Super 35 - Why just in last 20 or so years?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jack Walsh, Dec 10, 2002.

  1. Jack Walsh

    Jack Walsh Auditioning

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    I was just wondering. So many movies filmed in this format have been coming out. I understand that this method has been around since the 50's and went under the name of Superscope 235 or something. I think what I'm wondering is, why have directors started using it recently and not as much as, say, before the 80's? I can't think of any movies filmed in this method prior to the 80's. Almost everything else in widescreen (2.35) was done using anamorphic lenses or filmed on 65mm stock.

    The one thing I remember reading is that Robert Harris once said that Hitchcock used this method a number of times. Which films were they?

    Perhaps the major reason is that nobody had the TV in mind when they were making it. It's a shame actually, that filmmakers don't use those nice wide compositions anymore. A few here and there but not much. I'm not knocking the method. It's just that the scope of films just isn't like they used to be. I understand why S35 is used. I'm just surprised its use has really taken off in recent years. Easier to film visual effects in it, maybe? I'm just curious if anyone knows anything about this trend, or has a historical perspective on it.
     
  2. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    I think that the quality loss in doing the blowup was unacceptible to filmmakers until the 80s because of technological advances. And to some people such as myself, the loss is STILL unnacceptible
     
  3. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    I'm no expert on these matters but I would guess that increase in use of this process in the last 20 years is primarily due to home video. It is a way to pander to those who don't like 'those durn black bars' with out having to Pan & Scan the movie as egregiously as without s35.

    Prior to home video the only advantage was having a spherical lens rather than an anamorphic one.
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  5. Seth_S

    Seth_S Second Unit

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    The one thing I remember reading is that Robert Harris once said that Hitchcock used this method a number of times. Which films were they?

    Hitchcock used a photographic process called VistaVision for most of mid to late 50s films. Instead of the film being strung through the camera vertically, it's done so horizontally. By doing this, the aspect ratio of the negative becomes 1.66:1. It's like Super 35 in the sense that minimal matting is needed to create the 1.85:1 ration, and the sides of the frame are only sightly cropped when creating a 1.33:1 version. However, this wasn't the reason behind why the format was invented. It was an attempt to create a high resolution widescreen process; a lot of cinematographers claimed the the cinemscope effect hurt resolution though it was concluded that the public didn't have the eyes to tell. Because the horizontal alignment required the use of more film, and the cameras were quite large and bulky, the format went out of style in the 60s. However, it is still used for special effects sequences because of its larger negative size.

    I think that Super35 as we know it (removing the magnetic strip to create a larger negative) is only like 20 years old. The reason that it's become so popular in the last 10 years is probably both because there was less of a drop in quality during the blow-up stage and because of homevideo.
     
  6. Seth_S

    Seth_S Second Unit

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    True, but as James Cameron even admitted, creating the wide and full screen version can be a major pain - no matter how hard you try, sometimes you can't avoid awkward framing.

    What I never understood about directors who use the format, is that it's meant for the people who can't stand those black bars, yet these people could care less that that 40% of the picture is being chopped off with pan n' scan.
     
  7. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’m just curious as to how we know that the reason ‘Super 35’ is chosen as a format is to pacify people who don’t like black bars.
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  9. Seth_S

    Seth_S Second Unit

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    I would think that directors who want the flexibility that cinemscope doesn't offer wouldn't want to deal with having to worry about how shots will look unmatted and reframed (such as equipment like a boom-mic becoming visible). Why bother with a double edge sword when you could just hard matte to 1.85:1
    Some history:
    http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/wingss1.htm
     
  10. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    Actually, mentioning Vistavision above, I thought the big advantages of it were....
    1. large negative area (24mm high by 36mm wide) giving a native aspect ratio of 1.5:1, and could be cropped with acceptable quality anywhere from 1:1 (square) to 3:1
    2. spherical optics (easier to design and build)
    3. I think it used a different transport than the conventional 35mm claw-grip thingie that made it more stable in the gate.
    Options 1 and 3 made this ideal for ILM when they were starting to shoot STAR WARS - especially #3, when a piece of film might get exposed dozens or even hundreds of times.
    Option 4 for ILM was the fact that no one was using it anywhere, and they were able to buy up the equipment for incredibly low prices.
    Leo Kerr
    [email protected]
     
  11. Declan

    Declan Second Unit

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  12. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  13. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  14. Declan

    Declan Second Unit

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    yep that as well.




    (hangs head in shame for forgetting that bit of info:b )
     
  15. Seth_S

    Seth_S Second Unit

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    Maybe I'm not understanding you, but I don't think this is true. Unless you're going to hard-matte all the shots with sfx to 2.35:1, you would have to render the whole negative because the matte bars will be partially lifted for the fullscreen version.
     
  16. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    PJ mentions his use of Super-35 on the FOTR commentary.

    As mentioned above, Super-35 uses spherical lenses rather than anamorphic ones.

    Some of the 'shortening' effects in the film were implemented with a technique called 'forced perspective'. For example, Ian McKellen and Ian Holm would be oriented in such a way that they appeared to be equal distances from the camera. In fact, Mr. Holm was 6 feet further from the camera than Mr. McKellen. This gives the illusion that Holm is smaller than he really is.

    To film this properly requires lenses with great 'depth of field' i.e. they can keep the foreground, middleground, and background all in focus simultaneously. Anamorphic lenses are not capable of filming under these conditions.

    I welcome anyone to clarify (or correct) the above.


    Jeff,

    Do you find modern Super-35 presentations to be unacceptable? I ask because I saw FOTR many times at the magnificent Seattle Cinerama and was perfectly satisfied with the quality. Then again, I understand that the single room theaters offer far greater quality presentation than the megaplexes (megaplexi?) in the suburbs.
     
  17. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  18. Jack Walsh

    Jack Walsh Auditioning

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  19. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  20. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’ve followed this (and other) discussions about Super-35 with interest. What always seems to be missing, is an appreciation that the director and DP, may have chosen that format for the vision that they had in mind, not for technical purity.

    It is very hard for me to follow the arguments as to how Super-35 translates to DVD as having any relevance at all in the filmmakers’ decision making process.

    Or is this too simplistic.

    I take the previous advice of the administrators and refrain from further comment on the technical merits of Super 35.
     

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