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.
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.
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.