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In 1966 Technicolor Corporation introduced a new wide screen system that was 180 degrees out of phase with its Technirama system. Film stocks had improved sufficiently to allow the small negative to be blown up to the standard anamorphic 35mm print area. The resulting prints were superior to the older Superscope system, which had actually used a slightly larger negative area, but were substantially inferior to good anamorphic photography. The article states that the system was intended to allow low budget producers to shoot color film but in fact the biggest U.S. user of the system was Universal Studios, with some participation by Paramount, neither of which could be considered low budget producers. In Italy and Spain, the process was used extensively and was the photographic system used for the inexplicably popular "Spaghetti Westerns" popularized by director Sergio Leone and his contemporaries. This article appeared in American Cinematographer.

TECHNISCOPE -What It Is
And How It Works


In this new system of wide-screen color production, the negative frame height is reduced one-half for photography, effectively halving negative and processing costs.

B y   F R E D E R I C K   F O S T E R

TECHNISCOPE is the trade-name of a new wide-screen film production method developed by engineers of Technicolor Corporation. It reduces by one-half the amount of negative film and negative processing required for a color motion picture, This saving is accomplished by reducing the negative picture area from the conventional four-perforation frame size to one only two-perforations in height. The frame width remains the same, (See "ASC Recommendation No. 13" relating to the Techniscope Process elsewhere in this issue.-EDITOR.

After the two-perforation negative is processed it is optically printed at a vertical ratio of 2-to-1, producing an enlarged and squeezed image of the original Techniscope frames on 35mm color film in the form of a Technicolor positive print. This process-cutting in half the negative area required and then enlarging it two times in making the release print-effects a substantial economy in production. A motion picture ordinarily requiring 15,000 feet of color negative requires only half as much or 75,000 feet in the Techniscope process. This, says Technicolor Corporation. can save producers between $15,000 and $20,000 in "front end" production costs for a motion picture in color.

To use the Techniscope system requires a standard 35mm motion picture camera modified for the process, which involves changing the pull-down from four perforations to two, and the aperture proportionately. The modification for most cameras can readily be removed at any time to permit straight-forward four-sprocket hole photography. Technicolor points out, Technicolor does not supply cameras for the Techniscope process, nor does the company perform the required camera modification. This service is offered by various camera manufacturers and camera distributors. Mitchell Camera Corporation, whose 35mm studio cameras dominate the sound stages of most film production centers, was among the first to announce Techniscope conversions for Mitchell 35mm cameras and Arriflex 35mm cameras. In an advertisement in American Cinematographer for January, 1964. Techniscope conversions for the Mitchell BNC and NC were quoted as "approximately $1.400 per camera," and for the 35mm Arriflex. "approximately $1,300," Birns & Sawyer Cine Equipment, in Hollywood. in the December, 1963, issue of American Cinematographer, announced that the company will ". . . sell Techniscope modified cameras. rent Techniscope cameras, or make Techniscope modifications on your camera." The offer specified Mitchell and Arriflex cameras.

More recently, the Arriflex Corporation of America, importers and distributors of Arriflex cameras and equipment, has announced the availability of a new Arriflex-35, model 1113-T. for use in the Techniscope process, It stated the camera features a 2-perforation pull-down, film aperture of 9.5mm x 22mm, and 200 shutter, The camera, available in limited quantities. is priced at $2,100. Among the feature films photographed to date in the Techniscope process are "Law of The Lawless" and "Stage Coach To Hell," both for Paramount; "The Fastest Gun," Columbia; and Frank Sinatra's "For Those Who Think Young" for United Artists. From the point of photography, Techniscope offers great depth of field and razor sharp image definition, thanks to the short focal length spherical lenses used on the camera. Although the ultimate release print is a "squeezed" one, anamorphic lenses are not required in the photography. Further on the plus side, Technicolor points out, is the doubling of the footage shot without need to change camera magazines-because the film footage required for a take is reduced by one-half. Also, there is a reduction in the length and number of short ends. And, the shortened film transport in the camera creates less camera noise than one having the conventional four- perforation movement.

Although Techniscope work prints are standard frame size, fit standard 35mm film editing equipment and projectors, it is the industry's film editors who have expressed some reservations about the Techniscope system. For one thing, the system introduces a change in the editor's customary procedure. Film editor Frank Keller, who edited the Sinatra-United Artists' release, "For Those Who Think Young," writing in a recent edition of The Cinemeditor, official organ of the American Cinema Editors, Inc., said: "From the film editor's viewpoint there are a few complications which must be kept in mind as the eventual cut picture negative is set up in a particular manner. Because of extremely narrow frame lines, which would cause negative splices to be visible in the projected picture, each scene of negative is cut alternately on A-and-B rolls and the splices made on overlapping frames. This means that the editor must allow for a few "waste frames" at the beginning and end of every cut in the picture. An allowance of four waste frames is requested by Technicolor, although in a tight editing problem two or three extra frames will suffice." "The editing complications begin," Keller points out, "when an intercut is needed in a reaction scene. For example, in `For Those Who Think Young,' there is a scene in which James Darren looks off-stage, sees Pamela Tiffin across a room, and immediately turns back and speaks a line of dialogue to a companion. Ordinarily, an editor might need to lose only one frame in order to intercut the viewpoint scene of Pamela Tiffin, but with this process eight frames are lost at that point to accommodate the four waste frames required after Darren looks off - and to accommodate the four waste frames ahead of the cut in which Darren turns back. This might cause the cutting to appear sharper than normal.

"Other such complications occurred when unplanned inserts were intercut into scenes, and when a jump-cut became necessary to eliminate an action stall. A short jump-cut of one or two frames cannot be handled.... Another present handicap, which should be alleviated in the near future, is the existence of only one optical printer in the industry to handle this two- sprocket-hole negative."

Among the several technical advantages of the Techniscope process, Keller points out, is the fact that in any negative recutting there is no need to lose a frame of any adjoining scene, using the A-and-B roll negative set-up. It is generally believed that the Techniscope process with its cost-saving factors will encourage producers of low-budget films to convert to color photography, and possibly encourage more film production in general.


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Original material copyright ©1996 American Cinematographer
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