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A question about Cinerama


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I hope someone can answer in terms simple enough for me to understand. I'm not sure I can even properly explain my question.

 

Anyone seeing a regular letterbox version of a Cinerama film would be aware that it gives the impression of being shot with an extremely wide angle lens. For a Cinerama picture to be displayed on a flat screen, both ends must be enlarged vertically to correct the distortion in the image, giving us what I now read as a smilebox image.

 

Fine.

 

Now, when a Cinerama picture is shown in a Cinerama theater, that means the projected image is distorted? Yes? And the curvature of the screen corrects for that distortion so the viewers see a "normal" image?

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Yes...and No. Wide angle lenses were indeed used, and yes...the curvature of the Cinerama screen would compensate for SOME of that distortion, but not ALL of it (you can still see the "fisheye" effect watching it now on TCM)....but hopefully for the last time regarding Smileboxing, that is NOT the purpose of Smileboxing.

 

Smileboxing a video image like this is to SIMULATE the effect of the curved Cinerama screen....the purpose of Smileboxing is NOT to compensate for any wide angle lens effect.

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Yes, SonOfU, I do still see a little wide angle distortion in the smileboxing. But if it's as you say, then I can do without it.

 

It would not be too hard to do to get two more TVs, sfpcc1, with prices as they are today.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}

> Now, when a Cinerama picture is shown in a Cinerama theater, that means the projected image is distorted? Yes? And the curvature of the screen corrects for that distortion so the viewers see a "normal" image?

I am not sure if I am answering this in the way that is what you mean. I am sure the Cinerama special on tonight will do it better. But in a Cinerama theatre, like the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, the three projectors are spread far apart. The one on the far right of the theater is aimed directly at the left 1/3 of the screen. The center one is aimed at the center section. The projector at the far left of the theater is aimed directly at the right side of the screen.

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I saw all of the Cinerama films in Cinerama theaters and the curvature of the screen was exactly the same degree as the angle of the cameras that shot the film so there was little if any distortion.

 

Another thing, today many people complain about the seams, but back then it was just something that was accepted as part of the process and audiences pretty much paid no attention to it.

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Here are images from the Blu-ray, which features the normal widescreen AND the Smilebox edition.

 

8101896116_b7c4309e6c_z.jpg

 

8101896138_57f0867b28_z.jpg

 

These small images do not do it justice. Be sure to go to the following link to see more images, and click on each photo to see it much larger (some are downright beautiful).

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews40/how_the_west_was_won_blu-ray.htm

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Thanks for the link, filmlover. Below are two more pics from the site for comparison. Here you can see clearly the distortion of the picture to create the smilebox effect. Look at the difference in the upraised hand of, is that Walter Brennan?, in front of the flag.

 

 

post.gif

 

 

post.gif

 

If I remember correctly, in How the West. . . ., there were shots of a stage coach crossing the screen and also of a buffalo stampede. I've only seen them on a flat screen, and they appear excessively distorted, as if they were traveling a curved path, and not a straight line. Evidently, Cinerama was shot with a very wide angle lens and the curved screen corrected considerably for the distortion.

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This "smilebox" mentioned seems to be something you'd have to get accustomed to, just as we had to get accustomed to "letterbox". When "letterbox" was first foisted upon us, it took some time to adjust. Those bars on the top and bottom of the TV screen were a distraction, especially to those of us who never saw anything like them for the first 40 or so years of our viewing lives. By now, we're pretty much used to them, so it's not that annoying.

 

 

What IS annoying is the way a Cinerama movie played flat on only a letterboxed screen looked. I've tried watching *How The West Was Won* on TCM this way before, and couldn't bear it. Seeing people, animals and vehicles that were supposedly heading off screen to the right or left suddenly veering back to the upper corners was disconcerting. I watched a bit of it last night displayed on that "smilebox" and noticed this anomaly was greatly dissapated. But as I didn't feel like staying up until 5:00AM, I missed most of the rest.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Can anyone explain the difference between Todd-AO and Cinerama? I believe Todd used a curved screen also? They mentioned it in the special. I've never seen a film in either process, unfortunately........

 

 

Was it just that Todd used one camera instead of 3, or was the curvature different also?

 

Edited by: Hibi on Oct 19, 2012 11:14 AM

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*"This "smilebox" mentioned seems to be something you'd have to get accustomed to, just as we had to get accustomed to "letterbox"."* - Sepiatone

 

I found the presentation of *This Is Cinerama* in the smilebox format interesting and am pleased to hear that *How The West Was Won* was also presented that way last night. But, unless TCM begins to present the full catalogue of authentic Cinerama films on the channel, I doubt we'll be seeing the Smilebox format again.

 

There's no reason or justification for TCM to present Cinemascope or 70mm films in the Smilebox format - even if some of those films were shown in Cinerama theaters on the curved screen in the 1960s. Smilebox is good for Cinerama films and Cinerama films only. And there are only a dozen of such films.

 

Whether all future showings of *HTWWW* will be shown is Smilebox is something we'll learn down the road.

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I want to apologize for what I am about to say will slightly take this thread off of its subject because it has to do with a thread which is currently under discussion, "Living in the 1920s".

 

I wish I could have been living in the 1920s so I could attend the premiere of a couple motion picture event which impacted Hollywood and society in general: The world premier of the first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences in "The Jazz Singer" in October 1927 and the first all-talking motion picture in "Lights of New York" in July 1928.

 

After watching "This Is Cinerama" I wonder what it felt like to attend the premiere of this movie on September 30, 1952. I bet the anticipation and the experience of seeing the next great thing to impact Hollywood and society in general must have been an honor. I wish I could have been there. I know I would have been honored. Did anyone attend or know of someone who attended the premiere of "This Is Cinerama'?

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>Smileboxing a video image like this is to SIMULATE the effect of the curved Cinerama screen....the purpose of Smileboxing is NOT to compensate for any wide angle lens effect.

 

I'll give you my opinion.

 

I saw HOW THE WEST WAS WON in 1962 in a Cinerama 3-projector theater. The film was NEVER intended to be seen in the smilebox manner. In fact, the smilebox is a distortion caused by people with still cameras and wide-angle lenses, standing as far back in a Cinarama theater as they can get, so they can photograph the entire Cinerama screen in one still photo. THAT is what causes the smilebox distortion. But we were never supposed to view a Cinerama movie from a seat in the back of the theater.

 

Cinerama only works for people setting in the center front of the theater, so that what we see is a screen of equal height all the way from left to right, and the viewers are not supposed to be aware of the screen curvature. The distortion caused by the Cinerama cameras is pretty much removed when viewed from a position in the front center of a Cinerama theater that has the original curved screen.

 

Here is an example of a still photo that produces the distorted smilebox effect.

 

How[ithe[/i]WestwasWon.jpg]

 

Here is a group of people getting ready to watch a Cinerama film. Note that they have gathered in the front center of the theater, which is the only place that gives an undistorted view of the screen:

 

large.jpg?1309102451

 

Here is another Cinerama theater, and note the large number of people who are sitting in the center front seats.

 

dome_auditoria.jpg

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How The West Was Won was the first movie I remember my parents taking me to see in a theater here in L.A. designed for this type of movie. I was only around 6 or so, and all I remember is that the movie was way too long (well for an inpatient kid)!

 

But many years later (like 20 or so), I saw it again and really enjoyed it.

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> after Mr. Dobbs:

> Cinerama only works for people setting in the center front of the theater, so that what we see is a screen of equal height all the way from left to right, and the viewers are not supposed to be aware of the screen curvature. The distortion caused by the Cinerama cameras is pretty much removed when viewed from a position in the front center of a Cinerama theater that has the original curved screen. This is as I was thinking. So the longer distance from the viewer to the center of the screen as opposed to the sides reduces the wide-angle effect of the picture itself.

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I think the whole theory of the Cinerama concept is wrong to start with. The theory was that we were always supposed to look straight ahead at the center of the screen, and the two side views would represent our "peripheral vision". But of course, nobody looked only straight ahead at the Cinerama screen. We were constantly looking to our right and left, which always gave us black areas in our opposite peripheral vision areas.

 

So the only solution to this was a 360 degree circular screen, but in the case of a movie about airplanes, we needed a 360 full overhead dome so we could look up too.

 

And then, if there were any submarines or fish in the film, we needed a 360 degree bottom dome too. So that left us with the ultimate solution, which would have been just one audience member, suspended by cables in the dead center of the inside of a spherical balloon-type screen. Then, anywhere we looked we would see stuff.

 

Well, heck, why not just leave the theater, go outside, and look at the real world with no screen needed at all?

 

Over the years I finally concluded that my favorite films are all in the 4:3 format. We do not need any wide screen for Gone With the Wind, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Citizen Kane, Rebecca, Vertigo, Red Dust, etc., etc. :)

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FredCDobbs wrote:

<< So the only solution to this was a 360 degree circular screen, but in the case of a movie about airplanes, we needed a 360 full overhead dome so we could look up too. >>

 

If you watched "Cinerama Adventure", you would have seen that there was such a system under limited use. It was called Vitarama and was used to trained bomber crews during WWII.

 

That looked like a forerunner of today's virtual reality. Did those guys ever had fun and at the same time got the training that saved thousands of lives. Vitarama was very complicated but little did they realise they were playing a 1940's video game! LOL!

 

It was the crew who suggested by letters could that system be adopted to show movies and that's where Cinerama got going.

 

*Vitarama system aka Waller Flexible Gunnery Trainer.*

 

vitarama.jpg

 

trainer_front.jpg

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Over the years I finally concluded that my favorite films are all in the 4:3 format. We do not need any wide screen for Gone With the Wind, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Citizen Kane, Rebecca, Vertigo, Red Dust, etc., etc.

 

*Vertigo* was a Vistavision film for projection at 1.85:1.

 

http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/wingvv1.htm

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I also recall seeing at the Disney park in Florida years ago some movie which was shown on a 360 degree circle of screens above the heads of the audience, which stood in the center of the floor. Something like that...and it was one continuous image on the circle of screens all the time. It felt like we were flying through the sky and such.

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I saw a circlerama film at the New York World's Fair in 1965. There was a similar circlerama film at the Canada Expo of 1967. Here's a fisheye photo looking straight down on the audience and the screens. For a film like this, we had to stand up, in the center, and hold on to railings so we wouldn't get dizzy:

 

telephone.jpg

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