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LFCA Conference 1999

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Dan Sherlock Issue 58 - September 1999
The second annual Large Format Cinema Association (LFCA) Conference and Film Festival was held on the 19th - 22nd of May in Los Angeles. Although there are other conferences and organizations that are involved with some large formats such as IMAX, the LFCA emphasizes all large formats including 8 and 10 perforation 70mm, Showscan, and of course 5 perforation 70mm.

The 15/70 screenings took place at the IMAX 3D theatre at the California Science Center. This was the location of the conference last year and is also scheduled to the be the location next May. 15/70 films that were screened included "Island of the Sharks", "Olympic Glory" (much of which was filmed in 8/70), "La Patrouille de France" which included excellent photography of fighter jets flying in formation, "Mysteries of Egypt", "Wildfire: Feel the Heat", "Extreme", "Wolves", "Encounter in the 3rd Dimension" (in 3D), and the classic film "Chronos". In addition, the Academy Award nominated short subject "More" was screened. This short subject was produced in association with the LFCA, and demonstrated the viability of clay animation in 15/70.

In addition, the new emulsion/printing tests in 15/70 were shown. Last year, it was possible to compare the same types of shots photographed with the different kinds of emulsions from Kodak, including variations such as pushing development by a stop. These tests had been made directly from the camera negative in 15/70 to make it easier to see the differences between emulsions. This year, the new tests included the traditional interpositive and internegative steps and compared them with digitizing the image instead. Surprisingly, in some cases, the digitized image looked better than the IP/IN approach. This was partly due to the positional accuracy of the IP/IN process which introduces some jump and weave. This appears as a loss of sharpness in the projected image. Even though few people would claim that IMAX does not appear sharp, a comparison of some outtakes of "Everest" printed direct from the camera negative and via the IP/IN process showed that there is a small loss in sharpness. The digitized image also revealed that, although the results are very good, there is still some degradation to the image. This may not be much of a surprise to some, but it does allow direct comparisons of the different approaches with as few limiting factors as possible. 

The 8/70 screenings took place at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Although the theatre has a relatively large screen, MEGAsystems Inc. installed a temporary large screen in front of the regular screen to give the largest screen possible for the theatre. In addition, Megamax specially installed two of their Megamax 8/70 projectors for the conference. 8/70 screenings included "Olympic Glory", "Wolves" and "Encounter in the 3rd Dimension" (again in 3D). This gave the ability to compare the same movies in both 15/70 and 8/70, although without the 30 frames per second optional speed used for some 8/70 movies not destined for 15/70 enlargement. Also included was a screening of the 1940 short subject "Motor Rhythm" in 35mm 3D. This film was believed to be lost, and has been reprinted from the only known surviving print through the help of the LFCA. Since the original print was IB Technicolor, the colors were good but the print had noticeable dirt and scratch damage.

Also shown in 8/70 3D were scenes from "The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman" (TM) ride now operating at the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida. The actual ride uses a moving car with an integral motion base that travels through the ride. During the trip, the occupants view 13 screens, 12 of which are in 3D. Since the car is in motion while the occupants look at the screen, the imagery was created to give a changing perspective to the viewer by a changing "scrunching" of the image during the scene. Viewing these scenes from the stability of a non-moving theatre seat permitted studying the deformations of the image to produce the effect.

This year's tribute to a Large Format pioneer was for Les Novros of Graphic Films. Although Les Novros was unable to attend, his son Paul who is now Vice President of Graphic Films, and George Casey who is President of Graphic Films, were there with others to pay tribute to this Large Format pioneer. Les certainly was an innovator in the medium, and the tribute included his work on "To The Moon and Beyond" in the 10/70 18 fps dome format used for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Also involved with this film were Douglas Trumbull and Con Pederson, and it was as a result of this film that these two were enlisted to help with "2001: A Space Odyssey". "To The Moon and Beyond" used a modified Mitchell BFC which had a top rated speed of 36 fps for 5/70; thus this became 18 fps for the 10/70 format. As it turns out, this was fortunate since the projectors had a hard enough time with the 18 fps speed.

Les also produced the film "Chemical Man" for the Fair, which was projected onto a circular screen on the floor. People stood around the bowl-shaped room and looked at the screen from all angles. This was a challenge to photograph since there was no up/down 

orientation possible with the images. Les was also involved in the "Ecosphere" theatre which used a 1/8th sphere screen with mirrored walls and floor. The curved screen was filled with images filmed with a Super 35 camera and blown up to 8/70. The mirrored walls and floor replicated the image to make it appear to completely surround the viewer. Also shown were video clips from some of his other Large Format films, including "Cosmos: The Universe of Loren Eisley" (filmed in 8/70 for Omnimax presentation) and "Tomorrow in Space". Les was also involved in many films prior to his involvement with Large Format, including the memorable "Pathology and Embryology of the Gastrointestinal Track". Les was also an instructor at the Cinema School at the University of Southern California (USC) from 1941 to 1985, and several well-known film makers stated their appreciation of what Les had taught them. One of them was none other than George Lucas.

The conference wound up with a showing of "Lawrence of Arabia" in 70mm at the newly restored Egyptian theatre. The following morning, Boston Light and Sound Co. treated an invited audience at the Egyptian to a showing of some noteworthy clips. (Paul Rayton, Large Format advocate and now a projectionist at the Egyptian, helped to present the clips.) The clips included the chariot race from "Ben Hur" projected in Ultra Panavision 70. Panavision provided the clip along with the special projection adapter. Also screened was an anamorphic 35mm clip from "Grandeur News" in 1930 on the Hudson Bridge. Although it was interesting to see a widescreen newsreel from 1930, it seemed to be mainly about 8 minutes of watching cable unwind off of a large spool. Fortunately, this was followed by a more interesting short subject -- "A Year Along the Abandoned Road" filmed by Morten Skallerud in Super Panavision 70. As it turns out, Morten Skallerud was attending the LFCA conference and was surprised to learn his short subject was being shown there. As a result, he attended the screening and explained what it was like to make the film and answered numerous questions -- most of which were variations of the question "How did you do it?" ("A Year Along the Abandoned Road" was voted the second favorite large format short in a recent issue of "... In 70mm".)

This was followed by several open houses at other facilities, including Dover Films showing their new "Olympic Spirit" film in Showscan at the Showscan headquarters. The film looks beautiful in Showscan, and once again made me wish there were more films and more theatres to show this most impressive process.

Further in 70mm reading:

LFCA 2000


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