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Format Seminar in London
"All formats great and small"

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Wouter de Voogd, The Netherlands Issue 40 - September 1995
The COSHARP-continuous reduction printer 65/35 [Continous Optical Slit High-Speed Anamorphic Reduction Printer] which can run up to 200 ft/min optically. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev

Mr Wouter de Voogd and Mr Johan Wolthuis attended the "All Formats Great and Small" BKSTS-seminar given at the National Film Institute, London at June 23, 1995. Mr Rob Hummel, former vice-president of Disney Animation hosted this seminar.

It was the first time ever that a comparison of different film formats was given in Europe, in which the SAME scenes were filmed under exact the SAME conditions in the different formats ranging from super 16mm to 70mm. Results of former comparisons of film formats were always distorted by the fact that the scenes were filmed under different circumstances, processed at different laboratories etc.

The following formats were compared:

- Super 16
- Standard Academy 1.85
- Super 1.85
- Super 35 (Super Techniscope)
- Anamorphic (Cinemascope, Panavision)
- 65mm Panavision

We were anxiously awaiting the moment when our most favorite format would be A/B compared with the other formats especially with anamorphic 35mm and 70mm blowup. What a revelation! Not one of all the other standards could stand up to 70mm! Both anamorphic and 70mm blow- up (from 35mm) looked blurred, less realistic with sometimes over-saturated looking colors compared with original 70mm material! Mind you, all the different transfer processes had been done with the utmost care. Mr. Hummel assured us that for the filming of 70mm NO extra lighting was necessary.

One other process that looked promising was the reduction from 65mm to 35mm using the brand new COSHARP-continuous reduction printer 65/35 [Continous Optical Slit High-Speed Anamorphic Reduction Printer, ed] which can run up to 200 ft/min optically, compare that with the frame by frame printing which is still in use today! The difference between the original 70mm material and this reduction (35mm) wasn't that big.

During this very interesting seminar Mr Rob Hummel told the audience that Mr Jeffrey Katzenberg of Walt Disney Corporation once planned to make a movie in 65mm. It is already known that Steven Spielberg had that idea when planning the filming of "Empire of the Sun". The disappointing picture quality of "Far and Away" was due to the underexposure of the film, if this would have been done with ordinary 35mm material, the image would have been impossible to watch!

Mr. Hummel intended to show the comparison between 35mm anamorphic and 70mm also to Mr. Spielberg in the near future in order to convince him of the superiority of the 70mm format. Mr Rob Hummel himself is convinced of the necessity of the rebirth of the 70mm process.

It was a pity that cinematographer Mr Vittorio Storaro couldn't be in London at the seminar because of family circumstances. As most of us know he is also a great promoter of 65mm photography which he used lately in Bernardo Bertolucci's "Little Buddha". The only disappointment was the presentation of one reel of "Little Buddha" on the relatively small screen of the NFI. The screening as seen on one of the enormous wall to wall screens of the Kinepolis cinema complex at Brussels is much more impressive and that is what the 70mm process is created for! Nevertheless, the audience, comprising of several professionals in the film field, were all breath taken by 70mm, especially after the 70mm screening of this one reel of "Little Buddha". We surely hope that this seminar will help convince more filmmakers to shoot in 65mm!

Further in 70mm reading:

Making "Treasure Seekers", a short film in 70mm

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Updated 21-01-24