Magazine article American Cinematographer

"Operation 5008s"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

"Operation 5008s"

Article excerpt

Skeptical professional cameraman, invited to shoot the very first tests of a new Super-8 sound camera, is amazed to find it is a fully professional instrument delivering superb sound and picture quality

Take a hardnosed guy who for thirtyfive years has been filming on 16mm (with a few interludes of 35mm and 70mm thrown in) and hand him a Super-8 camera and I'll bet you ten to one he'll look it over, give it back and say, "Forget it!"

Sure, I know that Super-8 is now being ballyhooed to the skies for commercial and industrial and educational filming; so fine, I say, let it end there, in the offices and the schoolrooms or in those handy tote-projectors .. . and most of those films are reduced from 16mm and even 35mm.

But it was early in June when I happened to drop into the Hervic office on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks to see a friend (Walter Zadanoff, National Operations Manager) that I noticed a buzzing in the atmosphere and executives running into offices and locking doors. Either there was a deep dark secret being kept under wraps, or they were maybe running a porno flick. Knowing the respectability of the Hervic staff, it had to be the former, and sure enough, it was Walter himself who let the cat out of the bag. First he introduced me to Antoine Gallozzi, whose name may be Italian, but he has all the French charm of Louis Jourdan. Antoine (Tony) turned out to be the factory representative of Beau lieu of France, who was now making his headquarters here.

Cautiously, and with furtive glances at the doorway, Tony unwrapped a camera that looked like the Beau lieu 4008 zoom but maybe just a little tiny bit bigger. I took it from him with a "so what" attitude and started to study the instrument. The first thing that hit me was a little Din plug with the "mic. input" label. Then I saw a "sound level" button. And the next thing I said was, "Well, I'll be a sonofabitch," when the realization hit me that this gadget was a single-system sound camera. It was called the 5008S.

I had seen Kodak's Ektasound and was quite impressed with it for amateur use, but this instrument in my hand was a precision-made professional-type camera. It was then that I saw the lens and cracked up. In 16mm I was happy with a 10-to-1 zoom ratio at F/2.2. Well, here was a 6-to-80mm Angenieux zoom (over 13-to-1) with an opening of F/1.2. How about that? On high speed film, it would shoot by candlelight.

Naturally, the first thing anyone asks about a new sound camera is, "How good is the sound?" They all shrugged. Because the camera had just that day arrived from France, no one had had a chance to try it, although the tests made in France had claimed a response of 50 to 12,500 cycles at 24fps. When Walter and Tony showed me the specs, still in French and not yet translated, I said, "This I gotta see!"

Walter came up with the bright idea. "Okay, Gene," he said, "How would you like to be the first one to make a movie with this camera?"

"Yeah, fine," I answered, "What do you want shot?"

"We'll leave that entirely up to you," was the reply.

Hmmmm! Here was a camera that had never been used for making a film, and I was supposed to give it the baptism of fire. What if I goofed? What if the camera goofed? Well, it wasn't exactly like being the first man on the moon, or the first guy to discover sex, but for an old creep like me being the first to try a new mini-sound camera . .. well, why the hell shouldn't I feel good?

By now I found that the Hervic Corp. had received five cameras, all prototypes, and hadn't even shown them to the employees. Two days later, they would unwrap them for the staff, pour a few magnums of French champagne, and celebrate the unveiling to all the employees who had been sworn to secrecy under penalty of death, starvation or imprisonment on Devil's Island.

That was the day I grabbed the camera, inserted a sound film cartridge, set the voice level on automatic, the ASA on 40 (indoor Kodachrome), flooded the room with a quartz light, plopped an Electro-Voice 635A mike on a nearby desk, left the exposure on automatic and just pressed the button and let the film roll. …

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