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  • Published on: 03 Mar, 2017
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The Parvo was a 35mm motion picture camera developed in France by Joseph Jules Debrie, in 1908. Earlier foreman in the Boucot Company, Joseph Debrie made the first film perforation machine for Lucien Reulos Mirographe in 1898, further in 1900 he created his own precision tools workshop in Paris. He manufactured a new perforation machine called ‘optima’. In 1905 with his son Andrie , he devised a most revolutionary motion picture camera called ‘ Parvo’ .

The camera was relatively compact for its time. It was hand cranked, as were its predecessors. To help the camera operator in cranking at the correct speed, the camera had a built in tachometer. The Parvo held up to 120 metres (390 ft) of film inside without the need for an external film magazine, yielding almost 6 minutes of film when cranked at the standard 16 frames per second silent film rate. It allowed the camera operator to focus the camera lens through the back of the film plane in common with other cine cameras of its era( it had a side-mounted optical viewfinder for use during actual filming).

The Parvo was immensely popular in Europe throughout the 1920’s, the era of silent film. Directors who particularly liked the camera were Abel Gance, Leni Riefenstahl, Dziga Vertow and Sergei Eisenstein.

‘Parvo’ Camera has benefited from this large experience and started to add many features to its models.

To the numerous features already embodied in the model ” K ” Parvo, the following innovations have been added.

Instantaneous focusing on a ground glass, having the same size and location as per the aperture. This operation is effected instantaneously without the operator changing his position or displacing his camera even partially. Only one movement is necessary. The ground glass permits of an accurate focusing and a perfect masking even under the poorest light conditions.

parvo cam 2


The film is driven in the usual way, by means of claws, but stabilizing pilot-pins have been added. These are of a special design and ensure an unequalled stability. They allow of effecting the most delicate adjustments and are essential for the numerous double-exposures now made necessary.

Releasing pressure plate

This presser, of special design, backs automatically at each shutting, that is, during each down stroke of the film. The latter being free during its whole travel, without undergoing any friction, may be overprinted indefinitely without fear of scratches or statics as almost invariably occur with other cameras during the same operations.

parvo cam

 Lock for shutter fade-outs.

Besides automatic fade-out operating on 9 handle revolutions, there is provided a knurled button within reach of the left hand of the operator, by means of which shutter fade-out can be done over any length. This gives to the Director or Operator an infinite variety of super-impositions, fade in and out, etc.

This particular camera has been modified and a red/orange and a green filter wheel placed behind the lens for a two-colour process, such as Kinemacolor.

Kinemacolor was one of the first commercially successful colour movie film processes.

‘Dancin The Camera’ feature film was shot on a 1922 hand cranked Parvo Debrie, with the use of vintage lenses and analogue motion picture film.

CJ Rajkumar


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