Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332

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Anamorphotic

I expect that eventually all celluloid formats will be phased out by new digital cinematography systems that will offer all of the advantages of video photography, including the most persuasive, which is that it costs significantly less to use a tape than film. The picture quality of 35 millimeter theatrical prints ought to be better than those of films shot in Super 35 and comparable to those shot anamorphically. Of the movies I've seen in both DLP (digital projection) and on film, the film prints were more pleasing to the eye, but like most new digital formats, I'm sure that's being worked on and that the DLP delivery system will soon be able to deliver images that are sharper and brighter than a film print of the same program. To date, I have not seen that happen, but I have to be honest and admit that I haven't seen too many DLP movies lately.

Thus far, all of the films I've seen that were shot digitally have been in the 'scope 2.35:1 aspect ratio. My understanding is that the shot image is at the high-definition 16:9 ratio, but it is cropped to the correct dimensions during the printing process, similar to the way that Super 35 is used for theatrical exhibition and widescreen transfers. This means that, as with the Super 35 format, more image information is available for pan and scan transfers, but the discrepancy between 1.77:1 and 2.35:1 is nowhere near the difference between 1.33:1 and 2.35:1. Furthermore, with the move towards 16:9 television screen in general, I wonder if the digital format will have the opposite on the aesthetic aspects of widescreen photography that Super 35 has had.

Because of the various aspect ratios available in the Super 35 format, I've noticed that since the mid-90s, a lot of what looks like lazier compositions occuring. It is even worse than the 80s reaction to the video explosion and the move to make films "TV safe," because now often there is no definitive version of a film's visual text. It also confuses audiences who are just now beginning to accept letterboxing (a process which is meant to preserve the original framing for aesthetic reasons, not to give you more, which is the common misconception). I'm not saying that every film shot in Super 35 looks bad, but compare older widescreen films made more recently and I guarantee you that you will see a definite move towards looser compositions. Super 35 also doesn't look that great in the theater. The argument that because Super 35 uses a bigger frame during photography and thus yields better images than an anamorphically shot film is complete bullshit. Yes, Super 35 can and on occasion has yielded decent looking prints, but only when the printing process has been watchdogged to within an inch of its life. Furthermore, the optical process that creates the anamorphic prints of a film shot in Super 35 has the effect of flattening out the image, which defeats the depth-of-field advantage that Super 35 is often touted as having.

The DLP I've seen at the Ziegfield looked decent enough (although it didn't hold a candle to 70 millimeter projection), and I expect the technology only to improve. But it had a similar detail and color saturation that an anamorphically shot film does. And with the more horizontal image to begin with, perhaps we'll see more real widescreen cinematography (when I went to school, it was taught that a successful widescreen image couldn't be panned and scanned).



I will regret the demise of anamorphic cinematography, though. While there are many advantages to the digital format, there are certain aspects of the image that I find rather pleasing to the eye. Of course, they are mostly anomalies created by the use of the squeeze lenses (such as the lens flares that are elliptical, not round), but they look so nice...

Of course, 70 millimeter production would look better than any of these, but IMAX blow-up prints have replaced 70 millimeter roadshow blow-ups (imagine what a 70 millimeter film fed through the same digital transformation process that 35 millimeter films do would look like!), and as a production format, it is long dead (Hamlet notwithstanding).
Tags: cinema
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