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posted by - Monday, 30 March 2009

Aaton Penelope

The Aaton Penelope is finally here, and this latest 35mm motion picture camera to be introduced to the industry was definitely worth the wait. The Penelope is the first camera in the world designed from the ground up as a switchable 2-perf or 3-perf shooting solution. Incorporating an innovative design, as well as many of the classic Aaton features, Penelope is a versatile creative tool ideally suited to today’s production realities.

What’s in a Name?    

In the Odyssey, Penelope worked night and day on her tapestry, awaiting Ulysses. In its own way, her namesake camera also combines day and night: light in the ultra-bright viewfinder, dark in the instant-loading magazine. Just as Penelope’s wait was worth it—Ulysses came back—so you have not waited in vain. This revolutionary 35mm camera is now available for sale or rent.


The Penelope uses an all-new 400 ft easy-loading, instant-mounting camera magazine that will run for almost nine minutes when shooting 2-perf. It’s an ultra-quiet sync-sound camera system, emitting just 22dB in 2-perf and 23dB in 3-perf. The physical design is sleek and lightweight (just 17.6 lbs with a 400 ft roll of film) and, like all Aatons, it’s shaped to sit comfortably on the shoulder. The Penelope also sports an all-new optical viewfinder that is bright and sharp with generous peripheral coverage. Available speeds are 4-40fps (up to 50 fps by Summer 09) controlled to crystal-sync speeds in .001 increments. The camera runs with either a single onboard battery (for lightweight operation) or dual onboard batteries (to power additional electronic accessories).

Penelope is the first 35mm camera to feature a progressive scan video tap, offering twice the resolution compared to other taps when the camera is rolling. A unique feature of the integrated tap design is a data connection via a USB port that can output a .pdf “Image Report” containing a JPEG captured from the video tap along with metadata and AatonCode information.

What is the significance of the Penelope’s unique design? And, what does it all mean in an age of Digital Intermediates? Read on for an in-depth look some of the Penelope’s more important features.

Efficient Use of Film Stock

In traditional 4-perf, film rolls by at 96ft per minute, so a 400ft roll would last about 4 min 10 sec. For 2-perf, the run time doubles to 8:20. In addition, short end waste on each roll is also greatly reduced. In 4-perf, no one generally bothers to save anything shorter than 100’ as that only lasts just over a minute, but in 2-perf that would be two minutes, enough to squeeze off another take. Most rolls end down to about 30’-40’ of waste in 4-perf, where this would again be cut down to close to half this length in 2-perf. One needs less film stock, yet one utilizes more of what is purchased.

A typical 100-minute movie shooting on a 10:1 shooting ratio would save approximately 45,000 feet of stock and processing. This is a greater than $30,000 savings. If a production were to use short ends available at discounted rates, the savings could increase to $50,000. That’s enough of a savings within a production budget to move a format decision between film and digital capture, or enough to pay for the lab work for finishing the feature.

Progressive Scan Video Tap

Penelope Video AssistAll other video taps in the industry are interlace video, scanning all the even lines and then all the odd lines to create the effect of a faster refresh rate. The Penelope’s VHA video tap is an industry first, a progressive video tap that scans every line for each frame. In between takes they don’t look that much different, but when the camera rolls the VHA has twice the resolution of standard video taps! This is because on a film camera half of the time light is traveling to the film and half the time to the viewfinder and video tap, so only half of those interlacing lines are receiving anything but a black image at any given time. The VHA has every line exposed in every frame. This is a huge improvement in clarity to the client watching the video feed.

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