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Tips for Filming in Public Outdoor Locations with a Bolex 16 mm Camera

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2010

Here are some tips to guide you through using a Bolex 16 mm motion film camera in busy, outdoor locations.

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    The Bolex Balancing Act

    The Bolex 16 mm film camera is a difficult piece of video equipment as it requires the film mechanisms to be able to run undisturbed. This means that every piece inside the Bolex has to be secure, and the film itself has to be properly inserted so that it does not get off track and the image is maintained. The interplay of all these elements can come under fire when you are shooting outside in a public location. This is true of all film or video technology, but especially true when getting an image on a Bolex 16 mm film camera requires even more perfection in staging.

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    Tighten the Casing

    The first thing you are going to have to remember is that the casing is rarely secure. It is not uncommon for the side door to come open, exposing your 16 mm film. This can then destroy the film because of exposure to light or get it off track, usually ruining it as well. This usually comes from excessive motion that comes with multiple set ups, and that is the hallmark of public filming. To compensate for this you should always secure the door with gaffers tape before you head to your public location.

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    Considering Light

    When you are outside you are going to notice that you are unable to control the light the same way as if you were indoors and using studio lighting or a portable light kit. All you have is a viewfinder on the Bolex 16 mm film camera and that does not give you the kind of information about the final image that the LCD screen would on a regular digital video camera. This means that you are going to have to go through a number of steps, remember certain principles about lighting, and trust your video equipment.

    Never film outdoors in locations with lots of people without a clear light meter as the light will likely change for every set up. Make sure that crowds of people are staying away from any local light source that you want to use and that they do not create shadows. Understand that the image in the viewfinder of the Bolex 16 mm film camera is going to be a little darker than it may come out, so you should usually try to trust your light meter readings.

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    Composing Images and Calibrating Focus

    The Bolex camera is not as versatile as a digital video camera. This means that setting up, calibrating focus, and framing an image can take longer. Do not let crowds of people interfere with this process as an image that does not have a properly calibrated focus is going to be useless. Try to set up some sort of barrier between you and people during important shots, and if there are large groups passing around you it may be a good idea to switch to hand held.