A cathodic arc plasma source has an anode formed of a plurality of spaced baffles which extend beyond the active cathode surface of the cathode. With the open baffle structure of the anode, most macroparticles pass through the gaps between the baffles and reflect off the baffles out of the plasma stream that enters a filter. Thus the anode not only has an electrical function but serves as a prefilter. The cathode has a small diameter, e.g. a rod of about 1/4 inch (6.25 mm) diameter. Thus the plasma source output is well localized, even with cathode spot movement which is limited in area, so that it effectively couples into a miniaturized filter. With a small area cathode, the material eroded from the cathode needs to be replaced to maintain plasma production. Therefore, the source includes a cathode advancement or feed mechanism coupled to cathode rod. The cathode also requires a cooling mechanism. The movable cathode rod is housed in a cooled metal shield or tube which serves as both a current conductor, thus reducing ohmic heat produced in the cathode, and as the heat sink for heat generated at or near the cathode. Cooling of the cathode housing tube is done by contact with coolant at a place remote from the active cathode surface. The source is operated in pulsed mode at relatively high currents, about 1 kA. The high arc current can also be used to operate the magnetic filter. A cathodic arc plasma deposition system using this source can be used for the deposition of ultrathin amorphous hard carbon (a-C) films for the magnetic storage industry.