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The Big Trail


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 10:39 AM

I haven't seen the movie yet, but some time ago I read the original American Cinematographer article on it when it came out. You can read the article here:
http://www.widescree...eur-sep1930.htm

Anyway, I was just over at the dvdbeaver.com review site and saw these screen grabs from "The Big Trail":
http://www.dvdbeaver...ail_blu-ray.htm

I find the differences between the widescreen and square compositions to be interesting. First of all, despite what Arthur Edeson says in the A.C. article, he did not match field of view or even composition in each set-up. Sometimes the 35mm version has a more telephoto view, as if he had just used a 50mm on both cameras and let the 70mm version have double the field of horizontal view. Maybe it was a case of occasionally using the two cameras side-by-side, I don't know. There is also a tendency towards center-framing in both versions compared to modern widescreen composition -- it may be just from the habit of composing for a square format like Movietone where off-center framing is less dramatic.

The 2:1 frames are quite lovely though occasionally I prefer the square version, like one shot of two cowboys where you see more of the costume in the more vertical frame.
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#2 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:35 AM

Thanks David that was a great article! And I think the phrase "Grandeur film" should be reintroduced into our vocabulary.

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#3 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:37 AM

Also the problems he describes with the film rubbing the edges of the magazine and buckeling.
True pioneer!
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 12:22 PM

10 years ago I gathered what early A.C. articles I could find on the first widescreen revolution (in the early 1930's just after sound came out) -- a revolution that failed, maybe due to the Great Depression, until the early 1950's -- and gave them to Marty Hart over at the American Widescreen Museum. He put the articles in a section named after me:
http://www.widescree...reen/mullen.htm
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#5 Kieran Scannell

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 02:19 PM

Treasure chest David Thanks! Fascinating to read how things really haven't changed that much in terms of new technology.
Also fascinating to read that it took another two decades before it was seriously embraced.
Also good to see that ten years ago you were still considered "a nice young man"
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