“Crank turners”, “Aces of the crank”, “Coffee mill turners”: so many expressions that refer to the profession of film camera operator, which this book aims to retrace the unpublished history. What were the possibilities of existence of this profession? What concrete tasks was the operator responsible for before, during and after the shooting? How did these tasks evolve between the first turns of the crank required from the Lumière brothers’ employees and the generalization of talking pictures? Based on many years of research, this richly illustrated study is accompanied by a DVD (seven films or audiovisual documents featuring operators).
Reviews by Domitorians
“A remarkable work of synthesis: nothing less than a social history of the origins, roles, skills, etc, of the early and silent era cameramen of France. It brings together diverse, often fragmentary, information from company records, the trade press, autobiographies, manuscripts, genealogical sources, online sites – and turns it all into a fluent and cogent story of these technicians, or maybe one should say artist-technicians in some cases. There is nothing equivalent that I know of for cameramen of the American, British or continental European silent eras, and I’d say there should be. Sure, there are books about or by individual cameramen, or interviews with them, or histories of studio or camera technique. But this book goes well beyond those somewhat impressionistic accounts and becomes an analysis of the beginnings of a profession, or rather of several linked professions – ‘opérateurs’ of various kinds – taking in lab, projection and other work. Approximately the first half covers the ‘Domitor period’. The title, “Les As de la manivelle”, might be translated as “Aces of the crank” or “Masters of the crank”, though maybe one could just say “Camera Aces” for short in English. Oh, and then there is a formidable bibliography, an index and some great tables – and a DVD. Highly recommended.” (Stephen Bottomore)
“A terrific book. So much great empirical research and information about the foundational side of cinema.” (Ian Christie)