Camera failures

Technically-oriented discussion of classic films on everything from 35mm to Blu-Ray
Histogram
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Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:26 pm

Camera failures

Unread post by Histogram » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:44 pm

Were camera failures during shooting a very common problem? I happened to watch two movies in short succession for which the supplementary materials on the discs described camera breakdowns during expensive scenes.

The Kino Blu-Ray of "The Sacrifice" (1986, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky) has an accompanying DVD "Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky" (1988) which is a documentary about him and the production of "The Sacrifice". A major scene involves the burning of a house. Producing this scene was done the old-fashioned/brute-force way -- building a full-sized set, then setting it on fire. When the scene was shot, a couple of the controls for the gasoline did not operate. Then, after the shooting of the scene was over, cinematographer Sven Nyquist informed Tarkovsky that the second camera had jammed. (I think they covered the scene was only one camera at a time -- #1 for the first part, then swap in camera #2 with a full film magazine.) Eventually they solved the problem the brute-force way -- by >rebuilding< the entire set of the house, then >burning it again< and covering it with >several cameras<. A big deal for an artistic Swedish film on a limited budget.

The Criterion Blu-Ray of "Harold and Maude" (1971, directed by Hal Ashby) has a commentary track in which producer Charles B. Mulvehill explains how they shot the scene of Harold's Jaguar-hearse zooming over a cliff and smashing on the beach below: "...We had like five cameras -- a slow-motion camera, there was a camera in the car.... So of course the camera that was in the car got destroyed in the crash. The slow-motion camera broke down. And so we ended up with not very many angles of this moment, which just drove Hal to distraction beacuse there was no way it could be fixed; and it was not one that we could go back and re-shoot. So we have this cheesy stop-frame in the middle of the car-going-over-the-cliff, and it always bugged Hal. It bugged all of us, but what are you going to do?"

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Donald Binks
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Re: Camera failures

Unread post by Donald Binks » Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:29 pm

Reminds me of that wonderful old story about Mr. deMille.

He was shooting a huge epic. One that had a scene similar to the great chariot race in "Ben Hur" and requiring about 10,000 extras. He had four cameras set up to film it all from different angles.

When it was finished he raised his megaphone and yelled out to camera one:
"Ok, one, did you get it?

"Sorry, Mr. deMille but the camera jammed!"

Dejected, he yelled out to camera two:
"Did you get it camera two?"

"Sorry Mr. deMille, but the film broke a quarter way through.

Getting very depressed, he yelled out to camera three:
"Ok, camera three, did you get it?

"No, Mr. deMille, a dust storm blew up and obliterated our view!"

Desperate, he yelled out to camera four"
"Camera four! Did you get it?

"Ready when you are Mr. deMille!"
Regards from
Donald Binks

"So, she said: "Elly, it's no use letting Lou have the sherry glasses..."She won't appreciate them,
she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."

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syd
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Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:55 am

Re: Camera failures

Unread post by syd » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:09 am

Not an error as a result of camera malfunction
but 30,000 feet of negative of director Robert
Flaherty's first trip through the northern regions
of Canada went up in flames due to an errant
cigarette toss.

Histogram
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Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:26 pm

Re: Camera failures

Unread post by Histogram » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:52 pm

Donald Binks wrote:Reminds me of that wonderful old story about Mr. deMille.
After that fiasco, four cameramen were probably wary of what Cecil was going to do next with his megaphone.

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Spiny Norman
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Re: Camera failures

Unread post by Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:38 am

Histogram wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:Reminds me of that wonderful old story about Mr. deMille.
After that fiasco, four cameramen were probably wary of what Cecil was going to do next with his megaphone.
That gives a whole new meaning to "ready for my close-up" then...
This is nøt å signåture.™

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