The Bolex

Of all the cameras that I’ve used, the Bolex was probably the most important. When I developed newsfilm at night, the news photographers always used the Bolex, a sixteen millimeter hand wound camera that could survive anything. I would screen the film with them after development and ask questions.  The one thing that was prevalent was the efficiency of how they shot, no wasted film. Since they were always on a tight deadline, they filmed in a way that the editor could just snip the frames from what they had shot and put it on the air. If it was a  car accident they would film the accident, a road sign or street sign, the ambulance, the police, and pertinent elements, but they would film exactly the time, a few seconds here and there, so the night editor could just run whatever they had shot without any editing. 


The cameramen knew exactly what lens to use and the exact time they needed. The bolex had a lens turret.  Zoom lenses were new then and not as fast (light receptive) as they could be and were cumbersome.  The news cameramen almost never used lights, their lenses being fast enough to film at night, Dupont 931 black and white reversal film.

Reversal film gave you a positive (normal) image upon development, as opposed to negative film. 

Back to the Bolex.

I had been offered a job to edit a series of documentaries for NET Television. I had held out because I also wanted to film them. I was always frustrated by film I was given to edit, there was never the right shot, etc. Matt von Brauchitsch, their project leader was reluctant because he didn’t think I was capable, not having anything to show him. Matt was doing another documentary that I was editing, and he ran out of time (and money) for the cameraman he had hired. I volunteered to film the rest free. Matt reluctantly asked me to film a test, the town at night. 

I had all the technical skills, light meter, etc., from all the limited animation I had done, and a bunch of technical stuff on the Oxberry Printers, so the only problem was composition (art school). I want out in the evening with a Bolex and fast lenses and filmed a bunch of stuff and gave Matt the film. I had filmed a story as the newsmen may have so the ‘dailies’ were like a completed film. 

I was driving to my day job and Matt passed me on the freeway and pulled over waving to me to do the same.  He had a beautiful 50’s Mercedes Coupe (it might have been a convertible).  He burst out of his car as I was getting out of mine and came up to me and embraced me raving about the film I had shot. 

So, he hired me to film and edit the documentary series. I had bluffed my way into a career.