I first saw Cleopatra in 70mm at a theatre in Miami, Fl. in the fall of 1963. The version that I saw was uncut, and I will never forget how I marveled at look and textures of Leon Shamroy's 65mm cinematography. So much so, that I'm certain that I bored my date to invisible tears.
The film, which I've always respected highly for it's breath-taking scope and the literacy brought to it by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, has taken the long road to Blu-ray, but at least it has made an appearance.
Derived from large format elements, and with audio in DTS-HD Master, it looks and sounds very nice. But I wondered if it might look better, and did a comparison to other 65mm Blu-ray releases.
Here's what I'm seeing.
The Sound of Music looks to be the best. Mad World very nice, but not quite matching in quality. Then come Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Side Story and with a very similar look, Cleopatra.
While differences may not show up on smaller screens (I've not had the time to check), in projection there are two different looks, which led me to a bit of research. It seems that the two looks, one with far more film-like grain structure, and a more cinematic feel came from one post facility, and the second group, from another. In the former, the images are more highly resolved.
Cleopatra, which looks fine, does not come close to matching the look of The Sound of Music. Might the domestic release be re-scanned. Doubtful, but not out of the realm of possibilities, should the studio wish to hold full-rez data files on the subject.
The differences, in a general sense, can be night & day when it comes to Blu-ray, and far more intensive and important when it comes to restoration and archiving.
The better scans come from Foto-Kem, which is not a surprise.
Speaking of full-rez, one might ask the meaning. Marketing has been around the web referencing scans at 2k, 4k, 6k and 8k. And 4k is generally considered full resolution for 35mm, and is measured perf to perf.
4k is four times the resolution of 2k. 8k four times the resolution of 4k in 35mm, and only used, as far as I'm aware, for the prime harvest of an image, which will then be down-rezzed to 4k. Files can be huge. The added resolution enables the scanner to see, and reproduce, everything on the film element.
When one refers to an 8k 65mm scan, the reference is correct, but has a different meaning than it would for 35mm / 4 perf. With a image approximately twice the width, a larger scanner is necessary, and that mechanism scans at 8192 pixels, vs. 4096 in 35mm.
But the actual scan is still roughly 4k, as the actual area scanned for 65mm is 8192 x 3584. The scanned area for 35mm 4k is 4096 x 3144.
The scan of a large format production affects viewing pleasure precisely the same way that it would in film projection. With an image that is enlarged only half as much as standard 35mm, resolution, dependent upon the quality of projection and optics, should be at least three times the quality, and possibly more than an anamorphic 35mm image.
Just for fun, let's make things just a bit more complex.
VistaVision is usually scanned at 4k, which is more than enough to capture the image. But some post facilities or marketing firms will refer to it as a 6k scan.
Which is it.
A VVLA scan is still 4096, but with twice the area, now 4096 x 6144.
But not really.
Back to Cleopatra.
One of the most important films ever produced, and possibly the largest production. Beautifully photographed, directed, and played. It was originally planned as a two part production of close to six hours, but was released as a single show.
Cleopatra is having a one day showing at most Cinemark theater's today, May 22nd, at 2 pm and 7pm. The site below will let you look to see if you have a theater nearby playing it. I'm leaving in about an hour to go see it on the big screen, something I didn't think was ever going to happen....
from the press release:
Plano, TX - Cinemark, one of the world's largest motion picture exhibitors, is pleased to announce a special in-theatre performance of the 1963 Twentieth Century Fox masterpiece CLEOPATRA in over 120 Cinemark theatres across the country as part of Cinemark's Classic Series. Performances will be on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at two separate show times, 2 pm and 7pm, with an additional Sunday matinee on May 26 at 2pm.
"A film like CLEOPATRA is why we created the Classic Series," states James Meredith, VP of Marketing for Cinemark. "From award winning costumes and lavish sets, to the epic vision of the director, to the iconic performances of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison, this film is a visual feast in so many ways."
Twentieth Century Fox has meticulously restored the 243-minute original theatrical version of CLEOPATRA to commemorate its 50th anniversary. The new digitally restored transfer will receive a world premiere as an official selection of Cannes Classics at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on May 21 in the Sixtieth Anniversary Theater.
Tickets for Cinemark's Classic Series are now available at www.cinemark.com or at the participating theatre box office. For a full list of participating Cinemark locations, advance ticket purchases and show time information go to the Cinemark web site.
In 51 BC, Cleopatra became queen of the Egyptian Empire: the wealthiest and most revered kingdom the world has ever known. More than 2,000 years later Twentieth Century Fox Studios set out to tell her epic story in what would become, at the time, the most ambitious and lavish moviemaking endeavor in Hollywood history. Elizabeth Taylor signed a one million dollar contract to play the title role of Cleopatra, becoming the first female star to command such a sum for one picture. Elaborate sets and costumes, production delays and the relocation of principal filming from London to Rome added to the skyrocketing budget.
Directed by Academy Award® winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the historical epic shot on 70mm film took home four Academy Awards and was the highest grossing films of 1963 earning more than $57 million in its initial release. CLEOPATRA infamously cost an unprecedented $42 million to make (equivalent to over $300 million today) and was racked with scandal as the onscreen love affair between Cleopatra (Taylor) and Mark Antony (Burton) spilled over into real life during the three-year production in Rome. Burton celebrated his great love for Ms. Taylor with exquisite gifts from Bulgari.
Edited by benbess, May 22 2013 - 08:14 AM.