The custom-made 65mm VFX matte camera used to shoot Blade Runner (1982), Batman Returns, Species, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind is being offered for sale, letting fans of motion pictures own a major piece of cinema history.
Propstore Auctions has listed the camera for sale. The auction house has previously listed a bunch of other fascinating pieces of film history like the giant crane used to film Star Trek (1979), Alfred Hitchcock’s camera that was used in Vertigo, Tim Burton’s Panavision Director’s Viewfinder, and even a small broken camcorder that was used to film multiple episodes of Mythbusters.
Matte cameras are designed for shooting compositing effects and gave visual effects (VFX) departments the ability to shoot a second layer for masking that didn’t come with any of the complications of sound sync.
“Filming matte paintings requires cameras to have two stacks of magazines, known as ‘bi-packing,’ which allows the camera to film a matte painting with another piece of film next to the negative. Thus both are recorded on a single piece of film in a single pass and show a greatly enhanced image quality of the resulting composite,” Propstore Auction, which has listed the custom-made 65mm VFX matte camera for sale, explains.
This particular matte camera is a very large piece of equipment and is described as first made as a pack camera by George Randle for Pacific Title, Hollywood’s premier title and optical house that was founded in 1919.
Director Douglas Trumbull later acquired it and used it as the matte department’s camera on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In 1983, it was purchased by the BOSS Film Corporation that had been established by Academy Award-winning VFX supervisor Richard Edlund. According to Propstore Auction, it eventually formed the backbone of BOSS’s matte department.
“Famed matte artist Matthew Yuricich used this camera to photograph all of the matte paintings on Blade Runner and Close Encounters. It was later upgraded by adding another set of magazines, making it a tri-pack as it currently appears. It was used on virtually every project that BOSS Film worked on that required matte paintings, including Ghostbusters, 2010: The Year We Made Contact, Batman Returns, Species, Cliffhanger, and more,” the auction house says.
“Known for its steadiness, this camera was mounted to a fixed pedestal that would face the matte stand. It is complete with inner movement, tri-pack magazines, and lens with cover. This lot exhibits adhesive residue, lifted tape, a buildup of grime, and fragile components.”
The number of high-profile projects that this camera was used on makes it a particularly cool piece of filmmaking history. At the time of publication, the custom camera had a single $12,500 bid, but Propstore Auction estimates it to be worth between $25,000 and $50,000. Bidding concludes on June 28.
The custom-made 65mm VFX matte camera isn’t the only neat piece of filmmaking history currently available. Propstore Auctions is also listing a Panavision Silent Reflex 35mm Motion Picture Camera (the same model that was used to film Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Alien), a 35mm Mitchell BNCR camera owned by Disney Studios, and even a 65mm Mitchell FC Camera, the likes of which were used to shoot 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Lawrence of Arabia.
Image credits: Propstore Auction