Panavision Digital Movie Camera

A cinemagic coming attraction

In-depth ethnographic observational research in prep areas and on-set, interviews with executives and operators, synthesis and compilation of research into a meaningful design brief. The design and engineering is currently underway.

Panavision New Generation Digital Movie Camera - Case Study

Panavision may be the best-known and most respected equipment brand in the movie industry. Its list of cinematic firsts is almost endless. Every director feels they have made the big time if they can have their photo taken on the set with a Panavision camera in the shot.

Panavision approached M Design with a tall order. They were planning a total “clean sheet of paper” design of a new generation digital cinematic camera. They hadn’t designed a completely new camera in over 10 years.

Because the cameras are so costly, Panavision’s business model is to lease the equipment and include a very high level of support along with the equipment. For that reason, the expected working life of Panavision cameras is around 10 years. They also need to be compatible with a dizzying array of lenses, displays and other bolt on accessories and controllers.

We knew industry expectations were going to be high. Anything with the Panavision name on it would have to exceed expectations for ruggedness, reliability, ease of use and dare we say it: sex appeal.

In fact, defining “sex appeal” in the context of the movie industry, turned out to be one of the more substantial challenges. But more about that later…

Because the project was so complex and the expectations so high, M Design planned a research program to gather all the information necessary to inform the design of the camera. We interviewed Panavision executives, camera operators, directors of photography, repair technicians, sales and support staff. We held phone conferences with Panavision teams in Canada, Australia, England and New York.

We watched camera crews prep their equipment and repack it before going to the shoot. We went on movie sets and TV series sets and observed camera crews setting up, shooting scenes, transporting their gear and tearing down and packing it. We observed digital and well as analog workflows to understand the logistics and time constraints of the business side of shooting movies..

In addition to all that observational ethnography work, we strapped on steady cam rigs, carried cameras on our shoulders and pretty much lived it. We gathered attitudes, expectations, recorded use patterns, observed competitive equipment, made measurements, took photos and videos and had a lot of discussions about what it meant.

The result of all this effort was a comprehensive research report and design brief that has become the guidance and measuring stick for the project. The brief became a tool for negotiation between marketing and the technical team to determine the feature set of each camera model.

The design and engineering of the project is currently underway and of course it is top secret, so we can’t share any of the design work until the camera is released.

We are really excited about what has been done so far and we are confident Panavision’s new generation digital camera will land a starring role in the future of cinema!