Coatwolf Model II

Some filmmakers want a camera to be as unique as the story it tells. Film history is littered with unusual and esoteric equipment put to very personal uses — like the 50mm f0.7 Zeiss still-camera lens that Stanley Kubrick repurposed from NASA for low-light shooting in Barry Lyndon, or the grainy, monochrome Fisher Price toy PixelVision cameras that were in vogue among indie filmmakers in the 1990s — and filmmaker Evan Glodell has joined that tradition by building his own digital camera for his feature Bellflower, which opens on Friday.

OK, OK, he didn’t build it from scratch. According to Fast Company’s Co.Design blog, the Coatwolf Model II (named for production company Coatwolf Studios) is a camera hack that starts with an SI-2K imaging block, and then builds a large-format (four-inch-by-five-inch) analog camera off of the SI-2K’s lens so that the digital camera captures the image from the ground glass of the analog camera. “This camera does things that no other camera on the planet can do,” Glodell claims. Watch the trailer, below, to get a feel for the film’s dreamy, sometimes hazy images.

With the imaging guts or, as RED now puts it, the “brain” of a camera crammed into such a small package, the temptation to monkey around with custom configurations, rigs, and accessories is only getting greater. Some projects have foundered, like the Kinetta, cinematographer Jeff Kreines’ fascinating but ultimately impractical effort to build a hand-cranked digital camera around a third-party sensor. It’s going to be fascinating to see how dedicated tinkerers build new extensions, or appropriate existing technology, to transform the digital cameras they own.