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post #31 of 49 Old 03-07-08, 08:58 PM
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

Wow, what a great read this tread is.

blaser thank you for asking the question
Richard W. Haines thank you for sharring your wisdom
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post #32 of 49 Old 03-08-08, 03:50 AM
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

You're welcome.

Regarding the ratios, in my opinion they should show as much as the image as they can for
home video presentations...but not portions that show up things you weren't supposed to
see. For example, VistaVision movies photographed a bigger image than what was used
for the actual release prints. The camera negative was about 1.5 x 1 but the prints
were masked off for 1.66 and usually shown in 1.85. For the television versions of
these films, they printed a 1.33 version from the 1.5 x 1 negative. However, that meant
you were seeing more of the tops and bottoms of the sets than intended. Perhaps the
funniest example of this was the TV version of "North by Northwest". You could see the
bottom of the Mount Rushmore set that Grant and Saint stepped off of. When Grant was
climbing up the side of the house, you could see the movie lights on the bottom of the
frame. The 16mm prints all show this.

To make it even more complicated, the movie "Shane" was shot and composed for 1.33 but
when it was released, many studios were switching to widescreen so they projected the
film in a cropped 1.66 or 1.85 format for exhibition. However, this was not the way it was
supposed to be shown so in the case of home video release, it's best to have the 1.33
version rather than the cropped version shown in theaters in the fifties.


As a suppliment on some future release, I would like Warners to release the 70mm widescreen
version of "Gone with the Wind" on DVD. It's pretty wild looking since they went through the
movie on a shot by shot basis to recompose it from 1.33 to 2.21 x 1. They also changed the
title design. The first time I saw the film was in the 1968 widescreen re-issue and being only
11 years old, I thought it was supposed to be that way. I didn't see it in the correct 1.33
ratio until I went to a revival cinema in the seventies.


I guess for the DVD distributors, it's a judgement call in terms of what ratio to use. In general
it's a good idea to try to replicate what people saw in cinemas upon it's release but there
are always exceptions like the above mentioned "Shane" and variations of ratios for the same
movie if it was shot in 65mm or CinemaScope.
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post #33 of 49 Old 03-08-08, 05:31 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

I have noticed in movies I recently watched that even 2.35:1 ratios do not appear much smaller than 16:9 movies. I am talking relatively here. I noted that zooming in of caracters' faces is aggressively used, propably more than 16:9 movies.
Indeed in "underworld" which appears to be wider than 2.35:1 uses many shots with the height of the screen showing only from right above the eyes down to the chin. While the screen itself is smaller than 1.78:1, I didn't feel the picture of this movie is smaller than say "monsters INC". Is this a general technique that is used with wider formats?

Moreover, I would like to extend our discussion not only to formats, but other aspects of movies (exposure, photography, direction...and so on). I may ask the mods to edit this thread title not to be off-topic.

I am quoting below what you said somewhere else:

Quote:
For non-technical people, animation is always shot at one exposure so the entire movie will
look as good as the first shot. Feature films are shot at a variety of exposures (i.e. f. 22
in sunlight, f. 5.6 indoors) and each exposure setting and lighting condition will generate
a different depth of field and levels of apparent sharpness and grain structure
Pls tell us more...

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post #34 of 49 Old 03-08-08, 05:45 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

Quote:
hyghwayman wrote: View Post
Wow, what a great read this tread is.

blaser thank you for asking the question
Richard W. Haines thank you for sharring your wisdom
Hi Don,

Thanks! I only asked a question, but Richard is doing a tough job here

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post #35 of 49 Old 03-08-08, 06:36 AM
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

Okay here goes...

The higher the f stop when shooting a film, the finer grain and sharper the image will be.
The lower the f stop the grainier and murkier the image will be.

F stops also affect your depth of field. Once again the higher the f stop the greater depth
of field and vice-versa. Depth of field is the sharpness between foreground and background.


The type of lens you're using also has a relationship to sharpness and depth of field.
Wide angle lenses (18mm lens, 25mm lens) have an infinate depth of field. In other words the entire frame will be sharp in foreground and background. Portrait and and Close up lenses (50mm lens,
80mm lens) have a limited depth of field. In other words the person's face or body will be in focus but the background will be blurry.


So these are the tools that cinematographers use and if they're any good, will maximum their
effectiveness for the movie.


So by combining these elements (lighting design, f stop and lens) you can analyze what the
they did.


Here are some examples:

In "Lawrence of Arabia", Freddie Young was filming in the desert which was had a great deal
of sunlight (it was about 120 degrees on location in Jordan) so he
generated an f. 22 exposure. Since there was so much light and the f stop was so high,
the image was razor sharp and had an incredible depth of field in the wideshots. In other
words you could see Lawrence standing in the foreground and the sand dunes miles in the
background were also in razor sharp focus. For the indoor sets Young used a lot of high
key lighting and shot at f. 11 which also generated a razor sharp and fine grain image.
The same look was acheived in the wide shots in Allenby's office. Foreground and background
were razor sharp and the image was fine grain.


Now let's look at the polar opposite type of camerawork in "The Godfather". Gordon Willis
filmed with very limited light at a very low f 2 exposure. As a result, the image was very dark
with whole portions of the frame completely black. The depth of field was very shallow and
the backgrounds were usually blurry. It worked for this movie since it was about
gangsters who operated in backrooms in the dark and make shady business deals or ordered
hits on fellow mobsters. The overall grainy and dark look was intentional. The movie isn't
fine grain or razor sharp but I guess the murkiness of the image reflected the amoral murkiness
of the characters.


Let's examine the lenses used in these two movies and their relationship to the lighting and
depth of focus. "Lawrence" was shot in Panavision 70 so the image in the camera was already
wide and Young composed the shots so that there were long rows of extras on camels making
you feel like you were part of the raids and battles. They used long focal length lenses to
increase the depth of field and sharpness.


"The Godfather" was shot for 1.85 since most of the movie is in close up and the long shots
are usually dark with little detail. There would've been no reason to use long focal length lenses
or widescreen (2.35 or 2.21 70mm) since it was an intimate drama with small groups of people
in the frame rather than an epic narrative with hundreds of extras. This movie used a lot
of portrait and close up lenses rather than the wide angle/wide frame lenses utilized in Lawrence.


In both cases, the lenses, lighting design and f stop and ratio were used stylishly which suited
the genres and narratives.


Now lets examine the film "Fracture" that I discussed in another post. The film was shot in
2.35 widescreen but with very little light. That meant they were shooting with low f stops
of f4 or f2 which meant a shallow depth of field. This really doesn't work for widescreen
films since only the foreground will be in focus and the background blurry. That means a lot
of blurry side image in the wide frame which is distracting. The compositions were mostly
center framed so there was no point in using the 2.35 ratio. This film would've worked a lot
better as a 1.85 film considering the low key lighting, low f stops, center framed
image and shallow depth of field. There wasn't enough going on in the frame to justify it's
width and the compositions weren't artisitically designed. The director and cinematography simply made some bad choices for the format they were utilizing.


Now when you watch any movie, you can guess what type of lens they were using and
how much light was on set or location.

Razor sharp wideshots will be 18, 20 or 25mm lenses.

Portrait shots with a slightly soft background will be 40 or 50mm lenses.

Close ups will be 80mm lenses.

The sharper the backgrounds are in the 40, 50 and 80mm lenses, the more light they
had on set and the higher the f stop. The blurrier they are, the less light and lower
the f stop they shot it with.


The more light they had overall in the film, the finer grain the image will be. The less light
they had overall, the grainier the film will be.


When films are transferred to the digital medium, all of these attributes or liabilities will be exagerated. The sharper movies will look ultra-sharp, the grainy movies will look extremelly grainy. Film prints tend to blend the differences more than DVDs.


I could go into color but that's a separate category (warm colors make the image seem closer,
cold colors make the image seem more distant etc.)
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post #36 of 49 Old 03-08-08, 06:49 AM
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

While we're on this subject, I thought I'd mention some visual 'pet peeves' I have. These are
things that some cinematographers and directors do that I hate.

1) Rack focus shots. I can't stand it when the cinematographer changes focus within a shot
from foreground to background. It calls attention to itself and reminds you you're watching
a photographed movie. In other words, someone will be talking in the foreground in focus
and there's a person listening in the background out of focus. Then the camera changes the
focus in the same shot to the person in the background putting the person in the foreground
out of focus. Very distracting.

2) Rear screen projection. Hitchcock used it in his movies as did most of the studios through
the fifties. That's when they photograph the road and project it on a screen and put a
real car in the foreground and the actor pretends he's driving. It always looks phony and
the background is obviously just a screen and is grainy and doesn't match the lighting or
depth of field of the foreground.

3) Dollying past the edge of a set. This really gets me angry. A character starts walking from
one room to the other and the cameraman follows him going past the edge of the wall set
to the next set. It's makes it blatantly obvious that they're filming on a set and takes away
the illusion that the set is a real location. Even Kubrick did it in "Spartacus".
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post #37 of 49 Old 03-08-08, 07:14 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

Quote:
Richard W. Haines wrote: View Post
While we're on this subject, I thought I'd mention some visual 'pet peeves' I have. These are
things that some cinematographers and directors do that I hate.

1) Rack focus shots. I can't stand it when the cinematographer changes focus within a shot
from foreground to background. It calls attention to itself and reminds you you're watching
a photographed movie. In other words, someone will be talking in the foreground in focus
and there's a person listening in the background out of focus. Then the camera changes the
focus in the same shot to the person in the background putting the person in the foreground
out of focus. Very distracting.
True, and I am sometimes surprized I am watching all of a sudden the wrong part of the screen. But I only noticed that when I switched from 29" to 106" though.

Quote:
2) Rear screen projection. Hitchcock used it in his movies as did most of the studios through
the fifties. That's when they photograph the road and project it on a screen and put a
real car in the foreground and the actor pretends he's driving. It always looks phony and
the background is obviously just a screen and is grainy and doesn't match the lighting or
depth of field of the foreground.
I guess that is only related to very old movies. It looks funny, but isn't it related to the lack of techniques/budget/capabilities that are now available? I mean could they do otherwise?

Quote:
3) Dollying past the edge of a set. This really gets me angry. A character starts walking from
one room to the other and the cameraman follows him going past the edge of the wall set
to the next set. It's makes it blatantly obvious that they're filming on a set and takes away
the illusion that the set is a real location. Even Kubrick did it in "Spartacus".
Yes, I second that, but I don't see it often with movies. But it gives the impression of being made by computer ad far from real life.
What do you thing of "multi-windows/shots" in the same frame? I don't know if I am clear, but you can find it in "Hulk"

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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

Quote:
blaser wrote: View Post
I have noticed in movies I recently watched that even 2.35:1 ratios do not appear much smaller than 16:9 movies. I am talking relatively here. I noted that zooming in of caracters' faces is aggressively used, propably more than 16:9 movies.
Indeed "underworld" which appears to be wider than 2.35:1 uses many shots with the height of the screen showing only from right above the eyes down to the chin. While the screen itself is smaller than 1.78:1, I didn't feel the picture of this movie is smaller than say "monsters INC". Is this a general technique that is used with wider formats?
Richard,

Could you pls comment about that as well?

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post #39 of 49 Old 03-09-08, 06:51 AM
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

blaser,

I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about. Are you referring to the way the close
ups crop parts of the face? That's just a filmmaking technique or decision. Close ups in
wide screen movies are always a problem. Do you show the full head as in a standard 1.33
or 1.85 film with a lot of extra space on either side of the face or do you crop some of the
face to get in closer? Depends on the director. Sergio Leone filled the entire
face within his wide frame which meant the top of the head and the bottom of the chin
were cropped out of the image area. Others show the entire face but try to have an
interesting background so the extra space on either side of the image has a better
composition.

In terms of my pet peeves, rear screen projection was used as a standardized technique
for showing moving shots in a car until the mid-sixties when films like "Grand Prix" and
"Bullitt" had the camera mounted on the vehicle so the actor could be driving. Car mounts
became standard after that. The other method is to tow the car that supposed to be driving
and film the actor from the back of the tow truck. The reason they used rear screen was not
because they were unable to do driving shots with a mounted camera but because they tried
to avoid leaving the studio if possible. The studio moguls liked to keep an eye on all filmmaking
activities to keep directors from going over budget. As soon as you go outside and have to
block off traffic on the street you up the insurance costs and there's the possibility of an accident
or time delays as you deal with the weather, position of the sun and so forth. For example in
the movie "Grand Prix" they circumvented the insurance restrictions and had the actors really
drive those racing cars. Much riskier than having them pretend to drive them in front of
a screen projecting the background but of course much more realistic and spectacular.
The last time I recall seeing the rear screen shots were in the Connery Bond movies.
After "Bullitt" it would be difficult for audiences to accept that type of driving effect.
When you project the road on a movie screen in back of the live actor in the car,
the grain structure doesn't match which gives it away. The background is always
much grainier than the actor. Stanley Kramer corrected this a bit with "It's a Mad,
Mad, Mad, Mad World" by having the background projected footage in 70mm which
was much sharper but it still looked artificial.


I've used car mount shots in some of my movies. In the case of "Space Avenger",
I had the camera mounted on the front of the car at a fixed focal length filming through
the windshield. I was crouched down in the back seat along with the soundman when
we filmed. Pretty crowded but we got the shot. I had to turn on the camera, jump
into the back seat and crouch and then the actor started to drive the car and once
he reached about 35 miles per hour we'd start the shot. Unfortunately we had a lot
of wasted footage while he started to drive and then slowed down and stopped but it
was the only way to do it since I didn't want a cameraman hanging onto the front of
the vehicle. It was better than shooting from the back of a tow truck since they usually
give too much vibration. By mounting it on the hood, you got better steadiness and
you could also get a close up from that angle.
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post #40 of 49 Old 03-09-08, 07:05 AM
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Re: Movie Formats: why are there so many?

blaser,

The other technique you brought up was split screen images. The first time I recall seeing
them were in a dance number in "It's Always Fair Weather" in 1955 at the end of "Charade" in 1963. They were used in "Grand Prix", "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Carrie" too. I used it for the bank robbery scene in my film "Soft Money".
There are different ways of using the technique. One is to show different angles of the
same action which was the bank robbery in "The Thomas Crown Affair". In "Carrie" they showed
different portions of the gym where Carrie was wrecking havoc on her tormentors. In "Grand
Prix" they showed different details of the racing cars being prepared. I tried something different
in my bank robbery scene in "Soft Money". One panel showed the thieves blowing the vault
while in the other panel I showed a police car patrolling the area to add some suspense.
It's a technique that is usually associated with the sixties but is still occasionally used today.
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