Those that saw Vistavision on first run movies ...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by rich_d, Oct 18, 2002.

  1. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

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    I believe there are (at least) a few contributors here that remember how Vistavision looked like "back in the day."

    Memories play tricks on all of us so I'm not interested in what you remember so much as if it made an impression on you.

    I would have loved to have seen Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest in Vistavision on the big screen when the prints were freshly minted. I don't expect that anyone can effectively contrast that experience against the DVD releases and the "recovery" efforts on say Rear Window - as how can anyone remember how things really were.

    I would be interested as to whether it was stunning or just another format among many others competing for attention.
     
  2. Hendrik

    Hendrik Supporting Actor

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    ..."Rear Window" was filmed in plain vanilla Academy aperture, and looked fine at (probably) 1.66:1 - its intended ratio according to the IMDb...
    ...as for "Vertigo" (also probably 1.66:1[°]), apparently I am the one person in the entire world who didn't/doesn't like that movie at all - but I do remember the shots of San Francisco looked stunning and contributed in no small measure to my decision to move there (from Los Angeles, where I was living at the time)...
    [°]...Hitchcock never used 'scope', so I suspect he may not have liked the format - at least for his kind of films...
    . . . [​IMG] . . .
     
  3. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

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    Only a few films such as WHITE CHRISTMAS and STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND were projected using large format horizontal 8-perf prints. Most later VistaVision films were projected using conventional 35MM vertical prints.
     
  4. Hendrik

    Hendrik Supporting Actor

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    ...to learn everything you ever wanted (or needed) to know about vistaVision take a look here...
    . . . [​IMG] . . .
     
  5. Mitty

    Mitty Supporting Actor

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    Like many here, I saw Vertigo on its rerelease in 1997ish, and it looked remarkable. The scene that I most remember is the one in Gavin Elster's office. You could actually see the grain on the dark wood in his office (I think it was a staircase with a banister), a deep brown mahogany or something. The clarity was remarkable.

    Assuming the original prints looked even better than that, they must've really been something.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Original prints of "Vertigo," as well as other VVLA productions, which were reduction printed to 35/4, did not have the resolution and clarity of a 70mm print. It simply can't be done.

    They did, however, via Technicolor's dye transfer process, offer a virtually grainless, velvety texture and a sharply resolved image.

    In answer to the original query, the concept of Vista was not simply a higher resolution image, whether shown in 35/8 or 35/4, but also, when projected in 35/8, a soundtrack with much higher fidelity as it traveled at 180 feet per minute as opposed to the standard 90.

    Paramount's claims of "Motion Picture High Fidelity" were totally accurate.

    Although Vista was designed for and lent itself to a 70mm conversion, few films were actually released in that manner as Super VistaVision 70.

    Offhand, I can only think of the restored "Vertigo," Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot and The Court Jester.

    RAH
     
  7. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’m one of the members who did see VistaVision, ‘back in the day’. Even though it was heavily promoted at the time (as was Cinemascope and early versions of ‘surround sound’) I don’t ever remember going to a movie just because it was in VistaVision—or anything else.

    Of course it was a bonus for those films that had the new technology. And without making comparisons, I thought that the screenings were indeed quite something to see.

    But in my memory, it was just one more format competing for attention, and to provide what TV could not.
     
  8. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    If you'd like to see how magnificent a 35mm dye-transfer print of a VistaVision film looks on the big screen, come out to the Loew's Jersey on November 23rd. As part of our special tribute to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, we'll be showing a stunning IB Technicolor print of Frank Tashlin's ARTISTS AND MODELS, presented in 1.85 on the full stage, 50-foot screen.
    Bob Furmanek
    Director of Film Programming
    Loew's Jersey Theatre
    www.loewsjersey.org
     
  9. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

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    First, thanks for all the interesting responses.
    Hendrik,
    Thanks for mentioning the Widescreen Museum. It is a terrific resource that someone brought to my attention a while back. If just mentioning it again brings one more person to that site ... it will be worth it.
    http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/wingvv1.htm
    The genesis of my question was watching Martin Scorsese being interviewed about Vertigo for an AMC documentary (on the Vertigo DVD). He talked about the impression the image made while seeing it first-run in NYC ... "in its original VistaVision projection." What exactly he meant by that ... who knows. I took it to mean that Vertigo was shown using horizontal 8-perf prints (at least in some big cities). It looks like that assumption was wrong.
    So it appears that the two formats that Vertigo could have originally shown in are:
    1. As a reduced 35mm print
    2. As an anamorphic print requiring a special lens such as a Varamorph lens or potentially other anamorphic projection lenses.
    Robert,
    You hit a hot button of mine. I am a big fan of music scores and sound. There are only two senses that a movie reaches (unless the seats/floor rumble) and I've always felt that audio does not get its fair share of importance. As an aside, it was also disappointing that after the work that your team did with DTS audio for Vertigo, the DVD didn't have a DTS option.
    However, the question I have is this ... would speaker systems in place in 1958 be able to 'show off' the improved fidelity of the VistaVision soundtrack or would it have more likely have been the equivalent of putting a 50 dollar saddle on a 10 dollar horse?
    Lew,
    Thanks for the insight.
    Bob,
    I'll check out your website, if not this, I would love to know about other films coming up.
     
  10. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Theatre audio systems in the 1950s were, for the most part, theatre audio systems from the 30s.

    As a very general answer to your query, many of those theatres which would have been set up for actual VVLA screenings, would have had upgraded audio systems.

    The audio on standard 35/4 prints, however, was no different than any other 35mm print.

    This said, a quality audio system in the 50s could eek out a bit more quality, while many had the flaws of the optical tracks, and the optical track negative for "Vertigo" had numerous flaws not in the original magnetic recording.

    "Vertigo" was only originally projected in 35/4 dye transfer. A single reel of 35/8 was struck in 1983 as a test for the possibility of special venue screenings at that time, but the Oneg was found to have been already too faded to produce prints of commercial quality.

    RAH
     
  12. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    I suspect that most of the bigger theatres, and certainly the downtown palaces, had new speaker and sound systems installed circa 1953/54 for stereophonic. The only theatres still utilizing vintage 1930's equipment would have been the sub-runs and neighborhood houses.

    Bob Furmanek
     
  13. MitchellD

    MitchellD Agent

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    I never got to see horizontal VistaVision projected, the process was long gone before I was old enough to remember movies.

    I have however, seen many archival 35mm dye transfer technicolor 35/4 vertical prints, and I have to say that the quality is all over the place. Some were razor sharp, others not so. I assume that the VistaVision master was always sharp, and that any loss in resolution was do to technicolor not doing a carefull job in making the vertical print down.

    /Mitchell
     
  14. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    From what I've seen, the early titles (White Christmas, 3 Ring Circus, Hells Island, Seven Little Foys) were hit and miss. Some reels are sharp, some are soft.

    However, after 1956, I've never seen a bad print. Some titles (Pardners, Loving You, Ten Commandments, North by Northwest) are so sharp, they can cut the screen.
     

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