BNCR Mitchell #157

This is a Mitchell BNCR. It is nearly one of the first BNCRs. BNCR stands for Blimped Newsreel Camera Reflexed. George Mitchell designed the NC or newsreel cameras in 1933 in anticipation of sound movies becoming a hit. They made the first sound proofed BNC in 1934.

This camera started its life as a Mitchell BNC and was converted to a reflexed camera as soon as reflexing became possible. It is serial number 157. It was first sold to Allied Artists Pictures Corporation on February 30th of 1955. It ended its career at Paramount Studios.

Between the mid 1940s and and the mid 1970s Paramount Studios won more than seventy Oscars. A Mitchell BNC was on every one of those pictures.

Having a camera with any kind of provenance is extremely rare. Allied Artists Pictures Corporation bought this camera to shoot their biggest hit, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. They purchased this camera in anticipation of shooting their largest budget picture to date. It was to cost them over $300,000 but grossed over three million. “Invasion” became one of the most beloved SiFi hits of the 1950’s. It’s listed on many top ten SiFi lists. In 1994 Invasion of the Body Snatchers was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress film vaults. It’s an historically important film. This is an historically important camera.

This camera has with it an Invasion of the Body Snatchers lobby card autographed by both the lead actors. Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. Included are 8x10 production stills taken behind the scenes that include this camera.


Mitchell BNC cameras are the most brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed cameras ever made. Fully dressed BNCRs are quite rare and a lot of fun to talk about. What makes them so rare is that almost all Mitchells were cannibalized for their precision movements. By last count at least eight hundred Mitchell cameras were lost in this way.

When I first started in the film industry these were the Rolls Royce of movie cameras. They were also my favorite camera to work with. Other, newer cameras were easier to work with and certainly faster to work with but none were as iconic or had the prestige of a Mitchell BNCR.

There’s a lot to be said about these cameras. They were rock steady and quiet. The kind of quiet that one had to actually look at the camera to see if it was running. Mitchells were the cameras that were used on every major motion picture. They were used on an amazing number of TV shows even after video cameras were the norm. Mitchell BNCs shot every major studio Oscar winning picture for forty years. They shot most TV series Emmy winners for at least twenty years. These were award making cameras for sure. By the tape labels on the camera cases this camera package was assigned to work Frasier, Wings and Platypus Man while at Paramount. These are just three of the many shows this camera worked.



The man holding the Oscar in this photograph is George Mitchell. He won an Oscar for making the Mitchell cameras that shot the movies that won so many Oscars. Hollywood’s highest award was given to a camera maker.

Here is a series of photographs of Oscar winning directors and actors working with a Mitchell BNC. They include Orson Welles, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Stanley Kubrick, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

This is serial number 157. The camera has all matching serial numbers. Just like a classic car, matching serial numbers raise the future value of cameras.


Link to the YouTube Video: