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Ultrascan 70 at CREST National

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

Written by: Jon R Truckenmiller, Sr. VP, Engineering. Letter to to Mr. Ole Alstrup dated February 12, 1993  Issue 65 - July 2001
Updated: 18.03.2023

Trade paper advert for CREST's Ultrascan 70 scanner. "Film & Video" magazine, May, 1991. Palmero Archive

CREST National was originally approached by MGM/UA in 1982, with the enquiry as to the possibility of transferring 70mm print material to video for the "restoration" of Michael Cimino's epic "Heavens Gate". The studio's only full length, road show version of this feature was a 70mm print that had not been cut and shortened from it's original screening, and it was hoped that this element could be utilized for transfer.

At this time I pursued the cost and feasibility of such a project and engineering some of the basic solutions to creating a 70mm flying spot telecine system, based on a highly modified Rank Mark IIIB. Two factors entered into the equation.

Cost: As only less than 75 features in all the various formats and aspect ratios had been photographed in wide format film, and no current productions save for a then-young IMAX special venue Canadian company were anticipated: did the high cost of this system justify its creation?

Time: When MGM/UA was told that indeed 70mm was feasible they responded with; "could the system be working in two weeks?" No, the extensive modifications to servos, scan systems and custom, highly creative optical designs would require months of production and fine tuning. It was decided to print down to 35mm elements for transfer. MGM/UA needed the product now. 70mm transfers were to remain but a dream.

1988, six years later, brought an awakening about wide format transfers again. Bob Harris was putting together a restoration of "Lawrence of Arabia" for Columbia Pictures and he was aware of our preliminary efforts, could they be restarted? Again, time and cost were studied and it was felt perhaps the market was changing but still not to the point of a clear cost justification.

1990 brought the introduction of Don Iwerks at Iwerks Entertainment and Jeff Simon of Super 70 Systems with their development of new 8-perf wide format systems for special venue production, and a commitment from Arriflex camera to build a new 65mm 5 perf camera, followed by Panavison and their development of same. The wide format market was heating up.

Jeff Simon in the creation of his format envisioned a system that would utilize video in the post-production process to help keep costs at a manageable level. Phill Kroll of OTTI International had I believed worked with Jeff in machining gate assemblies and rollers for his 8-70 Camera and was convinced there was a market for a 70mm 8 perf telecine system. Phil proceeded along the same lines I had proposed earlier and actually built a 65/70mm, eight perf, 4:3 aspect ratio, gate/optical assembly for a jump scan 625 telecine. I visited this prototype outside London in October 1990 and the gate was delivered to Crest National in November.

Installation progressed on a heavily enhanced, Mark IIIc, Turbo Rank and the creation of Crest National ULTRASCAN 70 began. The full range capabilities for transfer of 5 perf material at vari speed, as well as 60 frames per second (Showscan), 8 perf vari speed, 10 perf vari speed and 15 perf horizontal 24 fps, was developed. No small feat considering a Rank is designed to operate in 35mm, 4 perf at 24 fps (90 fpm) to 30 fps (111.6 fpm) with a maximum shuttle speed limited to 5 times play speed. Remember that at normal projection-speed, 5 perf Showscan 60 fps is running 289.8 fpm or 15 perf 24 fps equates to 337.5 fpm.

Crest National's Ultrascan 70 system incorporates more than just a modified Rank Scanner. Support for handling these speeds and controlled ballistics required sub design changes throughout all the telecine systems, from color correction computers that must reflect new timing corrections, film-tape editing systems in both 525/625, and the introduction of computer-readable film edge code generators operating at all these speeds and film perf. heights. Add to this the support of custom 65/70mm film cleaners, splicers, interlock magnetic dubbers (operating off set tach pulse rates) and footage counters in every conceivable format, Ultrascan 70 becomes truly an investment center.

As the prototype London system did not support any of this and on detailed optical element evaluation, it was deemed neccesary to redo the optical elements of the system as well, to obtain the vast improvements necessary for a commercially acceptable transfer system.

More in 70mm reading:

Cosharp 35mm to 70mm printer

FotoKem Restores "South Pacific"

65mm / 70mm Film Scanning in the UK

Gulliver Arane 65/70mm Laboratory in France

Cinerama Inc. Scans 70mm Film at Crest Hollywood

Some ruminations after "The Reel Thing XXV"

70mm Magnetic Striping Machine for Sale

To understand the 65mm project


Ultrascan 70 saw first commercial transfer elements in March 1991. The first feature transfer was "2OO1: A Space Odyssey" and was mastered direct from a 65mm printing negative number 1, dated 1968, for Turner/MGM/UA. The next restoration projects tackled included non-linear anamorphic, unsqueezed from Ultra Panavision print elements of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and “The Hallelujah Trail”. This same process was used in the restoration of "The Alamo". Universal Studios utilized their 65mm inter positive, made optically from the 35mm Technirama negative, for the supervisor transfer of "Spartacus". Transfer of MGM/UA's "West Side Story" was made from a 65mm laboratory inter positive and was supervised by the director Robert Wise.

Perhaps the most challenging transfer to date was the restoration of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". Shot in 1968 utilizing the wide screen photographic process, Super Panavision, a 65mm color original negative had been created and Technicolor had been selected as the motion picture laboratory to be used for processing, answer print and release print production. The 65mm camera original was conformed for printing on Technicolor's Auto Select, 65mm printer. The limited number of 70mm release prints required were generated by this printer, direct to 70mm print stock. A reduction 35mm CRI was created and used for general 35mm cinema release printing. No laboratory 65mm intermediate elements were created.

One of the many unique features of Auto select printing, is the ability to avoid frame line splices showing in the full frame, 5 perforation, wide screen exhibition format. To achieve this task the printer, from paper cue tapes, physically skips 2 frames at every splice. In doing so it creates a clean scene transition, but requires the conformed film to have an extra two frames offset built it for each scene or splice of the feature. For conventional laboratory printing, camera original negative is conformed into an "A" roll and separate "B" roll. Each roll is checkerboarded back and forth and when a dissolve is desired an overlap of scenes is built into the respective rolls. Fader cues are used to determine fade ins and fade outs. Each roll is printed as a separate pass onto the raw stock, creating a dissolve during the overlap phase. Auto-select printing differs from these normal laboratory procedures by utilizing an A roll only. Auto-select creates all fades and dissolves at print time from the one roll of specially conformed camera original. The Auto-select printer in operation closes it's fader, backs up the raw stock, advances the original, then opens the fader while printing, to complete the transition. The single A roll contains all scenes, and material for fades and dissolves.

The previous film to video transfer of this feature had been performed in October 1981. The pan and scan from a 35mm release print was found to be lacking by today digital standards for release to Video Laserdisc, and was not in the letterbox wide screen format. It was found that no 70mm release prints containing little damage or age deterioration existed, and since no laboratory intermediate existed it was deemed appropriate to use the original camera negative for this transfer. The large format negative, mounted as 1AB - 9AB was shipped from the Hutchinson, Kansas salt mine storage repository, and on arrival inspected and determined to be in excellent condition. Laboratory records showed last physical activity for this element to have been in 1978. Color grading proceeded as normal, with the exception of the complexity of the Auto-select, conformed negative, with its slugs and undocumented cues. Imagine what happens as scene changes occur and the sound track sync moves progressively two more frames delayed.

Software on Crest's telecine control system was modified to allow for an Auto-Assemble of the entire feature: a process in which, at every scene change the digital recorder and the telecine would stop, mark, back cue and roll. In this process, the transfer was completed with 2,789 I/C transitions. Extensive use was made of read-before write edits to create all fades and dissolves required throughout the feature allowing for true first generation quality. And if this was not enough, it was found that in the 1981 transfer, or at some other undocumented time, the Intermission was moved and footage in the 65mm version deleted and changed. The 1992 restoration transfer was corrected to fully replicate the 1968 theatrical road show release version of this feature.
Ultrascan 70 today is being utilized not only for these restoration projects on theatrical productions, but has to date, logged over 1.000.000 feet of "dailies" production. 65mm camera original direct from laboratory process is mastered, logged and dubbed for delivery worldwide.

As an example, the production "Concerto for the Earth" was shot during the autumn of 1991 through spring 1992 on location in 13 countries, spanning the globe, for display in the Environmental Pavillion at EXPO 92, Seville, Spain. This project was the first production to utilize Showscan Productions new wide screen 3D photographic process.

Showscan employs a two camera 65mm rig delivering a left eye 65mm negative and a right eye 65mm negative, with an aspect ratio of 2,2:1 and a projection rate of 60 frames pr. second. The production company realized that the cost of print-down (65-35) work picture for the anticipated thousands of feet required and the need for some form of verification that the material being shot, in some of the most remote areas of the world, was acceptable. They demanded an alternative solution.

Using Ultrascan 70 and our Express 65 Video dailies allowed the production company to air freight exposed film to Los Angeles, and on completion of processing create a direct transfer from the OCN, including the Eastman 65mm key kode data for later conforming edited video to 65mm film. This same video daily in cassette form would be air freighted out to location for viewing and evaluation. This process, with flight travel time, turned out to be about a four day step, beating the conventional film turnaround by almost two weeks. Imagine screening dailies in video form, with a generator-powered monitor in the grass out in the Serengeti, nearest telephone 390 miles.

Finally you enquire as to the URSA and 70mm transfers. If I had felt an URSA would have provided a technical improvement in quality or in ease of creation, such a system would have been used.

The only benefit from URSA would have been in the area of rotation of horizontal format images, (VistaVision or IMAX type 15 perf) however, both of these formats present challenges to any system. We have experimented in the field of VistaVision, but the market is actually very small and material in archive in this format is usually in three strip (YCM) masters, requiring pin registration and composite imaging. This is not a cost effective form of transfer.

In rotation transfers, as the flying spot scanning system is a real time continuous motion system, the actual image in the scanning gate must be about 2x frames in size to "see" the entire frame. For Ultrascan 70, I have established a daily type work around system for 15 perf transfers that we currently use. However, the design drawings and specifications for a gate spanning the 30 perfs required for true 15 perf full resolution scanning would create a device that is physically larger than the deck plate of Rank, and the cost of flawless optics for negative transfer is equal to the price of a new URSA.

Once again the dream continues.

70mm Films in Ultrascan 70 (List incomplete)

2001:A Space Odyssey
The Hallelujah Trail
South Pacific
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
The Alamo
West Side Story
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Sound of Music

Crest National

Crest National, in Los Angeles, has the capability to large format film directly to videotape using a specially modified Digital Rank. The Rank masters 65/70mm 5, 8, 10, or 15 perf film from original negative, I.P., I.N., or print to all tape formats. Letterbox and pan & scan can be accommodated.
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Updated 21-01-24