Boy howdy, how things have changed. I recently wrote an article on the evolution of using cameras in the courtroom for the RTDNA Daily Communicator. I signed off with the fact that I had first used a 16mm film camera in a court during a test year in Florida in 1978. You could mount either a 100-foot or a 400-foot roll of film in the camera’s magazine. That gave you a bit over a minute or close to five minutes of film to shoot at 24 fps. My former colleague, Mark Douglas—now an investigative reporter with WFLA-TV in Tampa, commented that he too had used a 16 mm camera in the courts in that era. “We would have to be quite judicious in deciding when to ‘roll’ because of the limited amount of film stock,” Douglas wrote in his post. “We also had to apply Vaseline to the hub of the film spool so it wouldn’t squeak when we hit the trigger during important moments in the trial.”
Both Mark and I worked as one-man bands using 16 mm cameras. I used at least three different models: my favorite was the CP-16. It was lightweight and easy to use, almost like the near-foolproof point-and-shoot video cameras of today. Nevertheless filming in a court always presented challenges. I would tape an Electrovoice microphone to a light stand and raise it close to a speaker in the ceiling to get good sound in the courtroom. Then if I needed to grab someone for an interview outside the courtroom, I would rush to dismount the mic and run outside with my equipment before they got away.
Compare that to the 3-camera shoot in the Zimmerman trial and the horde of media representatives. Boy howdy!