ADVENTURES IN 65MM (some of) the trials and tribulations of 65mm preservation & restoration presented by Andrew Oran FotoKem 65/70mm Milestones 1894-1903 Early large format film processes. W. K-L. Dickson’ Biograph company produces more than 300 68mm documentary shorts.
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ADVENTURES IN 65MM
(some of) the trials and tribulations
of 65mm preservation & restoration
Early large format film processes.
W. K-L. Dickson’ Biograph company produces more than 300 68mm documentary shorts.
1897 Corbett-Fitzsimmons “Fight of the Century”, 63mm Versicope process
The first large format negative feature films are shot in film gauges ranging from 63.5-70mm. Titles include “Kismet”, “The Bat Whispers”, and “Billy the Kid”. Format names include Fox Grandeur, Vitascope, Magnifilm, Fearless Super-Film and others.
1930’s “The Big Trail”, Fox Grandeur
Todd-AO leads the re-development and refinement of the 65mm 5 perf film format (cameras, lenses, lab processes, 6-channel sound, projectors) that will become the standard for 65mm theatrical films over the next 15 years. The first Todd AO film was “Oklahoma”, followed by “Around the World in 80 Days”, “South Pacific” and dozens of others.
Ultra Panavision is developed: 65mm 5 perf film with a 1.25 anamorphic squeeze, giving an ultra widescreen aspect of 2.76:1. “Raintree County” is the first film made in the format; other notable films include “Ben Hur”, “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
Mike Todd and cigar “Trigger”
“Ryan’s Daughter” is released, marking the end of the golden era of 65mm theatrical film origination. IMAX Corp. releases their first 65mm 15 perf film “Tiger Child” the same year. - production in the format continues today.
“Hamlet” is the last feature length film to be shot entirely in 65mm.
Reel Thing XXV features “Adventures in 65mm” presentation.
Some of the challenges
(we’ve dealt with at FotoKem):
1 – checkerboard negative cutting and associated variable color fading
2 – dimensional (in)stability and related potential for damage
3 – variations in 65mm keycodes and datecodes
VARIABLE COLOR FADING
(or the problem with “checkerboard” negative cutting)
black leaderpicture negative
Many 65mm negatives were cut in a “checkerboard” pattern, with every other shot in both A and B rolls being black leader. This allowed for cutting scenes long (maintaining additional frames) and using the printer to make “zero cuts”. This helped labs eliminate visible splices, and gave greater flexibility for re-cuts.
VARIABLE COLOR FADING
frame from head of shot … and just 2 frames later
In this example, frames of negative that came into contact with the black leader faded differently than those wrapped around other frames of negative. This can (can) over time create a noticeable color shift at the head and tail of each shot in a “checkerboard” cut film.
65mm will show greater change proportionally to 35mm
Negative damaged by mis-registration
35mm = .013”
Greater dimensional changes over time, combined with a greater tendency to flex because of it’s size, make 65mm more difficult to register. Higher equipment tolerances relative to these conditions are also required.
In other words, 65mm’s size makes it uniquely susceptible to damage. This has resulted in many repairs and replacements to older negatives.
badly damage negative
repaired with perfs replaced
Most prior repairs, while OK for contact printing, are unsuitable for registration scanning, such as this patch which was glued onto the negative, making it too thick to safely transport through a registration movement.
Even the fact that 65mm film weighs more can contribute to the possibility of damage to a negative.
These images show the results of negatives having been dropped, probably a long time previously. Negative shrinkage over time caused the areas weakened by the impact to became brittle and cracked.
65mm datecodes & keycodes
65mm edge codes have differed from 35mm in several ways.
modern key code
old key code
In early iterations, 65mm edge codes appeared every 64 perfs (as with 35mm), resulting in an uneven distribution of codes over 5 perf frames. Later 65mm codes appeared every 80 perfs (every sixteen 5 perf frames), resulting in uneven code distribution for the emerging IMAX format. Now they appear every 120 perfs, to yield even frame numbers in all 65mm formats: 5, 8, 10, & 15 perf.
65mm datecodes & keycodes
Kodak date codes were repeated every 20 years on earlier stocks.
older date code
modern date code
Our work on several 65mm films from the late 50’s and early 60’s uncovered a disparity in the 65mm date codes from this era: an offset by 10 years from the 35 date codes, indicating manufacture 10 years before or after the film’s release.
The Good News
Because of it’s larger image area, any well shot 65mm negative, regardless of the era, will have more inherent resolution than negative from that same era shot in 35mm.
Related fact: the size difference between a 35mm Academy frame (22mm wide) and a 65mm/5 perf frame (52mm wide) results in a 42% increase in resolution.