Digital Bolex Is Still Alive

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

The creators of the Digital Bolex want you to know that the D16 is definitely not vaporware.  In fact, after a successful Kickstarter campaign garnered them nearly three times what they were trying to raise to produce the worlds “most affordable digital camera,” filmmakers Joe Rubenstein and Ellie Schnider have decided to make the Digital Bolex even more capable with HDMI ports and additional XLR ports.  And they also plan even more complex models in the future.

“… if I wanted to make the D16, I had to do it alone and … sell my half of a company I had spent 6 years building from the ground up… Essentially taking away my monetary safety net, and walking out on a business tight rope. Many of my friends said I was crazy. Crazy to sell my share of a healthy working company in order to take a risk on something like this.” – Joe Rubenstein

When Digital Bolex was launched at South By Southwest, it had a practical monopoly on the idea of a Super35 size digital censor shooting 1080p video for under $3,000.  When BlackMagic announced the Cinema Camera, which shot 2.5K for under the same price and suddenly, nobody was talking about the Digital Bolex anymore.   That didn’t stop Rubenstein and Schneider at all.

A lot of people told us the BMCC would be death for our project, but we didn’t see it that way. In our minds, the most important thing is to grow the raw market, so the more cameras out there shooting raw, the better for everyone. We never thought that we would be or even should be the only company servicing this market.

Armed with a coffer full of over a quarter of a million dollars, they continued to develop their design.   It’s been a hard road, as even Rubenstein admits on his blog, and he’s been forced to sell his half his successful video company Polite in Public in order to concentrate fully on a project who’s ship may, or may not have sailed.

“We wanted to release a Super16 and 16mm camera that will provide what a 16mm filmmaker needs for the next ten years, says Rubenstein.  “It’s not a stepping stone to another camera. 16mm film is a legitimate film standard in and of itself and it tells some stories better than larger formats.”

Rubenstein says that Digital Bolex also has been looking beyond Super16 and says they may have plans to put out a 4K camera as well.  Until then, they’re focusing on RAW video, supported by Adobe Cinema DNG. That gives the D16 the capability to capture the entire sensor image (2336 x 1752) and record to 2X anamorphic.  No other camera under $10,000 can do that, according to Rubenstein.  Additionally, deliberately chose a Kodak CCD chip that was designed for science, not filmmaking.  “It was made for microscopes and telescopes and as such, the color accuracy is much higher and the sensor is 1/3 of creating some amazing images.”

But I guess my question is … since the D16 relies on a Kodak CCD chip, how will the Eastman company’s bankruptcy and recent fire sale affect their plans for manufacture?  Rubenstein remains unphased and along with his partner Ellie Schneider, are moving towards locking down the design which he still claims has a market.  They’ve locked down a lens manufacturer,  Los Angeles based Kish Optics, which will create custom lenses for the Bolex Design, and Pomfort in Germany to program the D16s transcoding software.

For more on the Digital Bolex’s journey and where it’s going, check out Rubenstein’s blog here.   And while it’s good that the Digital Bolex is alive and moving forward, and may someday release a 4K camera, the real question is … when’s their first camera coming out? (Editor’s note: About a month ago, they tweeted to me August 2012, but we’ll see.)

Source: No Film School here and here.


About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.

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