How the West Was Won
("Flat" "Super Scope" 2.89 AR Cinerama Restoration)
I picked this up recently in a combo pack of westerns from WB (with The Searchers and Wild Bunch), which included only the "flat" widescreen restoration of this film, as opposed to the "SmileBox" edition.
The transfer is astonishingly good, both in terms of picture and sound quality. Color and contrast are both excellent and very natural in apppearance. And the 2.89 ratio image is so finely detailed that it may be hard to fully appreciate on some smaller HD screens (esp. 720p TVs). It should look glorious though on larger and 2.35 CIH screens. The detail is so fine in some scenes that the compressed 2k video encode can't completely render it all without some artifacting. (IOW, this might be a good candidate for a 4k release.)
The film is also beautifully scored (and faithfully reproduced in this release) by Alfred Newman.
The perspective is pretty extreme in most scenes in this film. As a consequence, conventional closeups are virtually non-existent (because the faces would appear too distorted). Some of the action sequences and opticals were photographed with only one camera though, which is why the picture quality and level of detail drops somewhat in those scenes, and the perspective looks less exaggerated.
Cinerama was a 3-camera widescreen high resolution film process. Each camera recorded 1/3 of the scene on 35mm film, and they were arrayed in an arc to capture a wider field of view (up to 146 degres). To reconstruct the scene, the three images were projected side-by-side on one large immersive wrap-around screen.
To create the single 2.89 ratio widescreen image for this release, the three views were digitally "knitted" together using advanced computer graphics. The seams are pretty hard to see in most scenes. They become a little more noticeable during some dissolves though when the seams "morph" into a new shape (which is sort of fascinating to watch in itself).
Another interesting side-effect of the flattening process is that people on different sides of the screen sometimes appear to be looking in front of, rather than at each other, or facing in different directions when looking at the same POV.
For average viewers, this film may seem like just an interesting novelty. But for fans of cinema history and esp. high-resolution film formats, I suspect this will be a must-own for their collections. Ardent Cinerama fans will undoubtedly prefer the 2-disc standalone version though, with the add'l extras and SmileBox version. However, the single-disc version of HTWWW in the western combo pack does include commentary by the filmmakers and a documentary on Cinerama. And you can get a feel for how the SmileBox process looks from some excerpts in the latter.
Edited by ADU - 4/30/13 at 5:16pm