Quieting an Arriflex 16S with the ARRI Lightweight Fibre Glass Blimp 16:

When shooting a motion picture and recording the actor's dialog, camera noise can be a real issue.  Here's a look at how to remove camera noise from an Arriflex 16S camera using the ARRI Lightweight Fibre Glass Blimp 16.

Before we address issues with the camera, let's first look at issues with the way the sound will be recorded.  For any kind of audio sweetening software to be added to the live sound recorded during filming, the audio must be recorded in a "loss-less" format.  Any compression of the audio when it's originally recorded will result in serious "compression artifacts" after audio post production.  Avoid recording audio on MP3 recorders, Mini-Disc recorders, and any other recorders that do some form of audio compression.  It is best to stick with a recorder that will record in linear PCM (a "loss-less" audio format).

Now let's look at the Blimp.  Special thanks go out to Bob Zupka and the folks at Schneider Optics for their support of this project, they made a special optical flat to replace the damaged sound deadening glass on the front of the blimp.  On the opening page of the ARRI Lightweight Fibre Glass Blimp 16 brochure, it states that this Blimp was "specially developed for newsreel type work" and its "extremely lightweight, compact form and rugged construction facilitate handling and transport of the blimp."  This was printed in 1965 and I guess newsreel teams at that time were alot more robust than they are today as the "Lightweight" Blimp weighs in at over 42 lbs with an Arriflex 16S or 16M on board with a 400 ft magazine.  And you can see its size below.

It's a real tank.  But how much does it reduce the noise of a Arriflex camera running inside?  And how does it compare to the noise reduction of the Custom Upholstery Products Barney we looked at previously?  Let's take a look, and a listen.

We set the test up to compare the sound level of an Arriflex 16S camera running Naked (without a Blimp or a Barney), the same Arriflex 16S camera running inside the Custom Upholstery Products Barney, and the same Arriflex 16S camera running inside the ARRI Lightweight Fibre Glass Blimp 16.

To make the comparison as fair as possible, we took an Arriflex 16S camera with one prime lens attached and loaded a 100 ft roll of film.  We used the 24 fps constant speed motor (as that is what the Blimp was designed to use) for all three tests.  The camera was placed on a tripod seven feet from the microphone and the "talent/speaker" was placed halfway between the microphone and the camera.  The camera, microphone, and "talent/speaker" were kept in the same position for all three tests.

There was no post production audio sweetening done to any of the three clips.

Unfortunately, as happened with the test of the Custom Upholstery Products Barney, we could not get the linear PCM recorder we would usually use, so we were forced to use a digital camcorder (which records in linear PCM) and the non-directional, stereo microphone that came with it.

And just for comparison, here is the size of the camera in the Blimp and the size of the camera in the Barney.

This first audio file is the sound of the camera running Naked(by itself):

Camera running by itself

This second audio file is the sound of the camera running in a Barney:

Camera running in a Barney

This third audio file is the sound of the camera running in a Blimp:

Camera running in a Blimp

The Blimp really reduces the sound of the camera.  When the Blimp was new, it probably even reduced the sound more.  It states in the Blimp operation manual that the Blimp should never be stored with the top, side, and front closed, as these surfaces have a special sealing foam that compresses when closed.  If stored in the closed position, the foam loses its sealing properties. Unfortunately, the Blimp we used had been stored in the basement of a University for decades, so the foam didn't seal the Blimp very well.

We'll be taking a more in depth look at the ARRI Lightweight Fibre Glass Blimp 16 in an upcoming "How To" article.  It's a fascinating piece of German engineering and incorporates a follow focus system that works with the Arriflex 16S, 16S/B, or 16M cameras and the Schneider, Zeiss and Cooke prime lenses.  And we'll also discuss the differences between the Blimp as set up for the Arriflex 16S (as this one is) and the Blimp as set up for the Arriflex 16M.