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Pronounced Frank-en-Sin-ah, the term was coined by filmmaker Fred Wilder. It describes his custom built cameras and techniques that appear as though the likes of Dr. Frankenstein had created them in his castle laboratory, from spare parts generously donated by video graveyards and camera mortuaries.
It is said that necessity is the Mother of all invention. If this is so then anyone gripped by the necessity for reasonably priced do-it-yourself alternative solutions to filmmaking may find just what they have been looking for right here on this web page. FrankenCiné encompasses not just cameras but homemade lighting stands and other movie making equipment as well. Cameras on the cheap do not have to be inferior. Quite the contrary. My FrankenCine cameras do their particular designated tasks very well, often far better than low- to medium-end consumer video cameras. A word on video: There is a whole new breed of filmmakers working with digital or video cameras that shy away from the term video, preferring the use of the words film or cinema instead. The term video still has the stigma of 1970s cheesy home movies and does not begin to define what artists and filmmakers are working to achieve with the convenience of the new digital technology and the application of Hollywood cinematic techniques.


Lee S. Whitaker with FrankenCiné on the set of das Puppets. FrankenCiné Actor Lee S, Whitaker holds FrankenCiné on the set of Das Puppets November 2008.


The cinematographic art does not care what the recording substrate is. Imagery in motion after film does not need to be home videos. I prefer the look of film, is often tossed around as though a narrow strip of chemically treated polymer incorporating a series of tiny holes punch paralle to its edge were some how a magic talsmin the use of which a sacred rite to good cinema. Friends leave that superstition at the studio door and come into the light of new understanding a modern CCD chip can catch many of the photons as film and you just need the right ones to tell a story. The look and feel of old cameras is the quality of lens refracting the light bouncing off of your subject.Many hours were spent searching through discarded cameras, telescopes, and the like for just the right glass compliment when building Frankenciné camera No.1. back in the late 1990s. For the next camera I made use of an SLR camera body that I canabalized and refitted with special internal lens to make use of the generous amount of Glass (Lenses) I had collected over the years for still photography. Frankenciné No.3 was a completely original design from the ground up that integrated everything I had learned from constructing the first two cameras. I gave it a rugged wooden body equipped with the best quality lenses I could scrounge up. On top is a heavy leather handle, a thing of beauty is a joy forever. The techniques I explored worked well with Black and White CCD elements only. There are sever aberrations introduced when working with color elements and forcing lenses to do what they were never designed for that is squish the image onto those puny elements. What I realized early on was I needed a device that was much larger than available something the size of a frame of 35mm film. High Definition technology is catching up but for now it is very expensive. Get out there and make your movie and use what you have on hand or can manage to beg, borrow or create, anything that captures a motion image can be made to work for you. There is still a lot of story telling that can be done on the cheap if you make the equipment work for you.

Just as Dr. Frankenstein created new life from old bodies and electricity I have created cameras that bring new life to old lenses and recreate the look of film with my custom electronic video cameras.


FrankenCiné is also a philosophy of DIY, Do-it-Yourself and experimentation on a low or none existent budget in film making. Dreams of being the next Speilberg or George Lucas can strangle your artistic spirit without the means to follow your ideas. Working with limitations can be freeing in the sense that you are not over whelmed by an abundance of choices. That expensive camera with so many buttons and knobs, a plethora of on screen menus inside more menus can overload your thought to the point that you never begin filming or are blocked mentally by the idea that you must some how create the greatest box office hit of the century to warrant buying such a technological wonder beast. The same could be said of high end computer editing programs. I do use computers for editing but I prefer to lay of the effects and CGI instead working with in-camera effects for which my Frankenciné cameras excel. I like for my camera effects to look like a magician has created the illusion rather than some lifeless computer manipulated imagery. Do not think for a moment that the lack of expensive equipment is a deficit. It only takes more imagination and more talent to make good cinema from moderate equipment that's all. Imagine a child making marks on the wall with a burnt piece of wood. Now imagine a great artist like Michael Angelo with that same piece of charcoal in his hand what would the out come be. Take up the challenge and be more creative, exercise more talent than the other guy. Work your talent now the best you can and the equipment will follow.


FrankenCine C-Stand with flood lamp. Lighting. Lighting. Often the last thing on the shopping list of beginning filmmakers, good lighting equipment is just as important as a good camera to your production. You may get by for a while with aluminum drop lights from the local hardware store fitted with 100w interior flood lamps. The chief advantages of these lights are that they are inexpensive and able to clamp on to many surfaces, you'll realize you get what you pay for when the flimsy mechanism falls apart (and it will). Professionals use C-stands (century stands), whether for still photography of motion pictures, these are the industry standards. They are sturdy, light weight, fold down for easy transport to locations and can hold a large flood lamp nine feet in the air without toppling or falling apart. If you have the cash buy them new as they are so much in demand that used they will you cost just about what you would pay new. FrankenCiné light stands on the other hand can be had for well under $75 bucks each, maybe less depending on where you shop and what parts you may already have on hand. They are built from readily available hardware and can be constructed in a weekend with a moderately equipped shop or garage. The Frankenciné boom stand seen here is holding a vintage Bardwell & McAllister model 6 floodlight.


FrankenCine C-Stand tripod base.Do it yourself C-Stand.
A plywood base with casters makes a great studio lighting boom or C-stand and with the addition of a few sand bags creates a stable platform. I built two of these lighting C stands at a cost of about $35.00 each back in September of 2008. These were made from pipe fittings and EMT electrical tubing, a handful of nuts and bolts, and a plywood base on wheels. I had the wheels and the plywood in stock plus the EMT fittings so your price may vary. You can cut a simple circle of 3/4-inch plywood and add 6-inch wide 3/4-inch plywood supports underneath or you can make the more time consuming tripod shape from the plywood. The choice is yours but the tripod is more stable and fits into tighter spaces because of its shape. The big disadvantage of the full circle is if someone in your studio were to lay an errant foot upon the wood disc between the casters the entire stand may tip. Not a good idea with heavy lamps on top. The time it takes to cut the tripod shape is well worth the extra effort for what you gain in safety later.


Materials List for one lighting boom.
  • Qty 1, Hex head bolt 1/2" by 4" NC 13 pitch. (National Coarse)
  • Qty 1, Eyebolt 5/16" x 3".
  • Qty 1, Bell or Shoulder Pipe Coupling 1/2" x 1/4".
  • Qty 1, Bell or Shoulder Pipe Coupling 2/4" x 1/2".
  • Qty 1, Pipe Flange 3/4" floor mount.
  • Qty 1, Pipe Nipple 3/4" x 4 foot long. (Threaded both ends)
  • Qty 1, EMT 1/2" Male adapter.
  • 6 feet of 1/2" EMT tubing.
  • Qty 1, one and a half inch metal hose clamp.
  • Qty 3, Flat bar stock 3/4" x 3/16" x 24" inch each.
  • Qty 1 Plywood base 3/4" thick by two and a half foot diameter.
  • Qty 4, T-Nuts 1/4 inch x 20 pitch.
  • Qty 4, Hex head bolts 2 inch long by 1/4 inch x 20 pitch with washers.(to mount flange)
  • Qty 12, Screws size No.10 by 1 & 3/4 inch long.(to mount casters)
  • Qty 3, 2" inch caster wheels. (optional)
  • Special tools, 5/16" 18NC tap plus size No.G drill bit. Also a 1/2" NC 13 pitch tap.



All of the above items in the materials list can be found at any well-stocked hardware store, even the taps listed under special tools. These may be found sold as a set - one thread cutting tap with one special sized drill bit required for that particular tap. You can use a small 6-inch adjustable wrench to hold and turn the tap or buy a special handle for it. If you plan on doing a lot of building and restoration of older equipment it makes sense to buy a large tap and die set. You will also need a small bottle of cutting fluid. Just a drop or two per thread-tapping session is all that is required. You will also need some pipe wrenches and a metal working vice firmly mounted to a workbench, metal files, a round file (found in the chain saw section), and a hacksaw for cutting bolts to size.


The plywood base with casters was cut from two pieces of 3/4 plywood that were then glued up, making a sturdy 1-and-a-half-inch thick base. Yellow woodworking glue and plenty of clamps will get the job done. Don't forget to place scraps of lumber on the top side at least between the clamps and the base if you do not want to leave clamp marks. I used a tool-grade birch veneer plywood. This has fewer voids in the plywood than, say, and exterior grade plywood, making it better for building jigs and tools like our stands.


Drawing expanded view of stand.
Boom Drawing. Follow the link by clicking this thumb nail image for a full expanded view of the lighting C-Stand construction. This drawing shows the arrangement of all of the EMT (Electrical Metal Tubing) and the pipe fittings. You can use whatever is cheaper at your store. It does not matter whether it is a plumbing fitting or a black pipe gas fitting, other than the fact that the black pipe is, well, black, and you needn't bother with painting it. The 1/2-inch diameter EMT tubing assembly slides inside of the 3/4-inch pipe that is mounted to the plywood base. The 5/16-inch eyebolt forms a set screw that locks the EMT in position. Remember to wear leather gloves when working with lighting and stands so as not to pinch or burn your fingers. And it is always a good idea to bring the stands to their lowest position before moving them around on your studio floor. The light you save could be your own.


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