|Industry||Motion picture production company|
Number of locations
New York City, USA
Eclair was a film production, film laboratory, and movie camera manufacturing company established in Épinay-sur-Seine, France by Charles Jourjon in 1907. What remains of the business is a unit of Ymagis Group offering creative and distribution services for the motion pictures industries across Europe and North America such as editing, color grading, restoration, digital and theatrical delivery, versioning.
The company produced many silent shorts in France starting in 1908, and soon thereafter in America. The American division produced films from 1911-1914 such as Robin Hood, one of the first filmed versions of the classic story in 1912.
Deutsche Eclair, now Decla Film, was established as its German studio branch. In 1909 Eclair took part in the Paris Film Congress, an attempt by major European producers to form a cartel similar to the MPPC in America.
Originally a production company, Eclair started building cameras in 1912.
An Eclair studio, the Eclair Moving Picture Company, was established in Fort Lee, New Jersey. It suffered a devastating fire in 1914. A western studio set was also established in Tucson, Arizona.Jules Brulatour was involved with the company and Dorothy Gibson one of its stars.
Among their early models was the Caméréclair of 1928, then the Camé 300 Réflex, both successful studio cameras. Their real breakthrough design, the Caméflex (shoulder-held portable 35mm camera with instant-change magazines, with later 16/35mm dual format option) introduced in 1947, played a major part in the French New Wave by allowing for a freer form of shooting 35mm fiction films.
Later 16mm silent models such as the 1960 Eclair NPR (aka "Eclair 16" or "Eclair Coutant") and the 1971 Eclair ACL were documentary cinema favorites. The NPR also saw considerable use in television production and was the standard camera used by 16mm film crews in the BBC's Film Department. Due to its light weight and ergonomic design, which housed the film spools at the back of the camera rather than on top, the NPR was seen as a considerable improvement over its predecessors. For 16mm cameramen out in the field, this ease of use and maneuverability was vital to capture the right shot, often in hostile conditions. NPR stands for Noiseless Portable Reflex and ACL comes from the letters of the names of its designers Agusti (Austin) Coma and Jacques Lecoeur. The last models designed by Eclair in the early-1980s came too late to save the company from bankruptcy and were hardly produced, if at all : the Eclair EX16 (similar to ACL with fixed viewfinder and 24/25fps fixed motor) and the Eclair PANORAM (first dual format 16+Super16 camera with "Varigate" system)
The instant clip-on design of the camera magazine of the Caméflex and later the NPR, ACL, EX16 and PANORAM models' coaxial magazines revolutionized filmmaking, in particular documentary films, since magazine changes could now be made in seconds without the need to spend time lacing the film in the camera. The ACL model used a focal plane shutter for exposure and a side-to-side oscillating mirror for reflex viewing to keep the camera body size to a minimum 
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Jean-Luc Godard used an Eclair Cameflex when filming Breathless in 1959. Godard wished to film using ambient light, and the Cameflex was the only motion picture camera capable of using ASA 400 35 mm Ilford HPS still camera film. Cinematographer Raoul Coutard spliced the 18-meter still camera rolls into 120-meter rolls for use as motion picture film, and pushed it to ASA 800 during development. A handheld Eclair camera was used in the shower scene in the 1960 film Psycho.
An Eclair 16 was used by L.M. Kit Carson (and discussed, on camera) in Jim McBride's ground-breaking film, David Holzman's Diary (1967). Two years later, the NPR was chosen by director Michael Wadleigh to shoot his documentary Woodstock. Wadleigh used sixteen NPR cameras. In Woodstock: From Festival to Feature, he explained some of the challenges he faced using a then seven-year-old camera in a manner that would have been unheard of for 35mm movie cameras, let alone the relatively untried NPR.
The company was acquired in late 1968 by British film producer Harry Saltzman who then founded the Éclair-Debrie (UK) Ltd. company and moved production to the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Soremec-Cehess took over the French side of the company and resumed production in France, so English Eclair cameras (similar to the French product with minor differences) were manufactured simultaneously for a few years until Éclair-Debrie (UK) Ltd ceased activities in 1973. Production then continued in France with a good degree of success, but the company eventually declined in the late-1970s and early-1980s until it was eventually sold to Aaton S.A. in 1986 who ceased all camera production, offering only a license for maintenance of the many existing cameras.
The film processing and post-production side of Éclair continues to operate.