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Barrel distortion on "Halloween"


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 12:39 AM

I finally got the chance to see Halloween last night the way it should be shown. I've seen it MANY time before but always panned and scanned but last night for the first time I saw it in wide-screen on my home theater projection screen and was amazed at the amount of anamorphic barrel distortion in the picture. In the shots of the clapboard Myers house it was particularly evident. In a weird sorta way it worked for the piece which made me wonder if this was intentional, you know kind of the scene being twisted and distorted as a metaphoric for Micheal Myers' mind, OR if it was the combination of low light and 1970s bent glass that did this and that's just the way it was back in the day. That's was the other thing that amazed me, the really dark scenes they were able to film using the kinda film available at the time. This is of particular interest to me at the moment as I am panning a horror film shot in anamorphic with a LOT of night work. Any thoughts on this? B)
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 01:16 AM

It's been years since I've seen the movie so I can't comment directly. I don't know which lenses were used.

All anamorphics have some barrel distortion, some models more than others, and more visibly at the shorter focal lengths. Lower light levels or wider apertures don't really effect barrel distortion, but instead will cause a drop off in resolution/contrast and create very shallow depth of field. Sometimes shapes can get distorted when they're out of focus (like specular highlights appearing as ellipses), but that's different from barrel distortion.

Don't assume a dark-looking scene was shot in low light levels, though. Sometimes you're actually using quite a bit of light to get a normal or even underexposed image when shooting at high f-stops and/or with slow film. What looks like T2.0 at 500 ASA by today's standards may actually have been shot at T5.6 and 100 ASA.

Incidentally that house is walking distance from where I live, and I saw them filming the new Rob Zombie version only a couple blocks away.
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 02:44 AM

He's gonna screw it up, add a buncha blood and gore to it and total f*ck it up. It's gonna be like when Tim Burton tried to re-make Planet of the Apes or when Gus Van Sant tried to re-make Psycho. Ya just don't screw with perfection. There is absolutely nothing Zombie can add to make the movie any better. It's holds up as good as when it was first made so there is NO reason to re-make it PARTICULARLY by a hack like Rob Zombie. He should stick to writing Gothic rock songs, at least that, he's good at.

Anyway, it's cool you live so close to the house, I wonder if the people who live there put on a pair of mechanic's overalls and a white William Shatner mask and scare the Hell out of trick or treaters on Halloween :D BUT, I digress.

I'm surprised if they where actually using massive amounts of light on the interiors. If so they got it exactly right, it looks like all they used were ambient practicals. I did notice the soft focus as they moved though darked alcoves between lighted rooms and up the stairs, so I see exactly what you mean by softness. Max was saying in the FAQ on anamorphics that 4 to 5.6 were good stops to shoot at. I think with the Lomos, they stop down to 2.4 or 2.5 but are really only effective at 3.3 or higher, which will be a bit of a problem for me because we'll be shooting in the desert for a majority of the film. Of coarse he will be using 5218 and We have 3 or 4 Dinos available so that should help but I and my DP have to find the balance so there's enough light to shoot with but we still have that dark, ominous feel to give it a creepy look . That's one thing I admire about Halloween, that they seemed to manage that balance very well. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 August 2007 - 02:45 AM.

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#4 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 08:57 AM

I haven't seen "Halloween" in a while, but if I recall correctly, James is right and "Halloween" was shot at low light levels for the time, mostly between T/2.8 and T/4 for most of its scenes with a 100T stock (5247). You can tell this by looking at how shallow the depth of field is, despite the fact that they sticked to wide lenses a lot (40 or 50mm anamorphics, which also caused the barrel distortion you describe).

I would assume they used C-Series Panavision anamorphics, as the high-speeds were developed a few years later (Dean Cundey used a 50mm T/1.1 anamorphic lens - a bit stopped down- for some night exteriors shots in "Escape from NY"). Perhaps they had to push the stock as well in order to stop down the lenses a bit more.

As expected, the new "Halloween" film has avoided all this problems using the Super-35 format...
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 09:44 AM

I haven't seen "Halloween" in a while, but if I recall correctly, James is right and "Halloween" was shot at low light levels for the time, mostly between T/2.8 and T/4 for most of its scenes with a 100T stock (5247).


Low light "for the time" is correct, because T/2.8 at 100 ASA is still 100fc of illumination needed (though the movie was probably forced to 200 ASA like most people did back then.)
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 10:49 PM

I haven't seen "Halloween" in a while, but if I recall correctly, James is right and "Halloween" was shot at low light levels for the time, mostly between T/2.8 and T/4 for most of its scenes with a 100T stock (5247). You can tell this by looking at how shallow the depth of field is, despite the fact that they sticked to wide lenses a lot (40 or 50mm anamorphics, which also caused the barrel distortion you describe).

I would assume they used C-Series Panavision anamorphics, as the high-speeds were developed a few years later (Dean Cundey used a 50mm T/1.1 anamorphic lens - a bit stopped down- for some night exteriors shots in "Escape from NY"). Perhaps they had to push the stock as well in order to stop down the lenses a bit more.

As expected, the new "Halloween" film has avoided all this problems using the Super-35 format...


I did notice they tended to shay with wide angle lenses, do you know what the reason might have been? Was it for ascetic purposes, to create a mood and look for the film or was it because they wanted to get as much light to the film as possible so they could make lower light levels work? 1.1 is a pretty fast lens, I didn't realize they had those in '78, that would explain why they were able to go with less light. BTW Dave, if you'll excuse a basic question, I've never heard the term "forced the film" before, what exactly does that mean, how do you "force" the film's ASA rating?

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 August 2007 - 10:50 PM.

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#7 Michael Nash

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 02:26 AM

I did notice they tended to shay with wide angle lenses, do you know what the reason might have been? Was it for ascetic purposes, to create a mood and look for the film or was it because they wanted to get as much light to the film as possible so they could make lower light levels work? 1.1 is a pretty fast lens, I didn't realize they had those in '78, that would explain why they were able to go with less light. BTW Dave, if you'll excuse a basic question, I've never heard the term "forced the film" before, what exactly does that mean, how do you "force" the film's ASA rating?


Push processing

I don't know that asceticism and filmmaking really go together :P. Just kidding; I'm sure you meant "aesthetic reasons"... I'm sure aesthetics and visual style was a big part of the Carpenter's/Cundy's choice.

Wide angle lenses don't allow any more light to hit the film than longer focal lengths, although some longer lenses may not open quite as wide as some wide angles. The difference would be more in the depth of field, where a wide angle lens would hold more in focus at a given f-stop compared to a longer focal length lens.
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#8 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 04:39 AM

1.1 is a pretty fast lens, I didn't realize they had those in '78, that would explain why they were able to go with less light.


I meant Cundey used the T/1.1 lens a few years later, for "Escape from NY". Dante Spinotti also used that lens in "Heat" (1995).

"Halloween" would have been shot on the standard C-Series anamorphics that were available at the time (T/2.3 - T/2.8, as it varies from lens to lens).

I did notice they tended to shay with wide angle lenses, do you know what the reason might have been? Was it for ascetic purposes, to create a mood and look for the film or was it because they wanted to get as much light to the film as possible so they could make lower light levels work?


John Carpenter has always been very fond of wide angle lenses anamorphic lenses and all his films have been shot that way, even when he didn't need the extra depth from them. Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski and Steven Spielberg are other filmakers who also tend to use wide-angle lenses a lot.
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#9 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 09:50 PM

Push processing

I don't know that asceticism and filmmaking really go together :P. Just kidding; I'm sure you meant "aesthetic reasons"... I'm sure aesthetics and visual style was a big part of the Carpenter's/Cundy's choice.

Wide angle lenses don't allow any more light to hit the film than longer focal lengths, although some longer lenses may not open quite as wide as some wide angles. The difference would be more in the depth of field, where a wide angle lens would hold more in focus at a given f-stop compared to a longer focal length lens.


Damn Spell check! :D Although, I don't think asceticism and filmmaking are mutually exclusive, I find filmmaking very spiritual....at times :rolleyes:. In all honesty, the only reason I do it other than because I enjoy it is it's the one thing I can do well enough to give something back to society, for what it's worth. I suppose that's spiritual in it's way.

I'm surprised that wider lenses don't let more light in, I figure the larger front element would gather more light than a longer lens. Thanks for the link, I wasn't aware "pushed" and "forced" were the same thing. Just chalk it up to my inexperience, thanks for clearing that up. I can see why he would want a greater DOF in those kinda low light conditions.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 13 August 2007 - 09:52 PM.

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#10 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 10:14 PM

I meant Cundey used the T/1.1 lens a few years later, for "Escape from NY". Dante Spinotti also used that lens in "Heat" (1995).


Yeah but that was only 3 years later, I thought they may have been available at the time. If he was still using it in 1995 then it was still viable, when was the break in quality between modern anamorphics and the old school stuff?


"Halloween" would have been shot on the standard C-Series anamorphics that were available at the time (T/2.3 - T/2.8, as it varies from lens to lens).
John Carpenter has always been very fond of wide angle lenses anamorphic lenses and all his films have been shot that way, even when he didn't need the extra depth from them. Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski and Steven Spielberg are other filmakers who also tend to use wide-angle lenses a lot.


All filmmakers I admire greatly. I, myself, tend to favor wider angle lenses. Nice to know I'm in good company. Who tends to use a lot of long lenses in their work? B)
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#11 Michael Nash

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 10:15 PM

I'm surprised that wider lenses don't let more light in, I figure the larger front element would gather more light than a longer lens.


Wide angle lenses don't necessarily have larger front elements than longer lenses (although the front element is usually more convex in shape). Some long lenses (including most cine zooms) actually have larger front elements than wide angles, to maintain a low f-number.
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#12 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 02:47 PM

1.1 is a pretty fast lens, I didn't realize they had those in '78, that would explain why they were able to go with less light.


Panavision had a 50/1 from almost the beginning. Came out with 50/1.1 a bit later.
I think Corman used one of them for night exteriors on 'The Secret Invasion' 1964.

Escher used barrel distortion in many prints. And said it was how the human eye actually sees perspective. The back of the eye is not a flat plane.

One Escher book showed a 14th or 15th century french painting with barrel distortion.

That made me accept it as okay.
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#13 Chris Keth

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 03:06 PM

Panavision had a 50/1 from almost the beginning. Came out with 50/1.1 a bit later.
I think Corman used one of them for night exteriors on 'The Secret Invasion' 1964.

Escher used barrel distortion in many prints. And said it was how the human eye actually sees perspective. The back of the eye is not a flat plane.

One Escher book showed a 14th or 15th century french painting with barrel distortion.

That made me accept it as okay.


There were a lot of renaissance paintings with perspective distortion incorporated, depending on how they were intended to be displayed. There are some with very skinny people they were meant for up very high, where perspective would normalize the proportions. The one with barrel distortion, I would be willing to bet, was for a space where you had to view the work from pretty close.
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#14 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 03:17 PM

The one with barrel distortion, I would be willing to bet, was for a space where you had to view the work from pretty close.


It was a manuscript illustration. Close viewing, yes.
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#15 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 11:26 PM

Panavision had a 50/1 from almost the beginning. Came out with 50/1.1 a bit later.
I think Corman used one of them for night exteriors on 'The Secret Invasion' 1964.

Escher used barrel distortion in many prints. And said it was how the human eye actually sees perspective. The back of the eye is not a flat plane.

One Escher book showed a 14th or 15th century french painting with barrel distortion.

That made me accept it as okay.


Just out of curiosity why aren't ALL anamorphic fast or all lenses for that matter? I have to check out "The Secret Invasion". I love Corman's work but I haven't seen that one

As for barrel distortion being good to some extent, as like I said before, the barrel distortion in Halloween worked wonderfully well metaphorically for the piece, to the point that I had to ask myself it it was intentional. I think it only becomes a problem when you want to shoot something WITHOUT that distortion foe astetic. I suppose you may have to is some instances use sphericals and live with the loss of sharpness between the 2.
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#16 Michael Nash

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 01:18 AM

Just out of curiosity why aren't ALL anamorphic fast or all lenses for that matter?


That's kind of like saying, "why can't all cars go 200 miles per hour?" Because it's not always practical or necessary, and some other factor might be more desirable. When building a lens you can optimize it for one or a couple features, but not for all features. Sometimes you have to make a choice between things like speed, weight, minimum focus, front diameter, overall cost, etc. So what happens when you want a small size/weight and a long focal length? You give up something else, like speed.
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#17 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 10:26 PM

That's kind of like saying, "why can't all cars go 200 miles per hour?"


I ask myself that very same question almost every single day! :lol: I personally think Hyundais outa do at least 180, BUT I see what you mean. I woulda figured, though, with anamorphics being so let us say "light intensive", the trend woulda been towards the majority being fast. Is there any real significant advantages standard speed anamorphics have over fast anamorphics other than manufacturing costs?

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 15 August 2007 - 10:27 PM.

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#18 Michael Nash

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 10:38 PM

Is there any real significant advantages standard speed anamorphics have over fast anamorphics other than manufacturing costs?


How much more shallow does your depth of field need to be? And how good is your focus puller? Forgetting the MTF drop off of wider apertures for a moment, you often want a moderately "fat" stop with anamorphics just so you stand the chance of something being in focus!

Remember that anamorphics can be large and heavy also. I'm not an expert in optics but I do know that there are always tradeoffs. Cost aside, a fast anamorphic in certain focal lengths could become an unwieldy beast (as some of them are already).
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#19 Michael Nash

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 07:59 PM

Okay so this thread got me curious and I watched it last night. It was really eerie seeing my own neighborhood, through a time warp! I didn't live here yet when I first saw the film, years ago.

One thing that impressed me was what a low-budget film it was, yet they made good use of the visuals they could pull off to tell a compelling, and frightening story. Of course the horror genre has evolved quite a bit since 1978, but at the time this was groundbreaking in its own way and very chilling.

Yes, there was a lot of barrel distortion, and the occasional shallow depth of field shot. But honestly I didn't see anything that indicated it was shot in low light levels. Only the blooming practical in the one living room (where Curtis is sitting with the young boy) looks blown out, but that could be from a photoflood bulb. Everything else looked like more-or-less typical "movie" lighting, with the deep black shadows that you get from keying at a high level and exposing that down a little, with no fill.

screenshot6.jpeg

One thing that cracked me up the first time I saw the movie, and again when I saw it last night, is the mis-match when the Loomis girl enters the house she's sitting at. The front door is clearly on the right side of the house, with the living room on the left. When we cut to the interior of her coming through the door, we see the living room to the right of the door!

screenshot3.jpeg
screenshot4.jpeg

According to the documentary on the disc, the street with the two houses across from each other was actually in West Hollywood. But the rest of it, including the Myer's house (now moved across the street, but on the same block), is all right here. I was going to take some pictures and post them here, but someone has already done it for me!

http://www.seeing-st...html#MyersHouse
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