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Henri Chretien and his "Cinerama" at the Expo 1937, Paris

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Alain Dorange, MalaysiaDate: 02.09.2012
This photo was taken from the book "3-D KINEMATOGRAPHY AND NEW SCREEN TECHNIQUES from Adrian Cornwell-Clyne 1952 and the photo itself is from Jean Vivie

Professor Henri Chretien, born in 1879 (Paris) is well known for his telescopes as well as the Hypergonar lenses for anamorphic movies.

In December of 1952, 20th Century Fox Studios acquired this device and created the name of "CinemaScope" (so called: "Poor Mans Cinerama"). However many years before a few anamorphic movies had been produced with this Hypergonar lens in France. And, at the EXPO 1937-Paris, Henri Chretien presented two movies with a similar concept to Cinerama
 
More in 70mm reading:

A History of Widescreen and Wide-Film Projection Processes

On the Trail of CinemaScope

The Trail Of The CinemaScope Holy Grail

The Importance of Panavision

Internet link:


 

I - A short history of the Anamorphic lens

 
Henri Chretien did not actually invent the Anamorphic lens but improved it for cinematographic uses under the name of: Hypergonar. In 1862, Sir David Brewster (from Scotland) did patent this anamorphic concept. In 1890, professor Ernst Abbe and the Zeiss Co. laboratory (Germany) developed a lens with two cylindrical devices and gave it the name: "Anamorphot" with an aspect ratio of 2.50:1. Using this lens a few French movies were produced in the 50's under the name of: "Cinepanoramic". The first short movie in this process was: "Marseilles" shown at the Gaumont Palace (Paris) in January 1954. The second short was: "Le French Can Can du Moulin Rouge" (Can Can From Moulin Rouge), also shown at the Gaumont Palace and Marignan (Paris). Those two shorts were with Stereo sound.

In 1926, Henri Chretien patented the name of "Hypergonar", anamorphic lens which, for film uses resulted in an aspect ratio of 2.66:1. Later this ratio would be reduced to 2.55:1 and 2.35:1 to accommodate the magnetic soundtracks and then the addition of the optical track. The name of Anamorphoscope was also used by Henri Chretien.

In 1930, Dr Sidney H. Newcomer (U.S) also designed an anamorphic lens sold by C. P. Goerz-American Optical Company under the name of Cine-Panor for 16mm use. In 1935, Paramount took an option on the Hypergonar but did not pursue the use of it. Actually Hollywood and the public did not take any interest until Cinerama came out on September 30th 1952.
 
 
Henri Cretien is demonstrating his lens to 20th Century Fox management in Paris. Image from 20th Century Fox

December 18th 1952, 20th Century Fox (after witnessing the Cinerama effect) bought the Hypergonar and took Jack Warner completely by surprise as he fails to renew his option for this lens by one day! The name of CinemaScope was given and the first two presentations were: "Aloha-Nui" (short documentary shot in Vistarama but similar to CinemaScope) and "The Robe" (Premiered at the Roxy theatre, N.Y, September 16th 1953). The lenses were manufactured by Bausch & Lomb. MGM would be using for a while an anamorphic lens with a prismatic device instead of cylindrical: the Gottschalk lens, which will be called later Panatar and then Panavision. In 1967 20th Century Fox switched from CinemaScope lens to Panavision lenses, as well, offering better performances.
 
 

II - Scope movies in Hypergonar before the Expo 1937

 
Henri Cretien's Memorial in Paris, France. Image by Mario Beguiristain

At the Opera (Paris) on April 7th 1927 took place the premiere of "Napoleon" from Abel Gance. Henri Chretien was there and very impressed by the three screen conclusion, in a process named Polyvision. He thought that Hypergonar was the answer to the Polyvision complexity. At this premiere were also attending George Melies and Nicolas Reisini who later will become the president of Cinerama Inc. In December 1929 the first anamorphic silent French movie: "La vie Merveilleuse de Jeanne d'Arc, Fille de Lorraine" ("Saint Joan the Maid") was directed by Marco De Gastyne (France) and produced by Pathe-Natan with a duration of 125 minutes. Some sequences were in widescreen with the original ratio of 2.66;1. Unfortunately this movie is lost.

In December 1930, the second silent French movie: "Construire un Feu" ("To Build a Fire") directed by Claude Autant Lara. Here there are horizontal as well as vertical anamorphic pictures but on different reels, so the projectors were fitted with the appropriate lenses. Also there were some multi screens sequences but on standard 35mm film at the ratio of 1.33:1.This silent film was shown at the Studio de Paris with little success. In 1931 came a documentary of 21 minutes: "Une Visite aux Merveilles de l'Exposition Coloniale Internationale" (Paris-1931) (A Visit to the Marvels of the International Colonial Exhibition). Film directed by Benoit and Pierre Levent. This film was composed of standard images as well as horizontal and vertical anamorphic ones but all on the same reels. So the projectionist had to move a sliding device to three positions: vertical compression - standard (with just a filter to get the same luminosity) - horizontal compression.

To make the transition easier the film was edited in such a way there was always a standard format sequence between the anamorphic ones. In 1931 another French movie: "La Femme et le Rossignol " ("The Woman and the Nightingale"), directed by Andre Hugon, (102 minutes) had the unusual practice to be photographed with two separate cameras: one for standard format and one for the scope one. This practice was repeated two times later for "Oklahoma!" (Todd-AO at 30fr/sec and Cinemascope) and "Around the World in Eighty Days" (Todd-AO at 30 fr/sec and Todd-AO at 24fr/sec). What was happening in 1937 is explained in the next chapter.

In 1949, a short movie called in English "Launching of the Saint Clair vessel at La Ciotat shipyard" (France), was sponsored by La Ciotat shipyard. [By the way this French little town near Marseilles and not far from Nice (where Henri Chretien was working) called La Ciotat has the world's oldest cinema called: Eden. This Eden theatre did operate from March 21st 1899 until now and is presently under renovation in order to be fully operational again. In 1951.Henri Chretien might have conducted some tests with his Hypergonar ,to be shown at the Congres Technique International of Turin (Italy).
 
 

III - Henri Chretien makes his 2-strip Cinerama at the Expo 1937

 
For the Expo 1937 taking place in Paris, the front facade of the building: Palace of Light was equipped with a huge outdoor screen, slightly concave 60m wide by 10m high (600 m2). This screen could be seen by 4000 spectators and Henri Chretien would have said:

"Ladies and Gentlemen this is Hypergonar Widescreen:

This screen was receiving the projection from two half pictures (anamorphic 35mm) coming from two synchronised projectors. The picture framing was composed to have an aspect ratio of 3.00:1.so the complete picture on the screen was 6.00:1. Actually there were three projectors (Simplex) working the following way: the right projector was showing the left picture. The central projector was playing the soundtrack . The left projector was showing the right picture. The central projector was mechanically interlinking the left and right projectors in order to synchronised the sound and the two half films. During the photography the two cameras had also been synchronised by an electric motor.

The two "projecting projectors" were consuming 250 Amp at a voltage of 70 Volt each and the distance between the projection booth and the screen was 60 M. The lenses were of the type "Ultimatum" from Taylor Hobson with an aperture of f/2 and at the front was the Hypergonar. In order to smooth the vertical junction of the two pictures, two external vibrating Gigolos were mounted one metre in front of the projectors and adjusted manually by means of micrometer screws. The soundtrack played by the central projector was using a Thomson Sound Reproducer.

Two films were presented this way like a "junior" Cinerama, two panels wide and not yet three panels wide!

"Phenomenes Electriques" ("Electric Phenomenon")

Cartoon in Technicolor from Paul Grimault (France) and music from Jean Wiener with a duration of 6 minutes. This film was sponsored by CPDE (Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution Electrique)

"Panoramas au fil de l'Eau" ("Panoramas Along the River")

Film from Jean Tedesco (France) also sponsored by the CPDE. The duration was 11 Minutes 30 seconds. This show with those two films were projected every day of the exhibition from 9.39 AM (daylight projection) until midnight.
 
 

IV - Other Split-picture Processes

 
Many articles have been written already. Here is just a recapitulative listing:

• 1922 - Widescope
• 1926 - Widevision
• 1927 - Polyvision
• 1952 - Cinerama
• 1956 - Smith Carney
• 1956 - Aviorama (could have been the inspiration for the Imax Magic Carpet)
• 1958 - Cinemiracle
• 1958 - Kinopanorama
• 1959 - Arc 120

in the 80'S - Septorama and Ultra Toruscope. The Circular Processes are not shown here above
 
 

V- The Cinerama Equations

 
To add a pinch of fantasy, we could not resist to give you here under some "Cinerama" equations from the imagination of the underwriter

The Fred Waller Equation (FW) 11V + 5G = 3C

11 V : Vitarama with 11 projectors (16mm) supposedly shown (or not at the Expo) 1939

5 G : Gunnery Trainer with 5 projectors (35mm) first used at Pearl Harbour in December 1941

3 C : 3-strip Cinerama premiering on September 30th 1952


The Henri Chretien Equation (HC) 2W + 3P = 2H

2 W : Widescope with 2 projectors in 1922 (from John.D.Elms and George .W.Bingham).Ratio:2.66:1

3 P : Polyvision with 3 projectors in 1927 (from Abel Gance).Ratio: 2.99:1

2H : Panoramic/junior cinerama in 1937 (from Henri Chretien) at the Expo 1937


The George .W. Bingham / John.D.Elms Equation (B.E) 3C + 2W = 1NV

3 C : Initial Widescope with 3 cameras 35mm in 1918

2 W : Simplified Widescope with one camera and 2 lenses on top of each other/2 films 35mm in 1922

1NV: Final camera using 57mm film with 2 half pictures under the name of Widevision. Only one movie shown to the public on November 9th 1926 at the Cameo theatre N.Y with the title: "Natural Vision Pictures".
 
 

A complete listing of Henri Chretien works in various kind of fields

 
• CATAPHOTE: reflector used for bicycles and others
• TELESCOPE using hyperbolic mirrors in association with GW. RITCHEY. By the way the Hubble Space telescope was based upon this concept
• Proposal to put side by side the 3 images for colour movies with horizontal compression on 35mm film. Not yet with the Hypergonar
• Similar proposal for 3D movies
• Increasing of film stock sensitivity for colour process
• Optical printer for combination of multiple images
• Anamorphic lens for the turret of army tanks
• After seeing Abel Gance's "Napoleon" in 1927, Henri Chretien did improve the anamorphic lenses by Abbe and Rudolph (Germany) and named it HYPERGONAR.
• Proposal of projection screen in the shape of a cross in order to show movies with Horizontal and Vertical anamorphic images
 
 
  
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