Re: pinholes

From: Robert Schaller (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Feb 23 2010 - 16:24:39 PST


I work with pinhole 16mm cameras that I build, and have for some years now.
Part of what appeals to me is indeed the "low tech process," and seeing what
I can get with it. Ironically, perhaps, I find that the lower the tech, the
more demanding the apparatus. As to how it looks, an excerpt of a film "My
Life as a Bee" from early in my using it is online on my website,

It's not a very good transfer, I'm afraid -- Canyon Cinema has a print.

I've been working with it alot recently, but it's not on-line yet (seems odd
to put low-tech things in a high-tech venue...). I have one new print that
I'll put there within the month, but (and isn't it always like this?) the
more recent things are much more adept!

I don't think putting a pinhole on a "real" camera is cheating. What is
cheating in art? In any event, yes, I think quite a few filmmakers put
pinholes on a bolex -- Chris Harris and Thomas Comerford come to mind, and
there are no doubt others. There are advantages and disadvantages to this
approach on a technical level, but no right answer as an artist: If it's in
the filter holder, say -- the focal length is about 25mm, which has three
consequences: you lose the ultra wide-angle that you can get from a pinhole,
you can't get ultra-close ups (<25mm) which, given its nearly infinite depth
of field, are possible, and though you can shoot in real-time, you basically
have to use the fastest film you can get and shoot in the sun, or close to

The home-made variety, on the other hand, by using the 16mm equivalent of
the cardboard box (daylight spool boxes) allows any focal length, and while
not having a pull-down mechanism precludes doing anything recognizable in
real time, you can use any film stock. I've even used 3383 color print
stock, which is VERY slow (though, admittedly, outdoors in the sun with a
long exposure for each frame -- but the footage is in the aforementioned
print). And, it weighs a lot less than a Bolex, is less expensive, and is
indifferent to getting wet. And too, there's the pleasure of making, and
having made it, yourself, and thereby gaining a greater degree of access to
and control (if not you, no one!) over some of the more basic aspects of the
medium that you're working with. You replace part of the commodity aspect
of filmmaking with hard work.

The homemade tool has some serious limitations, and I don't use it for
everything, but I find a great immediacy, wonder, and unemcumberd-ness in
using it that I haven't found elsewhere.

Another great resource, by the way, is Eric Renner's book on Pinhole
Photography -- it also has charts and math and explanations, and lots of

Robert Schaller

On 2/23/10 2:21 PM, "David Tetzlaff" <email suppressed> wrote:

>> Hi there are these laser-pinholes on Ebay:
> Isn't that 'cheating'? I always thought the low tech process was part
> of the pinhole photo aesthetic. Well at least with the one friend I
> have who does pinhole stillsf, the finished work isn't necessarily
> just the eerie looking print that results mystified by having the
> process that produced it unidentified. Rather some acknowledgement:
> "This came out of a camera made out of nothing more than a big
> cardboard box and a little piece of aluminum foil." is usually part of
> the presentation.
> I guess once you throw the Bolex in there, the mechanical
> sophistication goes way up, so maybe you might as well get a laser
> formed pinhole....
> As I actually had no idea people used pinhole apertures with movie
> cameras, I'm curious. What kind of stock do you use? Do you have to
> push it crazy? What's the highest fps that will get you a decent
> exposure on a sunny day? What kinds of work have used this technique
> and is there anywhere online (yes, I know, heresy) to view examples
> approximating what the finished products look like?
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.