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"EMVF in 65mm: Movies for Your Ears"

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: James Tavella, film producer Date: 1 February 2005

The idea for the "EMVF in 65mm: Movies for Your Ears" shoot was not an original concept but stems from an earlier production that the Director Bruce Sears and myself have been developing for some time. This earlier project focused on the idea of telling a story through scene action and content motivated by grand symphonic sound design with limited dialog. Together we developed a 60-page screenplay detailing the creation and evolution of the universe. We also agreed that a grand picture was needed to characterize and accompany such a broad theme.

Further in 70mm reading:

"EMVF in 65mm: Movies for your ears" - GO TO GALLEY

A recent 65mm Production

Panavision story

Super Panavision 70 films

Cast and credits

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Full Resolution Entertainment

The only format that came to mind was IMAX.  However, in order to garner any interest from IMAX on such an ambitious project, we realized that some kind of forerunner or preview was required to show and express the value of this story to be told in such a large format.  Depth and clarity of picture was essential and the only way to accomplish that for "EMVF in 65mm: Movies for Your Ears" was in 70mm.
James F Tavella
(818) 335-5326
(818) 364-6263 fax

PO BOX 2179
CA 91610
Producer James Tavella.  
Director Bruce Sears and producer James Tavella discuss an up and coming setup involving the Technocrane system. Photo by Mako Kowai

We additionally realized that a musical group capable of orchestrating such a soundscape composition for this preliminary vision was needed. This broad sound ironically came not from a large orchestra but from a 4 piece symphonic musical group. The group was EMVF led by musical director and accomplished Warr/Bass guitarist Michael Hamernik and consisted of guitarist Steve Chandler; electric violinist Jeff Sullivan; & percussionist David Sears.
Director Bruce Sears (left) discusses with Cinematographer Neil Moore (right) blocking for steadicam

Together with the other executive producers, we began discussions with Panavision: Woodland Hills  & Kodak in Hollywood. Both companies eagerly jumped on the project & donated their services. Panavision loaned all five of their 65mm cameras to the shoot & Kodak donated all stock in 5298 & 5277. Out of the total camera packages, both System 65 cameras originally designed to shoot “Far & Away” & one handheld pellicle 65 would end up being chosen for the times on set. 
Some of the crew. Photo by Rodney Lockett

Press for enlargement

In preproduction, Bruce knew that a highly capable DP would have to be brought in who knew how to expressively light large format. After much review, he found that quality & skill in Cinematographer Neil Moore.  Neil offered an unmatched ambition along with a truly creative look.  He in turn teamed up with veteran gaffer Foster Denker.
Mako (Makofoto) operates the technocrane camera as Director Bruce Sears watches. Photo by Matt petrosky

During preliminary discussions, we all understood that the scope of the original story had to be greatly downsized & centered more towards the individual elements of the design of the original script. The decision was made to detail more of the soundscape involved in telling the story-a large sound to accompany a large format. One of the executive producers made the decision that in order to show the musical group’s versatility we should shoot them playing live. This added a whole new level of production decisions that increased the burden on the Director and the Production. So in a short period of time, as is typical in productions, we went from a 65mm concept preview to a live multicamera shoot; but we were up to the challenge. Bruce designed an animatic preview script as well as several contingency plans for this challenge knowing full well that shooting live would be more like live switching than a multiple take shoot.
Director of photography Neil Moore views a setup on the System 65 "A" camera. Photo by Matt Petrosky

Press for enlargement

The limited film stock also challenged him to be required to call roll & cut live during continuous camera coverage as well as live lense changes to accomplish his vision. The vision for this film became one surrounding our new cast which was the four musical members. Each member would have his own theme & scene lasting between about 4 min & all coverage would revolve around telling his story for that scene. Since the original 60 min screenplay involved creation, we chose to give each member a symbolic reference to creation based on the elements-earth, wind, fire & water. Earth would be the foundation which was the percussionist; wind would be the violinist who was able to bend & lead the music or spiritually follow it at will; fire would be the guitarist based on his ability to burn through the soundscaping & change its direction; & water would be the bassist whose sound flowed along side the percussionist & melded with him.  With the focus now on evolving a story around the musicians, extensive discussions began between Bruce & Neil about the design of the lighting.
James Dickson, 65mm & CircleVision SFX specialist, joined the team & was a great help in preparing us for the requirements of lighting & lensing 65mm. The thought was to try & use the old anamorphic 65 lenses to achieve a 2.75 ratio but we discovered that the remaining three “Ben Hur” Panavision lenses had fungus growing on the glass & weren’t usable. So the decision was made to frame for 2.40 with the idea of being able to project this as a combination of a promo for a larger story either standing alone or as a pre-show instructive piece about the synergy of picture & sound shown before a film’s trailer. Bruce & Neil decided on a look specific to each member. Since live switching & playback would not be possible, the use of two continuity supervisors was added as a safety & each camera would be monitored at video village. I set the production up with a crew of 40 & Sal Gomez, AD, scheduled a 3-day shoot.

John Radzik (Stedicam Operator), James Tavella (Producer), Jim Dickson (65mm specialist) and Bruce Sears (Director).
Photo by Rod Lockett

During production the single location, Panavision Stage 1, was lit by Neil to give the sense of a surreal, ambiguous atmosphere that focused on the musicians while at the same time providing depth & ambiance. The use of fog enhanced this vision.  One system 65 would be flown on a 30 ft Technocrane provided by Andy Romanoff of Panavision Remote Systems & operated by Mako Koiwai, the second system 65 would track on dolly & the handheld pellicle would shoot coverage on steadicam operated by John Radzik. Both the crane & the steadicam would have a 40mm (for the steadicam it was an issue of weight).
Art Douglas (right) interviews Don Earl (Panavision). Photo by Rod Lockett

The dolly camera would be switched live in shot between a 75mm & a Zeiss 300mm. Since no control trailer was available, the video village was constructed on the noisy set & communication between the director & the camera crew was maintained using headsets. Once Bruce called “action” the cameras performed beautifully.  All cameras were rolled & cut live to preserve film with each camera positioned to cover a specific action in shot. We rolled through footage with the director calling “cut” once he felt like he had enough coverage to satisfy the scene. The shooting script was designed to be organized and give freedom to improvise as needed. Principal photography consisted of two days with one day each for two musicians.  During that time, the crew worked magnificently and a high constant moral was always maintained on-set.  We were encouraged & thrilled by the visit of Don Earl on set during principal & it gave us added motivation to be true to the history of these cameras in our behind the scenes documentary.
Postproduction would be handled by CFI for processing. This shoot has lead to much interest from the New York Film Festival & several magazines & newsletters. We are proud to be included in the In70mm.com - The 70mm Newsletter & website & hope we have an opportunity to screen this piece at the the widescreen weekend in Bradford.
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Updated 21-01-24