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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Written over a period of more then ten years and published in 1992, this still seems to be the most comprehensive history of widescreen cinema. So it seems like it deserves its own thread. I chose the CIH area for reasons that may become clear in post two.

(I'm a slow reader and have competing activities for my time but as I encounter things that are interesting I'll try to share them.)

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I like how he stakes out the terrain in the first page. Though of course then the whole first part of the book is a discussion of how Cinerama was not the first widescreen format…. By several decades.

But this description is a good one in that it explains the CIH ethos. Searching YouTube it seems like bonone has an unadulterated copy of this trailer but there are lots of middling quality edited versions online.
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Very interesting. Thanks for posting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
4:3 was arrived at for efficiency and maybe also some other reasons of circumstance. Still photos from Edison’s and Eastman’s mass produced setups were circular for example so again it wasn’t just about taking still photo conventions and using them for motion.

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Certainly it is the best book by far on Widescreen Cinema.
John Belton hoped to widen its focus to cover processes not covered such as D150 and to move its coverage beyond the 60's.
It's very unfortunate that this did not happen.
It's also a problem that the misinformation in Carr and Hayes book still continues to circulate.
It's useful only for its pictures!!
 

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Sorry not to get back to you before Nathan but have been away enjoying the holidays.
The book is about 500 pages -mostly lists.
If you ever wanted to know the names of every extra who appeared in 80 Days,here there are 8 pages of them.
There was a break down on the misinformation in the book when the Prof's magnum opus was first published but I don't have a copy.
My favourite faux pas was that South Pacific was really shot in Super Panavision not Todd-AO because the 35 mm prints said "lenses by Panavision."
That was because Panavision developed the printer lenses to reduce 65mm to 35.
The same credit is used in Spartacus-printer lenses to reduce 8 perf to 65 and then 35.
If you can find a copy somewhere it is worth it for the selection of pictures some of which are quite rare, but for facts rely upon Professor Belton.
Cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Sorry not to get back to you before Nathan but have been away enjoying the holidays.
The book is about 500 pages -mostly lists.
If you ever wanted to know the names of every extra who appeared in 80 Days,here there are 8 pages of them.
There was a break down on the misinformation in the book when the Prof's magnum opus was first published but I don't have a copy.
My favourite faux pas was that South Pacific was really shot in Super Panavision not Todd-AO because the 35 mm prints said "lenses by Panavision."
That was because Panavision developed the printer lenses to reduce 65mm to 35.
The same credit is used in Spartacus-printer lenses to reduce 8 perf to 65 and then 35.
If you can find a copy somewhere it is worth it for the selection of pictures some of which are quite rare, but for facts rely upon Professor Belton.
Cheers
Thanks. Good to know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
And then one more variable aspect ratio format from the era before sound. After this, mostly because of economics, the industry gravitated to and stuck with the 1.33 aspect ratio -- with sound as the "novelty" instead of things like wider and/or variable aspect ratios -- for the next couple of decades.

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And then one more variable aspect ratio format from the era before sound. After this, mostly because of economics, the industry gravitated to and stuck with the 1.33 aspect ratio -- with sound as the "novelty" instead of things like wider and/or variable aspect ratios -- for the next couple of decades.

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I believe 1.33 became 1.375 with the advent of sound as they used part of the film strip for the sound track.
I think your word (novelty) sums up the history of cinema AR quite well. Most of the selections and changes from Edisons first films on were made as a novelty to what came before. In your readings have you found much in early cinema where the science of vision was the driving factor regarding theater design or AR choice?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Very little about the science of vision is mentioned in the first set of experiments in the pre-sound era. A little is mentioned about aesthetics and ideas of golden ratios, and classical paintings...which one might infer was a kind of folk-science based on hundreds of years of figuring out what works best in other mediums and then drawing on that "knowledge" when trying different approaches in cinema in the pre-sound era.

But as you note, part of what would define the image ratio was practical matters (eg, needing space for sound), part of it was to try to avoid patent issues, part of it was economic (whether trying to make the best use of common film stock, or trying to make it easier on exhibitors), etc.

I'm just delving into what we usually think of as the dawn of widescreen, the post war stuff in the 1950s, where I think claims about science will crop up.
 

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I think you will find the only real hard visual science done was in the 60s by the original IMAX crew and their 1.44 AR screens that were enormous. They had an idea that was so grand and so immersive they had to invent cameras and projectors and film and then make their own movies because the cost and complexity were more than anyone wanted to deal with.
They sure looked good though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
The author spends a good bit of time documenting the movie theater business in the context of changing economic and social realities in the US during the Depression, the Second World War, and after. In short, sound was enough of a headache, format war, and novelty that both industry and audiences had little appetite for more innovation between the late twenties and the early fifties— even going so far as to enter into legal agreements to not put forward competing technologies like incompatible widescreen formats.

Then the studio system got shook up, everyone came home from the war, moved to the suburbs, got good jobs, TVs, cars and lots of outdoor hobbies, more free time, etc. (I’m being sarcastic with the word “everyone” but from a soci economic standpoint that is sort of what the US looked like at the time.)

While people often discuss widescreen cinema as a response to television, he finds a stronger relationship with the emerging leisure time activities of the new suburbs: golf, camping, swimming, hunting, travel, tennis etc etc. all of which existed before but were now within reach of average working class Americans like never before. That is, audiences didn’t want to be an audience, they wanted an immersions engaging psychological participatory experience. The giant screen was not a big TV but more like going on a vacation and experiencing new slightly strange things in a way that was so overwhelming audiences would flock to the corner drug store at intermission to buy Dramamine.

That idea of spectacle is exemplified by the first technological and commercial widescreen system to win big in the 1950s in the US, Cinerama….. which in part due to technical limitations— but also due to what was easy to make spectacle of—made their name with travelogue non narrative movies.

And while they may have reverse engineered the science they claimed to have some reasons for their format size and aspect ratio and level of immersion:

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So, the science behind the Cinerama aspect ratio is based on the notion that human vision is natively an aspect ratio of 2.75:1.

The footnote referenced on page 99:
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And the 1953 Vogue article mentioned in the foot note.

I’m a modern guy but I don’t have a subscription to Vogue so I can’t access the whole article in their archives.

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By the end of the 1950s, three strip/film/camera/projector Cinerama was on the way out. The limitations, costs, etc, weren't offset by the commercial success of the productions. Cinerama in name, and the aggressively curved massive screens associated with it, survived into the 1970s. But starting around 1960 it turned into a single camera/film/projector setup that compromised the original intent -- leading to some "Cinerama" movies like 2001 looking better on a large flat wide screen instead of on a traditional curved Cinerama screen (according to those that saw it both ways at the time). The technology (and related ones that were even more extreme, complicated and immersive, persisted for decades as amusement park attractions).

It would be short sighted to call it a failure across the board. While the original technology faded from prominence, it firmly established the aesthetic of very wide screen images, of movies as spectacle, etc, and paved the way for more manageable formats like Cinemascope, Panavision, etc., that have endured and formed the basis for state of the art production and projection for the second half of the 20th century.
 

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So, the science behind the Cinerama aspect ratio is based on the notion that human vision is natively an aspect ratio of 2.75:1.
I don’t think you can extract this statement from the information explained in the book.
As it was stated the three screen/camera process may well be constructing close to our FOV but only at a height that was film convention at the time. So I believe he was talking about matching our horizontal FOV and not our vertical at that time.

IMAX came along later in the 60s and using similar logic tried to match our total FOV reduced to a rectangle that our FOV really isn’t also. IMAX came up with a 1.44:1 AR.

I have done a little testing on my own vision both with and without eye movement and with theater we need to assume eye movement, and it is pretty hard to eliminate head movement when things get as immersive as IMAX.
As to 3D perception or depth perception using two eyes working together it is easy to see how the brain blends what we see. Close one eye and not the other and you will see the side of your nose. Close the other and you will see the other side. Open both and your nose is gone.
 

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I don’t think you can extract this statement from the information explained in the book.
As it was stated the three screen/camera process may well be constructing close to our FOV but only at a height that was film convention at the time. So I believe he was talking about matching our horizontal FOV and not our vertical at that time.

IMAX came along later in the 60s and using similar logic tried to match our total FOV reduced to a rectangle that our FOV really isn’t also. IMAX came up with a 1.44:1 AR.

I have done a little testing on my own vision both with and without eye movement and with theater we need to assume eye movement, and it is pretty hard to eliminate head movement when things get as immersive as IMAX.
As to 3D perception or depth perception using two eyes working together it is easy to see how the brain blends what we see. Close one eye and not the other and you will see the side of your nose. Close the other and you will see the other side. Open both and your nose is gone.
Bud, have you ever seen a 3 strip Cinerama film (not the neutered single strip version)?

I was present at two different theatre's Cinerama conversions. In both cases, the Cinerama screens needed to be installed in front of the proscenium and were at least 1.5x the height of the old screen. In addition, a number of rows of front seats were removed. So the viewer had a taller (and much wider) screen and typically a shorter viewing distance, resulting in more immersion.

My mother attended "This Is Cinerama" on a business trip to NYC and had to leave the theatre due to motion sickness. Needless to say, that must have been a pretty immersive experience.
 
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