Born in 1937, Jean-Pierre Beauviala graduated from the University of Grenoble in 1962 with a Ph.D. in electronics and later became a professor at the university with a project to make a movie about the evolution of the city and of its architecture, but unable to find the proper tools, Beauviala decided to create the camera himself.
He left his post at the university in 1968 and worked as a consultant for the Paris based camera manufacturer Éclair, where he created the revolutionary quartz motor. He stayed there for a year and then moved back to Grenoble founding the Aaton Camera company where his efforts were primarily focused on making quiet, portable motion picture camera suitable for impromptu field use, such as for documentaries and importantly for super 16 which had recently been developed by Swedish cinematographer Rune Ericson . This camera became the model for all the “cat-on- the-shoulder" small, light, quiet motion picture camera Aaton produced. The Aaton 7 was first used by the BBC in 1975 followed by Aaton LTR and XTR Super 16 models as well as the A- Minima, a camcorder size super-16mm camera. These had a world wide following and were used on countless drama’s, feature films, documentaries, music video’s etc.
Along the way, Aaton also pioneered the linking of timecode to motion pictures in the acquisition stage. Aaton-code was one of the earliest schemes for encoding a timecode signal in the frame margins of 16mm film, allowing frame accurate synchronisation of audio and film in post- production with no hardwire between the camera and sound recorder.
Aaton went on to design and manufacture 2 very successful 35mm cameras, the Aaton 35 and the Penelope which introduced field switchable 2 perf / 3 perf 35mm camera.
Originally the idea with Penelope was to make a 35mm motion picture film camera that would have a digital magazine that could convert the camera into a digital cinema camera by simply switching the film magazine for a digital one but while Aaton shipped nearly one hundred of the film variants of Penelope, they decided to change direction and instead of making the digital magazine, build a fully digital camera from the ground up – the Penelope Delta - with an internal SSD recorder (DeltaPack) for full resolution, CineDNG uncompressed RAW, and editorial-ready proxies.
True to the original vision the digital camera was lightweight: 7.5 kilos with internal recorder and still worked with a " Cat on the Shoulder" profile. The camera had a ground-glass viewfinder and a rotating mirror shutter to avoid rolling shutter artefacts. However, due to research funding issues production of this model have to be shelved.
JPB as he is fondly know also developed the Aaton Canter-X3 very high end portable digital sound recorder which is now been further developed and marketed by Transvideo who acquired Aaton in 2013.
JPB received the BSC Bert Easey award in 1996 and the Eastman Kodak Gold Medal Award, awarded by SMPTE , for his innovative technical contributions and particularly for the design of the Aaton-minima camera in 2002..
Thank you Jean-Pierre Beauviala for all you have given us.