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Shooting VistaVision 8-perf


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#1 Christian Appelt

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 05:18 PM

Now what follows may sound very strange.

I want to shoot 8-perf (VistaVision format) for a short film project that needs maximum image quality. Shooting will take more than 4 months because time lapse and scenic photography is involved.

I know that several companies in Europe do have 8-perf cameras and will rent them, but this is out of question "budgetwise", as C.C. Baxter would have said.

Does anyone know if it is possible to convert any vintage standard production camera (Mitchell NC) to 8-perf, or are there any unused 8-perf cameras rusting out there that need to be restored?

I have thought of using Automax 8-perf cameras for the time lapse, but I suspect that the geneva movement is not precise enough for cine applications, and the Automax models run at 16 fps maximum. I need 24fps for some parts, not higher but 24 steady.
Is it possible to convert Mitchell movements to 8-perf stroke? Any other ideas?

Well, I told you I had some strange ideas... :rolleyes:
Any helpful idea appreciated!
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#2 Paul Bruening

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 06:52 PM

Hey,

Ken Stone is the Mitchell go-to guy. He's in California. Here's his number: 661-242-8490. If I recall correctly, someone correct me if I'm off, Mitchell made an 8-perf camera referred to as Elephant Ears. Ken's a good guy and will give you straight answers. It's difficult to remember which cams were wide film and which were 8 perf 35mm.

Have you looked into shooting IMAX? The gear is states-side and rentable. The lenses are newer and well made. If your going for premium image, I'd guess that most DPs would go that way.
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#3 Luke Prendergast

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 07:01 PM

Conventional 35mm still cameras are 8-perf aren't they? This would take care of time-lapse and moco shots. Cheap too, but I guess it's not a low budget deal:-)
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 08:53 PM

Actually, using a still camera might be your best bet if you're doing timelapse. I have heard there are some 35mm still cameras that can be equiped with 100-foot magazines.

Regards.
~Karl Borowski
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#5 Nathan Milford

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 09:17 PM

How good is the registration on a typical still camera?
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#6 K Borowski

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 10:01 PM

With most 35mm still cameras, pretty good. IIRC, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom shot one of the mineshaft scenes using such a modified 35mm still camera; I know it was a Nikon, maybe an F1? Obviously, registration is not something we really care about in still photography though. any cameras that use unperforated film (120, 220, and sheet film and long roll cameras) must have pretty bad registration though. There's another option for filming that I just remembered that actually shoots even higher quality images because it uses 70mm film. It's called a Hulcher and was popular for photojournalism of high-profile events back in the '60s and '70s. You could probably find one on ebay for not too much. They'll take 100 feet of 70mm film.

Regards.
~Karl Borowski
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 10:34 PM

You can't just convert a standard 4-perf camera to 8-perf and widen the gate and rotate the image -- needs too much modification and physical space.

The first VistaVision camera was created from an old 2-color camera designed to pulldown two 4-perf frames at a time, one filtered red and one filtered green. Later Mitchell built some from scratch and Technicolor took some of their 3-strip Technicolor cameras (which had a roomier interior) and converted them to hold an 8-perf movement, which was named Technirama. The only difference between VistaVision and Technirama was that Technirama used 1.5X anamorphic lenses to squeeze a CinemaScope image onto 8-perf.

You're best off scouring adds for old VistaVision and Technirama equipment that someone wants to be rid of, but don't expect it to be cheap. And remember that modern lenses on a standard 4-perf camera may yield a sharper image than old optics on an 8-perf camera.

You can also consider shooting in 5-perf 65mm.

Since 8-perf is not a projection format, you have to consider how this will be converted to 4-perf 35mm, and whether the conversion method would end up negating the extra quality. VistaVision really needs to be blown-up to 70mm to see the picture quality improvement. Reduced down to 4-perf, there is some improvement in grain and detail, but it may simpler to just shoot on slower film stocks and sharper lenses rather than mess with 8-perf.

However, I'd love to shoot in 8-perf myself, especially if someone made a decent sync-sound camera in that format. That's something else to consider, the lack of quiet 8-perf cameras.
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#8 Bruce McNaughton

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 03:37 AM

If you were to follow the stills camera route you would need registration pins. You just can't expect registration by pulling film from a cassette.

Having manufactured 7 VistaVision cameras we know a little about the format. Our lenses are Zeiss Distagons and these are good performers. They also cover IMAX and 65/5 and 65/8. That said, you are not gong to find a 'cheap' VV camera. The last one that I know of (an old Stein) went for $50,000.

We have a spare VV (high speed) movement if you feel like trying to make something yourself.

Bruce McNaughton
http://www.arandafilm.com.au
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#9 Bruce McNaughton

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 03:38 AM

If you were to follow the stills camera route you would need registration pins. You just can't expect registration by pulling film from a cassette.

Having manufactured 7 VistaVision cameras we know a little about the format. Our lenses are Zeiss Distagons and these are good performers. They also cover IMAX and 65/5 and 65/8. That said, you are not gong to find a 'cheap' VV camera. The last one that I know of (an old Stein) went for $50,000.

We have a spare VV (high speed) movement if you feel like trying to make something yourself.

Bruce McNaughton
http://www.arandafilm.com.au
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#10 Jeremy Russell

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 01:53 PM

imax rental
weekend - 14k
week - 30k

400ft=1 minute +


i suggest just shooting 35

jeremy
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#11 Robert Hughes

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 03:59 PM

Fries Engineering advertises a Vistavision reflex model 358 camera. Try there.
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#12 jeremy edge

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Posted 30 August 2005 - 11:25 PM

Where can I find more info on shooting time laspe with a still 35?
The idea sounds really intriguing.
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#13 Paul Bruening

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 11:37 AM

Hey Christian,

I don't mean to be a stick in the mud. But, I have to ask: Where are you going to show your work? Will your venue justify the cost and trouble of going 8-perf? Even if you get a 35mm projection venue, how will that 8-perf look when knocked down to 4-perf at less than half the image width?

Would it serve you well to just go with a rebuilt and IV'd Mitchell and a set of the best possible lenses?

If your stuff has to be knocked down to a DVD for release... well... I don't see much of that amazing 8-perf resolution actually making it onto a DVD.

Just a thought.
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#14 Christian Appelt

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 06:40 PM

First I really would like to thank everybody for their good advice, especially those of you who contacted me off-forum and took the time and trouble to write long answers.

Paul, you are perfectly right that shooting VistaVision leads to the question in what format the film should be projected. My description in my initial posting was not very detailed, so let me describe my intentions:

From early cinema experiences with a number of epic films, I have grown to be fascinated by a certain type of traditional large format photography, and twice I have organized small 70mm retrospectives.

During my work for a number of private and public film archives, I saw extraordinary 35mm anamorphic prints from large format sources with a certain visual quality or look. Most of these films were shot in Technirama and reduced to 35mm 'scope.

Technirama IMO gives a look halfway between 'scope and 65/70mm, its anamorphic part gives a special rendition of perspective while the large format adds an almost 65mm-like resolution.

Last year, I was lucky to purchase an original "Delrama"/Technirama anamorphic unit which is currently cleaned and checked by an optical service company.
When I held the unit in my hands, the thought of shooting real Technirama entered my mind and didn't go away since then.

I checked with Technicolor and numerous companies doing restoration work (the original Technicolor equipments, it seems, has disappeared) , and after many helpful hints by old pros who used to work with Technirama, I have an offer to do the optical conversion either to 70mm positive or to 35mm 'scope (adding the further 1.33x compression to the 1.5x squeeze of the Delrama).

While I respect all opinions that a large-format-like image quality can be created with today's lenses and film stocks, I do not agree with it. I have never seen 35mm originated footage that really gave the same look as 8-perf Technirama.
The best 35mm quality I have seen was on direct blowups step-printed to 70mm release prints, but it did not look like Technirama or 65mm.

Of course I realize that I cannot recreate the type of print that 35mm Tech IB produced because there is no dye transfer any more, but there are a few vintage Eastman colour prints which, although faded, have extreme resolution, so this is as close as one can get to the original.

My idea is to shoot on low speed stock for maximum resultion, minimal grain and use 1950s/1960s style lighting with a great amount of lighting. For a first test, an optical house here in Germany will scan the 8-perf at 6K and record it a 4K to 35mm scope, but the special characteristics of optical printing are part of the Technirama look.
Presently, I am doing research to find out how to emulate the special processing which Technicolor applied to Technirama original negs.

Now the main problem still is the 8-perf camera, and as I have to work on a modest budget, renting one of those fine Wilcams or buy a Mitchell is unfortunately out of reach. To do some tests - and, hopefully, to get some funding, I will try to find an Automax and shoot some time lapse footage with the Delrama unit.

Again, thanks a lot for your answers, I really appreciate all of your helpful ideas.

Chris
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 06:50 PM

If you can't afford to buy or rent an 8-perf camera, then how can you hope to shoot in 8-perf? You can't just simply convert a 4-perf camera to 8-perf.

It is cheaper to rent a 5-perf 65mm camera these days and use spherical lenses than deal with VistaVision and 1.5X anamorphic compression, plus a modern 5-perf 65mm camera would be quiet enough for sync-sound work.
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#16 Bon Sawyer

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 08:19 AM

What about a digital SLR camera for timelapse?

-Bon
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#17 Stephen Williams

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 08:25 AM

What about a digital SLR camera for timelapse?

-Bon

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Hi,

An automax 8 perf would work for timelapse. I think if the original poster wanted vistavision quality then a DLSR is not good enough IMHO:

Stephen
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 09:00 AM

Hi,

Digital stills cameras go up to 22 megapixels and beyond.

That's quite a lot more than vistavision, even if you were to crop the vistavision frame out of it (mostly they're nearly square).

Phil
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#19 Nate Downes

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 09:49 AM

Hi,

Digital stills cameras go up to 22 megapixels and beyond.

That's quite a lot more than vistavision, even if you were to crop the vistavision frame out of it (mostly they're nearly square).

Phil

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hrm? From what I've seen, 22MP is not enough pixels to equal 35mm by a long shot.
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#20 Christian Appelt

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 09:50 AM

David Mullen wrote:

If you can't afford to buy or rent an 8-perf camera, then how can you hope to shoot in 8-perf? You can't just simply convert a 4-perf camera to 8-perf.


I understood that conversion is not the way to go and gave up the idea.


It is cheaper to rent a 5-perf 65mm camera these days and use spherical lenses than deal with VistaVision and 1.5X anamorphic compression, plus a modern 5-perf 65mm camera would be quiet enough for sync-sound work.


This is not the case where I live. Let me compare the details:

65/70mm

- The only 65mm camera available (rental) around here is the Arriflex 765, which is a great camera, but I cannot afford it.

- 65mm processing is done only by Technicolor Ltd/London and Gulliver Labs/France. Additional transportation cost and customs problems - I did it before with European co-production work.

- Film stock must be bought new from Eastman and on Special Order (3-12 weeks delivery)

8-perf Technirama

- From my commercial and feature work, I can get fresh 35mm stock in adequate lengths, even for 8-perf speed.

- Local film lab can do the processing

- Local optical house can do the 6K scanning and 4K recording to 35mm, unless I want to do an optical printing blowup, in which case the neg will have to be shipped to LA.

- Silent operation of camera is not important because I will shoot MOS anyway.


And although 65mm is fantastic and I would immensely like to work in that format, my intention is to get that special Technirama characteristics that I described before.
(I know most people hate anamorphic artefacts, but I happen to like them... :) )

Edited by Christian Appelt, 06 September 2005 - 09:52 AM.

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