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Single Lens Cinerama
65mm 5 Perf Shooting and Immersive Cinema Technologies Today

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
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 commercials anyway).

Further in 70mm reading:

Immersive Cinema Technologies, will it continue?

Panavison Large Format Motion Picture Systems


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 shortcomings?

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 imaging system.

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 application.

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 digital projection.
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.
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Updated 21-01-24