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"2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in Super Panavision 70, Cinerama and 6-track Stereo Sound

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Thomas Hauerslev for Cinema Retro Magazine, 2018. Date: 02.04.2021

"Kubrick changed with “2OO1”, once and for all, the genre of science fiction - it is a philosophical film - Kubrick takes a bow to the unknowable creator of the Universe. And the more intelligent a person, the clearer it is, that there is so much more that we don’t understand. Kubrick expressed great respect in “2OO1” and what is so interesting is that when the film came out, people over forty could not deal with it, generally speaking. Whilst young men made the film into a success".

Jan Harlan, in conversation with the author, 2016

That happened to me as well when I was 15. I didn't realize this until years later, but seeing "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in 70mm with six-track stereophonic sound back in 1978 in Copenhagen turned out to be an experience which has stayed with me ever since. I was fascinated with the story, which at first didn't make much sense, but it inspired my appetite and curiosity sufficiently to go and see it again the following day. In the following 40 years I must have seen it between 30 and 35 times. At least! Maybe even more. "2OO1" has been a constant source of inspiration. The music. The photography. The dialogue. The mystery. The special effects. A talking Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer (named HAL). It's a great film, because - as Director Terry Gilliam says:

"... it gives no answers. You have to figure everything out for yourself. Use your imagination".

It is a great conversation piece. Everyone who has seen it seems to have an opinion about it. This text summarizes some of the countless details about Stanley Kubrick's film which I have come across since, with special focus on the photography and projection technicalities.

• Go to Stanley Kubrick's "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in Super Panavision 70

Stanley Kubrick's "Journey Beyond the Stars" was announced by MGM's President Robert H. O'Brien, in 1965, and in December the same year, photography began in England at Shepperton Studios and MGM Borehamwood. Originally Kubrick wanted to shoot “2OO1” in the wide-screen format of 1,85:1. In one of their countless technical discussions, Cinematographer Robert "Bob" Gaffney talked to Stanley Kubrick about other possibilities.

"I said, You've got to make it visceral. If you are going to put people in space there's nothing bigger than 70mm wide screen to do that and Cinerama is even better because it would be curved, and he agreed".

Bob Gaffney, in the book “Stanley Kubrick by Vincent LoBrutto" Faber and Faber 1997

MGM and Cinerama Corporation jointly produced the film, and "2OO1" was filmed and photographed on 65mm film in Panavision's Super Panavision 70 system. Large film, large lenses and large cameras. Generally two film standards were available to film makers: 35mm and 65mm film. 65mm film is between 3,5 and 4 times larger than 35mm film in negative area, and offers unprecedented sharpness, which adds to the illusion of reality. The negative is approximately 48,5 x 22mm in size, and each frame is 5 perforations tall compared to 4 perf on 35mm film. 65mm is used in the cameras, which is then printed onto 70mm stock, which is used cinema projectors. The extra 5mm of width is added to make room for the magnetic oxide strips, which carried the sound. Super Panavision 70 was the "roadshow" exhibition standard of the 1960s.

Stanley Kubrick typically used his own film cameras and lenses on his films. "2OO1" was different, as he had no 65mm cameras, and had to rent equipment from Panavision, through Samuelson Film Service in London.

"He took Panavison equipment on sufferance – I bet he and [Panavision founder] Bob [Gottschalk] did not discuss anything at any time about the film – he would have dealt with Bob’s staff rather than meet him; I think I could be pretty sure of that. And, for "2001" Stanley said, “I shall want the equipment for about four weeks beforehand, and I shall want alternative lenses at each focal length. And I will choose which I’m going to use”. That meant equipment was going to be supplied through us. Now you would expect to supply the equipment free of charge for a week – that’s enough time – normally! – to check out all the lenses, all the focus scales, everything; every kind of check that you want to make. But Stanley wanted it for four weeks. And I suppose Bob approved: “Well, it would still be good to have a Stanley Kubrick picture...whatever kind of a sod he is, it will be prestigious to have a Stanley Kubrick picture...shot in Panavision 65mm”. Anyway, that’s how we came to do "2001". It became an iconic film."

Sir Sydney Samuelson, in conversation with the author, 2013

With one exception in 35mm and mono sound, I have only seen "2OO1" in the original 70mm 6-track version in the cinema. In later years, I have also seen the digital version on a couple of occasions. I still prefer the 70mm version, and especially, first release prints from 1968/69 if possible. The first 70mm prints are by far the sharpest, and most enjoyable. Every detail is visible on the big screen. The drawback of seeing those first release 70mm prints these days are the missing colors, which have faded over the years. The color layers of Eastman Kodak's print 70mm stock from those days seem to lose their colors unevenly. The yellow and cyan dyes disappear faster than the magenta layers, and the overall image looks pink, or sometimes brown.

Normally 70mm prints were contact printed from the original camera negative, creating the best possible exhibition prints. This is a very risky procedure, if the negative is damaged during printing. If this happens, replacements must be retrieved from an internegative copy, and thus making the print a little more grainy. Many 70mm films were first generation prints in the '60s, but this did introduce a lot of wear and tear on the priceless 65mm negatives. This was especially noticeable on the most popular titles like "2OO1: A Space Odyssey", "Lawrence of Arabia", "My Fair Lady" and many more, which were printed several hundred times.

When Film Historian Robert Harris restored "Lawrence of Arabia" and "My Fair Lady", also photographed in Super Panavision 70 nearly 30 years ago, the negatives almost fell apart when they opened the film cans. It is essential to keep the original camera negatives and sound elements safe. Instead of using the original camera negative, laboratories have now made copies of the negative, and used those to make the prints. This would be the normal laboratory procedure today:

1) Cut edited original camera negative (OCN).
2) Copy OCN to 65mm 5 perf Interpositive (IP).
3) Copy IP to 65mm 5 perf Internegative (IN).
4) Copy IN to 70mm 5-perf release prints.

Super Panavision has a wide aspect ratio (AR) of 2,21:1, which means a 22,1 meter wide screen would be 10 meters tall if projected properly. 35mm film is a little different and with a different AR of 2,35:1 / 2,39.1. The largest image area on 35mm film is almost square in shape. In order to present "2OO1" in general release, it was necessary to make a 35mm IN reduction from the 65mm OCN master. The procedure of copying the OCN mentioned earlier was necessary for the general 35mm release in cinemas not equipped for 70mm projection. A special lens from Panavision reduced the "flat" 65mm negative to 35mm and introduced an "anamorphic compression" on the film print to make it fit the square area. When viewed on the rewind table, "2OO1" looked squeezed, and a special projection lens was needed in the cinema to de-compress the picture on the screen. The same principle known as CinemaScope.

• Go to "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY" Production Information

In an ideal world the audiences would be able to see the entire image area on the screen, however, since "2OO1" was produced in 70mm Cinerama, and was
shown on the big curved screen all over the world, some of the image area was cropped. If any film is shown on a flat screen, most of the image is shown. However, because geometry of projection dictates that a masking plate in the projector is required to follow the curvature of the screen, the masking plate needs to be “butterfly” shaped. If not, the light would spill out on the black masking, ceiling and floor and distract the audience. But that was not the only problem as Director Douglas Trumbull will explain:

More in 70mm reading:

Stanley Kubrick's "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" in Super Panavision 70

Cinema Retro's Coming Issues

It's All in the Writing. Jan Harlan in Denmark

Danish version of this article

The Original Reserved Seat Engagements Of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

Full credits for "2001:A Space Odyssey"

2001: a space odyssey Campaign

Internet link:


"The film was shot in Super Panavision for projection on the curved Cinerama screen but the unique format wasn't accounted for during the years of production. During the entire production, we never once viewed footage on a curved screen or in the format. So, in a sense, the movie was not made with a curved screen in mind. In some of the Cinerama theatres there were a serious projection problem, because the projection booths were mounted up too high and you had a horrible sort of curved, keystoning effect: the titles would come out badly curved and it looked very distorted".

Douglas Trumbull, interview in Cinefantastique June 1994

Personally, I prefer seeing the film on a huge Cinerama screen which curves around you. A first-person experience and a perfect illusion of reality – almost three dimension without annoying glasses. It is just not the same on a flat screen. The cropping or distortion on curved screen never seemed to bother the audience, however. For many years it was rumored that special rectified 70mm prints were available to compensate for the cropping on deeply curved screens. A rectified print will look normal on a deeply curved screen. I have been unable to verify this claim, and it remains a total mystery.

• Go to
2OO1: A Space Odyssey Essential Presentation Procedure

The film was released 2. April 1968. A few days later Stanley Kubrick cut 19 minutes from the film, and the running time settled to two hours and 21 minutes + 10 minutes of overture, entr’acte and exit music divided into 10 reels of 70mm film (16988 feet / 5178 meters). All 70mm prints carried 6 magnetic tracks, with 5 discrete channels behind the screen (left, half left, center, half right, right), and one mono effects channel for the loudspeakers in the auditorium. In foreign countries, the film was subtitled or dubbed into the language needed.

• Go to 2OO1: A Space Odyssey - Release dates

When “2001: A Space Odyssey” was released in 1968, it was customary in the film industry to keep the crew credits as brief as possible. Aside from Kubrick himself and Arthur C. Clarke only some 27 crew members were credited at the end of the film. 30 years later in 1999, Stanley Kubrick's assistant Anthony Frewin, who worked on the film, wrote a full list of cast and crew for a special showing of "2OO1" at the National Film Theatre in London. A very comprehensive and detailed list which even include the Leopard Trainer (Terry Duggan), Aerial Wire Work (Eugene's Flying Ballets) and Stills Filing Clerk (Keith Hamshere).

"2OO1: A Space Odyssey" has remained a popular film for 50+ years. It is still shown regularly in 70mm in cinemas across Europe, Australia and in the USA. Some members of the audience are willing to travel long distances to see the film one more time in 70mm, which for many enthusiasts is the only way to see it. Some bring their children and friends to this event. "2OO1" has been re-released in 70mm several times. Famously around 1977/78 with the tag line quote from Director George Lucas "Before "Star Wars" there was... and will always be Stanley Kubrick's 2OO1 A SPACE ODYSSEY". For the re-release in 2001 - the year of "2OO1", the soundtrack was cleaned up and given a Dolby Stereo treatment to remove high-end tape hiss, which had been in the soundtrack since the first release. Incidentally, "2OO1" became one of the last films to carry magnetic sound. Since then, all 70mm prints have been with DATASAT / DTS time code.

• Go to Warner Bros. Pictures Celebrates 50 Years of Stanley Kubrick's "2OO1: A Space Odyssey"

Essentially “2OO1” has never been out of circulation and it remains one of Warner Bros. Pictures’ most valued assets. Thanks to this popularity Warner Brothers continues to strike new 70mm prints, and make them available to cinemas.

"Good day, gentlemen. This is a pre-recorded briefing, made prior to your departure and which, for security reasons of the highest importance, has been known on board during the mission only by your H-A-L 9000 computer. Now that you are in Jupiter's space, and the entire crew is revived, it can be told to you. 18 months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried 40 feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho. Except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter, the four million-year old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin and purpose still a total mystery."

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Updated 21-01-24