Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oxberry Camera


Clicking the title or pasting the link above will take you to an article posted by Michael Sporn about John Oxberry, the maker of animation cameras.

It brought back fond memories of my first job in animation. It was at a commercial house in Ft. Wayne Indiana that used an Oxberry with aerial image projection for rotoscoping, effects and combining live-action with animation.

I recall the hum of the motors that ran the camera up and down it's double rostrums was loud enough to drown all ambient sounds from the room. This was a good thing and helped focus your attention on the mound of artwork, the correct camera settings and following the exposure sheets.

The N/S, E/W pegs were all hand cranked, (there may have been servo motors too that you could program), and the exposure sheets had all the computations for every frame marked out in the camera column.

Fortunately for me it was not my job, although I did shoot some less complex scenes on it, because it involved consulting big expensive books full of mathematical equations to figure compound moves with fairings to ease in and out.

Our brainy cameraman Chris Dusendschön later went to Robert Abel Associates and got involved with effects and early computer graphics.

My second experience with Oxberry was at Will Vinton's Claymation Studios. There was a derelict camera that sat dejected for years until another brainiac Animator/Director Hal Hickle restored it single handed. It was used for titles and Animator/Director Mike Wellins did a short film using paper cutouts on it.

Incidentally Hal also owned one the the cameras Ray Harryhausen used to shoot "Mighty Joe Young".

I am excited by the digital revolution and the autonomy it allows. But I'm also glad to have experienced the early method of cartoon making and kind of miss the big toys.

Click image to enlarge


jriggity said...

Very very cool to have seen the old ways first hand!


Joel Brinkerhoff said...

I remember getting a big loopy developing tank for 16mm film so we could process our own pencil tests. Can't remember it ever working though...

Anonymous said...

thanks for this nice post 111213

norom57 said...

I operated one the these for 12 years! And no, you don't need a big book of calculus to figure out compound moves!