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Is it common to shoot 1.37:1 for movies with many effects?


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#1 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 07:38 PM

I saw part of "Back to the Future III" on cable and lookd it up on IMDB, which reported
this:

" Camera
Panavision Cameras and Lenses

Laboratory
DeLuxe

Film negative format (mm/video inches)
35 mm

Cinematographic process
Spherical

Printed film format
35 mm
70 mm (blow-up)

Aspect ratio
1.37 : 1 (negative ratio)
1.85 : 1 (intended ratio)
1.85 : 1 (negative ratio, special effects)"

I checked and it said pretty much the same thing about the previous two films in
the series, although it mentioned VistaVision in those accounts.

I was kind of surprised by this. Most aspect ratios for 35 mm. films, as reported
on IMDB, are not 1.37:1, for sure. Is this more common in films with lots of
effects?
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#2 Arni Heimir

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 07:55 PM

I saw part of "Back to the Future III" on cable and lookd it up on IMDB, which reported
this:

" Camera
Panavision Cameras and Lenses

Laboratory
DeLuxe

Film negative format (mm/video inches)
35 mm

Cinematographic process
Spherical

Printed film format
35 mm
70 mm (blow-up)

Aspect ratio
1.37 : 1 (negative ratio)
1.85 : 1 (intended ratio)
1.85 : 1 (negative ratio, special effects)"

I checked and it said pretty much the same thing about the previous two films in
the series, although it mentioned VistaVision in those accounts.

I was kind of surprised by this. Most aspect ratios for 35 mm. films, as reported
on IMDB, are not 1.37:1, for sure. Is this more common in films with lots of
effects?


They shoot full aperture and mask it later. By doing this they can raise or lower the height of the frame. Basically reframe the frame.
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#3 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 08:06 PM

They shoot full aperture and mask it later. By doing this they can raise or lower the height of the frame. Basically reframe the frame.


Makes sense. I'm familiar with the idea of reframing the frame from people I
know who shoot full frame video and then give it a wide screen matte of their desired ratio
in their NLE. This often times also allows them to move shots up or down a bit to hide a boom
or something.

However, it seems to me that most films are not shot this way. In the world of spherical lenses
anyway, what makes the difference in approach? Is it simply that for a long shoot it would be
maddening to always be framing and protecting for two aspect ratios, although apparently they
did that with this series, or is there something else? Thank you, Arni.
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#4 Hal Smith

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 08:32 PM

I saw part of "Back to the Future III" on cable and lookd it up on IMDB, which reported
Aspect ratio
1.37 : 1 (negative ratio)
1.85 : 1 (intended ratio)
1.85 : 1 (negative ratio, special effects)"


I've got a 35mm print of "Bull Durham" that is full frame intended for projection in a theatre with a 1.85:1 gate in the projector. It's kinda fun to watch it unmatted since from time to time you see a dialogue mike hanging into the top of the frame, spikes on the deck, there's even one shot taken from the dugout where you can see a mattebox eyebrow or french flag in the top of the frame.
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#5 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 08:37 PM

I've got a 35mm print of "Bull Durham" that is full frame intended for projection in a theatre with a 1.85:1 gate in the projector. It's kinda fun to watch it unmatted since from time to time you see a dialogue mike hanging into the top of the frame, spikes on the deck, there's even one shot taken from the dugout where you can see a mattebox eyebrow or french flag in the top of the frame.



Yeah! I once saw a bunch of trailers before a movie and none of them was matted. It was a learning
experience because I saw how incredibly close, or so it seemed to me, the boom microphones would
be to the actors, even if those booming were hanging the longest booms they had from far away, and
also how close the microphones were to the intended frame line.
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#6 Dominic Case

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:28 PM

However, it seems to me that most films are not shot this way.

On the contrary, most films ARE shot this way.

Since there is room on the negative for the full 1:1.37 height, there is no reason not to expose it. As pointed out it does give the opportunity for reframing in a digital or video finish (though if it's shot professionally this isn't necessary or desirable), but historically it always provided for a compromise framing when transferring for TV and video release.

When TV was only 4x3, virtually every film was panned & scanned rather than letterboxed. You could avoid having to crop quite so much left and right if you zoomed back on the telecine and took in more of the frame height. Typically this would be mostly from the bottom of the frame as mike booms etc would appear at the top as soon as you increase the top of the frame: he bottom was often less sensitive.

The only downside in theatrical projection of widescreen movies shot in 1:1.37 is that the projectionist has the opportunity to rack the projector wrongly. (He or she can do that anyway, but if the print is masked to 1:1.85, it becomes obvious as you'd see the black edge on the screen.)

Usually, if a film goes through a DI process, only the widescreen portion of the frame will be scanned - at 4K resolution this can save a Terabyte or so of memory.
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#7 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 10:34 PM

On the contrary, most films ARE shot this way.

Since there is room on the negative for the full 1:1.37 height, there is no reason not to expose it. As pointed out it does give the opportunity for reframing in a digital or video finish (though if it's shot professionally this isn't necessary or desirable), but historically it always provided for a compromise framing when transferring for TV and video release.

When TV was only 4x3, virtually every film was panned & scanned rather than letterboxed. You could avoid having to crop quite so much left and right if you zoomed back on the telecine and took in more of the frame height. Typically this would be mostly from the bottom of the frame as mike booms etc would appear at the top as soon as you increase the top of the frame: he bottom was often less sensitive.

The only downside in theatrical projection of widescreen movies shot in 1:1.37 is that the projectionist has the opportunity to rack the projector wrongly. (He or she can do that anyway, but if the print is masked to 1:1.85, it becomes obvious as you'd see the black edge on the screen.)

Usually, if a film goes through a DI process, only the widescreen portion of the frame will be scanned - at 4K resolution this can save a Terabyte or so of memory.


Thanks, Dominic. Very helpful and informative.

So generally then people will use a ground glass with their desired aspect
ratio marked for framing and also have 4 x 3 marked? Or would it be more correct to say that
4 x 3 is already there and the desired wider screen aspect ratio markings would be put onto that?

Do projectionists receive films with instructions such as "mask to 1.85:1" or "mask to 2.39:1" or
whatever? Does "rack" the projector mean inserting the specific matte?

In the small amount of 35 mm. that I've shot (Arri 535, Arri BL 4) which was a while ago, I seem to
remember that the ground glass had the top of the 1.85:1 frame lined up with the top of the 4 x 3
frame (as opposed to 16 mm. ground glasses that I remember having the top and bottom of the 4 x 3
frame (then called t.v. safe I believe) a bit above and below either a 1.66:1 or 1.85:1 marking.


Does all this change when using anamorphic lenses that squeeze the image? Haven't shot that way
yet.
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#8 Hal Smith

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:49 AM

Do projectionists receive films with instructions such as "mask to 1.85:1" or "mask to 2.39:1" or
whatever? Does "rack" the projector mean inserting the specific matte?

Prints and trailers are shipped out marked "Scope" or "Flat". "Scope" tells the projectionist to use an anamorphic lens (or adapter) with an Academy full frame aperture gate and "Flat" means use a 1.85 gate with a normal lens.

All trailers are available both Scope and Flat so that they can be spliced into either format print.
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#9 Paul Bruening

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 10:02 AM

Hey Hal,

It's great to hear those terms on this site: "Scope" and "Flat". I still have a habit of referring to taking lenses as scope and flat even though they are projectionist's terms. I guess that gives away the fact that I got my taste for this medium as a projectionist. My first heads were dual '35 Simplexes. They were arcs. God, they were raggedy but I fell in love with them. I could switch the cigarette burns without flaw.
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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 05:39 PM

So generally then people will use a ground glass with their desired aspect
ratio marked for framing and also have 4 x 3 marked? Or would it be more correct to say that
4 x 3 is already there and the desired wider screen aspect ratio markings would be put onto that?

The majority of the time the 4x3 markings are on the ground glass as well, but sometimes they aren't. As an operator I'm sometimes told to "protect" for 4x3 even though the project is 1.85. This basically means, "keep most of the important stuff in 4x3". I believe it's just a precaution for tv, so that less pan and scan will be needed.
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#11 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 08:31 PM

The majority of the time the 4x3 markings are on the ground glass as well, but sometimes they aren't. As an operator I'm sometimes told to "protect" for 4x3 even though the project is 1.85. This basically means, "keep most of the important stuff in 4x3". I believe it's just a precaution for tv, so that less pan and scan will be needed.



Sounds like that could get frustrating at times.
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#12 Arni Heimir

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 11:03 PM

Makes sense. I'm familiar with the idea of reframing the frame from people I
know who shoot full frame video and then give it a wide screen matte of their desired ratio
in their NLE. This often times also allows them to move shots up or down a bit to hide a boom
or something.

However, it seems to me that most films are not shot this way. In the world of spherical lenses
anyway, what makes the difference in approach? Is it simply that for a long shoot it would be
maddening to always be framing and protecting for two aspect ratios, although apparently they
did that with this series, or is there something else? Thank you, Arni.


You could also shoot full frame. make provisions for that, and use it for the TV release and not crop the edges. But obviously crop the top and bottom for the theatrical release.
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#13 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 01:34 AM

You could also shoot full frame. make provisions for that, and use it for the TV release and not crop the edges. But obviously crop the top and bottom for the theatrical release.



That makes sense although in this case, in order to protect not for 4 x 3 but for the cropped version,
probably more headroom would have to be allowed than some directors might like ordinarily just so that
when cropped the shot wouldn't be too tight? Thanks.
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