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CinemaTechnic Camera Profiles | ARRI 35 II

CinemaTechnic Camera Profiles | Arriflex 35 II Family


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Arriflex 35, 35II, 35 IIA, 35 IIB, 35 IIC, 35 IIIC

The Arriflex 35 II is one of the most significant motion picture cameras of all time.

It was designed and developed by Arnold & Richter, A.G. of Munich Germany, founded in 1917 as film laboratory equipment and accessory manufacturers. The name ARRI derives from the first two letters of each founder’s name August Arnold and Robert Richter. ARRI introduced their first camera the Kinarri in 1924. 100 Kinarris were sold. After a great deal of research and development, they developed the mirror reflex viewing system in 1931.

After perfecting their mirror reflex system, ARRI introduced the Arriflex 35 in 1937. It was the world’s first 35mm reflex motion picture camera. The mirror reflex viewing system it introduced was so superior that it is used on all professional motion picture cameras, in all formats, to this date.*

Basic Description

The Arriflex 35 is built around a cast aluminum shell of asymmetrical triangular design. The front of the camera employs a three-lens rotating turret, as did all cameras of the time. Early models had three ARRI standard mounts. Later models had one ARRI Bayonet mount and two standard mounts. Many cameras were later upgraded with a PL mount "hard front" which is non-rotating.

The viewfinder is mounted in the film compartment door, which is detachable. Except for the ground glass and a single mirror, the entire optical viewing system is located in the film door. It consists of a straight tube viewfinder. The IIA and IIB cameras had fixed eyepices, the IIC model has a detachable eyepiece. The same eyepiece was used on the ARRI 16BL and 16 SR I/II cameras. Later model eyepieces designed for the 35BL-3 and 35BL-4 cameras can be fitted, as can replacement eyepieces from P+S Technik and Kish Optics.

The 35IIC has no internal electronics (except for optional items such as pilotone generators). The motor mounts to the bottom of the camera and can be used as a handgrip. ARRI supplied either constant speed (24 or 25 fps) or variable speed DC motors. The motors were very simple with no control electronics.

The interchangeable magazines, 200, 400 and 500ft magazines mount to the top of the camera.

The inside of the camera is simply a film chamber with the gate, the single pull-down claw (no registration pin is used) and chrome plated brass film guides. The film sprockets are part of the magazine, although the partially protrude into the camera when the magazine is fitted.

The film transport and mirror shutter mechanism was designed by Erich Kastner, ARRI’s chief engineer, and August Arnold. It incorporated a single claw acting on the perfs next to the 35mm soundtrack area. The claw was actuated by a cam that allowed the claw to dwell in the perf at the end of the stroke, just long enough to stabilize the film without the use of a registration pin. The gate has a spring loaded side rail that applies pressure to the film edge to effect horzontal (weave) and vertical (jitter) stabilization. This also design made the 35-II compact and lighweight.

200 foot and 400 foot displacement magazines were designed for the camera. These magazines had the sprockets located at the magazine throat. Most cameras at the time had the sprockets inside the film chamber of the camera. The sprockets in the mags kept the film loop constant. Once the mag was properly loaded, it was very easy to thread the camera’s film loop and start shooting. This allowed for much faster re-loads when shooting. The 35-II is one of the easiest to thread 35mm cameras ever made.

The Early History of the Arriflex 35:

The introduction of the Arriflex 35 took place in 1937 at the Leipzig Trade Fair in Germany. It was originally designed as a hand-held newsreel camera. It had the sad task of recording the rise and fall of Hitler’s regime: the Axis pacts, the invasion of France, the Russian disaster, Musolini’s death and the Nuremberg trials. Many World War II documentaries include much German material shot with Arriflexes.

American soldiers brought back captured cameras introducing the Arriflex to the US. The camera was “knocked off” and the nearly identical Cineflex PH-330 was made for the US military.

The original ARRI factory on Turkenstrasse street in Munich was bombed during WWII. The factory was rebuilt after the war and production on a new version of the camera, the 35 II, began in 1946.

The Arriflex comes to Hollywood:

The first Hollywood feature film to use the Arriflex was Dark Passage, 1945 directed by Delmer Daves, who had tested the captured Arriflexes for the US Air Force during his service in the war.

ARRI began to import the Arriflex to the United States in 1947. Director Robert Flaherty used them on the film Louisiana Story 1948. Soon the camera was so popular that ARRI could hardly keep up with the orders. The 35 IIA was introduced in 1953. The 35 IIBV introduced the variable shutter option in 1960 and the 35 IIC introduced a larger ground glass, compatible with the Anamorphic Cinemascope format, and a larger diameter viewing system in 1964. The IIC became the most popular model.

The Arriflex 35 II was adopted by the BBC, the Italian RAI, Polish Film News, and all the film units of the US Military. The new communist government of China knocked off the camera and began producing clones of the 35 II in Nanking, China.

The 35 II was one of the very few 35mm reflex hand-held cameras available at the time. As new filmmaking styles emerged in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the 35 II became even more popular. The camera was used extensively by all “New Wave” filmmakers around the world, freeing them from being tied down with heavy studio cameras such as the Mitchell BNCR, which although they were excellent cameras, required two men to lift, making handheld filming impossible.

Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, was shot almost entirely on the ARRI 35 IIC. There are many photos from the set of the film showing 35-IIC’s, both hand held and used inside the ARRI blimphousing.

Over 17,000 35 II’s were produced beginning in 1946 making this the best-selling model ARRI has ever had. By comparison, only about 1400 ARRI 35-3 models, which replaced the 35 II were made, despite the fact that the 35-3 is an industry standard worldwide.

The many different models of the 35-II:

The Arriflex 35-II is one of the most successful 35mm motion picture cameras ever built. About 17,000 35 IIs had been built when ARRI ceased production of them in 1978 (not counting the 35-IIIC).

Arriflex 35: Original version, 1937, used in WWII

Arriflex 35 II: Manufactured in new ARRI factory starting in 1946

Arriflex 35 IIA: 1953. 180º shutter

Arriflex 35 IIB: 1960. New transport claw design, fixed 180º shutter

Arriflex 35 II BV: 1960. Introduced variable shutter 0º-165º

Arriflex 35 II HS: 1960 high speed version (to 80fps)

Arriflex 35 II C: 1964. Improved viewing system with larger viewfinder optics which allow veiwing of the full anamophic format. Introduction of interchangeable ground glass system. Viewfinder door with de-anamorphoser available. Interchangeable eyepiece.

Arriflex 35 II C/B: Equipped with a single stainless steel Bayonet lens mount on turret, the other two mounts are ARRI Standard.

Arriflex 35 II CGS/B: Equipped with Pilotone output and start marking system (obsolete system for sync sound).

Arriflex 35 II CHS/B: High speed model, 80fps maximum, with specially prepared movement and 80fps tachometer. Used 32VDC motor.

Arriflex 35 II CT/B: Techniscope™ format model. Uses 2-perf pulldown and half-height gate to give Anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with normal lenses, and reduces film use by half. Used to shoot THX-1138, American Grafitti, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and many other features during the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Arriflex 35 III C: 1982. Final refinement of the 35 II design. Featured PL mount (no turret). Hinged film door with new optics, three viewfinders available: Straight Door, Pivoting Door, and Hand-Held Door. Crystal sync handgrip motor of new design, 12VDC, forward-reverse 5-50fps. Very few were made.

ARRI 35IIC Medical Camera: 1964. Designed for use as a Cineradiology camera, the medical version of the 35-II was mounted to an X-Ray console and used to shoot Black & White 35mm film records of moving X-Ray images (used to diagnose heart problems, for example). These cameras are usually either gray-beige or light green in color and have no lens turret and no viewfinder system at all. They are sometimes equipped with ARRI standard lens mounts. This model was supeceeded by the ARRITECHNO in 1970. These cameras cannot be used for cinematography in their original state. CinemaTechnic provides conversions to these cameras so that they can be used for cinematography.

The 35IIC today

A very large percentage of the 35IIC cameras produced are still in use today. It is probably equalled in this regard only by the Mitchell NC series of cameras. No other camera (other than the Mitchell) with a basic design dating back to the mid 1930's is still in widespread use today. This is a result of the simplicity and durability of the basic design. Some film professionals consider the 35IIC to be ARRI's best design ever.

The 35IIC was replaced by the Arriflex 35-3 in 1979, and that venerable
camera design was replaced by the ARRI 435ES in 1995. Fortunately, ARRI chose to keep the basic design of the 400 ft / 120 m 35IIC magazines on the newer cameras. In the case of the 35-3, the magazines are identical to the late model 35IIC mags. The 435 has it's own 150 fps compatible lightweight carbon fiber magazines, but it can use IIC type mags, and the IIC can use 435 mags (except the 1000 foot / 300 m mags).

Recently ARRI introduced the 235, a lightweight 35 mm camera that for the first time in modern cameras, takes a look back to the simple lightweight 35IIC for it's inspiration. Again, compatibility with 35IIC mags is maintained. This is now the fourth generation of completely redesigned ARRI MOS camera that is compatible with the 35IIC magazines.

Today the 35IIC is mostly used as a "B" or "C" camera, taking care of handheld or Steadicam duties, shooting second unit shots, or placing itself in danger doing those shots that are too risky for a valuable camera such as the ARRI 435ES.

Potential owners or users of the 35IIC should keep the following in mind:

The 35IIC is NOT a silent camera. It is NOT quiet enough to shoot sync sound. A crystal motor will NOT reduce the sound level of a 35IIC. You CANNOT shoot your sync sound movie on a IIC without a blimp (yes, I have been e-mailed that question several times!) Unless you go the trouble of putting it in a totally encompassing soundproof blimp, you will not be shooting any kind of dialog.

I would strongly advise anyone and everyone to avoid the use of a blimp and simply use a silent 35mm camera for your sync-sound shooting. No one is going to wait for you while you fuss with the blimp. They were used in the past because the only silent cameras available weighed 200 lbs / 90 kg. Unless you have the budget to rent an ARRICAM LT, your 35mm silent camera will be so heavy you'll want the IIC on set anyway.

However, if you are shooting in a noisy environment where your sound is going to be no good anyway, you can use a IIC with a crystal motor and use the location sound as a scratch track. The scratch track serves as a guide in looping the dialog in the studio.

Whatever you do * DO NOT * shoot your movie with any MOS camera without a crystal motor and without recording scratch track. No matter how bad the background noise or camera sound is on your location sound, it is better than having nothing.

Stanley Kubrick shot his first movie "Fear and Desire" this way, on a Mitchell without recording location sound. Creating the soundtrack without a reference in post-production cost FOUR TIMES the cost of shooting. Kubrick later admitted it was essentially the biggest mistake he had ever made. Fortunately for the art of film, it was practically the last mistake he ever made.

A 35IIC fitted with the Bayonet turret can use either ARRI Bayonet or ARRI standard lenses.

A 35IIC fitted with a PL Hard Front can accept the current industry standard PL mount lenses, as well as both types of lenses mentioned above.

35IIC's can also be fitted with Panavsion and BNCR mounts. A IIC with a Panavision mount is called a Pan-ARRI IIC and was the first Panavision modified Arriflex. They are still in the Panavision rental catalog and available for rental today.

The 35IIC can also be fitted with a Nikon F mount to allow the use of inexpensive 35mm still format lenses.

Spare parts for the 35IIC no longer available from ARRI. There is a very limited stock of spare parts at independet repair centers and rental houses. I have own jealously guarded little stash of IIC spares at CinemaTechnic. Feel free to get in touch if you need a spare part

Make sure that any used camera you buy is checked out by a qualified professional camera technician. Most technicians that knew how to work on the ARRI 35IIC have long since retired. I am probably one of the few that hasn't yet.

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The original Arriflex 35IIA. "If you design it right the first time, you don't have to mess with it much afterward..." Courtesy ARRI
Arriflex 35IIB. The magazine in this photo is from a Cineflex. With slight modifications, Cineflex mags are compatible with the Arriflex.
Arriflex 35IIC with 400' Magazine and Matte Box. Courtesy ARRI
Stanley Kubrick shooting his second film, Killers Kiss, with an Arriflex 35IIA in 1954.
Kubrick shooting the famous "Singing in the Rain" scene in A Clockwork Orange with a 35IIC in 1970. He has used a IIC to some extent on every one of his films since. Courtesy Warner Brothers
Couldn't resist - another picture of Stanley with one of his 35IIC's. I know other top film directors used and and still use 35IIC's. One of them even told me this when I met him not long ago. But for some reason the images of them with their IIC's are not easily found, whereas there are plentiful images of Kubrick with his IIC's.