Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Pneumatic Powered 35mm System

I have a shoot to do on a liquid gas tanker at sea.

Absolutely no electrical equipment is allowed on board, not even mobile phones.

Whilst exploring clockwork options, several people have mentioned a pneumatic 35mm system for use in explosive environments. Does this sound familiar to anyone?


Tony Brown

Why not use a 35mm hand-cranked camera?

John Babl

...For all the reasons you wouldn't use hand crank on any other shoot, but thank you anyway.

Tony Brown

Tony Brown writes:

>I have a shoot to do on a liquid gas tanker at sea. Absolutely no >electrical equipment is allowed on board, not even mobile phones.

>Whilst exploring clockwork options, several people have mentioned a >pneumatic 35mm system for use in explosive environments.

> Does this sound familiar to anyone?

They may be confusing certain ultra high speed cameras that do use pneumatically driven turbines to achieve ultra high frame rates with regular cameras. I've never come across a standard 35 MP camera with a pneumatic motor. There's no real need since electric cameras can be rendered perfectly safe for use in explosive atmospheres.

I'm sure you've looked into the safety regs, but it doesn't hurt to check with someone who really knows the regs. Oftentimes the PR people get the details of the regulations confused or repeat only what they have heard. The regs may not be as draconian as you have been told. For instance, only certain areas of the ship may be off limits to electrical devices. Also, what you can do at sea my be very different than what you can do while in port. Some authorities now clear the harbour when an LNG tanker is coming or going, but that has more to do with terrorism than with photography.

Also, you may be able to use any device that is listed as "intrinsically safe". These are devices certified by the manufacturers or by testing labs to be safe for use in explosive atmospheres. Included in these lists are a number of "intrinsically safe" camera outfits. I believe Alan Gordon Enterprises in LA used to have these available for rent.

BTW, I have filmed aboard an LNG tanker. I pretty sure it was with an ordinary Arri 35, but it was a few years ago, and it's very likely that the safety regulations have changed since then.

One other thought, you might want to check with the shipping line to see if anyone has filmed aboard any of their tankers previously and find out what they have used.

Best of luck,

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

Thanks, Brian - I'll check out the LA link when we shoot in LA on the same commercial in mid Jan. We are taking our advice from the client and the equipment brief has come from an initial meeting between the usual non technical types. further clarification will of course be sought by the production company. I do know that the ship never docks, too dangerous. It offloads from offshore pipelines.

Thanks for the info, I agree its an unlikely rumour......

Tony Brown

Don't forget that anything that generates sparks can be a problem in an explosive environment, and anything with moving steel can eventually generate some sort of spark. So you don't even want to use a spring wound camera in that sort of environment...then again, you don't want to breathe in that sort of environment either. So your chances of being there are pretty slim.

But, I think they'll be happy if you bring an Eyemo. I think in reality most electrical cameras can be rigged with safe-breaking connectors and switches so they'll meet the safety requirements on-board, but why bother? The Eyemo is fun and shoots great pictures. It's like being a student again every time I pick one up.

Still, there is a pneumatic 35mm camera out there. The Aeroscope was made in 1911 and was powered by a small compressed air tank. It was extremely quiet compared with other cameras of the era, and was made until well into the late 1920s in England. You'll occasionally see wildlife photographers from that era referring to it.

I'd be surprised if Jeff Kreines didn't have one.


Tony Brown wrote :

>I have a shoot to do on a liquid gas tanker at sea. Absolutely no >electrical equipment is allowed on board, not even mobile phones.

Greetings Tony,

Just spoke to my wife who on several occasions has shot in mines (South Africa), oil-refinery (Kuwait), and the same crew shot on an oil platform in the North Sea where safety regulations I am sure are similar to the gas tanker. There were absolutely no problems in shooting with an Arri SR3 so I would be pretty sure that there should be no problem with an Arri 435 or similar camera.

There could be maybe some problems with some accessories such as radio controlled equipment or some type of batteries. As someone else already suggested check with the proper or relevant department before hand. Also check with a major camera rental department.

Often by electrical appliance something else is meant and as far as mobile phones that is standard procedure in many other circumstances as well due to interference.

Hope this helps

Emmanuel on the road from Beirut to Aleppo.

Thanks Emmanuel - that's indeed what I'm hoping for. Its good to hear it from someone who has 1st hand experience (means they survived!!!)

Tony Brown

This is a pic of the aeroscope. I seem to remember an old compressed air camera made by Kodak with several brass cylinders that was once owned by a cinematographer that has passed away. It was a wooden box and it was probably made 100 or so years ago. Anybody else ever remember that one? maybe it was the earoscope

I know I would feel safe with any camera in a waterproof housing...hmm...on second thought I may not feel good about being in an environment that I might be overcome with fumes or explode…even without a camera

John Lazear, SOC

Two impractical suggestions :

1/. See if they'll accept an Arri or Aaton sealed in an underwater housing with the battery inside and all external power jacks disconnected internally.

2/. Contact the major LA equipment rental houses and see if anyone there has any experience with pneumatic motors and might be able to safely adapt one to an Arri 35-II or III, a Cineflex, Cameflex, or any camera with a mechanical
tachometer. (I assume you're shooting MOS...) In theory, a pressure regulator plus a lockable, vernier-style valve ought to give you the speed-control you need...

... and a practical one:

3/. An Eyemo. Or rent two and have an assistant wind/load one while you shoot the other. That'll also give you a backup camera, which may be nice to have under the circumstances.

(Are there any spring wound reflex Eyemo's, or are they all electric?)

... and a workaround:

4/. If all else fails, shoot 7218 in a Bolex and blow it up -- the film, that is.

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

Tony Brown wrote :

>I have a shoot to do on a liquid gas tanker at sea. Absolutely no >electrical equipment is allowed on board, not even mobile phones...

Hard to imagine a modern day ship with no radio, radar, electric lights, phones, electrical engine controls, etc....

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614

As I (faintly -- we're talking 15 or so years ago) recall, FGV Schmidle in Munich built an air-driven camera, based on an Arri 2-C. How convenient this thing would be to use or if it even exists any more ... best to contact them directly.


Jim Elias
Munich, Germany

Hard to imagine a modern day ship with no radio, radar, electric lights, >phones, electrical engine controls, etc...."

...but their stuff one would assume is purpose built, checked, checked and checked again. We all know what film crews can be like. I wouldn't let one into my own home, never mind an explosive environment!!

Tony Brown

Tony Brown writes:

>...but their stuff one would assume is purpose built, checked, checked >and checked again.

You've got that right. Would anyone be willing to sail on a ship with millions of cubic feet of LNG if it weren't as safe as possible. They're not getting hazard pay for nothing.

From my experience, the only equipment that will be allowed on board must be "intrinsically safe" and labelled as such. I doubt very much that any jury rigged or home-made device -- no matter how fervently you believe it to be safe, or how safe it may actually be -- will be allowed on board. If it is, I would seriously question the safety practices of that ship.

The term "intrinsically safe" has a very specific meaning in industry. It refers to equipment and wiring which is incapable of releasing sufficient electrical or thermal energy under normal or abnormal conditions to cause ignition of a specific hazardous atmospheric mixture in its most easily ignited concentration. This is achieved by limiting the amount of power available to the electrical equipment in the hazardous area to a level below that which will ignite the gases present. To be certified "intrinsically safe," a device or circuit must be so designed that no two simultaneous failures can cause an explosion.

For instance, a flashlight (torch) must be sealed in such a way that if the filament and the bulb both break, it cannot ignite an explosive gas mixture, and the device must be labelled as such.

This also means that an item may be certified for one type of explosive atmosphere, but not for another, e.g., methane and liquid oxygen. Due to the enormous quantities of gas involved, LNG tankers have extremely stringent safety requirements.

>We all know what film crews can be like. I wouldn't let one into my own >home, never mind an explosive environment!!

Ain't that the truth -- present company excepted of course.

Brian Heller

Brian's post is right on the money.

Have you contacted any camera manufacturers to talk to them directly?

I had a similar situation come up with a video shoot, and got through to a Sony engineer who was able to give me a very definitive answer about using a video camera in a particular hazardous atmosphere. (Well, I thought "There's no such thing as a safe concentration of that particular gas, you could blow the whole place up" was pretty definitive.)

In my case, the engineer explained that it wasn't even so much the electronics that were a hazard...But that any static discharge in that environment could have serious results...So any exposed metal would have to be rubber-coated, etc.

So it's important to find someone who really knows the hazards of the situation, and go through everything - in my case, if the camera itself was perfectly safe, I could still have caused serious trouble just by mounting the camera on the quick-release plate!

George Hupka
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada

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