8mm  -  16mm  -  CinemaScope  -  Cinerama  -  IMAX  -  MGM Camera 65  -  Panavision




Scope  -  Showscan  -  Super 8  -  Super 16  -  Super 35  -  Superscope  -  Technirama  -  Techniscope  -  Technovision


Todd-AO  -  VistaVision  -  Widescreen

In 1932, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a new film format, the Cine Kodak Eight [+ cameras and projectors]. Utilizing a special 16mm film which had double the number of perforations on both sides, the filmmaker would run the film through the camera in one direction, then reload and expose the other side of the film [Double-8]. Since the 8mm frame was one-quarter the size of 16mm, this method reduced by a factor of four the amount of film necessary to give the same running time - four minutes - as a standard one-hundred-foot length of 16mm stock. After development, the laboratory would slit the film lengthwise down the centre, and splice one end to the other, yielding fifty feet of finished 8mm movies. The success of 8mm film was almost immediate, and within about fifteen years, 16mm film became almost exclusively a format of the professional filmmaker. See also: Super 8.

In 1923 Kodak introduced 16mm reversal film [+ the 16mm Cine-Kodak motion picture camera and the Kodascope projector] for amateur filmmaking. Used for professional filmmaking from the 1930's onward. The first entertainment film to be shot in 16mm was 'Sundown Riders' [1944; ph in Kodachrome by Alan Stensvold]. See also: Super 16.



Anamorphic-lens system introduced by 20th Century-Fox in 1953 with 'The Robe' [ph by Leon Shamroy in CinemaScope and a flat 35mm version]. The process was based on the Anamorphoscope system [using an Hypergonar lens] developed by the Frenchman Henri Chrétien [1879-1956].

Henri Chrétien

Fox secured the world rights to this system and the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company perfected Chrétien's lens. When it set up CinemaScope as a new standard, 20th Century-Fox thought it had covered all legal bases. Fox intended to own the use of the process and license it to other companies. Unfortunately, Fox soon discovered its rights were limited to the patents it had obtained from Professor Chrétien and H. Sidney Newcomer, an American who had also been experimenting with anamorphic lenses in the 1920's. Other basic design patents of CinemaScope were considered to be in the public domain. See also: Scope.

The production start date of 'The Robe' had been delayed several times, with Fox reporting that it was having difficulties in deciding in what process the picture should be filmed. In January 1953, Fox announced that studio president Spyros Skouras had negotiated the purchase of the rights to a "new French large-screen process which projects a picture two and a half times the size of today's normal screen image and uses only one strip of 35mm." At first called Anamorphoscope, the process, eventually named CinemaScope, was invented by Henri Chrétien in 1927, and promised a three-dimensional effect due to its wide field of vision. According to a September 15, 1953 Hollywood Reporter article, Chrétien initially attempted to interest Hollywood movie producers in his invention in 1928, but they were distracted by the advent of sound. Chrétien also revealed that J. Arthur Rank once held an option on his lenses. Rank's option lapsed, however, and on February 6, 1953, Fox reported that it had signed a ten-year exclusive contract to manufacture and distribute all CinemaScope lenses in countries except France and its colonies.

Fox decided to shoot 'The Robe' in CinemaScope, with full tests in the process beginning on February 28, 1953. An August 12, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item revealed that Chrétien was to receive one dollar for "each lens [made for CinemaScope] throughout the world, plus a small annual fee for ten years. In addition, he has been given a contract to produce 250,000 lenses."

Unlike other widescreen processes, CinemaScope required only one camera and one projector. Using a special, anamorphic lens mounted over the camera's normal lens, CinemaScope was able to capture a wide-angle image that was 'squeezed' onto a regular strip of 35mm film stock. The image was then 'unsqueezed' during projection through the use of another special lens attached to the projector, so that the resulting image was at a ratio of 2.55:1 instead of the then-standard 1.33:1. The film was projected onto a slightly concave Miracle Mirror screen, which was much wider than an ordinary screen, although the exact size depended on the theater in which it was installed. [The screen installed in the Roxy Theatre in New York was 68 feet wide by 24 feet tall.] The screens, which had a metallic surface, were also capable of being used for 3-D or standard format pictures. The only other screen authorized by Fox for use with its CinemaScope productions was the Magniglow Astrolite Screen, produced by the Radiant Manufacturing Corporation of Chicago.

In order to solidify CinemaScope as the industry's new standard, Fox offered it to other studios rather than retaining it for its own exclusive use. The first major demonstration of CinemaScope for exhibitors, other movie studios and reviewers was held in Los Angeles on March 18, 1953, with footage of the New York harbor, a sequence from 'The Robe', clips from 'How to Marry a Millionaire' and a musical number from 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' being shown. The demonstration was a success, with Hollywood Reporter publisher W. R. Wilkerson declaring that CinemaScope, stereophonic sound and the new Eastman color film stock were "the answer to every exhibitor's prayer."

Hollywood Reporter noted that several major studios were interested in or had committed to CinemaScope, and that numerous films using the process were in the planning stages. The lenses necessary to shoot the pictures had to be licensed from Fox, and prices varied depending on the amount of equipment required and the number of pictures for which it would be used. Paramount, one of the few studios not using CinemaScope, promoted its own process, VistaVision, which employed a ratio of 1.85:1 and was not an anamorphic process.

In a modern interview, director Henry Koster described how frustrating using CinemaScope was during production of 'The Robe', as the lenses had to be focused separately, and frequently were not in focus at the same time, necessitating retakes. Eventually a system to mechanically and automatically focus the lenses was perfected. Additional problems that had to be surmounted to accommodate CinemaScope were drastic changes in lighting, placement of actors within a scene and the type of film stock used. According to an August 1953 Variety article, 'The Robe' and a few subsequent Fox CinemaScope productions were shot on a type of Eastman negative stock that proved unsatisfactory. Later films used a new Eastman 'tungsten balanced stock', which was easier to light during production and to use to print multiple positive copies. News items noted that, even though onscreen credits of 'The Robe' state 'Color by Technicolor', the Technicolor plant only processed the Eastman Color film, and that technically, the color was by Eastman. Stereophonic sound, which had been experimented with as early as 1916, was used in conjunction with CinemaScope.

In order to protect its huge investment and to insure its further use, Fox offered loans to many exhibitors throughout the United States and the world to install the necessary projection and sound equipment. On April 17, 1953, Hollywood Reporter noted that at that time, more than 1,500 theaters had already placed orders for the equipment, and that it would cost between $8,000 to $22,000 to re-furbish theaters for CinemaScope and stereophonic sound, depending on the size of the establishment. By mid-July 1953, Fox had invested $10,000,000 "in the development of CinemaScope and in advances to manufacturers throughout the United States and Europe to insure speedy delivery of CinemaScope lenses, Miracle Mirror screens and stereophonic sound."

By the end of production on 'The Robe', various sources estimated its cost at $4,500,000. Several large New York theaters, including the Astor, Rivoli and Roxy, bid to see which would be allowed to exhibit the picture in New York City, with the Roxy winning. The gala New York premiere was held on September 16, 1953 and received much acclaim.

Critical reaction to CinemaScope was mixed at first, with many critics commenting on the focus problems that were soon eliminated due to better film stock and lenses. The New Yorker critic complained: "[CinemaScope] works out fine horizontally, but the peculiar shape of the screen occasionally gives the impression that you're viewing the action through a mail slot. Another disadvantage is that the actors in close-ups look as if they belonged on Mount Rushmore." Hollywood Citizen-News, however, termed CinemaScope "a motion picture achievement of which the entire industry can be extremely proud."

According to Hollywood Reporter news items, 'The Robe' was also shot in regular 35mm, but only so that it could be reduced to 16mm for release to churches and schools. During its general theatrical release, 'The Robe' was available only in CinemaScope. [From the TCM website.]

Drawing by Max Smith

During photography, the cylindrical, 'anamorphic' lens [in the beginning an anamorphic lens attachment, later lens + attachment mounted in one unit] would record almost twice as much horizontal information as its spherical counterpart. By optically compressing or 'squeezing' the horizontal image by a factor of two, the anamorphic lens was able to record its wider image on the same 35mm film stock while employing the same motion picture cameras that were already being used by the major studios. To project the widescreen image, existing theatres merely needed to equip their projectors with a similar cylindrical lens that would unsqueeze the image and spread the picture across an appropriately wider screen. CinemaScope at first projected a wide-screen aspect ratio of 2.66:1 [the maximum available area on the film + sound on separate 35mm magnetic film], later 2.55:1 [with 4 small magnetic soundtracks on the film] and eventually 2.35:1 [in 1955]. Most films during the first years of CinemaScope were simultaneously filmed in a standard 35mm flat version. A problem with CinemaScope lenses were the anamorphic 'mumps', which occurred when anamorphosis decreased as the lens was focused closer. The name 'mumps' came from the fact that actors' faces, when photographed in close-up and then projected, appeared noticeably fatter, as though they had 'mumps'. As a result, directors using CinemaScope were forced into staging scenes with wider shots, seriously limiting their editorial choices.

Originally, 20th Century-Fox only licensed CinemaScope for 'A' pictures shot in color. Yet, once the process had been established, some filmmakers wanted to use the CinemaScope lenses on dramatic pictures in b&w. Having established the CinemaScope standard, Fox quietly began to modify its strict anti-black & white attitude. The studio made a deal with independent producer Robert L. Lippert [1909-76] for a series of anamorphic low budget 'B' films. To distinguish these 'B' films from color CinemaScope productions, Fox coined the name RegalScope after Lippert's production company, Regal Films Inc. Of course, Regal's films were photographed with Bausch & Lomb CinemaScope lenses. Curiously, the first released Regal film, 'Stagecoach to Fury' [1956; ph by Walter Strenge], bore a CinemaScope logo, though the size of the logo was much smaller and less prominent than it had been on 'A' pictures. Around the same time, Fox began to break its own color barrier. It began production on a b&w CinemaScope 'A' picture titled 'Teenage Rebel' [1956; ph by Joseph MacDonald].

In 1955 Fox introduced the large format CinemaScope 55 system using a 55mm negative with 8 perforations [e.g. 'Carousel' ph by Charles G. Clarke]. From this negative a 35mm CinemaScope print was made with improved image quality. Fox abandoned the system in 1956.

In the 1960's the use of Bausch & Lomb lenses declined and Panavision anamorphic lenses were introduced. In 1966, 20th Century-Fox filmed its last CinemaScope pictures 'In Like Flint' [ph by William H. Daniels] and 'Caprice', the latter photographed by Leon Shamroy, who had started it all on 'The Robe'. In 1967 it was the end of CinemaScope for the major studios.

Developed by special effects ph Fred Waller [1886-1954] and inspired by the French triptych process Polyvision [1926] and Waller's own Vitarama [a wide-screen process employing 11 interlocked 16mm cameras and projectors; demonstrated at the 1939 World's Fair in New York]. Cinerama employed a special triple 35mm camera set-up whose combined images covered 146 degrees. The camera aperture was 1.116 in./28.35mm high [equivalent to 6 perforations] x 0.997 in./25.32mm wide. The three 35mm prints were projected interlocked, from three separate projection booths, onto a deeply curved screen composed of 1,200 slightly overlapping vertical strips to create an image three times the normal width and also twice the standard height [the aspect ratio, as viewed from the center projector, was 2.06:1]. The word Cinerama was an anagram of the letters in 'American'. The first Cinerama film was 'This Is Cinerama' [1951; ph by Harry Squire], which premiered on 30 September 1952 at the Broadway Theatre, New York, and caused such a sensation that even the New York Times covered the event as a front-page news story.

According to the New York Times review, the word 'Cinerama' is a combination of the words 'cinema' and 'panorama'. The process was developed by Fred Waller. Waller, who also invented water skis, introduced an early form of Cinerama at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. The exhibition sparked the interest of the Rockefeller Group, who financed further experiments. After a 1949 demonstration, however, the financiers backed out of their arrangement, allowing Hazard E. Reeves [1906-86] to purchase the company in 1950. He [president] and Waller [chairman] named the company Cinerama, Inc. and signed an exclusive partnership with Lowell Thomas and Mike Todd's company, Thomas-Todd Productions, to make five films in five years. Todd hired legendary documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty to produce 'This Is Cinerama', but Flaherty died soon after shooting the Niagara Falls sequences, prompting Todd and his son, Mike Todd Jr., to take over producer chores and much of the directing. During production in Europe, however, the Todds far exceeded their budget, and as a result were fired by Thomas-Todd. Thomas then hired his friend, Gen. Merian C. Cooper, who made the decision to treat the film as a theatrical experience with an intermission.

Although there had been previous three-screen experiments, Cinerama strove to be the most naturalistic form of cinema to date. As noted in a April 30, 1953 New York Times article, Reeves's stereophonic sound system imitated natural, multiple-origination sound by recording sound magnetically onto a separate strip of 35mm film and then playing it back to seven banks of speakers around the theater. According to the press book, seven separate sound tracks were prepared, the seventh of which served as a control track to guide the movement of sound from one bank of speakers to the next.

The film had its premiere at the Broadway Theatre, which was rebuilt to accommodate the screen and projection booths, and rewired for the elaborate sound system. In its first release, the film ran for 133 weeks, and was followed by several re-releases, including those on November 2, 1960 and February 15, 1973. The picture's unprecedented success prompted the filmmakers to release a succession of other three-screen Cinerama productions, including 'Cinerama Holiday' [1954; ph: Harry Squire & Joseph C. Brun], 'Seven Wonders of the World' [1955; ph: Harry Squire], 'South Seas Adventure' [1957; ph: John F. Warren] and 'How the West Was Won' [1961; ph: various; also released in Ultra Panavision 70].

Waller won a 1953 Academy Award of Merit 'for designing and developing the multiple photographic and projection systems which culminated in Cinerama',  while Reeves Soundcraft Corp. won a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award 'for their development of a process of applying stripes of magnetic code to motion picture film'.
The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood opened in November 1963 to showcase the United Artists Cinerama-process film 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World'. By this point, the three-screen process had proved too unwieldy and expensive to catch on in popular use, and so had evolved into 'single-strip Cinerama', a simpler, less spectacular 70mm process. According to press notes, William R. Forman, the founder of Pacific Theatres, gained control of Cinerama and its assets and stored them for nearly forty years. In 2001, the Cinerama Dome was refurbished, and a restored print of 'This Is Cinerama' was re-released in October 2002. This screening marked the first time three-strip Cinerama was shown in the Dome. [From the TCM website.]

 The last Cinerama film was 'How the West Was Won' [1962]. Continuing problems with the technique and competition from wide-screen systems with a single film forced Cinerama to become a single film system, e.g. 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World' [1962; ph by Ernest Laszlo in Ultra Panavision 70/Super-Cinerama] & '2001: A Space Odyssey' [1965; ph by Geoffrey Unsworth & John Alcott in Super Panavision].

Other 3-strip systems were Cinemiracle [developed by National Theatres; projected from a single booth with three closely spaced projectors, utilizing mirrors (aspect ratio: 2.33:1); e.g. 'Windjammer', 1956-57; ph: Gayne Rescher & Joseph Brun] and the Russian KinoPanorama.


A camera and projector system that employs the largest film frame in motion picture history: 65mm film moving through the camera horizontally allows individual frames that are 15 perforations wide and measure 71.09 by 52.63mm, ten times larger than the standard 35mm frame. Printed on 70mm and projected onto a screen measuring 80 feet by 100 feet. IMAX stands for 'Image Maximization'. The IMAX system has its roots in EXPO '67 in Montreal, Canada, where multi-screen films were the hit of the fair. A small group of Canadian filmmakers and entrepreneurs who had made some of those popular films, decided to design a new system using a single, powerful projector, rather than the cumbersome multiple projectors used at that time. The result: the IMAX motion picture projection system, which would revolutionize giant-screen cinema. IMAX technology premiered at the  Fuji Group Pavilion, EXPO '70 in Osaka, Japan, with 'Tiger Child' [1969; dir by Donald Brittain and ph by Georges Dufaux]. The first permanent IMAX projection system was installed in Toronto in 1971. IMAX Dome [OMNIMAX], designed for use on a domed theatre screen, debuted at the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theatre in San Diego in 1973.

IMAX 15/70

Standard 35mm

Currently, large format cinema has four different size formats: 15-perf/70mm, 10/70, 8/70 and 5/70. Today IMAX no longer has an exclusive hold on the market, as companies such as Iwerks Entertainment, Inc. and World Odyssey are producing 15/70 cameras and projectors. In the large format industry Showscan, developed by special effects expert Douglas Trumbull, is the system utilizing 5-perf/70mm. The 65mm Showscan camera shoots at 60 fps and the resulting image is projected at 60 fps producing an extremely high resolution, grain free, flickerless image. Iwerks also presents its films in flat, dome or 3-D configurations and in either 15/70 or 8/70.

A popular and spectacular form of presentation of large format cinema is the 360° theatre, e.g. Disney's Circarama [eleven 16mm cameras and projectors, later nine 16mm cameras and nine 35mm projectors] and Circle-Vision 360°. The 70mm Ultra Toruscope is yet another 360° system which utilizes three 5/70 projectors running at 30 fps producing a 360° image up to 70 feet in diameter. The audience is seated on rotating servo-controlled chairs with optional breeze and scents. Cinema 180 from Omni Films International is a 5/70 based system utilizing 65mm original negative and a 70mm print. The print is projected onto a quadraspherical domed screen 42 feet wide by 24 feet high and 18 feet in depth.


Developed by MGM and Panavision, Inc. in 1955. Photographed onto 65mm film [anamorphic]. Printed onto 70mm film [anamorphic] with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1 or onto 35mm film [anamorphic] with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image printed onto the 35mm film was taken from the center of the negative. The cameras used for MGM Camera 65 were old 70mm cameras from the 1930's used for MGM's Realife system, which were converted to 65mm by the Mitchell Camera Corporation, and new 65mm cameras ordered by Panavision. The first film was 'Raintree County' [1956; ph by Robert Surtees], but that film was shown only in CinemaScope compatible 35mm because all 70mm theaters were solidly booked up with 'Around the World in 80 Days' [Todd-AO]. The second MGM Camera 65 film, 'Ben-Hur' [1958-59; ph by Robert Surtees], was released in a 70mm version. After MGM sold its camera department to Panavision the system was called Ultra Panavision 70. See also: Panavision.

The trade name for widescreen processes and cameras developed by Panavision, Inc. Panavision was founded in 1953 by Robert Gottschalk [1918-82], a.o., in order to manufacture a prismatic anamorphic projection attachment [Super Panatar], which made it possible to change the aspect ratio of the projected image during projection from 1.33:1 to 2.66:1. The Super Panatar projection lens, debuted in March 1954 for $1,100 a pair and quickly captured the market. It was attached between the projector and the lens. A later improved and lighter design [Ultra Panatar] enabled this to be mounted in front of the lens instead. In December 1954, the company then captured the film studio market by creating the Micro Panatar, which was attached to an optical printer for the purpose of creating 'flat' [non-anamorphic] prints from anamorphic negatives. [Previously studios had shot everything with two cameras - one anamorphic and one flat - so that non-widescreen theaters could still exhibit the film. The cost savings of making flat prints in post-production instead were enormous.]

The high quality of these lenses, in comparison with Fox's Bausch & Lomb lenses, greatly impressed MGM's research director Douglas Shearer. With the MGM Camera 65 [later Ultra Panavision 70] system, Panavision entered the field of camera or 'taking' lenses. The system used 65mm film in conjunction with the APO Panatar lens, an integrated anamorphic lens [rather than a prime lens with an anamorphoser mounted on it] set to a 1.25 expansion factor. Unfortunately, it was only used on a handful of films, starting with 'Raintree County'.

The introduction of the Auto Panatar and Ultra Speed Panatar, anamorphic 35mm 'taking' attachments, in 1958, was the real breakthrough. A problem with early CinemaScope camera lenses was what was known as 'the mumps': a widening of the face in close-ups due to a loss of anamorphic power as a subject approaches the lens. Although early productions were willing to compensate for this limitation by staying away from close-ups, as anamorphic became more popular, it became a major annoyance. Gottschalk solved the problem with additional rotating lens elements moved in concert with the focus ring so that a 2x squeeze ratio could be maintained throughout the range of focal distances. The Auto Panatar was rapidly adopted industry-wide, eventually making CinemaScope lenses [and thus CinemaScope] obsolete.

Original Panavision used an anamorphic lens on the camera to squeeze the picture onto 35mm film which, when projected through the same type of lens, created an image with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. MGM was one of the first studios to use the new Panavision lenses on 'Torpedo Run' [1958; ph by George Folsey] and other productions, but these films were advertised as being shot in CinemaScope. However, the films also bore the separate credit: 'Photographic Lenses by Panavision'. The first film 'Filmed in Panavision' was 'A Hole in the Head' [1958; ph by William Daniels].

By 1960, Paramount, which had resisted CinemaScope also began filming in Panavision. Although Panavision shot tests for the 20th Century-Fox prod 'The Diary of Anne Frank' [1958; ph by William C. Mellor & Jack Cardiff (loc ph)], the studio resisted using the obviously better lenses. It wasn't until 1966 that several of Fox's top directors of photography began to shoot in Panavision. By 1970, Panavision dominated 35mm anamorphic photography throughout the world.

Ultra Panavision 70 used an anamorphically squeezed image on a 65mm negative and 70mm print to project a picture with a ratio of 2.76:1.


Super Panavision 70 photographed an unsqueezed image onto 65mm film which, when projected from a 70mm print, had an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. The 35mm print, with 2x anamorphic squeeze, had an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The first film in Super Panavision 70 was 'The Big Fisherman' [1958/9, Frank Borzage; ph by Lee Garmes]. Other films produced and released in Super Panavision 70 were 'Exodus' [1960; ph by Sam Leavitt] & 'Lawrence of Arabia'. See also: Film Cameras - Panavision.