I’ve been after a Cineroc on and off for many, many years. I finally managed to acquire one through a private sale and was very pleased.
The Cineroc was produced from about 1970 – 1975. Rumor has it that production stopped when the tiny motor that drove the camera’s mechanisms was no longer available from the supplier. Due to their short production run, Cinerocs are very collectable amongst rocketry enthusiasts, and perhaps cinematographers as well.
Upon initial inspection of the parts, its relatively unimpressive, but that’s what makes it so impressive. The Cineroc is a marvel in simplicity. Its light, compact and sturdy, with few moving parts for dependability. The Cineroc carried about 20 seconds of super 8mm movie film in a special cartridge. The lens of the camera peers out a hole in the side of the nose cone payload section, and the mirror angles the view 90 degrees downward. The view as seen on the film is the ground pulling away as the rocket ascends. The second picture shows a close-up of the camera motor and shutter wheel. The motor is geared to the shutter wheel and you can see the shutter aperture in the wheel. The camera’s frame rate was about 30 frames-per-second which provided a slow motion effect when played normally at 18 frames per second. 20 seconds of film was enough to capture all of the ascent stage to parachute deployment and a few seconds after that.
The inside of the box has a special cardboard container to hold the main parts of the camera and cone securely and separate from each other. Additional box contents include the parachute, shock cord, package of super 8mm movie film in a special cartridge and drive pulley.
Further views of the Cineroc from left to right are the (1) batteries, film cartridge and packaging, (2) camera, film cartridge and drive pulley, and (3) a close-up of the film cartridge showing the exposed strip of film. The film and batteries have long since expired, but they are so rare, even beyond the rareness of the camera itself, that even in their expired state, they are very valuable and essential to completing the overall package. The film cartridge is only held together with Scotch tape, so if I ever decide to fly the Cineroc, I could load it with fresh film quite easily.
The cover of the operating manual has some frames of actual movie footage from the Cineroc on the cover. The angle of view is clear; looking straight down to the ground as the ground dropped away during flight.
The second Cineroc came with the full assortment of supplemental literature, decals and some crazy wire used to test the camera’s operation. Note the second picture from the left has a sticker with a return address and a reward offer. You would stick it on the camera just in case the camera drifted away during a launch and got lost. Whoever might find it could be enticed into returning the camera to the owner in order to collect the reward.
The “battery tester” wire was used to ensure that the batteries had sufficient power to operate during flight. These were not high-capacity batteries. You could get 1-2 flights on a fresh set and then they would have to be replaced, which is why they were included in each film pack. Because they had a short shelf life, you were encouraged to test the batteries before flight with the testing kit provided.
This is a collection of factory photos. They came with the purchase of the first Cineroc and are each 8 x 10 glossies. The recommended launch vehicle for the Cineroc was the Estes Omega two-stage D powered rocket above. The whole outfit was an attractive package in my opinion. I have managed to obtain an unassembled Omega from the seller of the camera, but I’m going to practice making a copy of the Omega from parts first before I assemble the real thing.
From the left, the first picture is my attempt to make an Estes Omega clone as pictured above. I have a set of replica decals from Excelsior Rocketry but I had to make my own “Cineroc” decals. The second picture shows the Cineroc decal applied to the camera housing. Also in the picture is the blue and black Cineroc/Omega decal for the rocket body.
The Omega clone now decked out in white primer. Its flanked by the Camroc and latest generation of the Astrocam. The Camroc is sitting on a clone of the Astron Delta two stage carrier. The Camroc could also be lofted by the Camroc Carrier rocket, a single stage rocket produced by Estes.
This is a very rare roll of 8mm footage that was actually produced by Estes. The movie is a promotional piece showing prepping and launching of a Cineroc. Several flight sequences from the camera are included. Some of the sequences are in slow motion; there’s a clip from a three-stage rocket. Another clip appears to be from a Cineroc shooting out the side and catching its own booster on parachute. I consider this a very lucky find.
Here is the entire Estes movie. I converted it to video using my own video camera so the results aren’t great. There is some flickering and the colors are off. Eventually, I will have it done professionally and have them apply color correction if possible. (24mb Windows Media format)
Check out this Cineroc movie (courtesy Mike Jerauld). Mike had a very cool story on his website about getting a Cineroc from a friend’s attic, taking it to a big rocket launch in 2000, meeting Vern Estes there, and actually having Vern launch the Cineroc! I can’t find his website any more, but it was a great story. Hope he doesn’t mind me posting his video here.
Update 7/13/2008: Thanks to Bohus over at retrothing.com, the Estes Cineroc promo video has been properly digitized on professional film transfer equipment. Once I received the digitized original, I used Adobe Premiere CS4 to do some color and contrast correction. It’s not perfect, but considering the color-shifted and faded original, I think it’s an improvement. Check out these before and after screen grabs.
So here’s the entire video now posted on YouTube:
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Originally posted 2007-10-06 08:05:27.
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