Cantar-X3, the highlight of the AFC and AFSI’s joint visit to Aaton-Digital’s Grenoble location

By Jean-Noël Ferragut, AFC, and Philippe Ros, AFC

par Jean-Noël Ferragut La Lettre AFC n°245

[English] [français]

Accepting the kind invitation of Jacques Delacoux, CEO of Transvideo and Aaton Digital, a delegation of AFC and AFSI (French Association of Film and Television Sound) members travelled to 2, rue de la Paix in Grenoble (Isère Department) on 9 July 2014. This historical place, where Jean-Pierre Beauviala and his co-workers have been designing and manufacturing, inter alia, Aaton cameras and the Cantar-X, the company’s first digital recorder, and where the company with the promising future is currently creating its latest innovation, the Cantar-X3.
Les membres "AFC-AFSI" en compagnie de l’équipe quasi au complet d’Aaton-Digital
Les membres "AFC-AFSI" en compagnie de l’équipe quasi au complet d’Aaton-Digital
De g. à d. : Philippe Ros, Gilles Deshays, Frédéric Ullman, Pascal Grillère, Jean-Noël Ferragut, Elisabeth Perrin, Frédéric Mangeat, Michel Cassang, Pierre Michoud, Olivier Le Vacon, Paul Thilloy, Yves Rivière, Jacques Delacoux, Sébastien Brum (d’Aaton-Digital, manquent ci-dessus : Jean-Pierre Charras, Caroline Hostalier, Nicolas Pinault, Sébastien Reyes) - Photo "au retardateur" Jacques Delacoux

Alongside the new boss, Pierre Michoud gave the visitors a grand tour of the headquarters and introduced them to the people with whom he is perfecting the successor device to its very highly predecessors, the Cantar-X and X2. For those who might not be familiar with the long history of the Grenoble company, the two- and three-story workshops located on either side of the rue de la Paix might seem completely empty.
That is because of the fifty people that used to work here in the 1980s manufacturing 16 and 35mm cameras at a time when the mainland Chinese market was rapidly expanding, only a dozen engineers remain, and their job is to work out the last details of the future Cantar-X3 before it is sent to production. Nonetheless, an Aaton repair shop and Cantar diagnostic centre remain open in case of need…to the immense pleasure of our sound engineer friends who had the unprecedented opportunity of having them all to themselves and took advantage of their availability to discuss every little button, the more than sixteen digital or analogue ports, recording tracks, microphone pre-amp, battery life, chassis, ergonomics, design, colour, and, of course, the large display screen created by…Transvidéo.

There were a lot of discussions on the Cantar X3’s case, which was not created by a foundry, but rather by a sophisticated manufacturing process using aviation-grade aluminium, giving it both lightness and solidity. There were lots of touch tests on “faders” and the potentiometers that have no mechanical connection thanks to magnets that allow the device to be completely sealed. There was really a passion to communicate the attention to detail and quality on every last aspect of the Cantar-X3.
It was a pleasure to listen to this discussion, whose quality is a privilege of these human-sized companies. We realized that all these engineers that we know for their work on the XTR, Penelope, or Delta cameras were capable of going from image to sound, analogue to digital with a disconcerting ease.

Thank you to Jacques Delacoux, Pierre Michoud and to the men and women of Aaton-Digital who took valuable time to meet us and to perfect the world of sound recording in just a few hours time !
The following people participated in the trip to Grenoble : for the AFSI, Michel Casang, Olivier Le Vacon, and Frédéric Ullman, accompanied by Gilles Deshays (DCA), and for the AFC, Jean-Noël Ferragut and Philippe Ros.

PS A prototype of the Cantar-X3 was presented at the IBC Salon in Amsterdam from 12 to 16 September 2014 (Aaton-Digital / Transvideo, Hall 11, stand 11.F31).

(See on top, the detail of a Cantar-X3 circuit board on a computer screen, one of the tools of the trade used by Aaton-Digital’s engineers – Photo by JN Ferragut)