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The Hateful Eight is a Wonderful Cinematic Experience for the true Cinefile

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Tyler Purcell Date: 04.12.2015
I'm one of those strange ducks who likes old technology. Steam train's, old cars, analog tape recorders, 2 stroke engines and motion picture film. I grew up shooting films (and still do today) on motion picture film and of course watching them on the big screen in the big city of Boston where I grew up. My dad was really into the movies and as a little kid, he dragged me to 70mm screenings of all sorts of things from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" to "Terminator 2". One of my favorite childhood memories is of my dad holding me up in the projection booth to look at the 70mm film on platter of "Terminator 2", I was only 14 at the time. I'm the guy who is turned towards the projection booth, staring at the projectionist as he loads the film, waiting patiently to see it start, the rest of the audience wondering what this little kid was staring at.

So of course as a filmmaker in Hollywood, I've attended as many film screenings as I could and since film as a theatrical format is dead, whenever someone works up the gumption to release something on film, I'm there. Last year it was Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" and this year it's Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight", both projected in 70mm and both finished photochemically. What Quentin is doing with Hateful Eight and the revival of the 70mm roadshow screening, is quite impressive. Weinstein's have helped pave the way for Quentin's vision and after tonight's screening, I'm in awe of their accomplishments.

Since The Hateful Eight is as much about the format as the story, Weinstein's decided to have special screenings for academy members because DVD screeners, won't do it justice. As a consequence, there are two weeks of screenings on both coasts of the US and I choose the one at the DGA (Directors Guild of America) because I know how much they care for projection. The only negative thing about seeing the film so far before it's release date is that I'm unable to discuss the movie itself. This is eating me from the inside out because all I want to do is shout and rave about the details of this movie, but alas I can't. However, I do think it's ok to discuss the projection and what I saw on screen. Not to review the movie, but to simply explain what I saw for fans of the 70mm format, like myself.

The Hateful Eight is being distributed and shown in over 100 theaters, half of which had 70mm projectors installed for the viewing. This is a huge challenge and the members of this forum may know that the great staff over at Boston Light and Sound (my home town) supplied the equipment and most of it will be shipped back to them after the screenings are over if there isn't another 70mm film to be shown in the next year. To help the projectionists in their task, the film will be shipped already spooled onto platters. This is not the first time this has happened, IMAX films have been frequently shipped this way. It helps with errors that may stem from poor splicing practices. As a consequence, one would assume the prints would be clean, without cigarette burns (change over cues) in the upper right corner at the end of each roll. However, this was not the case for my screening, more about that in a minute.

The DGA theater doesn't have a big screen for the size, it's very old school in that way. So the actual viewing experience wasn't optimal, but the projection sure was. The screening starts with an overture and a nice text card on screen saying just that. Reel one on projector A, had some gate wobble AND the right side of the frame was going in and out of focus very slightly, during the overture card. I was very concerned because at the time, I thought it was a platter projection and likewise it would be that way for the entire presentation. The beginning of the film contains some great exteriors and the issue continued for quite a while. However, the moment projector B kicked in, the problems went away and I never saw them again. My guess is, there was something stuck in the gate, preventing it from closing (squashing) the film properly and the projectionist fixed it because even the end credits were rock solid, no wobble or anything.

This might sound disheartening to some people, but the projection was so good, it looked like digital. I've seen some IMAX presentations like this before, where it's so crisp, so clean, so grain-less, you swear it's the best digital projection ever. Yet, this was the first 5 perf 70mm projection I've seen which could stand next to the very best IMAX 15/70 projection and hold it's own. Most of that comes down to the top-notch projection, which was flicker-free, rock solid stability and silent (no whirr of a projector in the background). The other part came from the filmmakers use of fine-grain stocks, like 50D for exteriors and 250T for a great deal of interiors. There were a hand-full of shots you could see grain, but the vast majority where smooth as silk. Unlike digital projection which leaves most content lifeless through raised blacks and crushed highlights, film projection doesn't do that. Plus, this being a brand new print, perhaps shown two or three times prior, it was in immaculate condition. The detail in every shot was outstanding. You could see strands of hair and sweat in close-up's. You could see the crispness of the layers of snow even though it was all white, there was still detail. One of the characters has a striped shirt on and even when there were dark scenes, you could differentiate between the brighter and darker sections of that shirt. To me, that's a great acid test for dynamic range and I was more then impressed. I kept saying to myself during the screening, if everyone saw it like this, there maybe a push for future 70mm releases.

If there was to be a complaint about the technical side of The Hateful Eight, it would be the interior lighting of the main location. I knew it was going to be over-lit, thanks to the trailers and press stills, but it was way more over lit then I even expected. Table tops so bright, the actors faces were getting enough bounce for that to be the only light source. I understand the reasoning behind this lighting concept; it saved a lot of time and allowed the filmmakers to use slower speed stocks and lenses. However, it's my only real beef with the film technically and that's pretty good coming from someone who simply can't sit through our modern films due to how poorly they're made. Bob Richardson and his crew did a fantastic job at making a stage play interesting to watch on the big screen.
More in 70mm reading:

"The Hateful Eight" 70mm Theatre List and Projection Details

Panavision and the Resurrecting of Dinosaur Technology

Motion pictures photographed in MGM Camera 65 / Ultra Panavision 70

Internet link:

Tyler Purcell


The only other technical thing to discuss is the use of those fantastic anamorphic Ultra Panavision lenses, which were re-built just for this movie. It was a clever idea to tell this story in 70mm Ultra Panavision because most of it takes place in one interior location. The filmmakers could use wider shots and achieve longer dialog scenes, which not only looks cool, but saves time. I think the standard 5 perf 70mm 2.20:1 aspect ratio, may not be quite wide enough for this movie. The unbelievable bit is how little those old lenses breathed and how little anamorphic distortion there was. I was more then impressed with the look, never noticing the anamorphic lensing. There were a few shots using diopters as well, pretty slick stuff and cool looking since nobody uses them anymore. Reminds me of films from the 70's ad 80's where you had to keep the lens wide open, but wanted less depth of field.

With all that said, The Hateful Eight is a wonderful cinematic experience for the true cinefile. It was clearly made with the heart's of many others like myself, who strive to keep shooting film and keep it alive for future generations. The shooting crew, team over at Panavision, the great finishing guys at FotoKem and DGA projectionist, all did an amazing job making this film. Everything came together flawlessly, Quentin's vision (from the first time he saw that "Ben Hur" chariot scene) was a complete and utter success. He's proved without a shadow of a doubt, 70mm acquisition and projection can be better then digital. There wasn't a moment watching the movie where I was taken out of the action due to a problematic technical error, like so many modern films. Every frame was rich in color, painted with a master's paintbrush and projected with artistic flair of it's own. What Quentin has showed us with The Hateful Eight is that, it takes a team of outstanding artisans both behind the camera, in the lab and in the projection room, to show something properly on the big screen. It doesn't require fancy modern digital technology to tell a story, it only requires technology from the 60's and a few people who care.

If you are a cinefile, take some time out to see The Hateful Eight in 70mm before it's too late. Even if you don't like the story (not everyone's can of worms), go for the technical aspects alone and next time you see something digitally, just remember how flat-out amazing GOOD film projection is to watch.

Thanks for reading
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Updated 07-01-23