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HOW THE WEST WAS WON


Palmerin
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Could someone please tell the story of how difficult it was to perform in front of the Cinerama cameras? That is the one entertaining fact about this patchy and wildly uneven feature; I like the James Arness miniseries of the same name a whole lot better.

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It was an odd system of photography.

 

The way the cameras were set up side by side and aimed in different directions, when someone walking across the screen from left to right or right to left, they seemed to start further away from the camera, then they seemed to walk toward the central camera, then they seemed to walk away from it. They seemed to walk in a curved line toward and then away from the cameras, instead of walking in a straight line across the screen.

 

Notice that the projectors are widely separated, while the cameras are not. This causes distortion in the overall screen image.

 

cinerama_system-small.gif

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PS, the "smilebox" format for TV showing has no basis in reality.

 

The Cinerama screen was NOT shaped like that. From side to side, the entire screen was always the same height. It was NEVER high (top to bottom) on both ends and short (top to bottom) in the middle.

 

This effect is caused by still photographers trying to photograph the entire Cinerama screen from the back of a theater, and that is what produces the distortion.

 

In a Cinerama theater, there are only a few seats, in the middle of the first few front rows, that allow the audience to see an undistorted screen. However, a still photographer can not photograph the entire screen from that position, so he moves to the back of the theater to take his picture, and he gets a distorted view of the screen. A Cinerama screen is curved, but it is NOT short (top to bottom) in the middle.

 

Notice that in this showing there is a very small audience, and they are ALL gathered in some of the front-center rows. That is the only place to see Cinerama with an undistorted screen:

 

large.jpg?1309102451

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What other well known films were done in this process?. I have seen so, so many films on television that I never saw in a theatre so I have little appreciation of what the original intentions of the filmmaker were. Just what exactly were they hoping to accomplish here?.

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Only 10 films were made in the original 3-strip Cinerama, most of them documentaries:

 

The following feature films have been advertised as being presented "in Cinerama":[14]

 

Year Title Notes

1952 This is Cinerama 3-Strip Cinerama; re-released in 1972 in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1955 Cinerama Holiday 3-Strip Cinerama

 

1956 Seven Wonders of the World 3-Strip Cinerama

 

1957 Search for Paradise 3-Strip Cinerama

 

1958 South Seas Adventure 3-Strip Cinerama

 

Windjammer originally filmed in 3-strip Cinemiracle; later exhibited in Cinerama

 

1962 The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm 3-Strip Cinerama

 

Holiday in Spain a re-edited version of Scent of Mystery; originally filmed in Todd-70; converted to 3-strip Cinemiracle and exhibited in both Cinemiracle and Cinerama

 

How The West Was Won 3-strip Cinerama, although some sequences were filmed in Ultra Panavision 70

 

1963 The Best of Cinerama 3-Strip Cinerama

 

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World filmed in Ultra Panavision 70, presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1964 Circus World filmed in Super Technirama 70, presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

Mediterranean Holiday filmed in MCS-70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1965 The Golden Head filmed in Super Technirama 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama in Europe only

 

La Fayette filmed in Super Technirama 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama in Europe only

 

Chronicle of Flaming Years filmed in Sovscope 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama in Europe only

 

The Black Tulip filmed in MCS-70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama in Europe only

 

The Greatest Story Ever Told filmed in Ultra Panavision 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

The Hallelujah Trail filmed in Ultra Panavision 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

Battle of the Bulge filmed in Ultra Panavision 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1966 Cinerama's Russian Adventure filmed in Kinopanorama, presented in both 3-strip and 70 mm Cinerama

 

Khartoum filmed in Ultra Panavision 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

Grand Prix filmed in Super Panavision 70 with some sequences in MCS-70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1967 Custer of the West filmed in Super Technirama 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1968 2001: A Space Odyssey filmed in Super Panavision 70 with some scenes in Todd-AO and MCS-70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

Ice Station Zebra filmed in Super Panavision 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1969 Krakatoa, East of Java filmed in Super Panavision 70 and Todd-AO; presented in 70 mm Cinerama

 

1970 Song of Norway filmed in Super Panavision 70; presented in 70 mm Cinerama in UK and Canada only

 

1972 The Great Waltz filmed in 35 mm Panavision, presented in 70 mm Cinerama in UK only

 

1974 Run, Run, Joe! filmed in Todd-AO 35, presented in 70 mm Cinerama in UK only

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The original theory and motivation of the system was flawed from the start. The basic idea was to fill up the audience's entire field of vision with images from film.

 

But the big flaw was, when the audience turned their heads to the left and right, their full field of vision was no longer filled up. A system needed Circlerama to fill up all the field of vision and allow a viewer to turn his head.

 

Nothing in the old days or now can beat a big large 4:3 screen in a big movie palace.

 

Wide screen in my opinion is a hoax and a failure. It is merely 4:3 enlarged, with black bars added across the bottom and top of the screen, so that we are seeing only 1/2 of a movie image, with the top 1/4 and bottom 1/4 missing.

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A 50 yard line seat can be down low close to the field or up high. Your eyes will move more, left to right if you are down low.

 

On TV, our eyes move around in small little circles, left-right, up-down.

 

In a big 4:3 Cinema in the old days, our eyes were all over the screen and since the off-screen area was black or dark, we never noticed it. We noticed whatever was on the screen, and the cameramen concentrated on what they wanted us to see, such as this very good diagonal scene from Gone With The Wind:

 

This still is cropped. The original on on film is taller and wider, a very good diagonal scene in a 4:3 format. Wide-screen films usually have to leave out diagonal scenes:

 

pittypat.jpg

 

Here is a wide-screen scene from Gone With the Wind, in the bottom half of the frame, with a Cinemascope type format, all in a 4:3 frame:

 

prayer.jpg

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>Could someone please tell the story of how difficult it was to perform in front of the Cinerama cameras?

 

Mrroberts,

 

I wrote about this after last year's Film Festival screening of *Cinerama Holiday*. The two women who were featured in the film spoke before the film:

 

When *Cinerama Holiday* was being written, the producers approached two couples, one American, one Swiss, about trading places for the film. The Swiss couple would travel around the United States and the American couple would visit Switzerland and Paris.

 

Betty (Marsh) York and Beatrice Toller talked about participating in the film with Leonard Maltin. Both women had terrific memories of making the film and Leonard Maltin did a great job. As Ms. Toller told us, she was told by cameramen,

 

"Don't stand between the cameras, your face will wrinkle."

 

She was given good advice because the faces of people caught in the section of film where the film comes together, wrinkle across the screen.

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>Its no wonder that whenever I go to the movies I try to sit somewhere in the middle of the theatre (50 yard line approx 50 ft from the screen)

 

I always did that too, back in the 4 x 3 days. Because, that represents the position of the camera for standard scenes, and that viewing position caused the least image distortion while viewing the screen, plus it was back far enough to minimize film grain size, so I never saw any film grain.

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The way I learned about what I call the "hoax" of wide-screen, is when I was 18 years old back in 1960, and I filmed my college football games for the coach and team to study.

 

I knew that to fill up a 4:3 screen with both teams on a 100-yard field, shooting from the top of the press box at the top 50 yard line of the stadium, I needed to use a standard 25mm lens, and that would get in both teams, left to right and top to bottom.

 

But, the Audio-Visual company salesman had conned my coach into buying an anamorphic (Cinemascope type) lens for the camera, and one for the projector, and a very large screen for showing the films in wide-screen. That got in the full 100 yards, even though there were no football players covering the full 100 yards.

 

Well, I could have done the same thing with a normal camera and a normal 12 mm wide-angle lens, and NO expensive anamorphic lens. Then I would put a short-throw lens on the projector (a wide-angle lens). I could have made a wide-screen mask for the film gate of the projector, or one for the filter slot of the camera, and I would have produced exactly the same wide-screen image to show on a big screen, with NO anamorphic lens needed at all. That would have saved the school about $5,000.

 

I had a talk with the salesman at the AV store, and he pretended not to know what I was talking about. So there I was at 18, realizing that anamorphic lenses are hoaxes for such uses, and they are not needed at all. Just a cheap 12 mm lens for the camera and a cheap short-throw projector lens, and a hand-made brass wide-screen mask (which I could make for less than $1, and we would have had exactly the same coverage with the camera and the same size and shape image on the large screen with the projector. The only main expense would have been the large screen, for about $50.

 

But there I was, at every game, fitting the big expensive anamorphic lens in front of my normal 25 mm camera lens, and when the film was projected the same type of anamorphic lens was fitted onto the front of the projector lens. All for $5,000.

 

So, I knew my camera/lens/film business at an early age, and because I did, and the colleges didn't teach that sort of stuff back then, I dropped out of college two years later. By then I was shooting professional news film for CBS news, mainly Civil Rights demonstrations in the South, with my film being broadcast nationally and narrated by Walter Cronkite and a young Dan Rather. I was 19 and 20 years old by then. Most likely, everyone on this board has seen some of my old historical news film from the 1960s. I usually see some of it on some network just about every year, for the past 53 years.

 

Any time you see on IMDB a listing for a wide-screen film that used the "spherical lens" method. That is my method, which other cameramen, of course, already knew about, since it is the simplest way to make wide-screen films. Just shoot in the 4:3 format and mask off the top and bottom of the screen with black bars. Anamorphic lenses are not needed. 3-cameras of Cinerama are not needed. Cinemascope and any kind of wide-screen filming process is a hoax, because a regular 4:3 image is simply masked (top and bottom) for projection to make it look wide-screen.

 

Mall theaters now show only half a picture, with the top 1/4 and bottom 1/4 being masked off, either in the projector or on the film print, with black bars at the top and bottom. TCM actually transmits those black bars to us, and uses only the central 1/2 (left/right) area of the film for the image. So on a wide-screen film, they send us half an image, and that's what the studios and distributors send them to show.

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>So if I am seated on the 50 yard line I will feel that I am right in the middle of the action but still must basically keep looking straight ahead to keep a proper viewing. On television viewing this effect is largely negated, right?

 

Unless you're in Canada, and then for your scenario to be correct, you'd have to be seated on the 55 yard line, Mr. R! ;)

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Palmerin wrote:

<< Could someone please tell the story of how difficult it was to perform in front of the Cinerama cameras? >>

 

Performing was not the issue, the major complaint was that close ups could not be done like in regular films.

 

Smilebox is only a curved screen simulation and its slightly distorted to give the illusion of some side-to-side perception of depth but one will never achieve what were known as "The Waller Effect". Cinerama was billed at the time "3D without glasses." This was done with over a thousand vertical strips instead of a solid screen. It resembles a venitian blind on its side. See photo below.

 

"How The West Was Won" should had its original Cinerama opening with the curtains and all to set the mood and get your eyes fixated on the curved screen like "This Is Cinerama" did. This website can give you better info than I can. http://www.cineramaadventure.com/smilebox.htm

 

Vertical panels that made up the Cinerama curved screen, giving depth perception creating the Waller Effect.

detroitimg04.jpg

 

HTWWW ending in a Cinerama theatre with curtains closing.

BRADFORDHOWWEST.jpg

 

One needs a very large HD to really enjoy the simulation once you know what to look for. I like the Smilbox format once I got accustom to it and enjoyed the surround sound. Cinerama had a 7 channel system on a magnetic film separate from the 3 films.

 

Cinerama soundhead

p5a.gif

 

Edited by: hamradio on Feb 8, 2014 8:57 PM

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> PS, the "smilebox" format for TV showing has no basis in reality.

 

If we all had viewing rooms with 145 degrees of curvature as you seem to do, we wouldn't need any tricks to imitate what Cinerama is doing. :-)

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> Wide screen in my opinion is a hoax and a failure. It is merely 4:3 enlarged, with black bars added across the bottom and top of the screen, so that we are seeing only 1/2 of a movie image, with the top 1/4 and bottom 1/4 missing.

 

800px-?ltima_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5.jpg

 

Do you really care whether you see all 12 disciples, or just 6? Either way, you get Jesus in the middle.

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>If we all had viewing rooms with 145 degrees of curvature as you seem to do, we wouldn't need any tricks to imitate what Cinerama is doing

 

I saw HOW THE WEST WAS WON in 1963 or 64, in a real Cinerama theater, and the screen did not look like what TCM showed tonight. The screen was not short in the middle and tall on the ends. It was of equal height all the way across. It was curved, but I sat in the center front of the theater, and I saw no distortion at all.

 

TCM's similuated curve looks a little silly.

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Ham, The Last Supper is not a movie. It is was not an image of real people photographed on 35 mm film. It is a painting that can be any size or shape the artist wanted it to be. It has nothing to do with "letterbox". Da Vinci made paintings of many different sizes and formats. He didn't design his paintings to fit on any kind of standardized movie or TV screens.

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Fred, we've had this discussion before. But lest some accept all of what you said as conclusive, I'll add a few facts. Anamorphic lenses allow the entire 35mm frame to be used for a WS film. This results in a higher definition picture than those made by masking a 35mm spherical lens. In either case, the director, and the DP, frame the film to fit a WS frame. So, you see all that they intended for you to see. If they did show you the part masked off to produce a 35mm spherical WS film, it would spoil the intended composition, and show parts of the frame not intended to be seen.

 

Cinerama had its flaws, but it was an interesting experiment. I *LIKE* WS films. I think a film should fill my field of vision. I sit in the front row, and sometimes I *DO* turn my head to follow the action. To me, this makes the film more real, something I am experiencing more like real life. And, it doesn't bother me if I see past the sides of the image when I turn my head. I don't really notice.

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> Ham, The Last Supper is not a movie. It is was not an image of real people photographed on 35 mm film. It is a painting that can be any size or shape the artist wanted it to be. It has nothing to do with "letterbox".

 

I don't have the visuals handy, but:

 

"This (wide-screen) size communicates; this (panned-and-scanned) size doesnt".

 

Competent directors and cinematographers will use the full area of whatever aspect ratio they're working in for their images that convey whatever story they're trying to convey. (As opposed to TV, where a whole lot of stuff is still blocked for 4:3 and all those old TVs.)

 

I'm not the one who called wide-screen a hoax.

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