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70mm: Nobody Does it Better
Introduction to the 3rd. Todd-AO 70mm Festival, Karlsruhe, Germany

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Thomas Hauerslev Date: 30.09.2007
Thomas Hauerslev, editor in70mm.com. Self portrait.

Cinema owners know what attracts audiences today: big screen ENTERTAINMENT with a perfect digital soundtrack from 8 directional channels. Considering the amount of installed equipment to do this -- film projectors, speakers, amplifiers, lenses, comfortable chairs, screens etc. -- audiences do get value for their money.

But dark clouds are looming over the horizon. Fierce competition from other sources presents a serious challenge for the survival of the cinema. Is an immense screen and digital sound enough to retain the audience? Is the audience getting the best presentation? The cinema experience couldn't be better.... Or could it?

I propose a visit to the cinema could be significantly better.

The cinema industry has focused on digital delivery of sound in the cinema since 1992. Sound reproduction has improved enormously and the quality is excellent. It's time to take a look at the picture quality.

The dominating delivery method of motion pictures is still 35mm film, but the format is seriously challenged in resolution and brightness by digital projection. Image quality from 2k projectors has convinced the industry that digital is the way forward. And as digital projector technology advances, tomorrow's 4k projectors will replace "yesterday's" 2k machines.

Very soon, digital projection very probably will exceed 35mm film in quality and the time has come to rethink how to get that extra "WOW" factor into cinema presentation, that elusive something which will make an audience choose the cinema to watch movies, rather than DVD, cell phones or internet.

The obvious solution is to use large format 70mm film with its 3X times the resolution of standard film. With 70mm, less magnification is required and the improved quality is noticeable at once. It will be a high-impact experience for most people, unlike anything they have seen previously. Once they become aware of the WOW factor, ie. big, bright and sharp images, they will prioritize 70mm presentations. The audience will perceive any film in 70mm to be far more intense on the subconscious level because the brain has three to four times more picture information to "process" per second.

In a few years, when digital projection has caught up with, and possibly exceeded 70mm quality, large format origination will still be important. It is essential to use a capturing medium with a massive storage capacity which will be accessible and last for hundreds of years. 65mm film is excellent for that purpose. This longevity fact is acknowledged by all major producers of films today, with primary long-term archiving of materials on motion picture film, not on hard drives.

"Indiana Jones" and "Lord of the Rings" should have been shot in 65mm large format negative film because they are spectacular movies. But filming in 65mm should not be limited only to movies with big budgets. All movies would benefit enormously with a large negative. I'd have enjoyed seeing "The Bourne Identity", "Amelie" or "Shakespeare in Love" photographed on 65mm and presented in 70mm. I would certainly select cinemas presenting films in 70mm over "sub standard" formats. Unfortunately, 70mm doesn’t make a bad film better, but a good film will improve if presented in 70mm.

The new generation of filmmakers will have to go boldly where no 65mm cameras have gone before. It is their creative responsibility to deliver the best in cinema entertainment. Besides, 65mm is good for their ego – their names will appear larger, sharper and maybe, just maybe, the audience will remember them better before they fade into obscurity. This is their best shot at getting their "15 minutes of fame".

As editor of in70mm.com I am proud being invited to the Todd-AO Festival in Karlsruhe for the third time. It must be a tradition by now. 70mm has the WOW quality that will ensure audience satisfaction and create a come-back effect. The tag line "Presented in 70mm" on the marquee signals a superior product no other motion picture format or digital format can match -- yet. Nobody does it better than Mr. Herbert Born, who is to be applauded for his efforts keeping 70mm alive here at the beautiful Schauburg Cinerama Theatre.
More in 70mm reading:

Todd-AO Festival Home
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2007 Festival Flyer  (PDF)

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6 Oct 2007

Congratulations on your article Thomas, very interesting and very good points raised. Yes, Amelie should have been shot in 65mm. Atonement is another example of a recent film that would have benefited from 65mm.

I made an exception to my rule of not going to the pictures these days and I saw Michael Clayton and Atonement on a single weekend. Both films have lost resolution due to the 2k intermeditate. Moreover the two Vue screens I visited were shoeboxes. The screen did not have the cinemascope width and therefore Michael Clayton was shown on a smaller screen that the ads (cropping from top and bottom). This coupled with some bad behaviour from customers confirmed my decision to stay away from cinemas until Bradford next year.


Ramon Lamarca

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