>Camera Format History
Published : 1st August 2006
Here's something I've wondered about...
B&H 2709's camera out during the silent era.
The silent era frame was a full frame...am I correct? No offset for Academy? Thus, these were the 1st true Super-35's?
I assume that if the frame is a full aperture frame, with no thoughts toward future soundtrack areas...then the lens mount were cantered as well? With the invention of sound, were these cameras somehow 'recalled' and modified by offsetting the lens mounts to be cantered on Academy?
If not, how did it work? If this is the case, then are ALL silent era cameras actually Super-35? Mitchell's included?
Jeff Barklage, s.o.c.
US based DP
Yes, Full Aperture (Silent) and Super-35 are essentially the same thing in 4-perf. There was a transition period where the lenses were cantered for Full Aperture, but the left side was covered in the print with an optical track, shaving the width to about 1.20 : 1 (the Movietone Aperture.) Sound came in 1927 but the Academy Aperture was not formally adopted until 1932. I assume cameras were slowly adapted with shifted optical centres for sound over this time and throughout the 1930's.
"Super-35" appeared again in the mid 1950's as "SuperScope 235". "SuperScope" involved shooting Academy and cropping to 2:1, and then blowing this up to a 2.35 CinemaScope print with side mattes to preserve the 2:1 aspect ratio (similar to Storaro's Univisium idea). The whole idea was dropped once cropping Academy to 1.85 during projection became more common, but just before that, there were some experiments to improve SuperScope by using Full Aperture and cropping that to 2.35. I don't know if any actual features were shot this way, but there were a number of regular SuperScope features from RKO I think.
Then the idea reappeared again when John Alcott decided to shoot 4-perf 35mm Full Aperture and crop for scope for "Greystoke". He called it Super Technirama, thinking of it more as an improvement over the old 2-perf format. A few films were shot under the Super Technirama moniker, including "Silverado". "Super-35" was adopted as a more generic term, since 2.35 wasn't the only aspect ratio one could extract from Full Aperture. Also some of the early Super-35 films used hard-matted gates to expose less the full height, creating a negative closer to 1.50 or 1.66 in aspect ratio, I guess figuring that it was too hard to shoot Full Aperture (1.33) and frame for cropping to 2.35 yet protect all of 1.33. This has led to some confusion over the "true" aspect ratio for Super-35 over the years, since it is basically Full Aperture but generally only the extra width over Academy is used more than all of the full height.
David Mullen, ASC
Hi think David, think you mean Super Techniscope.
John Holland , London .
class="style11">>Hi think David, think you mean Super Techniscope.
Yes, how stupid of me. And I'm usually the one to correct others when they confuse Technirama, Techniscope, and Technovision...
David Mullen, ASC
David Mullen writes :
class="style11">>Also some of the early Super-35 films used hard-matted gates to >expose less the full height, creating a negative closer to 1.50 or 1.66 in >aspect ratio, I guess figuring that it was too hard to shoot Full Aperture >(1.33) and frame for cropping to 2.35 yet protect all of 1.33.
I have an article somewhere that talks about Jim Cameron & crew trying to determine what frame sizes to work with for shooting S-35 on The Abyss and T2.
The two main issues were (1) that for some of the bigger scenes they knew they would need many cameras and they had to limit the maximum width to the smallest gate they could find (yes, they don't all seem to be quite the same, especially in some of the older B-cameras and crash cams) and (2) that they had to pick an aspect ratio for the digital FX plates, which were just coming into their own at the time and it would be a lot of wasted computing power to render the full 1.33 frame if it wasn't necessary. So for FX they generated a 2:1 frame and worked within it for both 2.35 film out and 1.33 video.
David Mullen wrote :
>"Super-35" appeared again in the mid 1950's as "SuperScope 235". >"SuperScope" involved shooting Academy and cropping to 2:1, and >then blowing this up to a 2.35 CinemaScope print with side mattes to >preserve the 2:1 aspect ratio (similar to Storaro's Univisium idea).
SuperScope-235 was the later variation with the full 2.35/1 prints. There were only 3 films released in SS-235. One was 'Run for the Sun.'
I came across an article in a trade journal which gave the ground glass markings of SuperScope-235 as 0.440"x0.950" which is actually 2.15/1 & would need a 1.8x squeeze to fit in the CinemaScope print apeture. The same printer set up would yield 2/1 prints from a 1.85/1 original.
SuperScope was originally meant to have a 1.5x squeeze which would have made better use of the area on the print. But not enough theatres had the variable squeeze attachments.
I did fix ups on the OCN of 'Vera Cruz'. That was apparently shot with 2 full aperture Mitchell’s and probably a Cameflex or Arriflex with an academy aperture widened out to full width.
In a couple of wide angle shots there was vignetting in the corners on the track side, so the lens mounts weren't re-entered. Also in the late 50’s, MGM shot some B/W Cinemascope movies in Super35. The line in the credits is 'process lens by Panavision' instead of the usual "photographic lenses by Panavision'.
'Jailhouse Rock' is one of these. There is a night exterior scene with lights in the background. In the close ups in is obvious that spherical lenses are being used rather than anamorphics.