during the mirrors’ revolution at one point the film would be exposed, then the operator would view the image in the mirror as the film was advanced to the next frame, at 24 times a second. Cinema Products horded the Mitchell NC camera market as the XR went into production. Cinema Products sold the remaining Mitchell inventory to a Japanese company when the XR35 was challenged but still selling well.

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Panavision and Arriflex came to market with their lighter weight 35mm cameras in 1972; Panavision’s Panaflex and Arri’s BL1. These cameras were not blimped in the sense they had a camera in a housing; these cameras were designed to be quiet. The BL1 gave the French New Wave it’s style of shooting; the ability to be hand held and shoot on location. The Panaflex became America’s industry standard motion picture camera, displacing the Mitchell legacy.

The studio quiet 16mm Cinema Products GSMO was introduced in the mid 70’s. It had quick loading coaxial magazines, in camera light meter viewable in the eyepiece and an on camera battery. The GSMO stood for Gun Sight Man Operated. Cinema Products would develop products under government contracts, then industry market them.

The GSMO had crystal speeds of 12,16,24,25,32,48,64 FPS. The GSMO had a novel and rare 100 foot magazine and the standard 400 foot mag. The 100 foot mag was the height of the camera so the camera with mag would be only 5 inches tall. The GSMO did not have video assist, a way of viewing what the cameraman was seeing on a video screen. TV commercial producers and directors wanted video assist and the GSMO fell behind the competition. After market video assist is now available for the GSMO.

In the early 80’s, Cinema Products introduced the CP35, a non quiet 35mm camera. With a BNCR lens mount, it was to partner with the studio quiet XR35 that had the same BNCR mount. The CP35 had video assist, but it was not as integrally designed as the competition’s. The CP35 had multiple crystal speeds like the GSMO ranging from 6 to 120FPS.

The FX35 was introduced in 1987. It had a larger body but resembled the CP35. They shared magazines. The FX35 had integral video assist. It used the PL lens mountArriflex had introduced. The camera’s electronics were cutting edge for the day with special effects and motion control underlining the electronics design. From the switch-mode power supply to the 36 pin computer interface, the FX35 offered features unavailable on cameras at that time. The speeds were thumb-wheel selected in .01 increments. A CRT computer monitor with 72.06 hertz could be filmed with no roll bar, the black bar visible when a 24 or 25 FPS camera records a TV or computer monitor due to the difference in refresh rates. The FX35 was originally designed for a motion picture and video camera rental company in Great Britain. The production rights and remaining inventory of the CP35 and FX35 were sold to Redicam in 1992.

In its last years, Cinema Products was still innovative. A film to HD video transfer machine was introduced, novel in that the HD camera was not part of the transfer machine but mounted on it. An upgrade would be easy, just change the HD camera, the film transport deck stayed the same. A fiber optic based 35mm ground glass to video chip reducer was patented and sold to a competitor. A consumer oriented Steadicam unit designed for small mini DV cameras was added to the Steadicam line. The Steadicam Jr. incorporated a 8 layer non-glare LCD video monitor comparable to the professional Steadicam rigs. The Steadicam line became the company’s leading marketable product. Tiffen Filter bought the rights to make the Steadicam when Cinema Products Corporation went out of business in 2000.

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