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Is Super 35 on the way out? (1 Viewer)

Lord Dalek

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A couple years ago, it seemed like EVERY big summer movie was being shot in the Super 35 format but this year its the exact opposite. Panavision seems to be making a big comeback with Thor, X-Men, Transformers, Super 8, and Cowboys and Aliens all utitlizing it and Captain America was clearly shot with the Genesis HDTV camera. In fact the only notable summer movies this year in an optical conversion format appear to be The Hangover Part II and Harry Potter.


Is this just a fluke or are filmmakers finally deciding Super 35 doesn't cut it anymore?
 

Josh Steinberg

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I think this will be interesting to follow, but I don't think it's going anywhere - yet. I am glad to see a resurgence with anamorphic lenses. But there are certain prominent cinematographers (Roger Deakins comes to mind) who prefer Super 35 to anamorphic. And the special effects houses still prefer working with flat rather than scope images. I wouldn't be surprised if eventually digital replaces most uses of Super 35, but I think there are too many filmmakers at the moment who like the look of shooting on film, and who prefer the look of a flat image cropped to 2.35:1 vs. a native scope image for it to totally disappear. And with the digital intermediate process making the 2.35:1 extraction from a Super 35 negative easier and cleaner in quality than the old-fashioned way of having to go through an extra optical stage, I think that in and of itself is probably prolonging the life of the format.


I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't think Super 35 is on its way out just yet so much as some filmmakers are rediscovering anamorphic lenses. As a viewer, my preference is generally for anamorphic vs. Super 35, so the film fan in me has appreciated its resurgence.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I think it says more about the filmmakers releasing films this summer. Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Vaughn and JJ Abrams all prefer to shoot anamorphic.


I agree that digital will probably replace Super 35 before it replaces Panavision anamorphic, especially as 4K cameras become more common.


The real final nail for film will be if the 48fps frame rate starts to become standard. Film would just be too expensive at that point.
 

MatthewA

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Technically, 65mm has never gone away. And I assume that since VistaVision cameras were still used for special effects work for years, why haven't it and its wider sister, Technirama, been used? And for widescreen on a budget, I read about a recent film that shot in 2-perf Techniscope.


Would anyone ever shoot anamorphic with the Red Cameras? I assume its native aspect ratio is 1.78:1 so it may require less of an anamorphic squeeze to get the 2.4:1 ratio. If my math is correct, a 1.5 squeeze on the Red (or even the Canon 5D Mark II) would get a 2.66:1 aspect ratio. You can even modify the 5D to mount Panavision lenses on them.


I, too, prefer anamorphic to Super 35, simply because I'm not too keen on the idea of cropping a 1.33:1 image to create a widescreen ratio in the first place. I don't even know why more films don't shoot 3-perf when the goal was a 1.85:1 ratio. A lot of TV shows started doing that in the 1990s. For the same reason that Digital Intermediate makes it easier to shoot Super 35, it also removes the generation loss with converting a 3-perf negative.
 

Lord Dalek

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Originally Posted by MatthewA

Technically, 65mm has never gone away. And I assume that since VistaVision cameras were still used for special effects work for years, why haven't it and its wider sister, Technirama, been used? And for widescreen on a budget, I read about a recent film that shot in 2-perf Techniscope.


Would anyone ever shoot anamorphic with the Red Cameras? I assume its native aspect ratio is 1.78:1 so it may require less of an anamorphic squeeze to get the 2.4:1 ratio. If my math is correct, a 1.5 squeeze on the Red (or even the Canon 5D Mark II) would get a 2.66:1 aspect ratio. You can even modify the 5D to mount Panavision lenses on them.

Soderberg shot Che and The Girlfriend Experience in true anamorphic (ovular lensflares, etc.) with the RedOne so it has been done.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Originally Posted by MatthewA

I don't even know why more films don't shoot 3-perf when the goal was a 1.85:1 ratio. A lot of TV shows started doing that in the 1990s. For the same reason that Digital Intermediate makes it easier to shoot Super 35, it also removes the generation loss with converting a 3-perf negative.

It seems like it's having a bit; I feel like at least once per American Cinematographer issue (OK, maybe not once per issue but still pretty often), a 1.85:1 film is listed as being 3-perf "Super 35". It's not always advertised or listed on IMDb as such, but it's starting to happen a bit. I don't know how easy or difficult it is to convert the actual camera equipment to shoot 3-perf; I wonder if availability of modified cameras is part of the reason not everyone does it, but I have no idea for sure.


One thing that just came to mind: some filmmakers preferred Super 35 to anamorphic because it meant less of the picture would be cropped when doing the home video release. Now that pretty much any TV sold is 16x9, I wonder if we're going to see Super 35 continued to be used so it can be "opened up" for TV. I think they just did something like that for the latest Narnia movie's DVD. I'm not the biggest fan of that idea simply because I don't think it's possible to truly compose for two aspect ratios at once; compose for one, protect the frame for the other, sure, that's easy, but to simultaneously shoot it for two aspect ratios? Even the filmmakers who are technical wizards and have a great eye for framing, like James Cameron, can't make it perfectly both ways - I saw Avatar in both IMAX (at 1.78:1) and digital 3-D (a 2.35:1), and the 2.35:1 version looked a little tight compared to the IMAX release. (But I think that's always been one of the knocks on Super 35 and filmmakers who claimed you could do two aspect ratios at once - yeah, theoretically it's possible, but either you're going to end up with better composition on one version than the other, or worse, both versions will be compromised. Regardless of whether a film is seen more at home or in a theater, I think choosing a wider aspect ratio is a valid artistic choice even if it means the majority of people seeing it at home will have some form of black bars as part of the viewing experience.)


And, as just a preference, I like the look of anamorphic lenses better - Like Matthew said, I don't like the idea of shooting that much more negative and just cropping a widescreen frame out of it. Digital intermediates have helped with keeping the quality from that kind of conversion better than it's ever been -- but even if you can't notice the difference in quality on most movie screens, for the IMAX blow-up you can definitely tell. Check out one of the more recent anamorphic IMAX blow-ups like Star Trek, Inception or The Dark Knight and compare that to a Super 35 one, like Harry Potter, and the difference is staggering. There's also something about how the different lenses act, where to my eye, an anamorphic film literally looks wider to my eye, while a Super 35 does appear to be cropped as opposed to being a wider image. (This may be a sign of too much film school.)
 

Adam Lenhardt

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On his forum, cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC talked about shooting some tests a while ago on the Arriflex D-21 using an anamorphic lens, so it is possible. The trend has been toward digital cameras with CMOS sensors the same size as various 35 mm film formats, allowing the use of all the lenses made for that film format. The D-21 sensor approximates the same size as Super 35 film, so Deakins's tests were essentially shooting the digital equivalent of an anamorphic lens on a Super 35 rig.
 

WillG

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I don't like the idea of shooting that much more negative and just cropping a widescreen frame out of it.
Not to mention, it makes the possibility of misframed home video transfers more likely. For example, Terminator 3, Pirates of the Caribbean.
 

cafink

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Was there a framing issue with Terminator 3? I remember some indignation about less of the female terminator's breasts being visible (during the early part of the movie, when she's nude) in the widescreen version than in the fullscreen one, but I recall the concensus being that the widescreen one was correctly framed, and the the complainers were either ignorant about open-matte transfers, or of the opinion that nudity is more important than correct framing.
 

Brian Borst

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Originally Posted by cafink

Was there a framing issue with Terminator 3? I remember some indignation about less of the female terminator's breasts being visible (during the early part of the movie, when she's nude) in the widescreen version than in the fullscreen one, but I recall the concensus being that the widescreen one was correctly framed, and the the complainers were either ignorant about open-matte transfers, or of the opinion that nudity is more important than correct framing.


The widescreen DVD (and Blu-ray, I guess) was zoomed in considerably during those shots where the actress' breasts were visible, compared to the theatrical version. I read that it was done per the actress' wishes, so I wouldn't exactly call it an error. Still, it's not like movies shot anamorphic or spherical couldn't be cropped far too much. There are probably examples of both.


As for the Super 35 format, I have to say that I really prefer the look of the anamorphic lens, and it would be fantastic if more directors used it. That said, there are some Super 35 movies that look absolutely brilliant. Road to Perdition, No Country For Old Men, Fight Club... all look marvelous. I think it's more to do with the person who uses it than the format itself.
 

cafink

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Originally Posted by Brian Borst

The widescreen DVD (and Blu-ray, I guess) was zoomed in considerably during those shots where the actress' breasts were visible, compared to the theatrical version. I read that it was done per the actress' wishes, so I wouldn't exactly call it an error.

This is the first time I've heard this. Where did you learn it? It doesn't seem to make much sense, since the full-screen version was opened up further, revealing even more than the widescreen version. Was the fullscreen version just cropped (instead of opened up) from the original widescreen framing for this particular scene? I'm curious to know exactly what's going on here.
 

WillG

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One thing that just came to mind: some filmmakers preferred Super 35 to anamorphic because it meant less of the picture would be cropped when doing the home video release. Now that pretty much any TV sold is 16x9, I wonder if we're going to see Super 35 continued to be used so it can be "opened up" for TV

Pan and Scan on home video is pretty much dead (even DVDs hardly ever have separate full screen releases anymore). I guess the 2.35:1 movies could still be opened up for 16:9 televisions, but it seems unnecessary since the letterboxing is hardly drastic (and ever anamorphic films that are cropped for 16:9 isn't quite as horrific, although I would still never advocate it). But anyway, this should hardly be a major concern for filmmakers anymore.



As for the Super 35 format, I have to say that I really prefer the look of the anamorphic lens, and it would be fantastic if more directors used it. That said, there are some Super 35 movies that look absolutely brilliant. Road to Perdition, No Country For Old Men, Fight Club... all look marvelous. I think it's more to do with the person who uses it than the format itself.

I agree. Super 35 can look great if there is enough talent involved, but more often than not, I just find that it's "cheaper" looking. I don't think anything can ever replace the look of true Scope photography.
 

MatthewA

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Originally Posted by WillG



Pan and Scan on home video is pretty much dead (even DVDs hardly ever have separate full screen releases anymore). I guess the 2.35:1 movies could still be opened up for 16:9 televisions, but it seems unnecessary since the letterboxing is hardly drastic (and ever anamorphic films that are cropped for 16:9 isn't quite as horrific, although I would still never advocate it). But anyway, this should hardly be a major concern for filmmakers anymore.

Unfortunately Pan and Scan is not dead on television, even where HD is concerned.
 

Brian Borst

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Originally Posted by cafink



This is the first time I've heard this. Where did you learn it? It doesn't seem to make much sense, since the full-screen version was opened up further, revealing even more than the widescreen version. Was the fullscreen version just cropped (instead of opened up) from the original widescreen framing for this particular scene? I'm curious to know exactly what's going on here.

I hope this doesn't come out the wrong way, but it seemed that during those shots, they simply took the 1.33:1 version and matted the top and bottom. The problem is that I can't seem to find a lot of comparisons, so here is the thread from HTF and a link to the one comparison I could find.


http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/151136/terminator-3-dvd-interesting-observation


http://www.angelfire.com/moon/daehkcid/t3.html
 

Joel Fontenot

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Originally Posted by WillG

Pan and Scan on home video is pretty much dead (even DVDs hardly ever have separate full screen releases anymore). I guess the 2.35:1 movies could still be opened up for 16:9 televisions, but it seems unnecessary since the letterboxing is hardly drastic (and ever anamorphic films that are cropped for 16:9 isn't quite as horrific, although I would still never advocate it). But anyway, this should hardly be a major concern for filmmakers anymore


Originally Posted by MatthewA

Unfortunately Pan and Scan is not dead on television, even where HD is concerned.


Which is the problem that I see. All the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean films shown on HD channels are always opened up to 16x9. Although, strangely, Prisoner of Azkaban seems to be the only HP film panned and scanned within the theatrical 2.35:1 frame to 16x9, even though it was also a Super 35 film.


Even the Star Wars films are pan-and-scan to 16x9 when Spike HD shows them, and I've heard the Lucas wanted them to always be shown in full 2.35:1. Someone apparently doesn't have the pull that we assume he has.

As for the Indiana Jones films (all in anamorphic), it seems that USA HD will letterbox all but Crystal Skull.


BTW, doesn't the idea of having digital intermediates basically alleviate the SFX problem of shooting anamorphic? Doesn't this give the SFX house the intermediates already properly framed and scoped to 2.35:1? What do they have left to convert?
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Originally Posted by Joel Fontenot

BTW, doesn't the idea of having digital intermediates basically alleviate the SFX problem of shooting anamorphic? Doesn't this give the SFX house the intermediates already properly framed and scoped to 2.35:1? What do they have left to convert?

There are two main reasons that visual effects houses prefer Super 35 to anamorphic, neither of which are impacted by digital intermediates. The first is that films shot Super 35 have a bunch of visual information above and below the protected framing. While this additional image will likely never be seen by audiences, it provides very usual information for tracking purposes. With anamorphic productions, the only information they have to work with is what's in the final frame The second is that far more films are shot with spherical lenses than anamorphic lenses. Therefore, the visual effects tool sets are designed primarily for spherical images. Anamorphic lenses and shooting introduce distortion that is different than spherical lenses, and needs to be accounted for in post production. Neither of these are insurmountable, obviously, but both make the visual effects workload more challenging.
 

Josh Steinberg

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What Adam said!


I do like when an anamorphic film with effects manages to do a great job at it. One of the things I loved about the most recent Star Trek film was how they incorporated the look of the anamorphic lenses into the effects shots, even the fully digital shots (like any of the space shots), which in most films would be presented in a more straightforward manner. By using the unique look of anamorphic lenses, the distortions, the way the lens flares a little differently, all of that, by building those characteristics into the design of the effects work, I found the effects to be way more convincing than I normally feel they are. In other words, to my eye, even the purely digital shots in that film look like someone took a camera into outer space and shot an actual Starship Enterprise instead of it looking like an effect. When faced with a challenge like anamorphic lenses, the effects houses may have to work harder, but there's always a chance they might come up with something truly special.


In my eyes, a true anamorphic film actually does seem "wider" and larger in scale to me than a Super 35 film. To my brain it really does play like a larger, more expansive image, and I'm glad that even though digital intermediates and even HD/digital cameras have made shooting spherical for 2.35:1 release higher in quality than it had been when you had to do an optical blow-up, that some filmmakers still are sticking with anamorphic lenses. They have a unique look to them that I truly enjoy.
 

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