ANALOGUE RENAISSANCE

Kodak | Super 8 Camera

ANALOGUE RENAISSANCE

Kodak | Super 8 Camera

“There are some moments that digital just can’t deliver because it doesn’t have the incomparable depth and beauty of film. These moments inspired Kodak to design a new generation of film cameras.”— Kodak

Just as analog formats such as vinyl records have made a comeback, so has interest in film. Kodak decided to re-introduce a new, best-of-breed Super 8 Camera to satisfy this interest. It would be the first Kodak camera produced in over 25 years. Designed by Fuseproject in San Francisco, the Super 8 design was unveiled for the first time in January 2016 at CES.

THE CHALLENGE

With the initial concept, Kodak and the Danish engineering firm Logmar created a primary iteration. It contained a precision clockwork-like design, including a guillotine shutter and optical assembly for through-the-lens (TTL) viewing. But, it was only possible to produce additional cameras in small, hand-built quantities.

For this reason, Kodak turned to PCH Lime Lab in May 2016, to completely reengineer the camera for manufacturing. In addition to the mechanical shutter, all of the major subsystems were scoped for a fresh, ground up design starting with the main “brain” of the system. A central, Linux-based processor became the hub for the variable speed motor control, capacitive touch interface and the analog and digital audio inputs and outputs. It would also support the flip out LCD and UI designed by Fuseproject.

In addition, the system power requirements were stringent as the Kodak team pushed for the longest possible battery life. The PCH Lime Lab team was required to develop and thoroughly test battery budgets for each of the subsystems and the product as a whole to accommodate exposing 10-12 cartridges (around 40 minutes of consistent use) on a single battery charge. The PCH team got stellar results from the new circuit design, exceeding the goal, and granting an extra four cartridges on each charge.

THE PRODUCT REQUIREMENTS

The Kodak camera incorporates a number of UX considerations and refinements developed over the course of the project. A standard bezel became a blackout and masked “dead front” to make the gorgeous LCD appear from behind uniform sheet of polycarbonate (PC). Dedicated RUN buttons start the camera purring and the PCH Lime Lab team reviewed several options and ultimately presented a sleek capacitive touch wheel interface. Doing so tied neatly with the onscreen UI and eliminated moving parts like a rotary encoder or the tired up/down/left/right buttons typical on many camera products.

Incorporating the Fuseproject UI created a series of challenges for the software team. The design called for a multi-layered user interface that included a TTL feed from an onboard CMOS camera as well as a live exposure meter (which adjusts according to the film type in the camera), footage counter, battery level, audio I/O information and framing reticle for both Super 8 and Max8 film gates. Additionally, the internal camera menu system allows for a multitude of settings and customization choices.

Another mechanical advance PCH Lime Lab proposed was developing a unibody chassis from a single aluminum extrusion that is post-machined. This design, instead of folded sheet metal over a plastic internal chassis, allowed it to become both a cosmetic shell and structural body. This also meant the entire system could be assembled from either end.

With an eye toward design for assembly (DFA) the PCH Lime Lab team made each of the major subsystems (film drive, handle, battery nest, pistol grip, capacitive touch, power and processor PCBs, LCD, I/O panel) capable of being assembled and tested outside of the main system. During development, this route made swapping out new subsystems for validation relatively easy.

Each of the subsystems are tied together with firmware developed at PCH Lime Lab. Crafting this business logic code within the same building as the electrical and mechanical architecture meant that changes could be identified and implemented rapidly.

B1 boards and enclosure.

Film drive architecture breadboard.

Main Board

B1 drive train test.

CES film drive assembly.

Assembling CES film drives.

PCH LIME LAB SOLUTION

A distinct advantage of PCH Lime Lab is the ability to prototype and iterate quickly using the PCH Innovation Hub in San Francisco. The in-house team of machinists, mold makers, and twice-daily 3D print builds, turned weeks of waiting for parts to a matter of hours.

And, because PCH Lime Lab has a single, unified team composed of mechanical, electrical, firmware, manufacturing integration and testing engineers, as well as prototype fabricators, Kodak saw the Super 8 come to life thoughtfully, seamlessly and quickly.

B1 drive train test.

THE RESULT

PCH was able to completely reengineer the Super 8 camera in just seven months, and help identify a Bay Area manufacturing partner to produce the camera. Kodak debuted the new, working Super 8 prototype at CES 2017 to much acclaim, while PCH continued to work in the background to push the camera to the EVT stage.