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Zak Law

Kill Bill format confusion

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Wasn't sure whether to post this here or at the 35mm page.

I've been doing a lot of research about the cinematography of Kill Bill and Death Proof, however some info has confused me.


First, I know that tarantino always shoots on film, and he likes to shoot with anamorphic lenses too I think (I think PF, IB, DU were all shot on film with anamorphic lenses, like what used to be called "Cinemascope", correct me if I'm wrong).


I've read in a number of places (including from what I think is Robert Richardson's diary) that Kill Bill was shot on super 35. This sounds right because the films don't really have that "anamorphic" look, (softer frame edges, horizontal flares and warped bokeh and other shapes). It also looks very grainy, I think that it was pushed to bring the colours and the grain out.


However, everywhere says that it was shot on 3-perf super 35. The film has an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, which I thought was obtained by shooting 2-perf super 35. I was under the impression that 3-perf super 35 would give a narrower, 1.85:1 image. I think it's the same story with Death Proof


Did they crop it, or combine 3-perf with anamorphic lenses?


Are these sources incorrect, or is some of my info incorrect? Would someone please explain, if I have something wrong please correct me I won't take offense.

Edited by Zak Law

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“Super-35” means exposing the full aperture width for picture information.


Originally it was always a 4-perf 35mm format and usually composed for cropping to 2.40 : 1 (from a 1.33 : 1 negative.) You could shoot Super-35 and compose for cropping to 1.85 : 1 (sometimes called “Super-1.85”) but before D.I.s this meant making a reduction to standard 1.85 using dupes, so the improvement was marginal.


3-perf 35mm is almost always full aperture so some people find it redundant to call it Super-35. It has a native 1.78 : 1 aspect ratio and can be composed for 1.78 HDTV, or for cropping to 1.85 or 2.40. It took off for features once D.I.s became the norm.


2-perf 35mm is 2.66 : 1 full aperture so it’s almost never used as a “Super-35” format, usually only the sound aperture (Academy) width is used for a 2.40 : 1 image.


Robert Richardson has shot both in 4-perf Super-35 (like for “Casino”) and 3-perf (“The Aviator”, “Kill Bill”), those films composed for cropping to 2.40 : 1.

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Thanks for replying, that cleared most of it up. Why would he shoot in 4-perf super-35 instead of the 3-perf variant, if it means he will only be wasting more film? Also, how do they sync the sound up later (I assume they record the sound with a separate. probably digital recorder)?


Also, is "Techniscope" the same, or is that only 2 perforations high? On wikipedia it shows that this retains the space for the sound track, Is this true, and do they still shoot films like this?

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In the 1990’s there weren’t a lot of 3-perf cameras and most of them were booked for TV shows, and there weren’t a lot of labs that had optical printers to blow-up 3-perf to 4-perf for making scope release prints, so 4-perf was the norm for Super-35. Keep in mind that all 35mm theatrical projection is 4-perf.


Another reason is the some people were using Super-35 because it made it easier to make the pan and scan TV version even though you composed for a 2.40 release, and TVs were 4:3 back then.


By the early 2000’s there were more 3-perf movements available and most blow-ups to anamorphic were done digitally so it was easier to shoot in 3-perf but release in 4-perf prints. Then TVs went 16:9 and theaters went digital so the need to even finish to a 4-perf dupe negative was reduced.


Techniscope is 2-perf, it doesn’t use the soundtrack area just because it doesn’t need to, otherwise you’d have a 2.66 : 1 image (being half as tall as 4-perf which is 1.33 : 1.) Since 2-perf was never a release print format, it never had a soundtrack added to it, it was always blown up to 4-perf anamorphic.


Sound recording is always separate except for some rare mag-on-film newsreel cameras or sound Super-8. It was analog (first straight to 35mm film exposing an optical track in the 30s and 40s) and then then to tape in the 50s and then digitally in the 2000s. I can’t explain the whole process from shooting to mixing in one post. In the early days, they clapped the sticks on the slate at the head of the shot and the editor used that sound to mark the point on the soundtrack to line up with the same moment on the workprint in order to run them in interlocked sync while editing.

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Even the pre-striped film is gone now- the glue for fixing the stripe to the stock fell foul of some new environmental regulation. A few mavericks held out recording sound-on-film with Auricons, but they'll be waiting for Ektachrome to come back in 16mm. now, if it ever does.

I'll add to David's actually pretty concise couple of sentences by saying that sound was transferred to perforated magnetic film so that one frame of picture corresponded to one frame of sound for editing. Look up "Steenbeck". A film would have dozens of reels, each with a different soundtrack component (even our student films had up to 10), and each the entire length of the film, which would then be mixed down to one reel (or more, for stereo) before transfer to release print soundtracks, usually optical.

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Yes, the production sound recorded on set with a Nagra tape recorder - let's say it is the 1980's - was transferred to 35mm perfed mag stock. The editor would roll it back and forth over a sound head to listen for the moment of the clap of the slate and when they found that frame, they would mark it with a big X with a sharpie. Then he's roll the 35mm work print through the editing machine and mark the moment of the clap of the slate with a big X with a grease pencil. Then he would line up the 35mm mag sound and the 35mm work print in the editing machine with the two X's lined up and then interlock them so that they ran together. Once he synced up the sound to every circled take on the work print, so that he ended up with two rolls of equal length, sound and picture, he'd have numbers inked along the edges so that once he started cutting up the sound and picture into clips, thus losing the slate, he could still line them up using the edge numbers. In film school, for short projects, we'd manually ink the mag roll by writing down the edge code number from the workprint.


Today, the sound would be synced with the picture in the telecine bay when transferring or later after the film was transferred to video, using digital tools. And if you used a smart slate showing time code and used a film camera that would burn time code into the film (ARRICODE, AATONCODE, etc.), then the syncing could be done more automatically though not many people bothered to shoot film that way. With digital cameras, it's done all the time, you get everything on the same time code so that it is easy to sync the sound later.

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Over here, it's a short line and two long ones for the clap. |l| and the cross in a box for picture. We got the edge numbering for all our films over 400'. I still have the invoice- £1.60 per 400' in 1982.

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