Aspect Ratio Alert: Spacehunter

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robert George, Nov 30, 2001.

  1. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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    Fans of this goofy sci-fi adventure flick from the early eighties have been waiting impatiently for Columbia to get this out on DVD, and for the first time in widescreen on video. I received a copy yesterday and there is a problem with the framing of the widescreen version (the two-sided disc offers a P&S version also).

    The film was shot in anamorphic Panavision (2.35:1) and the notation on the keepcase is 2.35:1, but this transfer has been cropped down to (about) 1.78:1. Basically, fullframe 16:9. Before attempting to write a review, I've emailed Columbia to try to find out if this is the framing they intended or a mistake as with their initial DVD release of Silverado. No reply as yet, but I thought some of you would want to know.

    As for the other aspects of the transfer, quite a mixed bag. Some very nice looking parts, some rather poor looking parts. I'll leave the details to whatever review I publish later this weekend.
     
  2. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Bet it's missing the 3-D, too!
     
  3. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    I read in a review on another site - can't remember which - that states that the movie was actually filmed in something approximating the Super 35 format, and that only the 3D prints were framed (by cropping) at 2.35, the flat theatrical prints were framed at ~1.85. I've e-mailed a friend of mine - who's a 3D film archivist - to see if he can confirm or deny this framing choice.
     
  4. Todd Stout

    Todd Stout Screenwriter

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  5. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Reading that I just remembered that drive-ins weren't capable of showing 3-D, so that's probably the version shown here. They should have put that on one side, then a field-sequential 3-D version on the other, and leave out the pan-n-scan! [​IMG]
     
  6. Robert George

    Robert George Screenwriter

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    After reading Pete's info on the framing, I'd have to say this at least appears to be accurate (I don't have the technical info on the film format nor has Columbia replied to my email). Shot compositions seems fairly well balanced and there does not appear to be anything important cropped off the sides. I do note in some shots a bit of extraneous image in the upper and lower portions of the frame, so this does appear to be an "open matte" transfer of a non-anamorphic film element.

    I also agree with Pete's assessment of the image quality. I don't think it is the fault of the transfer, it is just a crappy element.
     
  7. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    From what I've read on DVDfile, it sounds like Peter Bracke

    has his story flip-flopped. Here's my take:

    Almost all Hollywood 3-D films sense the mid-1960's have

    been shot with a single camera with a 3-D adaptor mounted

    in front of the camera. The left image is normally stored

    at the top of the academy frame, while the right image is

    stored below. Splitting the frame in half produces a final

    aspect ratio roughly 2.35:1, which makes a nice co-existence

    with the 2-D anamorphic "Scope" aspect ratio that theater

    owners are used to dealing with. The 'over and under' 3-D

    film can be edited almost like a 2-D film and even sent to

    theaters in the over and under format. Then the theater

    projectors use a 3-D adapter that polarizes the top and

    bottom L/R images + and - 90 degrees, then are combined

    and shown on a polarized screen. The projected image is a

    roughly 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio. The 1980's 3-D mini-

    boom all used this format: "Jaws 3-D", "Friday the 13th

    Part III", "Comin At Ya!" etc…

    Now splitting a 35mm image in two to film in 3-D has it's

    downside …with increased grain, reduced resolution and so

    forth. The ease of use with the single strip camera/adapter

    method normally wins out on a tight budget, and when viewed

    in 3-D the combined left/right image often can look just

    as sharp (sharper due to the 3-D effect) as 2-D 35mm. This

    is where Spacehunter broke away from the pack. I think it

    was Spacehunter's head cameraman (I'm a bit vague on his

    exact position) named McNabb that convinced Columbia that

    they should shoot Spacehunter in two camera 3-D, vs the

    popular 3-D single camera w/adapter format.. This helped

    reduce loss before being shown in theaters in the over and

    under 3-D format. So the original two camera negatives

    probably have a 1.85:1 aspect ratio give or take, (Note

    I'm avoiding the term "flat" as it has two different

    meanings in film aspect ratios and 3-D film lingo.) ..but

    it is very important to note that Spacehunter was shown

    in theaters in the over and under 2.35:1 3-D format.

    So was Spacehunter composed for 2.35:1? I would assume

    McNabb knew how the film would be shown in theaters, unless

    Columbia pulled a fast one in the end to be compatible with

    more 3-D theater set-ups. But I don't think that was the

    case.

    -Greg-
     
  8. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Supporting Actor

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    Thanks, Greg, for taking the time to explain this. I always wondered how it was done, and now I know.
     
  9. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    No problem GerardoHP, I consider my love for 3-D a
    sickness, [​IMG] ..but like my love for home theater,
    I refuse to be treated!
    I picked up Spacehunter yesterday and was happy to
    find out the original Columbia press release (and even
    DVdfile's review) were wrong, with Spacehunter having
    a discrete DD 4.0 (3/1) audio mix! The rears are not
    always used, as is the case of most early 80's films,
    but the discrete format still allows the mix to have
    cleaner separation than the older LD and CED releases.
    The video is of course light years better. The DVDs side
    B 'fullscreen' version appears to be a simple open matte,
    which is fine as there's no pan and scan, but I prefer
    the composition of the 1.85:1 A side better. The aspect
    ratio is almost the same as the rare Japanese 3-D VHD
    videodisc released years ago. Of course the DVD is much
    sharper, ..but the VHD's field-sequential 3-D format
    still makes it the preferred viewing format. Maybe next
    time Columbia will take adavantage of the DVD format by
    ditching the full frame version and offering an alternate
    3-D version instead. Call it a shot in the dark, but I
    think they would have sold more copies. [​IMG]
     
  10. PeterB

    PeterB Agent

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    Howdy

    Actually, I've been researching a story on 3-D for over a year now, and many of the 80's 3-D films I researched used a two-camera set up, such as Friday the 13th Part 3. (I've interviewed Steve Miner for a story on 3-D to show up on the site sometime next year, where he talks about the problems using the two cameras and other fun 3-D things.)

    Anyway, Spacehunter did not use two cameras, but the single camera and mirror system. While a negative may be 1.85:1, the important thing for a video transfer is what interpositive is used, as that is what is telecined.

    In the case of Spacehunter, we talked to the Sony HD Center and they told us they used a 1.85:1 interpostiive for Spacehunter, and in their talks with the DP on Spacehunter, the film was not shot with two cameras. The negative was also 1.33:1, again indicating the film was shot with a 35m single camera/mirror system.

    Anyway, not sure if this helps at all?
     
  11. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Spacehunter has one of my all time favorite goofs, near the beginning of the movie (first 10mins) as a spacecraft is coming in to land on a distant rocky planet, look to the left of the picture and you will clearly see a row of parked cars, dwarfing the spaceship model coming in to land, check it out, its a classic! [​IMG]
     
  12. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    Peter,
    Make sure you talk to those directly involved with a given
    3-D project, because for many, 3-D was considered such
    a 'gimmick' thing. Because the 1980's 3-D mini-boom
    came and went so fast, specifics often become hazy,
    half right, or in Sony's case with Spacehunter, just
    plain out wrong. Here's what I know for sure on
    Spacehunter..
    Filming used two Panavision cameras that were interlocked,
    but otherwise standard along with the beamsplitter. The
    beamspitter used "mirrors", (Specs which later may have
    confused Sony) because like every major two camera 35mm
    film shot in the 1950's, you can't place two standard 35mm
    cameras right next to each other, with the spacing being
    too wide, hence the mirrored beamsplitter. Actually it
    looked like McNabb's two camera system was somewhat
    like the old NaturalVision dual camera 3-D rig used to film
    "House of Wax".
    I have articles on Spacehunter that showed the two camera
    3-D rig, but of course those are MIA. I did find a nice
    quote from Gene Warran who worked on the special effects
    and who also worked close with the 3-D consultant of the
    film, Earnest McNabb:
     

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