June 30, 2016

RIP Digital Bolex: World's First Crowdfunded Cinema Camera is No More

As of today, Digital Bolex will no longer be producing cinema cameras and will close its online store.

Five years ago, the Digital Bolex team, a partnership between Bolex International, S.A., and Cinemeridian, Inc., launched an ambitious Kickstarter to produce an affordable cinema camera combining "legendary Bolex quality with the best in digital technology...capturing and preserving image detail with stunning accuracy that gives your footage an organic look...emulating the feel of a traditional 16mm film camera, while still offering all of the shooting positions and mounting options of a professional digital cinema camera."

After undergoing one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever (the company earned over $262,000 in under 36 hours) the D16 was born. It was the first crowdfunded cinema camera ever. When the dust cleared and development finished, Digital Bolex delivered with a $3,300 camera that produced some stunning footage.

https://vimeo.com/124575174

We covered the rise of the D16 extensively here at No Film School and are sad to report that as of 11:59 PM EST tonight, the Digital Bolex store will come to a close, and manufacturing of the camera will cease forever.

For those of you still looking to purchase one of the cameras (which we think is still a pretty good bargain), the time has come for you to drop some cash. If you do end up buying one, don’t worry about support or repair. Elle's memo, which you can read below, mentions that the firm’s “phone will stay on, and all warranties, repairs, and upgrades will continue to be performed by our team as we honor our commitment to the users who have chosen to enter into a relationship with us.”

A letter from Creative Director Elle Schneider:

Anyone who’s started a small business can tell you that it’s not easy, especially in tech; even the most viable and promising product can be held back by the discontinuation of a part, a materials shortage, or rising cost to manufacture when facilities close or require large minimum orders to continue production.

As a small business, always facing potentially fatal hurdles and unknown competition, it can be extremely difficult to know when the “right time” is to for a product line to come to an end. Do you try to read the tea leaves looking for potential new competitors? Do you hold your breath and dread a future when stock could be collecting dust on the shelves? If production costs rise, do you raise prices? What is the right margin for survival? What happens if the sensor you’ve been waiting for to make your next camera simply doesn’t exist?

After much deliberation, our team has recently decided that, for us, it’s the responsible decision to leave the table before any of those questions begin to affect our company and our customers.

"Our community is a strong one, and (not to brag, but) the most helpful, considerate, and brilliant group of filmmakers I’ve had the honor of conversing with and sharing work with online—a rarity these days."

Digital Bolex will no longer be producing cinema cameras after this month, and we will close our online store effective June 30th. Cameras will still be available to purchase until 11:59PM, PST on that date, and we still have cameras in stock. So if you’ve been eager to purchase a D16 for your project, consider this last call.

The Evolution of the D16 - Courtesy of Digital Bolex

Five years ago, in summer of 2011, when I started on this journey with Joe and our team, we were filmmakers a vision: we wanted to use the new culture of crowdfunding to amplify the voices of independent filmmakers and show the camera industry that creative storytellers didn’t need to rely on big box corporations to choose the look and function of how they told stories for the big screen. When we raised $262K within 36 hours of launching our Kickstarter in March of 2012, we lit a fire and proved that filmmakers truly wanted control over their tools of expression, and were willing to think outside the box and join a revolution to create those tools. From that revolution a community was born that’s grown over a thousand members strong, and includes world-renowned artists and filmmakers from every background and tradition, using their D16s on the smallest of independent projects to the largest of network television shows, screening their work in theaters and major film festivals across the globe. We couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishment, and of the community that helped us to build it.

Our community is a strong one, and (not to brag, but) the most helpful, considerate, and brilliant group of filmmakers I’ve had the honor of conversing with and sharing work with online—a rarity these days. On a personal level, I’ve grown tremendously as a storyteller, cinematographer, and director through interacting with our users, and many have come to be close friends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks98mEyZCMM

From suggestions on how to improve the original KS camera, to tips on grading, development of color science, encouragement to fellow filmmakers to test and learn and experiment and share, our users have intimately participated in the development and growth of the D16 from day one, and are to thank for making the D16 one of the most important cameras in the field today—not just because it was the first crowd-sourced cinema camera, but because, even after two and a half years on the market, it still remains the only affordable camera with fully raw, uncompressed 12-bit footage, native global shutter, incredible audio capabilities, and, as of our most recent firmware update this May, color science that now rivals cameras tens of times its cost (and is finally recordable through HDMI to compressed formats of your choice.)

As we still debate the value of higher bit-depth 2k over compressed 4k in the trades today, and what high resolution really means when people watch content at home or on small screens, it’s clear the D16 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we’re proud to have created a storytelling tool that will live on for years to come as the right choice for filmmakers who don’t want to compromise on their creative vision or ability to control what their stories look like on screen.

"We want to thank our community for supporting our team and championing the Digital Bolex like it’s your own (it is), believing in our mission, and taking a new step in this journey with us."​​

We’ve learned a tremendous amount from our filmmaking community over the past five years, as we’ve listened to your feedback on ustream and our forums and twitter, designed new products to make using the camera even easier for professionals, and produced and sponsored content to show the world just what our camera is capable of, and we’re excited to keep growing and sharing content with you. As we’ve always said—buying a camera from Digital Bolex isn’t the end of our relationship, it’s just the beginning.

Credit: Digital Bolex

While we aren’t going to be making cameras anymore, we’re not going anywhere—you don’t have to go home, but you can stay here. Our website, forum, and help section will continue as a resource for existing customers and those renting the camera from private owners or rental houses who need help, and as a way for filmmakers to promote their D16 projects. Our phone will stay on, and all warranties, repairs, and upgrades will continue to be performed by our team as we honor our commitment to the users who have chosen to enter into a relationship with us. Our in-kind support of filmmakers, film initiatives, and our grant for women cinematographers will also still be active, and we will also continue to support owners by sharing rental information and locations for interested filmmakers.

We want to thank our community for supporting our team and championing the Digital Bolex like it’s your own (it is), believing in our mission, and taking a new step in this journey with us as we transition away from retail and towards becoming the best resource for our community of users that we can be. We’re excited to keep sharing our stories with you, and to see the stories you’ll share with us.

We will have one final UStream hangout on June 30th at noon Pacific time, and we hope you’ll join us.

Elle and Team Bolex

Rest in peace, sweet Bolex.     

Your Comment

26 Comments

Joe and Elle took a lot of flak for their "vapourware" camera and their hipster image, but they worked hard to make it happen, and delivered. They conducted themselves with honour and this is very sad news to hear. I hope another larger company gives them a good price and picks up where they left off.

June 30, 2016 at 3:26PM

4
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Saied M.
1346

The hipster bashing thing never resonated with me since they actually did something instead playing dress up and acting pretentious. Perhaps the BMCC/BMPCC provided too much competition despite the D16 being a more complete package with Global Shutter & XLR audio.

June 30, 2016 at 4:08PM, Edited June 30, 4:09PM

5
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Marc B
Shooter & Editor
855

this is sad! Amazing images from that camera

June 30, 2016 at 3:35PM

3
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Ed David
Director of Photography
1587

I never considered myself a potential customer but, this is a sad event.
Best of luck to them on their next conquest.

June 30, 2016 at 4:12PM

0
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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1949

I know the Digital Bolex team occasionally read NFS. If there is any way at all that the sensor and internal software could survive and continue, even if it is in a very tiny stripped down "box with a lens mount" for a lower price, might it find a wider base ?

June 30, 2016 at 6:11PM, Edited June 30, 6:11PM

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Saied M.
1346

Five years ago there was another successful summer kickstarter:
Man-Child
http://nofilmschool.com/2011/08/thoughts-week-crowdfunding-feature-man-c...

In the last 5 years, Digital Bolex eventually delivered and even updated the product their kickstarter was created for. To me this speaks volumes, especially considering how incredibly difficult it is to create a cinema camera from scratch.

Shooting an indie movie does not require the same rocket-science-like wizardry it takes to invent, design, develop, update, and support a cinema camera.

My hat is off to Joe, Elle, and the Digital Bolex team.

While the end result may have been less then perfect;
they delivered with class, style, and honor.

June 30, 2016 at 9:28PM

26
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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1287

I'm glad someone besides me remembers this.

July 1, 2016 at 11:59AM

16
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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1402

Dan, as a hat collector I understand that you probably don't know what it takes to produce a feature film from scratch. Never mind a feature film starring kids that probably now has a budget north of $1M and also happen to recently get a production and distribution deal with Netflix. Anyone with knowledge of the industry and filmmaking would tell you that 5+ years isn't that long of a time to get a feature produced, specially by a first-time director. At least now you have that knowledge though and you can stop being bitter over your $10 donation.

July 2, 2016 at 7:51PM, Edited July 2, 7:51PM

39
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John Morse
Producer + Director
2442

I'd care, but I don't. They tried, and they failed. That's life.

June 30, 2016 at 9:34PM

14
Reply

They built a movie camera. And I bought one. And it's amazing. That's not failure.

July 1, 2016 at 12:18AM

0
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Jeff Macpherson
Writer / Director
206

Jake who?

Your YouTube channel is thrilling. Your accomplishments will live on. No failure for you, sir.

July 1, 2016 at 3:54PM

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Even though I’ve never been fan of the 70’s image look produced by the Digital Bolex, I recognize that it has a very “organic” look and no rolling shutter effect due to the CCD global shutter. So it is sad to see another CCD camera going to the graveyard.

P.S. The first video at the top looks so good that is hard to believe it was shot on the Digital Bolex. It lacks that "16mm look".

June 30, 2016 at 10:29PM

19
Reply

Hands down best camera I've ever owned. I just stocked up on extras from the store. If I could afford a second one I would have grabbed it. Deep color, no awful rolling shutter. Beautiful to hold. The Bolex team should be proud. I salute them.

July 1, 2016 at 12:16AM

0
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Jeff Macpherson
Writer / Director
206

My hats off to the Digital Bolex team. They created an amazing camera.

July 1, 2016 at 12:25PM

0
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Glenn Bossik
Videographer
499

I've been drooling over the Digital Bolex, since it was announced on Kickstarter. However, as an owner of an a7S, GH4, Blackmagic Cinema Camera and 5d Mark III, I can't justify the price point.

July 1, 2016 at 6:50PM

0
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Sean Pettis
Director/DP
653

I am amazed by people actually gave money to this project. When first saw this camera I thought it was a joke. How can anyone can design such a stupid looking camera!
Congratz on a well deserved failure with this project.

July 2, 2016 at 1:56AM, Edited July 2, 1:56AM

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P41
234

Why do you think it looks stupid?

July 3, 2016 at 9:05AM

7
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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9391

Pay no attention to this pre-schooler trollbaitus.

July 3, 2016 at 9:18PM

0
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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1702

LOL, I was born under the constellation of Pac-Man: I have to bite the bait ;-)

July 4, 2016 at 4:29PM

3
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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9391

A cool idea that ran its course.

The BlackMagics kind of decimated the market for it.

July 2, 2016 at 10:56PM, Edited July 2, 10:56PM

7
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David Gurney
DP
2403

They dug their own grave.
There was never a market for this camera. No loads of customers = no money = no business. Never sell unprogressive products for unreasonable prices.

And this was not the first nonstarter. Do you remember "Ikonoskop"?
http://nofilmschool.com/2013/10/ikonoskop-finds-new-financial-backing-a-...

July 3, 2016 at 2:45PM

2
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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
2172

Fucking shame. Too bad they couldn't ship film emulation package along with the camera. Something like FilmConvert bundled would suit it fine, since nobody were buying Hipst-o-Camera for default bland CCD look straight off the sensor.

Yes, dynamic range of that off the shelf Kodak/TrueSense CCD chip wasn't great but it is still better than rolling shutter from Blackmagic. There's some lovely videos shot on D16 on Vimeo.

July 3, 2016 at 9:13PM

0
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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1702

Shame they haven't decided to sell the company to BlackMagic or other bigger manufacturer :(

July 4, 2016 at 12:04PM

0
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Kamil Kurylonek
Videographer/Photographer/Lighting
95

If this camera was affordable to me, I would have been all over it. The problem for me is in several areas.
Buying the camera and lenses etc will put you back about $5k and for that kind of money, I have other just as good options. Then the deal breaker, only works with Apple computers. This decision seemed fatal since only 4% of the world uses apple and the Windows os is well over 90%. So they severely restricted their customers. This thing alone was a strategic marketing fail and likely acct for their failure. I think tho if they had been able to get the price around $2500 with one c mount lens and worked with Windows, preferably with Apple too, that I would have purchased since I love the concept. However with the introduction of far cheaper more capable cameras I wondered how they would compete and so my opinion is that no matter how smart and how hard they worked, no one on earth could make this work and I am proud of them for trying.

July 6, 2016 at 12:08AM

0
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This is truly a sad day.

I really wanted to see the Bolex 2.0 that was 4K.

July 11, 2016 at 4:13PM

0
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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
906

I found the look of the footage and the global shutter to be really nice but the deal breaker for me was the lack of ProRes recording which made me look elsewhere when I was wanting a new camera.
Sad to see them go.

What I would like to see available would be something like the Sony 4K cameras with their balanced optical image stabilization but with ProRes recording and a global shutter. Now that would be a useful all around kind of camera.

July 15, 2016 at 4:56PM

3
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