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Move the numbers, make 16mm wider !

Variscope Varispect

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#1 Doug Palmer

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 04:48 PM

Back in the 1950s and 60s certain film-makers were experimenting with wider images on 16mm film, without using anamorphics.   In February I got emails from Steve Buckingham in Australia,  describing the work of his late father.  Laurie Buckingham had invented a system which utilized nearly the full width of the film, giving something like 2.2:1 ratio.  And as I have discovered, there were others carrying out these projects.  Ian Smith in UK called his system 'Variscope'.  Yet despite the obvious advantages over anamorphic the ideas of these unsung widescreen pioneers were never adopted by manufacturers.  But they can be done fairly easily on a DIY basis.

 

Is it time to take another look ?  Trouble is, these days the film manufacturers'  ID marks and numbers tend to interfere with such wide images.  It would mean their cooperation, making them less intrusive. But wouldn't it be worth it to enable higher definition widescreen ?  

 

See

http://filmisfine.co...m-become-wider/

http://filmisfine.co...screen-pioneer/

 


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#2 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 04:58 PM

Sounds like a good idea but what about lenses? Wouldn't you need a lens that covers the 35 frame to cover that? I doubt 16mm lenses would cover that. Maybe not even S16.


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#3 Doug Palmer

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Posted 29 April 2014 - 05:19 PM

Sounds like a good idea but what about lenses? Wouldn't you need a lens that covers the 35 frame to cover that? I doubt 16mm lenses would cover that. Maybe not even S16.

Somehow back in those days, they managed to use 16mm lenses. I have a sample of Ian Smith's film, looks sharp but not sure of focal length lens. I think he used Switar.

 

http://filmisfine.co...ented-super-16/

 

Laurie Buckingham in his AC article Nov. 64 says he used Vidicon.  He got the edges of the image sharp by curving the rear pressure plate of his Bolex and used an air pressure pump that was activated each frame !  I would think S.16 lenses today would mostly cover.


Edited by Doug Palmer, 29 April 2014 - 05:24 PM.

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#4 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 30 April 2014 - 01:36 PM

Super 16 is here since several decades, it is an ISO standard and supported by manufacturers of film stock, cameras, lenses, telecines, scanners, film printers, animation cameras, and many more than I can think of. No need to invent yet another format. Those Keykode numbers on the perforation side are mighty useful for negative conforming, scanning from edit list, etc.

We have worked on about a dozen Super16 features that were blown up to Cinemascope 2.35 anamorphic format via optical printer and digital scanner. Let's concentrate on using existing formats with existing tools.


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#5 Doug Palmer

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 05:50 AM

Super 16 is here since several decades, it is an ISO standard and supported by manufacturers of film stock, cameras, lenses, telecines, scanners, film printers, animation cameras, and many more than I can think of. No need to invent yet another format. Those Keykode numbers on the perforation side are mighty useful for negative conforming, scanning from edit list, etc.

We have worked on about a dozen Super16 features that were blown up to Cinemascope 2.35 anamorphic format via optical printer and digital scanner. Let's concentrate on using existing formats with existing tools.

 

True, super-16 is fully accepted and will continue to be used greatly in features etc. Personally I think 1.85:1 is a nice ratio for most subjects.  I didn't know that it has also been cropped top and bottom (unless already squeezed anamorphically) to make 2.35:1 format. Was this done optically on to 35mm ?  

Whether optically blown up or digitally scanned, would it not be better to start off with a higher resolution image ?  Laurie Buckingham and others were getting 2.35:1 without anamorphic lenses or cropping. In those days the keycode numbers and so on were apparently far smaller and nearer the edge of the film.  They are of course necessary for conforming. I am not advocating getting rid of them entirely as Wittner seems to have done. Just make them a lot smaller and positioned further from the widescreen image.  Our eyesight cannot be worse than 50 years ago :(  (Although in the AC article Buckingham was not entirely satisfied.)

I only bring this up because lately there appears to be a renewed use of 'Scope' ratio in analogue and digital films.  Varispect or Variscope can in theory be used on most 16mm cameras, though the shutter may not cover on some. The inventors experienced no problems with sprocket hole flare. Whereas Laurie Buckingham made a curved gate, I don't think this would be necessary using good wide-angle lenses. Think of the system as merely a widened version of Ultra-16.

As for scanning and optical blow-ups, it would obviously mean fitting a wider gate on the scanner/printer.

Perhaps the inventors were aiming for a 16mm version of 2-perf 35mm Techniscope, and Buckingham does say about the advantageous cost savings. Whether or not there is much of a cost difference today, the 16mm camera system would appear to be cheaper to modify as well as much more compact in use.


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#6 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 01:05 PM

The work we did was to have the camera groundglass marked for 2.35, nothing else was changed on the camera; in the case of optical blow up to Anamorphic, one production used both the Tronchet anamorphic add-on lenses and the spherical Super 16 lenses with center extraction. This particular film was shown as closing film on the Berlinale Festival.

There are now 1.33 ratio anamorphic lenses available that would permit use of the entire 1.66 Super16 area against the 1.17 area used by the Tronchet system.  The advantage of using spherical lenses on a cropped 2.35 image on the Super16 negative are: much wider lens choice, not limited in front diameter, normal out-of-focus backgrounds instead of squeezed, zoom lenses can be used as well as long telephoto lenses.

 

In brief: optical blow up from S16 to Super 35 Interpositive using spherical Printing Nikkor lens on the optical printer, next Super35 spherical to 35 Anamorphic Duplicate negative using special design Isco blowup lens on optical printer. Last: contact print 35mm Duplicate negative to Projection print 35mm CScope (fully standard formats).

 

If digital: scan the Super 16 negative full gate and crop in postproduction. Render to anamorphic and record to 35mm film.

 

With current generation negative stocks both methods give very good results with standard Super16 equipment and lenses.

You cannot just take a file and open up a wet gate for optical printer, you have to build a new one, start counting at 15-20000 US$.


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#7 Doug Palmer

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 03:32 PM

Thanks for interesting info.  It 's incredible there is potentially so much definition in the 16mm negative.

However,  I've just worked out roughly there is quite an advantage with the variscope method, if 2.35:1 is the planned release ratio.

 

Assuming super-16 is 12.52 x 7.41mm,  when it's cropped to 2.35:1 that makes it 12.52 x 5.33 or 66.73 sq.mm

Assuming variscope is 14.64 x 6.23mm, it becomes 91.21 sq.mm  :rolleyes:

 

Actually, Buckingham had his camera gate wider than that at 15.23mm.

 

Realise about the printer, but maybe an ultra-16 printer or scanner may be possible to convert ?


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