Jump to content


Vistavision


  • Please log in to reply
27 replies to this topic

#1 Steven J

Steven J
  • Guests

Posted 17 June 2006 - 04:38 AM

Hey everyone!

I hope I put this in the right forum - seemed like a general topic. Yesterday to my delight I recieved the new 50th Aniversary DVD of The Searchers through the post. If your a fan of this movie then you should pick up the Ultimate Edition - it has some excellent little tidbits with it.

Anyway on one of the excellent documentaries Martin Scorsese speaks about the Vistavision format/process and how it meant they could have a wide shot, and show everything from the foreground right into the far off horizon in focus! When I looked over some of the scenes in the film again - I noticed how true this was.

Can anyone give me the lowdown of how Vistavision works differently from other formats? I also read somewhere that Ron Howard shot Far and Away on a similar format?

I wonder if there are any AC articles out there for the searchers? I'd sure like to see one. Well there we are - I think a discussion on this would be interesting and will hopefully broaden my knowledge on the subject B)

Thanks,

Steven.
  • 0

#2 Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4708 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Europe

Posted 17 June 2006 - 05:37 AM

.

Can anyone give me the lowdown of how Vistavision works differently from other formats? I also read somewhere that Ron Howard shot Far and Away on a similar format?


Steven.


Hi,

The 35mm film runs sideways just like a Nikon 35mm still camera, it's 8 perf.

Stephen
  • 0

#3 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 17 June 2006 - 06:41 AM

There is nothing inherent to Vistavision that makes it have more depth of field - in fact - the opposite is true compared to regular 35mm (the bigger the negative, the lesser the depth of field), so that statement isn't really technically correct by Mr. Scorsese. The same could have been achieved on normal 35mm even easier.
But since the Vistavision neg is bigger it means it has less grain, which makes big wide vistas more appealing (wide masters is where resolution counts) which might be what Scorsese was after. Wide vistas was also a bit of Ford trademark - and who can blame him with Monument Valley in the background?

Far And Away was shot on 65mm film, an even bigger format. Cheesy film, but it looks stupendous. To bad its DP, Mikael Salomon, ASC, chose to start directing and put the lightmeter away - he was a talent. His Backdraft still stands as the reference piece today on how to photograph and light fire.

Vistavision is rarely used today. It kind of lingered on until the mid 90's in special effects photography, but I doubt it has seen much use since then. 65mm is also very rare these days, unfortunately - Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet probably being the last big movie shot on the format.
  • 0

#4 Markus

Markus
  • Guests

Posted 17 June 2006 - 07:40 AM

Why is it that a bigger negative has less DOF? Sure it needs more light, but don't allow the bigger lenses more light to come through?
  • 0

#5 Steven J

Steven J
  • Guests

Posted 17 June 2006 - 08:18 AM

Far And Away was shot on 65mm film, an even bigger format. Cheesy film, but it looks stupendous. To bad its DP, Mikael Salomon, ASC, chose to start directing and put the lightmeter away


I totally agree with you there, Salamon also did a great job on Spielbergs' Always, which has some beautiful moments. I only saw Far and Away for the first time last week and the cinematography was the thing that hit me the most.

Back to The Searchers, I see what you are saying. The film does have a great depth of field though, even when they are in interiors. Anyway, it is pity that the format is no longer in use . . . with todays fine grained film stocks and fast lenses, wouldn't this be a fantastic format to shoot with?

Steven
  • 0

#6 Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4708 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Europe

Posted 17 June 2006 - 08:37 AM

Why is it that a bigger negative has less DOF? Sure it needs more light, but don't allow the bigger lenses more light to come through?


Hi,

Like with anamorphic you tend to use lenses of twice the focal length verses acadamy 35.

If you have ever shot on a Hassleblad or large format stills camera you will understand.

Stephen
  • 0

#7 Sam Wells

Sam Wells
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1751 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 17 June 2006 - 08:48 AM

you tend to use lenses of twice the focal length verses acadamy 35.


IOW you make a larger (relatively) size image on the film hence less DOF

-Sam
  • 0

#8 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 June 2006 - 10:49 AM

Yes, VistaVision, like 65mm, would tend to have less depth of field on average but greater sharpness / resolution.

The main difference are the aspect ratios; VistaVision has a Full Aperture of about 1.50 : 1 and was mostly framed for 1.66 or 1.85 when used by Paramount in the 1950's. Later it was used for efx plate photography where often it was framed for cropping to 2.35.

Also, back in the 1950's, plans to make 8-perf 35mm a projection format failed, so the most common way to release VistaVision was in optical reductions to standard 4-perf 35mm for 1.85 projection -- luckily that used to often mean Technicolor dye transfer prints. The combination of the larger negative and the dye transfer printing created beautiful results.

When Robert Harris restored "Vertigo", shot in VistaVision, he had all the elements copied over to 65mm, so 70mm prints could be created, a first for VistaVision.

Remember that when "The Searchers" was shot, the Kodak stock used was 25 ASA, so lighting interior sets to a deep stop wasn't that common (outdoors in sunlight, not a problem). But since large-format movies favored wide and medium shots to show-off the locations and sets, the depth of field didn't look shallow.
  • 0

#9 Leo Anthony Vale

Leo Anthony Vale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2010 posts
  • Other
  • Pittsburgh PA

Posted 17 June 2006 - 11:51 AM

Hi,

Like with anamorphic you tend to use lenses of twice the focal length verses acadamy 35.

---Actually 1.6X

22mm width vs 36mm

---el pedante
  • 0

#10 John Holland

John Holland
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2250 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London England

Posted 17 June 2006 - 12:43 PM

I totally agree with you there, Salamon also did a great job on Spielbergs' Always, which has some beautiful moments. I only saw Far and Away for the first time last week and the cinematography was the thing that hit me the most.

Back to The Searchers, I see what you are saying. The film does have a great depth of field though, even when they are in interiors. Anyway, it is pity that the format is no longer in use . . . with todays fine grained film stocks and fast lenses, wouldn't this be a fantastic format to shoot with?

Steven

On a sunday morning in what ever year " Far and Away" was released , went to "Special Kodak Preview " at the Empire Square , Kodak and Panavision with the new 65mm cameras ,were really trying to push shooting 65mm again { i am all for that } But it just didnt look Super Panavision . I think neg had gone through so many dupes , well looked to me like an anamorphic blow up , in fact have seen a lot better blow ups . ie Raiders of the Lost Ark . same screen , same theater. john holland .
  • 0

#11 Leo Anthony Vale

Leo Anthony Vale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2010 posts
  • Other
  • Pittsburgh PA

Posted 17 June 2006 - 01:57 PM

On a sunday morning in what ever year " Far and Away" was released , went to "Special Kodak Preview " at the Empire Square , Kodak and Panavision with the new 65mm cameras ,were really trying to push shooting 65mm again { i am all for that } But it just didnt look Super Panavision . I think neg had gone through so many dupes , well looked to me like an anamorphic blow up , in fact have seen a lot better blow ups . ie Raiders of the Lost Ark . same screen , same theater. john holland .


---Yes, it was disappointing. The 35mm relase prints of 'Ofelas/Pathfinder' looked better and was a better film.

& 'far and away' did shot some vistavision aerials of the land rush.

---LV
  • 0

#12 timHealy

timHealy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1252 posts
  • Other
  • New York

Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:43 PM

If I remember correctly, during the late 70's, 80's, and early 90's Lucas and ILM utilized the vistavision format for their effects works. I believe the reason was that they needed a large format for their optical compositing work that would be inherently degraded and would come close to the quality of the live action anamorphic work in terms of grain.

best

Tim

Edited by heel_e, 17 June 2006 - 02:44 PM.

  • 0

#13 Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4708 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Europe

Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:56 PM

If I remember correctly, during the late 70's, 80's, and early 90's Lucas and ILM utilized the vistavision format for their effects works. I believe the reason was that they needed a large format for their optical compositing work that would be inherently degraded and would come close to the quality of the live action anamorphic work in terms of grain.

best

Tim


Hi,

Thats correct. They bought the kit very cheaply!

Stephen
  • 0

#14 Filip Plesha

Filip Plesha
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1267 posts
  • Other
  • Croatia

Posted 17 June 2006 - 03:47 PM

I always found it amazing how for cinematography 4-perf 35mm is the line where commercially acceptable results begin, and 8-perf is considered breathtaking (and I don't doubt that),
while in still photography the line of acceptable starts somewhere with 645, and 8-perf 35mm is almost useless for any kind of commercially acceptable work, unless you are going for the grainy look, or in B/W

I think it has to do with the fact that cinematographers from early 20th century have grown and lived on this small format for so long that they accepted grain as a cruicial part of the cinematographic frame, while
photographers spent all their history trying to get rid of the grain, and using huge formats such as 8x10 to accoplish that.
  • 0

#15 Max Jacoby

Max Jacoby
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2955 posts
  • Other

Posted 17 June 2006 - 04:53 PM

A friend of mine worked on the miniature unit of 'Batman Begins' which shot in Vistavision.
  • 0

#16 fstop

fstop
  • Guests

Posted 17 June 2006 - 04:58 PM

If I remember correctly, during the late 70's, 80's, and early 90's Lucas and ILM utilized the vistavision format for their effects works. I believe the reason was that they needed a large format for their optical compositing work that would be inherently degraded and would come close to the quality of the live action anamorphic work in terms of grain.

best

Tim


While it's true that Richard Edlund and John Dykstra picked up cheap VV cameras for Star Wars to stop generation loss, I think Disney and Van Der Veer had been shooting plates on large format VV for some time before. 2001 as well with Kubrick and Tom Howard (although that instant is somewhat relative to the format they were shooting in). I think it really wasn't anything new on Star Wars, but the stunning results they achieved did rub off on their contemporaries such as Zoran Perisic, whose Zoptic process on SUPERMAN used 35mm plates, updated to VV for SUPERMAN II.

Some of the best plate work I've seen is from Santa Claus The Movie, which substituted VV for the superior TODD AO (which I'm suprised never caught on for FX work, even if BOSS film were shooting in 65mm).

Salamon comments I agree with wholeheartedly. I think looking at the credits he shot pretty much EVERYTHING on Backdraft, including the aerial and visual effects stuff. Along with Fraker on 1941 he's the only main unit DP of recent memory to be nominated for a VFX Oscar. Shame he went too far with his assertiveness and became a director...
  • 0

#17 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 June 2006 - 05:17 PM

You have to factor in that motion pictures are made up of a series of frames flashed sequentially, so the grain gets averaged in your brain over a couple of frames. Hence why frame enlargements from movies look grainier than they did projected on a giant screen, and also why freeze frames in movies look grainy.

65mm / Todd-AO is naturally 2.20 : 1, so is not superior in negative area to VistaVision if being used for efx plates for a 1.85 movie.

One of the advantages of VistaVision not being so widescreen is a greater ability to tilt up & down in the frame for a final 2.35 image -- this was used to great effect in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" to add fake camera shake and bounce to all the stop-motion mine car chase footage.

Since Kubrick shot all of "2001" in 65mm, obviously shooting the effects elements in 65mm did not increase quality over the live-action, which led him to extremely tedious but effective techniques like YCM composites and as many latent-image double-exposures as often as possible, plus tabletop cut-out animation on an Oxberry, anything to avoid duping 65mm using color intermediates.

A recent trend started by "Lost in Space" I believe has been to shoot efx plates for an anamorphic movie in Super-35, sort of a step backwards in that the negative area is actually smaller than the original live-action photography. But the reason is the same as one reason to shoot in VistaVision or 65mm, which is to use spherical lenses for close-focus miniature work, plus it's easier to composite spherical elements over each other, or to track CGI to spherical photography.
  • 0

#18 Alan Lasky

Alan Lasky
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 55 posts
  • Other

Posted 17 June 2006 - 05:24 PM

The last film I did where we shot VistaVision was "DINOSAUR" for Disney back in the mid-1990's. DINOSAUR was the film where all the backgrounds were live action and all the characters were 3D CGI. We used several "butterfly" Vista Vision cameras on that job in order to have the extra "ooomph" on the negative for vfx.

I quite liked using those cameras and the extra image area and resolution was worth the extra hassle. I have not seen a VistaVision camera on a job in quite a while though. We were looking at buying the set of PL re-mounted Leica lenses from DINOSAUR for the Origin. I see those lenses all the time, they really were quite sharp.

Alan Lasky
DALSA Digital Cinema
  • 0

#19 fstop

fstop
  • Guests

Posted 17 June 2006 - 05:50 PM

A recent trend started by "Lost in Space" I believe has been to shoot efx plates for an anamorphic movie in Super-35, sort of a step backwards in that the negative area is actually smaller than the original live-action photography. But the reason is the same as one reason to shoot in VistaVision or 65mm, which is to use spherical lenses for close-focus miniature work, plus it's easier to composite spherical elements over each other, or to track CGI to spherical photography.


Was LOST IN SPACE the first? The high speed element of the model photography may have been an element too, budget wise for the VFX department. From what I recall there was one unit shooting motion control and another doing all the in-camera stuff with alot of photosonics work, and crossover with the green screen pyro unit. Just a thought.

Didn't Lucas shoot inserts for his 1997 STAR WARS SEs in super35?

It's funny how when TERMINATOR 2 came out guys like Doug Trumbull were celebrating digital compositing and speaking of how generation loss on composites is now made moot, Jurrasic Park proves no need for large format plates- reading the comments on these boards about 2K DIs and super35 in 2006 it somehow feels like nothing has changed since grubby 35mm optical composites were the norm 40 years ago.
  • 0

#20 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 17 June 2006 - 07:08 PM

Different effects houses had different formats. Richard Edlund's old outfit, Boss Films, did everything on 65mm, for instance. That was also the case for almost all effects work done in England (which was a lot back then), since VV cameras weren't readily available here.
  • 0


Gamma Ray Digital Inc

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Opal

CineTape

Willys Widgets

Visual Products

Glidecam

Technodolly

Paralinx LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

The Slider

Ritter Battery

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Aerial Filmworks

Abel Cine

Wooden Camera

Rig Wheels Passport

Tai Audio

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

CineLab

Metropolis Post

rebotnix Technologies

Wooden Camera

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

Rig Wheels Passport

The Slider

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

Visual Products

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Opal

CineTape