Single Lens Cinerama
65mm 5 Perf Shooting and Immersive Cinema Technologies Today
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Mark
Andrew Job, ICT Productions Montreal, Canada
Issue 60 - March 2000
For over five years now I have been conducting a series of investigations
and careful research into to the feasibility of commercial motion picture
production in the large format 5 perforation frame height 65mm motion
picture gauge. I consider both domestic 70mm and standard anamorphic 35mm
release; DVD, VHS and Digital Projection requirements are best satisfied by
the use of this larger format. I am however, primarily a storyteller and
filmmaker by inclination and not an inventor. As a filmmaker I am looking
for the best proscenium arch to place my stories under and I believe that
70mm film technology provides the best way to do this.
*The Artistic Philosophical Reasons: My artistic sense toward filmmaking is
to use what Alfred Hitchcock called, "Pure Cinema." Pure cinema is
the concept of allowing the power of the images to drive the narrative of a
movie instead of relying on dialogue only to drive the story. 70mm
presentation on large and wide screens gives a total, immersive experience
and reinforces the true power of the cinema, which is to say the power of
the image. That power has been greatly reduced on theatre screens since the
very size of the screen has been recently downsized to a point where the
cinema of today no longer shows "CINEMA," but for all intensive
purposes shows "VIDEO." We need to re-examine the way we present
commercial motion pictures to the movie going public. Do we want to watch 15
minutes of television commercials before the film starts or do we want only
trailers and then the feature presentation? In Canada, the movie chains are
showing television commercials in front of the trailers. Why should I pay
8.50 $ to 10.00 $ Canadian to watch TV commercials that I could stay home
and watch on TV for free? (Not that I would have any desire to watch TV
Further in 70mm reading:
Mark's 2002 update
Since Hollywood has decided this is the best way to proceed we then must be
contented with a visual style of unending close ups and quick pans in order
to catch the reality of the tiny and visually inadequate television 1.43 to
one aspect ratio. After watching so much close up frame composures, one is
left with a desperate desire for geography and wide-angle vistas.
Claustrophobia and the desire for a big, big screen television are the only
things one comes away from the movies with today. In years past, going to
the movies was a good experience. Your were presented with a giant curtain
that was pulled away in front of you, and then a very large screen was
revealed where it was far more easy to become deeper involved with the story
itself because the scale to the eye of that visual story was far closer to
the way in which you perceived images in real life. The size of the image to
eye and the aspect ratio of the image are in direct proportion to your level
of participation with a story. One definitely has a pronounced effect on the
other. Watching the Titanic sink on home video does not have the stunning
visual impact that it does when experiencing it on a big theatre screen!
Although you can certainly enjoy the story on TV, the enjoyment level will
be different than on a big screen.
*The Technical Reasons: Apart from the obvious artistic advantages of large
screen presentation comes the positive technical superiority of using larger
film negatives to capture the image. The new Digital Projection
specifications that are being developed as you read this will most likely
call for image acquisition from 65mm film negative due to the simple fact
that 65mm 5 perf gives you 4.2 times the available image area behind the
lens compared to regular four perf 35mm. This is a significant difference.
Another benefit of using the wider film is the levels of contrast and color
saturation attainable in 5 perf 65mm vs. 35mm. Also, the ability of direct
down-printing of the 5 perf 65mm frame to anamorphic 2.35:1 four perf 35mm
for regular domestic theatres makes it easier to maintain high distribution.
The 35mm scope prints would look better being down-printed from 65mm than
they would if photographed directly in 35mm.
The availability of 5 perf 65mm digital film recording technology is yet
another reason to use the larger format. Today we now have a very powerful
and important tool in our hands that only a couple of years ago simply was
not possible to obtain. Movies like "Toy Story" and "Toy
Story 2", "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" used digital
film recording technology to achieve their realization. A film recorder is a
device which allows media that was either digitized to computer hard drive
or created directly in the computer from scratch, and outputs those digital
images onto a strip of unexposed motion picture film. Now, the combination
of the use of this technology with large format creates a hitherto unknown
added advantage and level of quality. The reason for the added quality comes
from a simple mathematical reality. The larger the film frame you are
projecting, the less enlargement has to be made in order for this film frame
to fill the large movie screen.
When one discusses the output of digital material to motion picture film,
one knows that digital imaging is done through the use of
"pixels". The digital pixels have a certain size and that size
greatly affects the quality of the image obtainable. Outputting pixels to
35mm film will automatically mean the increased enlargement of the pixel
size in order to fill the screen and thus the lower overall image quality.
Pixel enlargement would be less in a 5 perf 70mm print made from an output
to 65mm negative
and thus your image quality is vastly improved.
The Design And Creation of A New Film Format and Cinema Experience: In the
mid 1950's Michael Todd was reaping a whirlwind of success and fame with his
involvement with Fred Waller, Hazard Reeves and Lowell Thomas and CINERAMA.
Cinerama knocked Hollywood on its ear! Here was a totally non-standard
motion picture format that no one in a regular theatre could even show,
produced and made entirely outside of the Hollywood System, yet was a
critical and financial success initially. (Unfortunately other technical
factors and poor scripts led to the eventual demise of Cinerama) "This
Is Cinerama"! Played to packed houses for more than four and a half
years and was very profitable. The major technical flaws were the join lines
where the three panels came together on the big screen and the close up
perspective distortion of receding foreheads and lengthening noses and
smiling horizons. These shortcomings led Todd to abandon three panel
Cinerama in an effort to create what he called, "Cinerama where
everything comes outta one hole."
Todd-AO 5 perf 70mm was the outcome of his attempts and the design work of
Dr. Brian O'Brien of American Optical Co. to create a "single
strip" Cinerama but they did not achieve that
goal. In order to
optically realize true and full Cinerama, one must be able to capture a wide
angle of view of 146.5 degrees wide by a height angle of 55 degrees. The
major problem was that once you got wider than 126 degrees you started to
see a curvilinear distortion where buildings and straight poles would begin
to bend inward. This type of optical distortion is also known as barrel
distortion. Today, we have overcome this important optical limitation.
Through the use of newer optical technology called "Rectilinear
Optics," one can now safely capture this image on one strip of 65mm
film. The problem is in the presentation of the single strip Cinerama.
To properly show the Cinerama Image it must be shown on a curved, louvered
screen with a degree of curvature equal to the curvature of the wide angle.
In the case of Cinerama we are talking about 146.5 degrees of screen
curvature. A giant curved screen of this magnitude takes up a lot of extra
cinema space as well. The optics required on the projector head must create
a curved field of focus and this presents a variety of serious technical
problems that make the system very expensive to perfect. So the essential
question becomes, what is the best way of projecting accurate and full angle
Cinerama on a giant curved screen without the past technical
The Coming Perfection of Digital Cinema
Digital cinema projection may well
be the best solution to the perfection of single strip Cinerama without the
strip! Imagine with me, if you will, that one could go ahead and capture the
Cinerama angle on a single strip of 5 perf 65mm motion picture film and then
simply digitize it to hard drive and use a program algorithm to correct for
the curved field of projection focus in real time while projecting at either
24, 30, or 48 fps? It has even been suggested that one could go ahead and
use any wide-angle lens, even those that are not corrected from barrel
distortion and let a computer program auto-correct the distortions in real
time during either the capture or digital projection processes. One
possibility worth looking at is a digital projector array configuration
where one digital imaging chip is beside another in order to create the
wider imaging field required for a Cinerama type projection. Currently there
is no digital imaging chip of the necessary physical 5 perf 70mm projector
aperture dimensions (2.072 X 0.906 ") needed to do a one-chip
projection. Also, it would be incumbent on the imaging chip designers that,
even if they used two 35mm sized imaging chips together, with one beside the
other, each chip would still have to be capable of resolving many more
pixels per millimetre than they currently are capable of, in order to reach
existing 70mm optical projection quality. 70mm optical projection quality is
extremely high definition and hat hitherto not been equalled by any digital
My work and my studies are dedicated to the perfection of a fully Immersive
single lens type Cinerama process based on the use of 5 perf 65mm motion
picture film as the initial medium
for image acquisition. I see there being five direct uses of this
1. To produce ultra high quality optical Anamorphic 35mm four perf release
prints for standard domestic film distribution.
2. To produce unsurpassed ultra-high-quality 5 perf 70mm optical prints.
3. To produce source files that meet the highest standards for all future
4. To produce incredible quality DVD content.
5. To produce material which will meet all future HDTV broadcast standards
(Even current ones)
I will be keeping you abreast of my
work. You can follow it and see pictures
of my Super Panavision sound camera (S.C. # 104) at my
web site or reach me
by email. Please be advised that my web
site is in the very preliminary development stages and will constantly be
changing over the next few months as more and more pictures are taken of my
camera and shooting tests.
Was the 128 degree lens a failure? Unlike Mr.
Job, the editor does not agree. Todd-AO was by far more successful than
Cinerama, both in terms of picture quality, number of titles and
installations. The decision not to use the lens more often in filming was
creative, not technically.
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