Motion-Picture Camera Design Get a Pro/ENGINEER Makeover

Ikonoskop is a Sweden-based motion picture camera company that provides contemporary filmmakers with the lightest and most inspiring tools for cutting-edge film projects. The company was founded in 1999 by Göran Olsson, a well-known international documentary filmmaker, and Daniel Jonsäter, a film editor.

Always looking for the best tools for their trade, Olsson and Jonsäter began questioning why cameras were so expensive. After a closer look at how cameras worked, they realized they could reduce cost by removing some of the menu functions on a typical motion picture camera. The pair discovered that if they eliminated 20% of the functions, they could develop and manufacture a camera for 80% of traditional costs.

Viktor Björk, Ikonoskop’s Managing Director, says this discovery is timely for the professional camera market, as the evolving trend is for professional moviemakers to buy their own equipment, rather than leasing as they have in the past. “By lowering the cost barrier,” Björk says, “Ikonoskop can open the door to new and independent filmmakers, who often use semiprofessional or consumer cameras.”

Ikonoskop pulled together a team to design and build the company’s first camera, the A-cam SP-16, which is the smallest, lightest, and most affordable Super-16 camera in the industry today.

The company then developed a second camera, the A-cam dII, which is the only digital motion-picture camera to provide uncompressed images in a RAW format, allowing image processing in postproduction rather than in the camera itself.

These cameras, which follow Ikonoskop’s philosophy that ‘function has to team up with design to even be considered,” deliver the professional quality, high-resolution images needed for big theater screens—at half the cost of other cameras on the market.

For the mechanical design of the cameras, Ikonoskop brought in Avalon Enterprise, a Sweden-based product development company, that used Pro/ENGINEER for the CAD/CAM designs.

The A-cam SP-16:
Shrink the design, and then shrink it again. The design requirements for Ikonoskop’s A-cam SP-16 included functionality that would advance the film quickly and then firmly hold it in position, and a small ergonomic shape for ease of use. The product also had to be economical to manufacture.

Ulf Handberg, a senior consultant at Avalon, led the design. “After being asked to design the worlds smallest, lightest, and least expensive 60-millimeter pin camera, I first took apart old filmcameras to see how they worked. I also researched over 40 patents, including ones from the early 1900s, to see how cameras were made,” Handberg says. “I then used Pro/ENGINEER’s virtual prototyping capability to replicate the functionality, which helped me understand how cameras worked without actually having decades of experience.”

For the spooling of the film, Handberg used Pro/ENGINEER Mechanica to optimize the camera’s intricate cam curve, which enabled the desired movement for film advancement at the rate of 25 to 50 times/frames per second.

It was also important to ensure that once the film stopped, it was completely still. “The accuracy of the film position and its movement is critical in this camera,” notes Handberg. “If the film moves even one or two hundredths of a millimeter after it advances, it would show up on a big theater screen.”

With the probing capability in Pro/ENGINEER Mechanism Dynamics, Handberg could see which forces were needed to create the proper friction between the film and the pressure plate in the camera and, by balancing the counterweights; he was able to eliminate any vibration that might occur during filming.

Where function meets ergonomics.
With Pro/ENGINEER Advanced Assembly Extension and its skeleton modeling capabilities, Handberg continually minimized the dimensions of the camera and its parts in order to make it smaller and more compact.

“To achieve the desired ergonomic design, I moved almost everything around in Pro/ENGINEER,” Handberg says. “It was like moving puzzle pieces around until everything fit.” Handberg adds, “When I changed the shape and moved a part, Pro/ENGINEER then automatically changed the rest of the design to accommodate that change. Once I was happy with the design, Pro/ENGINEER shrunk the camera down to the final production size.”
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A-cam SP-16

Ikonoskop’s digital camera: a collaborative effort. Soon after the successful introduction of the A-cam SP-16, Ikonoskop saw another market opportunity. According to Björk, filmmakers realized both the creative freedom and the cost benefits that came from shooting, editing, and producing in a purely digital format. To capitalize on this trend, Ikonoskop developed the A-cam dII.

Pro/ENGINEER Interactive Surface Design Extension was instrumental in this design because the shape, which was critical to the camera’s function, was more complicated. “The A-cam dII has a revolutionary pencil grip, which provides flexibility for filmmakers,” Björk says. “The camera can be attached to anything—from guitar necks to swords to radio-controlled cars—to create stunning effects.”

Handberg’s challenge for the A-cam dII was to minimize the size as much as possible while allowing room for the electronic circuit boards, batteries, and memory cards. “I had to rip the design apart and put it together again several times in Pro/ENGINEER,” Handberg says, “because the circuit boards constantly grew as the electrical designers added more circuits to achieve the desired digital functionality.”

With specifications changing continually, PTC’s Windchill PDMLink was also key in this design. “It was important for us, as well as the ergonomic designers and the electrical engineers, to be concurrently working with the latest data,” Handberg says. “We used Windchill PDMLink to collaborate and share information and processes throughout the product lifecycle.”


A-cam dII

Designs that serve the market, and win awards. With affordable pricing and easy-to-use ergonomic designs, Ikonoskop’s cameras have been used worldwide in commercials, music videos, documentaries, and movies, including the latest Harry Potter movie.

Handberg notes that he couldn’t have designed these cameras without Pro/ENGINEER. “Like the credit card that suggests you don’t leave home without it,” Handberg says, “I don’t leave the office without Pro/ENGINEER. I’ve been using it since 1992 because I know I can always deliver with Pro/ENGINEER.”


Ikonoskop is based in Stockholm, Sweden, where its head office, assembly, and workshop are located. The company provides contemporary filmmakers with the coolest, lightest, and most inspiring tools for professional work on cutting-edge film projects. Ikonoskop’s goal is to support its customers to do the most interesting work in their respective field.

Sweden-based Avalon Enterprise provided mechanical design for Ikonoskop using PTC products. Avalon is a consultant company that provides solutions for business and product development in almost any kind of business sector. Avalon offers a wide range of services within management consulting and technical development.

Source: PTC Express

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