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UFO and Thunderbirds in 16x9?

LeeJustin

Alphans
I'm curious, both of these shows are showing on an HD Family Channel and are presented in HD and Widescreen. Unless I'm mistaken isn't the PAL television format more or less the same aspect ratio as the 4x3 of NTSC?

My first thought was that they had been shot and posted in widescreen, and only scaled down to 4x3 when transferred to video. Now, years later they go back to the original final print and do an HD transfer. This theory explains everthing except that the titles are well beyond the 4x3 safe lines.

My second idea was that they were shown in a letterboxed form, but this seems pretty far ahead of it's time for the '60s.

Anyone have any insight on this?
 

Mark42

Chief Eagle Pilot
The picture should be squar'ish, but if the broadcaster/film supplier cuts off the top and bottom you have instant widescreen!
 

LeeJustin

Alphans
I'd be suprised if they cropped for the effect, the composition of the frames looks too good, no awkward close ups or anything else that implies a "zoom in".
 
35 mm cut in Half

From Pete FS-Boneyard

I have the Thunderbirds Origional Movie in DVD

There are 3 MGM features on making Thunderbirds and other Anderson
shows.

One of the Guys along with Sylvia Andson explain that they didnt have the budget for Panavision So they shot the movie in 35 MM film but only used half the frame as an exposure so its a double wide 16mm shot.
This gives it a wide feel... 8)

Hope this helps out
Pete
 
I think they also used this process - Techniscope - because they could get better depth of focus for the effects sequences.

And going back to the recent HD transfers - I believe these have cropped the top and bottom of the original prints. Can anyone confirm ?
 

DX-SFX

Alphans
One of the Guys along with Sylvia Andson explain that they didnt have the budget for Panavision So they shot the movie in 35 MM film but only used half the frame as an exposure so its a double wide 16mm shot.
This gives it a wide feel...

The original TV series was shot on 35mm. So were the feature films but they used an anamorphic lens to squeeze the wideangle image onto a frame roughly 24mm x 18mm (in fact it's smaller still once you add the soundtrack alongside). On a conventional 35 mm stills camera, the frame is 36mm x 24mm but on a movie camera the film (nearly always) runs through the camera vertically so the image is captured on what amounts to half the area of a 35mm stills negative. In the case of most 35mm movie films, you have to have the picture image, an optical or magnetic soundtrack strip and two rows of perforations within the 35mm width. More recently that technology has completely changed but that was the standard for the 1960's. If you want an easy tell whether a film has been shot with an anamorphic lens, look for out of focus point light sources in the background. They'll appear oval in shape.

Incidentally, you may hear the phrase filmed in Super 16 or Super 35. This is a relatively new format that does away with one row of peforations which allows the image to be expanded into the space previously occupied giving a slightly wider image. Super 16 has proven very popular because film and equipment is much cheaper and film technology has improved so much that a Super 16 image is almost as good as the old 35mm. It also means you can shoot in the cheaper medium but have prints struck in 35mm from the smaller negatives. Space Precinct was shot on Super 16. As rightly mentioned, 16mm film generally allows for greater depth of field when shooting miniatures for reasons too complicated to explain at the moment.
 
To further clarify the Techniscope process - and correct me anyone if I'm wrong with this - film would be shot using a conventional 35mm camera, but with only half of each film frame exposed, creating the widescreen image, but without compromising the quality of the picture. From this a squeezed transfer print would be created so that each half frame of original footage could be transferred onto a full 35mm frame for projection through an anamorphic lens, which would desqueeze the image. A rather convoluted process, but more suitable to shooting Supermarionation productions than other widescreen processes.
 

The original TV series was shot on 35mm. So were the feature films but they used an anamorphic lens to squeeze the wideangle image onto a frame roughly 24mm x 18mm (in fact it's smaller still once you add the soundtrack alongside).


Techniscope only uses 1/2 the frame to avoid using anamorphic lenses!

Anamorphic lenses tended to be inefficient at transmitting light, meaning that for a given amount of light you would have to have the iris further open, which tends to give focus/depth of field problems.

In order to photograph miniatures focus/depth of field is very important to give an impression of scale.

Another way of getting a sense of scale with miniatures is to pass the film through the camera at a speed faster than 24 frames per second and move the miniature very quickly. When the film ids projected at normal speed the small miniatures and explosions (now effectively in slow motion) appear bigger. As each (slow motion) frame was at the lens for an even shorter time than 1/24 second, it thus gets less light than a normal frame. So in order to get it correctly exposed you require (even) more light for miniatures.

Using a Techniscope camera (which has a 2 perf pull down), gives you a wide shape picture without an anamorphic squeezing, which means you can shoot with regular (non anamorphic) prime lenses, which are more 'light efficient' and allow you to shoot with a smaller appature for a given light level.

Also the film stock available at the time was still relatively insensitive to light (compared to later stock) and required a lot of lighting.

It would not have been possible to shoot anamorphicaly at the time the Thunderbird movies were made ...
(also the Panavison lenses were ferociously expensive)

Jim
 
portland182 said:
In order to photograph miniatures focus/depth of field is very important to give an impression of scale.

Another way of getting a sense of scale with miniatures is to pass the film through the camera at a speed faster than 24 frames per second and move the miniature very quickly. When the film ids projected at normal speed the small miniatures and explosions (now effectively in slow motion) appear bigger. As each (slow motion) frame was at the lens for an even shorter time than 1/24 second, it thus gets less light than a normal frame. So in order to get it correctly exposed you require (even) more light for miniatures.

The miniatures for Thunderbirds and other APF/Century 21 shows would often be shot at 120 frames per second, which at the time was really only possible using Mitchell 35mm cameras. Derek Meddings was so used to shooting at these speeds, which created a great deal of noise, that he often thought the cameras weren't running when he shot scenes at 'normal' 24 frames per second. The puppet units for the TV shows tended to use Arriflex cameras which could be linked to in camera video monitoring systems.
 

cricket

Alphans
Could someone explain what anamorphic means? I'm seeing this term more and more often on my DVDs. :think:
 
I'm not sure of the exact technical definition, but in principal the idea of an anamorphic lens is to project the image from a piece of film over a wider lateral (horizontal) area. This allows a projector screening a conventional frame of 35mm film to create a widescreen image. The image on the film however would have to be processed to distort the image vertically, so that when it was screened through the projecter, the scene on screen would appear normal. This often leads to a loss of quality, as the film has to go through an extra duplication phase to achieve this effect.

Hope this makes sense !
 
Air Terrainean said:
The image on the film however would have to be processed to distort the image vertically, so that when it was screened through the projecter, the scene on screen would appear normal.

The anamorphic process leaves the vertical height of the image untouched.
When the light travels 'in' to the film through an anamorphic lens, the image is 'squeezed' in the horizontal axis when filming resulting in a tall thin looking person in the same vertical frame. (effectively it fits a 16 x 9 image in a 4 x 3 frame by compressing horizontaly)

When the squeezed image is projected through the same lens (the light is traveling out through the lens) it is 'stretched' back to the original shape.

Jim
 

cricket

Alphans
Well, all that helps immensely. Thanks much, all. And now I even have a glimmer of understanding about 'lens flare'. :)
 
portland182 said:
The anamorphic process leaves the vertical height of the image untouched.
When the light travels 'in' to the film through an anamorphic lens, the image is 'squeezed' in the horizontal axis when filming resulting in a tall thin looking person in the same vertical frame. (effectively it fits a 16 x 9 image in a 4 x 3 frame by compressing horizontaly)

When the squeezed image is projected through the same lens (the light is traveling out through the lens) it is 'stretched' back to the original shape.

Jim

Yes, agreed, if the film is shot with a camera fitted with an anamorphic lens and screened by a projector fitted with an anamorphic lens, but as I understand it with the Techniscope process used for the Century 21 Thunderbirds features, the half frame 35mm image produced using the conventional cameras would have to be stretched vertically to produce a full frame image that could be then projected as widescreen image in a projector fitted with an anamorphic lens. This does result in a loss of image quality as the projected film is at least one generation removed from a print taken from the original negative. Equally, when a film produced with an anamorphic lens is screened on television, a 'pan and scan' version is usually produced which again is at least one generation removed from the original, and with 'pan and scan' prints taken from stretched Techniscope 35mm prints - (The Thunderbirds features were originally screened on UK TV in this way) - this would be another generation removed from the original.
 

DX-SFX

Alphans
"Significantly, the system employed normal spherical lenses. Anamorphic lenses at the time, were more expensive to hire, needed more light, and were less sharp. In addition, working with anamorphic's narrower depth of field, was considered a limitation by cinematographers in the 1960's. The horizontal angle of view of a standard 18mm lens on a Techniscope camera was equivalent to that of 35mm 'scope lens. The 18mm lens has a substantial increase in depth of field, compared to the 35mm lens. So this effective increase in depth of field was seen as a significant advantage of the Techniscope system at the time. The use of readily available standard lenses was an undeniable bonus to both cinematographers and producers alike. These lenses performed better, cost less, were more available, and there was a wide variety to choose from.

However, the 35mm camera needed modification for shooting the Techniscope system. The movement was changed to expose a two-perforation area instead of the normal four-perf. pull-down configuration. In addition, the camera aperture was changed to 1 : 2.35 along with the viewfinder markings. A re-centring of the lens axis was not necessary with this system. Mitchell, Arriflex and Eclair, among others, produced these modified cameras. The two perf. pull-down meant another significant advantage of Techniscope, because the film stock now lasted twice as long as the equivalent length required for normal 35mm cameras.

On a specialized optical printer, Technicolor added a 2 x 1 anamorphic squeeze and, at the same time, optically 'blew up' the half-frame image to the full, 4 perf., anamorphic format. It could then be projected in the same way as regular CinemaScope/anamorphic films in virtually any cinema around the world. Despite this 50% enlargement of the image, Techniscope was usually clearer and sharper than CinemaScope at the time. It was ironic that it performed better than the system it tried to emulate. While the laboratory work was slightly more expensive than normal, production costs in film stock were cut in half. And there were further savings by avoiding the need to hire the more expensive anamorphic camera lenses."


In brief:

At the shooting stage, you end up with an image on negative film that occupies half the usual height but still the full width of the standard 35mm frame. Because the image is exactly half the usual height, you can fit twice as many frames onto the same length of film. If you shoot a picture of a square, it will still look square on the negative. You then print the negative onto positive 35mm stock optically stretching each image to the full 35mm frame height but without altering the width. Your square now looks like a tall narrow rectangle. The positive is then projected through a standard 35mm projector with an anamorphic lens to double the width of the image on screen to restore the picture to the correct aspect ratio/proportions and your square looks like a square again.
 

DX-SFX

Alphans
Technically you can't get a better quality image from a smaller format negative but other advantages like depth of field, cost of materials and lens issues may outweigh the disadvantages. For example the image captured by Techniscope might be grainier, but sharp edge to edge because of straightforward lens design. Anamorphic 35 will give a potentially superior image IF the anamorphic lens and other optical aberations don't degrade the image more than the advantages of shooting on a larger negative. That might well have been the case in the sixties but is less of an issue today.

I can remember Harry Oakes saying that they almost never used a zoom lens because zooms in those days were dreadful compared with today.
 

Mark42

Chief Eagle Pilot
Thanks DX, I understand that now and it didn't even bring on a migraine!
I was always surprised that the TB2 shot of the model coming out of the hanger and rolling straight into camera didn't go out of focus sooner, the different process must have helped.
 
Air Terrainean said:
portland182 said:
The anamorphic process leaves the vertical height of the image untouched.
When the light travels 'in' to the film through an anamorphic lens, the image is 'squeezed' in the horizontal axis when filming resulting in a tall thin looking person in the same vertical frame. (effectively it fits a 16 x 9 image in a 4 x 3 frame by compressing horizontaly)

When the squeezed image is projected through the same lens (the light is traveling out through the lens) it is 'stretched' back to the original shape.

Jim

Yes, agreed, if the film is shot with a camera fitted with an anamorphic lens and screened by a projector fitted with an anamorphic lens, but as I understand it with the Techniscope process used for the Century 21 Thunderbirds features, the half frame 35mm image produced using the conventional cameras would have to be stretched vertically to produce a full frame image that could be then projected as widescreen image in a projector fitted with an anamorphic lens. This does result in a loss of image quality as the projected film is at least one generation removed from a print taken from the original negative. Equally, when a film produced with an anamorphic lens is screened on television, a 'pan and scan' version is usually produced which again is at least one generation removed from the original, and with 'pan and scan' prints taken from stretched Techniscope 35mm prints - (The Thunderbirds features were originally screened on UK TV in this way) - this would be another generation removed from the original.

While the Techniscope process in inferior to Panavision Anamorphic these days, due to the lengthy development process of lenses and film stock, in the 60's it actualy produced a better image...

http://jkor.com/peter/techniscope.html

Jim
 
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