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Jack Theakston Clears Up Some Myths (1 Viewer)

Bob Furmanek

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Jack Theakston presented an excellent, factual lecture on the history of 3-D, widescreen and stereophonic sound at the Reel Thing in Hollywood last Friday.

From DVDsavant.com

3D and film historical expert Jack Theakston led off with a smart presentation of The Evolution of Film Formats and Aspect Ratios, clearing up a lot of details about the messy AR changeovers in the 1950s between flat Academy 1:37 to 1:66 and 1:85 ... I wish I had Theakston at my side, Marshall McLuhan-style, when somebody insists that a 1958 studio film like Touch of Evil should be 1:33 because that's how the person remembers seeing it on television. Theakston's presentation of an exact timetable and cause & effect patterns of studios adopting and/or dropping 3D and CinemaScope, etc. was just the kind of information I like.

And from http://www.filmjourney.org/2010/08/16/the-reel-thing-xxv/

Jack Theakston offered an encyclopedic, if at times bewildering, overview of the scores of stereo, widescreen, and 3-D formats developed between the 1910s and the 1950s. Among his assertions that took me by surprise: Edwin S. Porter worked with 3-D (and red/green anaglyph glasses) as early as 1915; theatrical screens until the 1940s only varied between 14 and 20 feet in width (with the latter reserved for the largest 3,500-seat auditoriums); intended aspect ratios often suffered during times of transition, such as in 1953, when films shot in Academy ratio, such as Shane, It Came from Outer Space, and 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, were released in widescreen.
 

ahollis

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Excellent information and clears some questions I had. I was amazed at the size screen the Loew's State in New Orleans had during their silent and sound days until the early 50's. Our company took over the theatre in the 80's and the old screen was still flying from the loft. We lowered it down and it had to be no more than the 20 feet in width that Jack speaks about. It looked so tiny in an auditorium that held 2900 seats. There were still sets flying left from the vaudeville days and the Perspecta Stereo Sound system was still installed. It was as walking through film history.
 

Matt Hough

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Thanks for posting that link, Bob, and for starting this thread. Always interested to read anything Jack Theakston has to say about aspect ratios. It's such a fascinating topic.
 

Richard--W

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Thanks for posting the link. An informative and much-needed paper. When a logical mind and an adept researcher come together in one lab tech, you get Jack Theakston. He knows whereof he speaks.

 

Does Jack have plans to publish the paper?

 
 

Jack Theakston

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Thanks everyone. The slide-show will be available for AMIA members on the AMIA website, however it's far from what I would call definitive or in-depth (it's a crash-course of 50 years in 60 minutes, comprised of 108 slides). I am seriously considering either writing a book or putting together a website, perhaps both.
 

JoeDoakes

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Originally Posted by Jack Theakston ) that you were writing a book? My hopes have been dashed by studios backing off of their previously announced DVD plans before, but I never expected that from you!
 
 

Jack Theakston

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Ray, you're good!

 

Yeah, I'm picking away at writing a book, but nothing is definite, and I still have a bit of research I want to do before I do anything definitive.
 

JoeDoakes

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Well, it is good to know that you are working on it. Several years ago I was speaking with someone who is involved in the Syracuse Cinephile Society how there was a lot involved in projecting technicolor film (what bulb you use and more), and how few around today knew anything about it. Especially with movie theaters going all digital, I think that a book addressing how motion pictures have historically been shown would be a treasure.
 

MatthewA

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Originally Posted by Jack Theakston

Thanks everyone. The slide-show will be available for AMIA members on the AMIA website, however it's far from what I would call definitive or in-depth (it's a crash-course of 50 years in 60 minutes, comprised of 108 slides). I am seriously considering either writing a book or putting together a website, perhaps both.

I would buy multiple copies of the book. One for myself and one for anyone I know remotely interested in film. I was talking to a low-budget director who claimed that they made fake 3-D movies in the 1950s, similar to how they fake it now. I didn't think this was possible then. Was he right or wrong?
 

Richard--W

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New Yorkers are in for a treat with that 3-D festival at the Forum. I would drop everything and go if I could. The Forum has had experience projecting double-interlock before, and done a good job with it, so I'm not concerned about that. The stereoscopic prints are not new discoveries, however. Check out the schedule at the 2003 and 2006 World 3-D Film Expos here:

 

http://www.3dfilmpf.org/3d-film-expo/

 

Then read up on Jack Theakston's and Bob Furmanek's "Top 3-D Myths" here:

 

http://www.3dfilmpf.org/info-top-10-3D-myths.html

 

Their history of John Wayne's Hondo, one of the best stereoscopic films ever made, also clears up a lot of misunderstandings about 3-D films in general:

 

http://www.3dfilmpf.org/info.html

 

Regarding the New York Times article, it's a little condescending. The purpose of movies is to entertain, and the 1950s 3-D films did that very well for 1950s audiences but that does not mean they were mindless or that they lacked dramatic value. If anything, the use of depth intensified the dramatic value of the films. I'm glad the writer noted the intelligent use of depth in Roy Ward Baker's Inferno and Raoul Walsh's Gun Fury, but many other 3-D films from that period used depth intelligently as well, particularly those 3-D genre films directed by Jack Arnold.
 

Michael Reuben

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Originally Posted by Richard--W

The Forum has had experience projecting double-interlock before, and done a good job with it

I can attest to that, having seen Dial M for Murder in 3D at Film Forum when they first showed it some years back. A fascinating experience. I wish I had more time for the current festival.
 

Richard--W

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Originally Posted by MatthewA
I was talking to a low-budget director who claimed that they made fake 3-D movies in the 1950s, similar to how they fake it now. I didn't think this was possible then. Was he right or wrong?

Fake it?

What do you mean, fake it?

That was real 3-D in the 1950s and a close approximation to how human beings see (two eyes like two cameras or two projectors, one on each side of the face, so to speak).

 

3-D goes back to the earliest days of photography.

Get hold of some stereoviews from the Civil War from 150 years ago.

Look at Viewmaster slides which began in 1938.

Once upon a time, every home in America had a box of 3-D stereoviews and Viewmaster slides.

Today they are mostly found on ebay and in museums; a regression.

Stereoscopic films operate on the same basic optical principle as stereoscopic photography.

It was a short step from 3-D photos and slides to 3-D films, and it is all real 3-D, not "fake."

 

There are two excellent histories of stereoscopic films. R.M. Hayes pioneered the topic with 3-D Movies: A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema published by McFarland. An informative study, although it needs revision and reformatting:

 

http://www.amazon.com/3-D-Movies-Filmography-Stereoscopic-McFarland/dp/0786405783/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_a

 

Ray Zone updates the research and compliments Hayes with Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952, his second book on stereoscopic films, which I enthusiastically recommend:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Stereoscopic-Cinema-Origins-Film-1838-1952/dp/0813124611/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b
 

Bob Furmanek

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Of the 50 English language 3-D features produced in the 1950's, the only film with flat footage was ROBOT MONSTER. About 2 minutes of the feature was flat stock footage from ONE MILLION B.C., everything else in the film was true 3-D.

 

The quality of the 3-D presentation at Film Forum is a mixed bag. Their shows are frequently projected with the shutters slightly out of phase which results in a watery image during fast movement. This is not as bad as running out of sync where one frame is off between projectors, but to the trained eye it can be very annoying and will eventually lead to eyestrain.

 

Some of their operators don't know how to adjust the framing on the projector. Several times during a recent show, I had to complain that one image was slightly higher than the other which was leading to eye fatigue. They finally sent me up to the booth and I had to show the operator how to correct the framing.

 

They also project all their 3-D shows in 1.37 and many of the films should be shown widescreen.

 

The Dave Kehr/New York Times article is fairly accurate, with one exception: MISS SADIE THOMPSON opened in 3-D on December 24, 1953 at Broadway's massive 5200 seat Capitol Theater. It played for nearly 7 weeks in 3-D at that theater, then opened flat throughout New York on the Loew's circuit with THE NEBRASKAN.

 

 

Richard--W

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People who expect titillation from Miss Sadie Thompson will be disappointed. The publicity campaign does the film a disservice. It's a serious character-driven drama about falling from grace and redemption and is based on a classic novel by Somerset Maugham, which had been filmed twice before. This version is a little too shy. It doesn't probe as deeply into the story as previous versions, but it's still a solid drama enhanced and intensified by 3-D. It is a restrained and intelligent use of 3-D. Perhaps too restrained. I wish there were more 3-D films like it. You don't want to miss it at the Forum, in any case.
 

Mike Frezon

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Originally Posted by Richard--W

 

I cannot believe the studios would ever exaggerate in their advertising to get the audience to expect one thing and then deliver another. Say it ain't so.
 

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