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“PANAVISION”...new wide screen system

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: HENRY PROVISOR, PROFESSIONAL CINE PHOTOGRAPHER DECEMBER 1953. Prepared for in70mm.com by Brian Guckian, Dublin, IrelandDate: 20.12.2015
Robert Gottschalk, one of the principals involved in Panavision, checks a new lens on an optical bench.

Perfected by a young California businessman Panavision looks like a promising new process available now to 16mm producers. Bell & Howell has their own process which was developed with 20th Century-Fox collaboration, and of course there are a few others in various stages of development. Let's take a good look at Panavision.

A few weeks ago "Reel Fellows", a group of Hollywood cameramen, technicians and others interested in commercial and educational motion pictures saw a demonstration of Panavision — a new wide-screen process recently perfected.

When 20th Century-Fox demonstrated Cinemascope, we saw their films and thought that this was the answer to 3D. We still think so, and further, we feel that the wide-screen process will gain momentum as time goes on and finally evolve into something as common as the regular square screen.

What is the difference between Cinemascope- and Panavision?

Essentially, Panavision is an anamorphotic lens process similar and interchangeable with Cinemascope, but differing in optical design.

The Panavision lens has the same power as the Cinemascope lens — in other words, the compression ratio is identical. In fact, films shot with the Panavision lens can be projected perfectly through the Cinemascope lens, and vice versa.

The lens is said to be free from distortion and fuzziness, and is highly color corrected, which eliminates fringing and gives extreme definition.

This seems to be so. We watched the image and noted that extreme sharpness prevailed to the extreme edges. There was less bending of the horizon than was experienced with Cinemascope and excellent depth of field. Straight edges were straight with no barrelling or distortion; lines remained square.

Although the test image was flashed on a screen 4.5 feet x 11.5 feet, it seems fairly certain that larger throws will not deteriorate the image.

Robert Gottschalk, one of the developers of the process declared:

"It will blow up from 16mm to 35mm, in the same way as the conventional blow-ups — it might even be a little better”.

He said that Panavision does not require an increase in exposure and that it could he projected on a flat screen, so long as the throw was no longer than 20 feet. A curved screen is necessary however for longer throws.

Right now the William I. Mann Co. of Morovia, California is tooling up for production of Panavision, and Gottschalk said that Panavision anamorphotic lenses will be available for 35 mm motion picture taking lenses; 35mm projection lenses;16mm taking and projection lenses; 8mm taking and projection lenses, and there will also be a Panavision lens for still photography. These will serve any 35mm double-frame camera such as the Leica. Contax, and Argus, and project it over a wide screen.

(The illustration on the cover was taken with a Panavision lens, used on a 35mm camera.)

While prices have not yet been announced, the developers of the optics say that lenses will be reasonable in price, considering the high precision necessary in this type of optic. The quality of the image, said Gottschalk, will not be impaired by the use of the anamorphotic lens.

Asked about the availability, he said that lenses are already being manufactured and quantity production will be achieved within 30 days. Lenses for still cameras, however, will not be available until much later.

The inventors say that any 16mm objective can be used as an objective lens behind the Panavision lens. Focal length can be anything from 25mm to 6" focal length. The resulting picture shot through a Panavision lens, using a 25mm objective lens is like having a 12.5mm wideangle width with 25mm height.

Speaking broadly, we can safely say that we liked Cinemascope and we like Panavision as well. While there was some distortion in the image of Cinemascope, we saw none with Panavision. But it is only fair to say that the Panavision demonstration was done in a relatively small room with a small throw, while Cinemascope was on a regular theatre screen.

The Radiant Manufacturing Co. has come up with a startling new screen. We saw it the other day, and were quite surprised at the efficiency and general improvement over anything else we had ever seen in the domain of movie screens. This one held the light at a constant level, no mailer where we moved, from left lo right of the screen. Radiant officials say that it will be available next month.

We recall that when Gottschalk demonstrated Panavision, he also showed the conventional image, and then went hack to the widescreen image. The effect was rather shocking, because the feeling of rigid confinement was very apparent when we saw the conventional square picture.

Gottschalk claims that projector-to-screen distance is not increased through use of the anamorphotic lens, so that screens twice the size of those presently used are perfectly feasible in the living room, for hobbyists.

Perhaps the most valuable contribution that will be made by Panavision is realism, mostly because of the vast width.

One cameraman said, "I always wanted to shoot a wider angle, but I couldn't get it, even with the widest wideangle lens—now, here it is!"

And the feeling of vastness, (without the necessity of panning) is inherent in every shot. Seems that one of the reasons why wide screen has gained such vast acclaim is that it is partially psychological. If one stops to think about it, our eyes see approximately twice the width over the height. It is also true that when we view an object, we concentrate our minds on that specific object, and mechanically blur the surrounding objects. Yet other things on either side will still make an impression on our minds. Wide screen seems to improve on nature because the supplementary objects which are at the sides, are indeed sharp and clear while the object of interest is also vivid and clear. This addition of peripheral vision through the wide screen points up the feeling of being at the actual scene — of being right there on the spot.

To sum up — here is our own prejudiced opinion. Panavision, developed by Robert K. Gottschalk, John K. Moore, Meredith M. Nicholson and The William I. Mann Company, is here to stay. Results are excellent, the process is as good as Cinemascope, and best of all, 16mm producers can use it shortly and plan future productions around this new lens.
More in 70mm reading:

Panavison Large Format Motion Picture Systems

The Importance of Panavision

Super Panavision 70
Ultra Panavision 70

Ultra Panavision 70 Lens

Internet link:

"The Motion Picture Projectionist"

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Updated 07-01-23