Feature Shoot For Aaton A-Minima
Published : 17th March 2005
Greetings to all.
I have been a silent and humble observer of your list until now, but I do have a logistical problem, maybe you can help. I intend to shoot my first feature on super16 towards fall this year, but in Romania. I don't really trust the movie industry over there, so I want to take some equipment with me.
Please tell me your opinions about the A-Minima.
I've ended up using the A-Minima on a lot of corporate, documentary and show films. It is, hands down, the best camera on a super-16 project to have on hand for special shots. Small, quick, versatile. Did I mention small?
The downsides to the camera are; very awkward to load, not very quiet, fixed viewfinder not very easy to use with camera either up high or down low, You have to have external batteries if you use the video tap. There are other issues that make it impractical, in my opinion, as a principal production camera.
That said, I've worked on shoots where it has saved our butts. Time lapse, under-crank, over-crank, and, by the way, very small! For not a lot of money you can get a lot of additional photography done with the A-Minima that you just couldn't get with an XTR-Prod or SR3.
As an example, today I was on a shoot where the DP was able to lie on his belly on the tail gate of an SUV while he held the A-Minima and 6mm lens with one hand. We were leading a bicycle rider crashing along a dirty, muddy road and he could get very dynamic shots up close that would have been impossible with a regular super-16 camera.
Motion Picture First Camera Assistant
Thank you all for answering.
I love it when the answers to one question lead to another hundred questions...I will try the camera in different circumstances, but your tips about the noise level as well as the camera being very front-heavy (depending on lenses) were very helpful.
The A Minima is a great b camera as already mentioned. However, slow (and surprisingly frequent) re loads; noisy; lousy for extended hand held (very hard on the wrist); not good for hand held w/zooms or other big lenses (extremely front heavy); crap viewfinder, you really have to put your head in a specific spot to see much, also a small, dark image, reminded me a lot of a Bolex; finally, limited film stock
DP Los Angeles
class="style9">>As an example, today I was on a shoot where the DP was able to lie on >his belly on the tail gate of an SUV while he held the A-Minima and >6mm lens with one hand.
Depending on HOW rough the road was, this shot is possible with a normal camera and I have been doing it for at least 20 years with an Éclair ACL, and an Arri 16RS11 with a 5.9mm lens...but its just slightly easier with a lightweight Minima I agree...
LAURIE K GILBERT s.o.c.
Motion Picture Director of Photography
Global Web Presence : www.limage.tv
class="style9">>also a small, dark image, reminded me a lot of a Bolex; finally, limited >film stock choices.
I don't think it's dark at all-and most stocks are now available w/ the addition of the new Vision2 stocks. Loading the camera isn't that hard (well, not as easy as an XTR...) once you get used to it. Careful w/ the magazine shutters when opening/closing.
John Babl writes :
class="style9">> I don't think it's dark at all
I am not a fan of the A-M viewfinder. Hate the angle. Apparently Aaton is working on a new one, or so I hope.
Jeff "really wants to see the D-Minima!" Kreines
I'd like to add my 2 cents to this discussion...
A past post gives details of my trip around the world for 8 months with my Minima in a backpack. It did get rattled a little and needed a good going over when I returned to the states but in normal shooting circumstances you won't be subjecting it to the tortures that I did.
As mentioned in other posts, it is wonderfully inconspicuous compared to other cameras. It doesn't intimidate passers-by like a larger camera and can squeeze into corners that others can't. The fixed viewfinder is a bit of a bear at times but you deal with what you have. At least the angle is better than my 2C. I don't find the viewfinder dark at all.
As for noise, unless you are shooting at a high frame rate I find it surprisingly quiet. I've shot a number of sync sound commercials with mine and have never had any comments from the sound guy. In fact, if you will look at some of the early posts, one of the complaints with the camera was that people couldn't tell if the camera was running from the viewfinder side because it was so quiet.
No one mentioned the wonderful ability to use photo batteries in the camera adding to both the speed of setup and the ease of keeping a pocketful of batteries to get you through an extra couple of hours worth of shooting. The video tap runs off the internal batteries but does reduce their life and if you get the new onboard batteries you will have little worries. Handheld films here in NY can make a color tap for you for about the same price as Aaton's bw tap if that is an issue.
Reloading isn't difficult when you have a little practice, less than a minute. While the 200ft mags might be a little short, taking a 5 minute break between takes shouldn't kill you. The weight/size trade-off is something I like. But then again, I am a commercial shooter and not a feature guy.
The new software upgrade with ABCD mag counters in nice.. wish it would recognize them automatically but I'm grateful all the same. Only drawback is using a long zoom and handholding but we all know the dangers there. Slap it on a tripod and you'll be on easy street.
I love the ease of switching frame rates simply, and in a crunch the built-in ambient meter might just save your ass.
My only advice would be to bring 2 bodies...they are reasonably priced so it might be nice to have a camera and an emergency backup.
Film stock availability is good if you know where to go and you can always order it from France for your Romanian shoot... you are limited to Kodak, of which I am a big fan, unless you want to go through a convoluted process of downloading to the plastic daylight spools.
Wish you all the luck with your shoot.
Could you please tell me what lenses (if any) you found to be better for this camera?
Are you considering the A-Minima for its size or for its cost?
If you really need it for its smaller size, then go for it. But if cost is the main consideration, then I think you'll be better off getting a used XTR or XTR Plus package. It's a buyer's market right now. With some hunting, you could find an XTR or XTR Plus with mags and a lens for the price of an A-Minima. And a used camera overhauled by a place like Abel Cine in the U.S. or Ice Film in the U.K. is really as good as new.
I have not used the A-minima before, so I can't give any firsthand account of what it's like to work with one. I'm sure it's great for certain circumstances. But from what I do know, I don't see the advantage of it unless you specifically need a tiny camera for a particular shot or for a film that specifically needs to be shot in an unobtrusive way.
For the vast majority of features, I would say that any of the XTR cameras (XTR, XTR plus, XTR prod) would be a better choice for your main camera. The longer run times, better fit over the shoulder, etc. are too good to pass up. Definitely more for you money if you're willing to look at quality used gear. Cheaper than the A-Minima.
Best of luck with your first feature,
Erin (just shot my first feature on a used XTR Prod) Harvey
Forgot to add something about the XTR series.
Someone earlier mentioned that the A-Minima records AatonCode, which truly is one of the best advances for film ever. All XTR's (original, Plus, and Prod) also record AatonCode. If you're trying to be unobtrusive, getting rid of the slate can be a great first step.