Friday, January 1, 2010

How the West was Won in Cinerama

Sometimes panning and scanning isn't so bad

How The West Was Won looks like it must have been really impressive on the big screen. But on TV, it's pretty much unwatchable.

It was filmed in Cinerama, a three strip process. Three strips of 35mm film put together in one widescreen image.

On the big screen, you could presumably see the faces of the characters and make out the details. On TV, you see nothing but a lot of longshots where you can't make out any detail.

Think about that next time you see these high brows talking about great letterboxing is! They have those little promos on Turner Classic Movies showing Martin Scorsese talking about what the director intended for you to see. So the director gets to dictate what we see and can't see?

Of course, in general, letterboxing is better. Everything looks better letterboxed! Letterboxing makes low resolution video look like a big budget motion picture!


In the old days, by the way, it was surprisingly common for movies to be shot on videotape and released on film.

In 1965, there was a big budget movie released, a biopic of Jean Harlow. As it happened, there was a low budget made-for-TV movie about Jean Harlow that was shot on videotape. To cash in, the producers transferred it to film and released it theatrically.

There were also concert movies made by AIP, and some other movies. I don't know when they stopped using the name "Electronovision".

There was Norman, Is That You, shot on video, and a few other early examples of theatrical films shot on video.

I think they should have started using the term again for movie shot on video. And when the movies are letterboxed, call it "Electronoscope".

Audiences hate movies shot on video so much. It couldn't hurt to give it a fancy name.

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