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Close Encounters HD


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#1 Michel Hafner

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 04:58 AM

The new Spielberg approved HD transfer of "Close Encounters" has been released on BR for some time.
Watching it I wondered why so many of the shots have a blurry top and bottom. Only the middle is sharp and in focus. Was that effect typical of anamorphic Panavision lenses in the 70s? Was it unavoidable or even intended?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 12:36 PM

The new Spielberg approved HD transfer of "Close Encounters" has been released on BR for some time.
Watching it I wondered why so many of the shots have a blurry top and bottom. Only the middle is sharp and in focus. Was that effect typical of anamorphic Panavision lenses in the 70s? Was it unavoidable or even intended?


Anamorphics don't have a particularly flat field of focus, particularly when shot close to wide-open, and particularly with older lenses like the C-Series and High-Speeds probably used on "Close Encounters". That's one of the reasons they look different that Super-35 photography, which has that even focus look from edge to edge. I've always thought that one reason anamorphic photography doesn't look like it was just cropped down to 2.39 was that you "sense" the edges of the frame are the edges of the negative, due to the curvature and focus and portholing characteristics. You don't sense there is more picture outside the letterboxing, unlike with Super-35. And because there isn't really any cropping with anamorphic, I think operators tend to put what's important inside the frame more carefully since there is no outside really to let things spill out into.

Of course, the 5-perf 65mm shots would have been spherical and had that Super-35 "cropped" look in the sense that the 65mm camera gate only captures a 2.20 : 1 area of the projected lens image.

When I did a D.I. for "Astronaut Farmer" I did notice that it was easy to get a dark fuzzy edge to the top and bottom of the frame because of a too-tight mattebox once you were stopped down outoors; we slightly zoomed in and cropped out that bit when it was obvious, though probably the anamorphic projector gate would have trimmed some of that.
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#3 Ignacio Aguilar

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 02:03 PM

I have seen that effect on some 70's pictures as well, and I've always thought that it was caused by wide open anamorphic zoom lenses. Check out "The Deer Hunter" (the film DP Vilmos Zsigmond shot right after he left "Close Encounters") and you will notice the softness at the top and the bottom a few times during different scenes. DP Fred Koenekamp was another cinematographer who preferred anamorphic zooms over primes, and both "The Towering Inferno" and "Islands In The Stream" often have that blurry top and bottom while it's pretty clear that a rear mounted zoom was being used.
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#4 Alfredo Melendez Cruz

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 10:42 PM

I've always thought that one reason anamorphic photography doesn't look like it was just cropped down to 2.39 was that you "sense" the edges of the frame are the edges of the negative, due to the curvature and focus and portholing characteristics.



Is it 2.39 or 2.35 ? Anamorphic is 2.35 right?
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 11:16 PM

Technically, it hasn't been 2.35 since the early 1970's...

The current standard for anamorphic projector gate is .825" x .690" (20.96mm x 17.53mm). This comes out to an aspect ratio of 1.1956645 : 1. With a 2X horizontal expansion, it becomes 2.391329 : 1.

The height of the gate was reduced in the 1970's to hide frameline splices better.

http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Anamorphic

2.35, 2.39, or 2.40?

One common misconception about the anamorphic format concerns the actual number of the aspect ratio itself. Since the anamorphic lenses in virtually all 35 mm anamorphic systems provide a 2:1 squeeze; one would logically conclude that a 1.37:1 full academy gate would lead to a 2.74:1 aspect ratio if used with anamorphic lenses. However, due to a difference in the camera gate aperture and projection mask sizes for anamorphic films, the image dimensions used for anamorphic film vary from flat (spherical) counterparts. To complicate matters, the SMPTE standards for the format have varied over time; to further complicate things, pre-1957 prints took up the optical soundtrack space of the print (instead having magnetic sound on the sides), which made for a 2.55:1 ratio.
The first SMPTE definition for anamorphic projection with an optical sound track down the side (PH22.106-1957), made in December 1957, standardized the aperture to 0.839 in by 0.715 in (1.17:1). The aspect ratio for this aperture, after a 2x unsqueeze, rounds to 2.35:1. A new definition was created in October 1970 (PH22.106-1971) which made the vertical dimension slightly smaller in order to make splices less noticeable (as anamorphic prints use more of the negative frame area than any other modern format) when projected. This new aperture size, 0.838 in by 0.700 in, (1.19:1) makes for an unsqueezed ratio of 2.39:1 (more commonly referred to as 2.40:1). The most recent revision, from August 1993 (SMPTE 195-1993), slightly altered the dimensions so as to standardize a common aperture width (0.825 in) for all formats, anamorphic and flat. At these modern dimensions (0.825 in by 0.690 in—1.19:1), the unsqueezed ratio remains at 2.39:1. [2]
Anamorphic prints are still often called Scope or 2.35 by projectionists, cinematographers, and others working in the field, if only by force of habit. 2.39 is in fact what they generally are referring to (unless discussing films using the process between 1958 and 1970), which is itself usually rounded up to 2.40. With the exception of certain specialist and archivist areas, generally 2.35, 2.39, and 2.40 mean the same to most professionals, whether they themselves are even aware of the changes or not.


I'd point out that not all movie theater projection booths have up-to-date aperture masks, some have older masks that may be 2.35 or the older 1970 standard, and on top of that, screen masking & distance to screen, etc. can further crop the sides or top or bottom, creating even more variables for screen shape. And in a telecine suite, one can also vary the amount of letterboxing and the degree to which the image is enlarged or reduced, so even if a transfer is 2.35, for example, it could be more cropped overall than another 2.35 transfer of the same image.
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#6 Ayz Waraich

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 02:12 PM

I've always thought that one reason anamorphic photography doesn't look like it was just cropped down to 2.39 was that you "sense" the edges of the frame are the edges of the negative, due to the curvature and focus and portholing characteristics.


You know, that's the best way I have heard it put by anyone. Most anamorphic frames feel very deliberate and thought out, and I agree that you feel the edges of the compositions. It infuses the images with an odd kind of integrity in a subconscious way... I've always noticed and felt this, but never been able to articulate it.

So well said David.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 30 September 2008 - 10:55 PM

It's similar to one of the reasons I love the set of Ser II cookes I used in school so much. They would ever so slightly vignette in the corners. It was barely noticeable but it made the frame feel closed, cozy even.
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 October 2008 - 12:58 AM

I have seen that effect on some 70's pictures as well, and I've always thought that it was caused by wide open anamorphic zoom lenses.

Right. Also check out the more recent "The Lives of Others" for examples of this effect. Apparently it's a big problem with rear anamorphot zooms.
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