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Kodak's "A Renaissance of the Techniscope Format"


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#1 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 02:16 AM

Please forgive me for this long post, but I wanted to put all of the information I gathered from the seminar in one place. If you have an interest in 35mm and 2 or 3 perf formats I hope you find something useful.

As a 2 perf 35mm camera owner and fan of the format, I was heartened (a little shocked, really) to see that Kodak was sponsoring a seminar at the Cinegear show held on June 6, 2009 at the Paramount Pictures lot on Melrose.

I have been a fan and aware of the 2 perf Techniscope format since the ‘70s when I was a student. George Lucas shot THX1138 and American Graffiti in the format. Sergio Leone shot his spaghetti westerns in 2 perf. Not only were these iconic films of that time, they made a big impression on me as a young wanna-be independent filmmaker. They were great stories brought to life at very low budgets. Best of all, they were Cinemascope 2.4:1 aspect ratio pictures. The fly in the ointment was the expensive optical blow up and anamorphic squeeze that came at the end of post production that was required to make prints. Those costs were high and continued to rise, eventually killing the format as a financially viable alternative to 4 perf production.

Over the years I have read the occasional article and post about someone who was going to resurrect the format, but it never happened… until now. Ironically, the electronic revolution that is driving film out as a capture medium is also leading the resurrection of the 2 perf Techniscope format. It’s now a way to get the film image you want much less expensively. Producers, directors and DP’s are finding that the cost savings of 2 perf (half the film, half the processing costs compared to 4 perf 35mm) are sometimes allowing them to shoot 35mm film instead of Super 16 or digital. The Kodak seminar was a room full of guys (mostly old, but here were a few young ones) that love to shoot film and want to keep doing it. The panelists provided a good discussion of the current state of the art of the format, and Kodak provided a 2 perf vs 3 perf Super 35 2.4:1 comparison test that intercut the two formats in several different lighting situations and film stocks.

The panel consisted of writer- director Lee Madsen and DP Ben Kufrin who collaborated on the the feature “Curve of Earth”; James Chressanthis, ASC, DP on “Ghost Whisperer” who shot the Kodak 2 perf/3 perf tests; Andy Romanoff, Executive VP of Panavision; Kari Grubin VP Post Production Services at Deluxe and DP Bruce McLeery who recently shot the Western “Shoot First and Pray You Live.” Note: please forgive me and feel free to correct me if there is an error or two in the text. I did the best I could with the notes I was able to take during the seminar.

Here are some of the subjects that came up:

Post workflow: Ms. Grubin from Deluxe made it clear on several occasions that for them, film origination formats S16, 2, 3, or 4 perf 35mm are all treated the exactly the same. Everything they can do for S16 they can do for Super 35 3 perf or 2 perf 35mm. They use Spirit telecine/scanners set up to perform SD or HD telecine or 2k scans of any of these film formats.
Deluxe can provide overnight sync sound 2 perf video dailies. Sound is usually delivered as broadcast wav files and they can sync them up in the overnight dailies telecine process. She mentioned that the ratio of footage to time is about 1:4, so an hour’s worth of footage will need 4 hours of telecine time.

Editing systems: If you’re going to rescan selects in 2k you’re better off going with Avid, as FCP does not support 2 perf keycode logging at this time. If you’re going to finish in 23.98 (SD or HD) it makes no difference which editing system you use. There is an inexpensive keycode reader upgrade that reads 2 perf and they have it.

Bruce McLeery made some interesting observations. A bit nervous about registration with the 2 perf Panavision movement, he shot effects plates using a dual-pin registered 4 perf Panastar with a 2 perf groundglass installed. He stated that one needs to protect, and respect, the 2.4 frame as there is little room for error. It’s much harder to crop out mistakes than with 3 or 4 perf Super35. An advantage of this is that there is little room for others to tamper with the frame in presentation other than perhaps some limited pan-and-scan in 16x9 cropping for television. He pointed out that “financially it’s so attractive” that it’s worth these limitations.

It was noted that the format is apparently becoming fairly popular in Europe, though I personally haven’t seen that it has taken off any more over there than it has here.

Mr. Chressanthis was happy to try some 2 perf shooting on the show “Ghost Whisperer.” When intercut with the 3 perf they usually shoot, the producers were unable to tell the difference between the formats. This can be important because there are no high speed 2 perf cameras at this time, so high speed work will usually be filmed with a 3 perf camera and intercut with 2 perf footage. Also, when shooting the Kodak tests, there was no problem editing 2 perf and 3 perf together in FCP.

The legendary DP Vilmos Zsigmond was in the audience and Mr. Chressanthis asked if he had used the 2 perf format. He responded that he had photographed about 5 movies in the ‘60s in Techniscope.

Ben Kurfin, DP of the feature drama “Curve of Earth” said he and the director wanted to work in the 2.4:1 aspect ratio, but knew they were going to be working in low light levels which meant using fast spherical rather than slow anamorphic lenses. Wide anamorphics from Panavision were hard to come by at the time as well. 2 perf’s 50% saving in raw stock and processing cost over 4 perf Super 35 or anamorphic and 33% savings over 3 perf Super 35 sealed the deal. Mr Kurfin also noted the potential for time saving during production since a 1000’ load lasts 22 minutes in 2 perf. This significantly reduces the number of camera reloads required.

There are two 2 perf apertures. One is based on ½ the height of the Academy aperture, the new one is based on ½ full aperture height (as used in Super 35). The issue was brought up specifically in reference to the use of an old Techniscope converted Arri IIC. Ms. Grubin said there should be no problems mixing the two apertures as long as frame and focus charts were shot with all cameras (as they should be on any production).

The question of “bleeding” between frames was asked. Since the frame line in 2 perf is so thin, problems like image bleed, gate flare from direct bright light sources and hairs in the gate are all of much greater concern. Mr. Romanoff stated that there have been no issues with the 2 perf Panavision movements concerning image bleed or gate flare. Mr. Kurfin noted that they did have a few hair-in-the-gate moments but that they were not significant.

Since 2 perf is (like 3 perf) and acquisition only format, the question of dailies and projected lens and camera tests came up. Ms. Grubin stated that telecine or a scan of the negative were the only way to get viewable output from 2 perf for tests. Mr. Kurfin noted that John Rodriguez at Panavision had made a 2 perf aperture gate for a standard 4 perf projector. This allowed the viewing of a projected positive print on a big screen, though only half the frames would be projected, halving the screen time. I suggested a much simpler way to get dailies and tests on the big screen. Make a workprint of your 2 perf negative. Have it projected in a standard 4 perf projector. There will be 2 images on the screen, one above the other and the action will be double time. This should be entirely adequate to evaluate lens and camera tests as well as evaluating any footage during production. It requires no special equipment or modifications (I projected my first 2 perf camera tests in exactly this manner at Deluxe).

The archival qualities of film were discussed. The New York Times recently published an article on the subject and it was found that digital archiving costs 5 times more than archiving film. The suggestion was made that our kids are more likely to be able to watch silent films of the 1920s than films produced digitally today.

We were then treated to Kodak’s side by side tests of 2 perf and 3 perf Super 35. Mr. Chressanthis photographed a short love story which included day and night exteriors and also day and night interiors. I believe the exteriors were shot on Kodak 5207 250D and the interiors on 5219 500T. Two Panavision cameras (one 2 perf, one Super 35 3 perf) were mounted side by side and simultaneously captured nearly identical images for later comparison. The short was projected digitally in HDCAM SR 4:2:2, as well as an anamorphic 35mm print which I believe was a film out from HDCAM SR 4:4:4. The digital projection looked very good. The film print looked better (it also filled up the screen). The 3 perf and 2 perf images were identified and either cut together or a few wipes between the formats were used. Only a few times could the slightest difference be noticed between the two formats. Granularity was about identical, sharpness was indistinguishable, once or twice the contrast was not identical to the 3 perf. Even an optical push-in didn’t cause significant degrading of the 2 perf image. If the shots had not been labeled I don’t think anyone could tell the difference between the two.

It was great to see the 2 perf Techniscope format given its due by the likes of Kodak and Panavision. Low budget filmmakers have long been aware of the format, and recently there have been low cost cameras and a post work flow available through independents like Cinelicious and Indi35. All of 2 perf’s advantages remain intact, while improved film stocks and digital post have done away with the few disadvantages of the format.

Bruce Taylor
www.indi35.com
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#2 Paul Bruening

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 07:41 AM

Thanks, Bruce.
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#3 Thomas Dobbie

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 03:28 PM

Bruce,

great post,very interesting reading,thanks for taking the trouble.

Tom.
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#4 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 03:45 PM

The fly in the ointment was the expensive optical blow up and anamorphic squeeze that came at the end of post production that was required to make prints. Those costs were high and continued to rise, eventually killing the format as a financially viable alternative to 4 perf production.


The technicolor IB process used optical printing for making the matrices. They had to be exposed through the base. The extra cost of an optical blow-up, at least as far as technicolor was concerned, wasn't a factor until they discontinued the IB process.

I had Technicolor literature about techniscope. They claimed it was an alternative for producers who could not otherwise afford to shot color. they gave a cut rate for the 4-perf dailies, charging the same per foot as 4-perf contact dailies. Apparently they expected to make their profit on the IB release prints.

The legendary DP Vilmos Zsigmond was in the audience and Mr. Chressanthis asked if he had used the 2 perf format. He responded that he had photographed about 5 movies in the ‘60s in Techniscope.


Two of these were produced and written by Arch Hall Sr. & starred Arch Hall Jr.

'Deadwood '76' and 'the Nasty Rabbit' AKA 'Spies-a-Go-Go'
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#5 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 08:26 PM

The extra cost of an optical blow-up, at least as far as technicolor was concerned, wasn't a factor until they discontinued the IB process.
They gave a cut rate for the 4-perf dailies, charging the same per foot as 4-perf contact dailies. Apparently they expected to make their profit on the IB release prints.


Mr. Vale, thank you for your always interesting comments. Years ago I had read something about 2 perf as a kind of marketing scheme for Technicolor's proprietary release printing process. That they kept the lab costs artificially low to generate more release print business. They buried the optical costs. IIRC, when producers had to pay the real costs for optical work the advantages of the format started to go away.

I was pleased to write the summary, it seemed a shame to let all that information slip away at the end of the session.

Spies-a-Go-Go. Now that's what I call a title!
spies_a_go_go.jpg


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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 14 June 2009 - 03:05 AM

The fly in the ointment was the expensive optical blow up and anamorphic squeeze that came at the end of post production that was required to make prints. Those costs were high and continued to rise, eventually killing the format as a financially viable alternative to 4 perf production.


The main thing that killed it 40 years ago was the producers who chose to use it -- not the few movies you've heard of, but the many you haven't. As a cheap way to get a picture in the can, it attracted the very people least likely to be able to pay their bills in the end. Not a smart business move to go after that niche market, the labs eventually realized. ;-)

How does the grain compare with 3 perf and Super 16 in these latest tests? That's the main issue for HDTV use, the ATSC encoders choke on typical 16mm grain.





-- J.S.
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#7 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 14 June 2009 - 08:14 PM

Thanks for posting!

Anything that gets people to shoot film is a good thing. Some young film makers still believe in film. I would love to be able change the perception in the general public that film is dead or dying or for old people.

Currently there is thread on the CML about a German DP whose 2-perf footage was mishandled somewhere along the line in Europe and it looks too grainy. Proof that it still is not completely understood how to make the best out of it . . .

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 14 June 2009 - 08:16 PM.

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#8 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 14 June 2009 - 10:35 PM

The main thing that killed it 40 years ago was the producers who chose to use it -- Not a smart business move to go after that niche market, the labs eventually realized. ;-)

How does the grain compare with 3 perf and Super 16 in these latest tests? That's the main issue for HDTV use, the ATSC encoders choke on typical 16mm grain.
-- J.S.


Good point about that niche market, it was mostly "sub-prime". (Spies-a-Go-Go?)

Unfortunately there was no representation of S16 in the demonstration, the difference between 3 perf and 2 perf was not perceptable to those who sat in the audience. The demo included presentation of projected HDCAM SR 4:2:2 and HDCAM SR 4:4:4 versions that all looked excellent, I don't think they addressed ATSC encoders, that's an good question, maybe I can get Kodak to answer it.

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#9 Ben Kufrin

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 05:43 PM

. The Kodak seminar was a room full of guys (mostly old, but here were a few young ones) that love to shoot film and want to keep doing it. The panelists provided a good discussion of the current state of the art of the format, and Kodak provided a 2 perf vs 3 perf Super 35 2.4:1 comparison test that intercut the two formats in several different lighting situations and film stocks.

The panel consisted of writer- director Lee Madsen and DP Ben Kufrin who collaborated on the the feature “Curve of Earth”; James Chressanthis, ASC, DP on “Ghost Whisperer” who shot the Kodak 2 perf/3 perf tests; Andy Romanoff, Executive VP of Panavision; Kari Grubin VP Post Production Services at Deluxe and DP Bruce McLeery who recently shot the Western “Shoot First and Pray You Live.” Note: please forgive me and feel free to correct me if there is an error or two in the text. I did the best I could with the notes I was able to take during the seminar.

Mr. Chressanthis was happy to try some 2 perf shooting on the show “Ghost Whisperer.” When intercut with the 3 perf they usually shoot, the producers were unable to tell the difference between the formats. This can be important because there are no high speed 2 perf cameras at this time, so high speed work will usually be filmed with a 3 perf camera and intercut with 2 perf footage. Also, when shooting the Kodak tests, there was no problem editing 2 perf and 3 perf together in FCP.


Ben Kurfin, DP of the feature drama “Curve of Earth” said he and the director wanted to work in the 2.4:1 aspect ratio, but knew they were going to be working in low light levels which meant using fast spherical rather than slow anamorphic lenses. Wide anamorphics from Panavision were hard to come by at the time as well. 2 perf’s 50% saving in raw stock and processing cost over 4 perf Super 35 or anamorphic and 33% savings over 3 perf Super 35 sealed the deal. Mr Kurfin also noted the potential for time saving during production since a 1000’ load lasts 22 minutes in 2 perf. This significantly reduces the number of camera reloads required.


We were then treated to Kodak’s side by side tests of 2 perf and 3 perf Super 35. Mr. Chressanthis photographed a short love story which included day and night exteriors and also day and night interiors. I believe the exteriors were shot on Kodak 5207 250D and the interiors on 5219 500T. Two Panavision cameras (one 2 perf, one Super 35 3 perf) were mounted side by side and simultaneously captured nearly identical images for later comparison. The short was projected digitally in HDCAM SR 4:2:2, as well as an anamorphic 35mm print which I believe was a film out from HDCAM SR 4:4:4. The digital projection looked very good. The film print looked better (it also filled up the screen). The 3 perf and 2 perf images were identified and either cut together or a few wipes between the formats were used. Only a few times could the slightest difference be noticed between the two formats. Granularity was about identical, sharpness was indistinguishable, once or twice the contrast was not identical to the 3 perf. Even an optical push-in didn’t cause significant degrading of the 2 perf image. If the shots had not been labeled I don’t think anyone could tell the difference between the two.

Bruce Taylor
www.indi35.com


Bruce, I apologize for this late response but work has kept me consumed for the moment.
Thank you for your interest and recent posting regarding the 2-perf presentation I participated in with Kodak at Cine Gear.

I just wanted to make a point or two of clarification that would be good to note as well as attaching a link from the latest July '09 issue of KODAK InCamera to further inform our work on the feature I shot and Lee Madsen directed, "Curve of Earth."
http://motion.kodak....urveOfEarth.htm

Jim Cressanthis' who also participated in the 2-perf panel had his own sample footage that he showed completely independepent from ours.
Jim's footage expertly compared 2 to 3 perf in a single comprehensive test for workflow in 1:78 for television.
Our test was to show a 2-perf 2:40 workflow for feature films through digital projection and subsequent DI anamorphic film out- right from our color timed HDCAM SR master.

What Lee and I presented were in fact two completed scenes that we chose from ,” Curve of Earth" (incidentally, the movie is currently finishing up in post).

First, we chose to show two completed scenes that we pulled from the movie, (shot 2-perf, 2:40, on 5218 and 5205 VISION 2), color timed on a DaVinci at Deluxe in HDCAM SR 4:4:4 and subsequently filmed out to an anamorphic 35mm print. What you saw from my presentation was first, the two scenes digitally projected in HDCAM SR, then secondly a film projection of the same two scenes from the filmed-out full 2:40 anamorphic print. The print especially, as you noted looked quite good... better than the HDCAM SR.

Though Jim Cressanthis and I both intended for our HDCAM SR tests to be projected in 4:4:4 on a 2K projector, the projection facility only provided 4:2:2 on an older HD projector (not 2K). Certainly the slightly diminished quality of the digital projection for my purposes anyway, only served to further enhance how good the anamorphic print looked against a the digital projection .

Thank you again for joining the discussion at Cine Gear and for your posting.
Best,

Ben Kufrin
Director of Photography
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#10 Mitch Gross

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Posted 04 July 2009 - 09:43 PM

We have a major Hollywood feature starting next week using two of our brand-spankin' new Aaton Penelope cameras in 2-perf. As soon as I know that the studio is okay with releasing details we will but until then I can note that the industry is very interested in this format.
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#11 Tim Carroll

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 10:28 AM

We have a major Hollywood feature starting next week using two of our brand-spankin' new Aaton Penelope cameras in 2-perf. As soon as I know that the studio is okay with releasing details we will but until then I can note that the industry is very interested in this format.


Mitch,

Would it violate confidentiality if you told us what lenses they were using with the 2-Perf Penelopes?

Best,
-Tim
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#12 Mitch Gross

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 09:45 PM

Master Primes and Angenieux Optimo zooms (various sizes).
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#13 Michael Collier

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 08:21 PM

I just saw "hunger" shot in two perf, and it looked decent. I had a few issues with the way it was shot, but never saw bleed through (even during the ARDUOUS scene with the big blown out windows on the top of the screen.)

It did appear to be just slightly softer than I would have liked to have seen, but this could have been for any number of reasons. The best I could find on the lenses were Zeiss, but no model. So they might be older lenses, or lenses that were slightly out, or maybe the DI was cheap and softened the image a bit. Maybe they used diffusion (though I didn't really feel diffusion, it just felt soft). Any number of things could have affected the sharpness of the picture.

Done properly I think it could be a decently sharp format. Grain wasn't an issue on that film for me (v2 250D mostly from what I read) so I feel the softness was lens or DI related.

I would love to see another film to see if that was just a choice that particular production made. Definitely let us know what that film is when you can Mitch, I am sure a big feature won't have to resort to older softer lenses and I might get a better taste of Technoscope.
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