EARLY PANORAM AND TILT TRIPOD HEAD
Manufacturer Unknown circa 1909
Early professional motion picture panoram and tilt tripod head, equipped with hand cranked movements and typical of the design seen within the first decade of the Twentieth Century.
Hand cranked heads would continue to be used into the mid-to-late 1920's, and by the early 1930's, professional tripod heads had evolved into a single handle arrangement. These newer designs, relying on either friction (Mitchell) or gyroscopic gearing (Akeley) for stabilization, now permitted the cameraman (or cinematographer as they would later be called) to effect panoramic and tilt functions easily, quickly and simultaneously. Later on, the essence of the hand crank system would re-emerge with the introduction of the Worrall Geared Head in 1952, widely considered to be the birth of the modern geared head.
This example is missing one crank and is unmarked as to manufacturer. Unlike later heads, this head's panoramic mechanism is integral to the base that the tripod's legs attach to. This design is seen on tripod heads by other makers of the period, such as those made by the Motion Picture Apparatus Company and Pathe Freres to name a few. The head is very well constructed, featuring precision machining and a ball bearing swivel mount. As seen in the photos below, the head's tilting movement is retained by a wing bolt and is easily detached. The table is equipped with a 3/8" mount, which was the industry standard for professional motion picture cameras at the time. I have never encountered another head with this specific design, and it may possibly be a prototype or a one-off.
Compared with later and more efficient designs that emerged in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's, early crank heads of this style are rarely seen today. Just another piece of the disappearing landscape in our cinematic heritage.