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The Technirama Story Update

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

Written by: Grant Lobban Issue 62 - September 2000

I was pleased to her that The Technirama Story was well received. However, I understand that some readers have questioned the statement that some Technirama 70mm prints were "rectified" for showing in Single-lens Cinerama.

This was based on knowledge gained during a visit I made to Technicolor's London plant in the mid-1980s. The highlight of the trip was the optical printing department. here I was shown a cabinet full of "classic" printer and special processes lenses. Among them was a complete set of
Technirama lenses for printing all the various formats available from the versatile negative, from 70mm down to 16mm. Even more fascinating was that they still had the Cinerama lenses used to make rectified 70mm prints from both Ultra Panavision and Technirama negatives. The Ultra Panavision lens partially unsqueezed the centre of the frame to about x1.18 and progressively increased the compression out from the centre, reaching x1.33 at the sides of the frame. The Technirama version only left the sides of the image squeezed. I was curious where the extra picture information came from, but was reminded that the large-area Technirama negative was designed and photographed as a multi-format system with extraction areas ranging from 1.85:1 to provide 35mm unsqueezed prints, to 2.66:1 for 16mm 'Scope' copies.

Further in 70mm reading:

The Technirama Story

Technirama on Wheels

Super Technirama 70

Internet link:

Needles to say, I asked if they had any frames for use on my notorious wall chart, but twenty years on, they couldn't find any. However later, a reel of "rectified" "The Magnificent Showman" was produced. It was not possible to see it projected, but, with time running out, it was wound down on the rewind bench to look for a scene which showed the effect of the special printer lens. I remember that the best we could find was a shot of an animal cage with it's bars closed together at the sides of the frame. I must admit the unless you knew what you were looking for, at first sight, it would look like any other Super Technirama 70mm print. It would need to be projected, preferably on a flat screen, to spot the difference.
Knowing all the above, I'm still happy to state that at one time, Technicolor in London was able to produce, if required, rectified Technirama 70mm prints. I always assumed to copy of "The Magnificent Showman" followed the rectified print of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" into the Coliseum-Cinerama. I can not say if any other Technirama films, shown in Britain in Cinerama, such as "La Fayette", "The Golden Head" and "Shellerama" were similarly rectified, but I can confirm that Technicolor only made flat spherical 70mm prints of "Custer of the West". By the end of 1966, rectified prints, along with Ultra Panavision squeezed 70mm prints, had fallen out of favour with distributors as the lack of compatibility restricted their use.

Being a D-150 fan, I also asked if they had anything to do with making the special D-150 optically corrected 70mm prints for their own deeply curved screen. This time they could not show me an actual lens. Although Technicolor in London was supplied with one on loan from D-150, in case a costumer required the special prints, it spent most of it's time in the lens cabinet until being returned to the liquidator during the D-150 Company's financial troubles.

Knowing that D-150 70mm prints were made from normal spherical 65mm negatives, I was again intrigued to learn how the image could optically manipulated with-out any extra picture being available, apart from that normally covered by the inner stripes on the print.
Firstly, all Technicolor's 70mm prints were made using an optical step printer. At the time, they considered that this method produced superior results compared to contact printing, with it's problems providing constant contact over the whole width of the wide film and the associated loss of definition and picture steadiness.

Their prints also "looked" better due to the enhanced edge sharpness of the printers optical system. In theory, this was set up to provide a 1:1 (same size) reproduction ratio, but in practice the image on the print was a littler larger (about 5%) than the original negative. This already cropped the picture slightly, to the extent of sometimes loosing the original camera frame line. One advantage was it also helped hide the negative splices. Technicolor often added their own black frame line using a method of double printing. The use of an optical printer also allowed the Auto Optical system to be used when making 70mm prints, which required the negative and positive to run independently.

Back to the subject of the D-150 printer lens. This only made minor changes to the picture's geometry and was intended to supplement those made by the special projection lens. Again, the image was slightly squeezed at the sides, but D-150's lens also added a small degree of pincushion distortion. Using the full available width of the negative's image, the aspect ratio was about 2.3:1. After passing through the printer lens, the new modified image was reduced to a nominal 1,9:1. The printer's reproduction ratio was adjusted until the sides of the image fell just inside the perforations, with any gap being covered later by the inner magnetic stripes. The image was still cropped somewhat, but the effect of the picture bowing in a little at the top and bottom helped to push some of the lost picture information back into the frame. In practice, the picture's composition wasn't spoilt too much, as all 65mm/70mm films are photographed with sufficient headroom to allow for the extraction of 35mm anamorphic 2,35.1 reduction prints. Like the Cinerama rectified 70mm prints, most the cropping needed to fit the screen occurred later during projection.
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Updated 07-01-23