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How the West Was Won


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These days I live in something of a cinematic wasteland (for example. "Good Night and Good Luck" only played after the Oscars - and only then on the smallest screen in town), but will visiting in L.A. early next year. Is there a website(s) that lists upcoming screenings of the sort we are disussing here?

 

Thanks in anticipation,

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The L.A. Times and alternative weeklies list upcoming special screenings for the week, but for a monthly schedule, you probably should check the individual websites before you visit, for the American Cinematheque, Los Angeles County Museum, Nuart Theater, Arclight Theaters, etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Robert Skates

Disney's EPCOT has some interesting multicamera/panoramic films. Several of the Pavillions have travelogue films, some in circlevision 360. Worth checking out if you are there. Where else would you have the opportunity to see these things?

 

Does anyone remember reading about a cinerama theater in Ohio? I think it was called the New Neon. I read about it in A.C. magazine about ten yeas ago. Just wondering if is still around.

 

Robert Skates

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Does anyone remember reading about a cinerama theater in Ohio? I think it was called the New Neon. I read about it in A.C. magazine about ten yeas ago. Just wondering if is still around.

 

It was in Dayton, OH. I went there just to see "This Is Cinerama". A few years ago, John Harvey had to take down his 3-projector Cinerama set-up and return the theater to normal -- it may have changed ownership after losing business. It may be closed completely now.

 

It was an interesting rig -- he had to build the two side booths in the corner of the theater (a little noisy) and put the center projector in the lobby looking through a hole cut into the wall. Huge reels (6000' or 10,000'?) to minimize changeovers, plus a big 35mm mag reel for the sound in interlock.

 

The print was pieced together from different sources -- luckily it was Technicolor dye transfer (the only Cinerama movie to do that) so the color was great. Some timing mismatched per panel, and occasionally foreign subtitles would pop up in the center panel.

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Guest Robert Skates
It was in Dayton, OH. I went there just to see "This Is Cinerama". A few years ago, John Harvey had to take down his 3-projector Cinerama set-up and return the theater to normal -- it may have changed ownership after losing business. It may be closed completely now.

 

It was an interesting rig -- he had to build the two side booths in the corner of the theater (a little noisy) and put the center projector in the lobby looking through a hole cut into the wall. Huge reels (6000' or 10,000'?) to minimize changeovers, plus a big 35mm mag reel for the sound in interlock.

 

The print was pieced together from different sources -- luckily it was Technicolor dye transfer (the only Cinerama movie to do that) so the color was great. Some timing mismatched per panel, and occasionally foreign subtitles would pop up in the center panel.

 

That is sad news. I live in S.E. Michigan and considered driving down after reading the article. I should have gone while I had the chance.

 

Sorry to stray off the topic of cinerama. David, I recently re-read your A.C. article on Northfork. Very informative. The stills look amazing. Is Northfork out on DVD?

 

Robert Skates

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Thomas Hauerslev has a very comprehensive website on large format history and presentation, including a listing of current 70mm screenings:

 

http://www.in70mm.com/now_showing/index.htm

 

http://www.in70mm.com/index.htm

 

Interestingly, 70mm presentation has had a recent revival, mostly using the IMAX "DMR" system to present some current feature films using 15-perf 70mm IMAX prints.

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  • 4 weeks later...

---When one considers that anamorphics have a horizontal fish-eye effect in wide angles, a 35mm anamorphic lens in the 16mm-18mm focal length range would cover about the same field.

 

Of course it would have to be projected on a curved screen to stretch the edges.

An 8-perf 65mm system using a 35mm focal length anamorphic would be swell.

 

A 9mm fish-eye on Super35 would give the same view as the Todd-AO bug eye.

A direct blow up to a 70mm print might look as good as the original Todd-AO prints.

 

---LV

I have a digital 8mm video cam to which I screwed a fish-eye attachment. I set the zoom to give me a full-frame in 9x16 wide mode which gave me just about the same as the Todd-AO Bug-eye. Front-projected onto a 120 degree curved screen was absolutely awesome.

 

I grew up in Los Angeles and saw every Cinerama film at the dome. I remember seeing ?Krakatoa East of Java? shot in ?Super Cinerama?. What is that format?

 

 

Basically, Super Cinerama really referred to presentation on a screen that went practically from floor to lly ceiling, whether in 3-strip or 70mm.

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Saw the screening at the Cinerama Dome yesterday. I agree with those that say this looks as good as 70mm, and it's so wide! Love the wide angle view & wide frame.

 

Here are some phone cam shots of a camera they had on display in the lobby (for better quality pics of a Cinerama camera go here):

 

th_IMAGE_010.jpg

I didn't realize the lenses were so small

 

th_IMAGE_011.jpg

Number 3

 

th_IMAGE_012.jpg

Only the center lens is seen through the viewfinder.

 

th_IMAGE_008.jpgth_IMAGE_013.jpgth_IMAGE_014.jpg

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Nice work, David. I love that film, the score is just tremendous.

 

One thing I wanted to ask you about that film, there never seem to be any close up shots of people or things in this film, I know this would have been down partly to complex setups and the cinematic style of the time, but I was wondering if perhaps the lenses used have a long minimum focal distance?

 

Best!

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Nice work, David. I love that film, the score is just tremendous.

 

One thing I wanted to ask you about that film, there never seem to be any close up shots of people or things in this film, I know this would have been down partly to complex setups and the cinematic style of the time, but I was wondering if perhaps the lenses used have a long minimum focal distance?

 

Best!

 

The three lenses were wide-angle (27mm each I think) so would be rather distorting to shoot a close-up with, plus the "break" as the close object moved between the three lenses / panels may be more pronounced due to distances between each lens.

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The three lenses were wide-angle (27mm each I think) so would be rather distorting to shoot a close-up with, plus the "break" as the close object moved between the three lenses / panels may be more pronounced due to distances between each lens.

 

I recall watching a 35mm scope print of it & at one point Jimmy Stewert gets too close to a break line and sprouts an extra nose.

 

But who can forget his immor(t)al line: 'I'm a sinner and I'm going to Pittsburgh to sin some more.'

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The "ultimate edition" arrived yesterday. I preordered it in July when amazon was offering it for $20 instead of $60.

 

It's a three disc set with extras that include miniature reproductions of the souvenier book and pressbook and color and B/W stills.

 

The third disc is a 90+ minute film, 'Cinerema Adventure', about the Cinerama process.

 

'How the West Was Won' is supposedly Xfered from the original three strips and apparently the panels were digitally stitched together. For the most part the blend lines are erased.

 

I watched the beginning of the 2nd disc, 'The Civil War' and the beginning of the Railroads segments. The first visible blend line was in the 'Raintree County' battle footage, copied from Ultra Panavision. It shows in a cloud of smoke from an explosion which had no detail in it.

Later some vistas with clear blue skies exihibited dark corners at the tops of the panels which indicated where the blend lines would be, but the lines themselves weren't there.

 

I watched the documentary which went into detail about the process and the history of it.

I alreadt knew that Waller invented the water ski, this showed a couple of still of him on water skis

cranking a tripod mounted Parvo.

 

Cinerama clips were in the Smile-Box format which didn't look as silly as Ithought it would.

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After reading this thread I decided to check out How the West was Won. Pretty cool film I'd have to say. I found some segments of the film fantastic, and other perhaps a bit slow. I loved the music, and I loved how the music tied it all together. As for the Cinerama, i think what I loved most about it was how they were able to capture such wide angle shots without the barreling distortion. They did a great job of composing many of the static shots so that perhaps at the beginning of the shot, there seemed to be some dead space, but by the end of the shot, the character(s) action(s) had filled up the space. The lines that seperrated the three frames were quite visible on my copy of the DVD, but I think it is an old one, I got it from the town library. With today's DI technology, it would be pretty cool to see something like this be tested again, just to be able to get those super wide shots, sans barrel distortion. Maybe not even for a whole film, but just for certain shots. I think my favorite shots were of the Indian horse charge, and the camera tracking alongside, and also of the train heist, with the oncoming train growing larger and larger getting close enough that the 27mm lenses distorted it alot, making it look extra menacing. Anywho, very cool to see this, before the thread, I had never heard of Cinerama, so thanks for posting about it.

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  • 1 month later...

I have on my bench what I believe to be the last working 3 strip camera in the world. It is a Kinopanorama (Russian) model #6. There were only 6 made.

 

I have recently ground the 18 pins for B & H film stock (it had pins for the Eastern European KS perforated film.)

 

And I have replace the original enormous motor with a small 3 phase rare earth motor and our 5000 speed electronics.

 

This camera, unlike the Cinerama models is a single box with the 3 gates side by side. The lenses all point straight out and the outside lenses are angled through prisms. Quite a nice system. This camera has interchangeable 27, 35, 50, 75MM lens sets. The outside lenses also change angle and compensate for distance as the focus is moved. Again unlike the Cinerama units these lenses are in pairs, just like an original Rolleiflex. The upper lens of each set is the shooting lens and the bottom lens is directed down on to a ground glass viewing screen where the entire 3 panels are seen via a magnifying lens and sun visor at the rear of the camera.

 

The three strips are side by side in the magazine and are taken up by a unique clutch system. Threading of the camera is a nightmare. Getting that "C" strip into the sprockets and through the gate really demands a few extra fingers. Not something that you can do as the train is approaching and you have 30 seconds to get ready...

 

It has a very nice well thought out feature. Each aperture has tiny V grooves at the bottom. One, two and 3 V grooves tell the editor and neg matcher which roll they are handling without any chance of error.

 

The photo of the entire camera shows the original motor. This photo was taken before we started working on the camera.

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  • 2 years later...

I have a question about three-strip Cinerama that could use some expert insight. This seems to be the right thread for this.

 

For the life of me, I can't understand how three-strip Cinerama fixed a problem at the seams. If you arrange three camera lenses so that they cover the Cinerama "arc," it seems nearly impossible to arrange them so that the edge of one lies on the same "line" as the other.

 

Let's say you have cameras A, B and C, with B in the middle and A and C shooting across B's field of view, so A is shooting the "right hand" panel and C is shooting the "left hand" panel. You could regard the seams as lines which run from the camera to the horizon, and ideally, the edges of each camera's field of view would lie along or parallel to those lines. But from what I can tell, those lines _can't_ be parallel-- they'd _have_ to cross at some distance from the lenses, which means that there'd be discrepancies before and beyond those crossing-points.

 

Of course, when you watch a Cinerama film like _How the West was Won_, this doesn't happen. The scenery a few feet from the lens is as seamless as the scenery on the horizon. How the devil did they manage this?

 

(I might as well explain why I'm asking. I recently shot a play with my video camera. Following the action was difficult at times, but I've been able to correct for some camera movement in post. It occurred to me that, if I had multiple cameras whose fields-of-view could be mosaic'ed seamlessly, as with Cinerama, I wouldn't have to pan as frantically-- I could combine the three images into a wider images, and reframe within _that_ in the final in a pan-and-scan manner. I know, it's crazy, but I wanted to figure out what'd be involved... and got stuck on this seams-to-the-horizon issue.

 

BVTW, to David Mullen: I remember your excellent notes on alt.movies.kubrick. Good to see your equally excellent notes here!

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Well, they couldn't fix the problem completely -- people did "jump" a bit when they crossed through the splits, and if the camera was tilted up or down, the horizon lines were broken and bent, as can be seen here:

 

htwww5.jpg

 

But in terms of lining up the edges of the three frames, Fred Waller spent a lot of time testing the camera design to get that right.

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