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Re: vision 48
- To: TIG <telecine at alegria.com>
- Subject: Re: vision 48
- From: Marc Shipman-Mueller <msmueller at arri.com>
- Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 11:31:46 -0600
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> >There has been some in-depth discussion of this process on the
> >Cinematography Mailing List (CML). If you are interested I can post
> >the highlights to TIG.
>I imagine there would be a great deal of interest on the TIG for this kind
>I'd love to see a summary of the opinions of others...
So here are excerpts from a recent discussion of MaxiVision48 on CML:
MaxiVision has a web site with a 27 page downloadable Acrobat file which gives
some technical information about the format.
Here is what Bill Bennett, Steven Poster and the inventor himself had
to say about the format:
I read the MaxiVision document with interest. The system is
essentially a Super-35 format, in the 1:1.85 aspect ratio, that
utilizes a 3 perf pulldown at a projection frame rate of 48 fps with
a digital soundtrack. There is no space allocated on the film print
for a conventional optical sound track. It's about time!
The camera modifications needed to shoot this format are already
available from all the major camera manufacturers. The major
component that MaxiVision is bringing to the party is a retrofit
projector movement that would be backward compatible to 4 perf pull
down for existing format motion pictures and forward compatible to 3
perf pulldown for MaxiVision. I would guess there would also need
to be a two speed motor installed to accommodate the higher frame
rate. The projector retrofit allows converting between formats with
the flip of a switch. The author claims that image steadiness is
greatly improved over conventional geneva-style movement projectors.
Thought I support wholeheartedly any improvements that would improve
the viewing experience for the audience, I have some thoughts and
comments on this system.
Shooting exterior cities at night or any pulsed light source, such
as a neon sign in a night club set, at 48 frames per second seems
like it could be problematic in both 60 and 50 hz countries. My
calculations show that you could use a 144° shutter angle in a 60 hz
country and a 172.8° shutter angle in a 50 hz country to eliminate
flicker. The frame rate would need to be crystal controlled,
something we already do, but the reduced shutter angle setting would
have to be extremely accurate if we wanted to eliminate any
possibility of flicker. Also, can the cinematographer tolerate the
1 stop loss for the doubled frame rate as well as the additional
partial stop loss for the required narrower shutter angle, when
compared with 24 fps? It seems that we are always "fighting for
exposure" in night exteriors.
Another issue that was not addressed in the document was the desire
for shooting in aspect ratios wider than 1:1.85, such as the
commonly used 1:2.35 anamorphic format. I suppose it would be
possible in this format, utilizing different lenses and screen
masking, though some of the height of the film area would be
"wasted", something the author is trying to avoid. It would be like
utilizing the present Super-35 1:2.35 format on-the-negative area
without need for the anamorphic squeeze process that is now done in
With regards to lens formed-image diameters, the MaxiVision image
diagonal of 1.074" is so close to the standard Academy aperture's
diagonal of 1.069" that there would be little or no problem with
vignetting while utilizing lenses designed to cover only the Academy
Another concern I would have would be the potential for strobing or
image chatter when MaxiVision footage is converted to 24 fps by
dropping every other frame for projection in conventional theaters,
or for transfer to video format material, as the author of the
document suggests it could. The exposure times per frame would of
course be equivalent to shooting at 24 fps with a 90° shutter angle,
not a good place to be for any sort of action sequence. In this
day and age, any Producer is going to be extremely interested in how
their project is going to look on television.
Possibly a different version of the long utilized 3,2 field-frame
technique that is used to transfer 24 frame per second material to
the 30(29.97) frame video environment could be developed that made
more complete use of the available 48 frames per second of the
original material, rather than simply dropping half of them and then
doing the age old 3,2 conversion. I think the "Meta-Speed" device,
that is an option on Rank Cintel telecines, does something like that
at speeds over 30 fps in NTSC. I'm sure Mike Most or some of the
other video post savvy guys on here can tell us more about the
solutions to this problem. None the less, Editors will indeed be
tearing their hair out on this one.
Dropping every other frame and going to 24 fps progressive scan HDTV
will have the same problems with strobing that projecting
frame-dropped 24 fps material in the theater would have.
I suspect the folks in 50 hz countries would just run the material
at 50 fps, one film frame for every video field, on interlace PAL
television and accept the slight speedup as they presently do with
24 fps material.
Don’t get me wrong, I really welcome any new format proposal, such
as this one, that can greatly improve the audience viewing
experience. The author of this document is correct in stating,
while everything about the theatrical film viewing experience has
improved greatly in the past 100 years: cameras, lenses, sound, film
stocks, etc., the projection systems have remained essentially
unchanged in the "steam-driven, hot-riveted-boilerplate dark-ages"
of the early industrial revolution. The digital electronic
projection methods that are being currently proposed are "almost as
good" as the presently used film projection techniques but
electronic projection can be "blown out of the water" with easily
accomplished improvements to film projection systems such as this
newly proposed format.
Director of Photography
Los Angeles, CA, USA
My friend Dean Goodhill will soon be a member of CML and will directly
respond to these interesting questions.
But just think of the improvement to projection (even conventional formats
will benifit because the system is completly backwards compatiable) we will
see for under ten thousand dollars per screen!!!!
American Cinematographer will feature a ground breaking article in next
Steven Poster ASC
My name is Dean Goodhill. I am a film editor and the inventor of
MaxiVision. Thanks for letting me join your forum. I hope I can answer
your MaxiVision questions where I have answers, and learn from you about
problems for which we have yet to devise solutions.
You guess that we would "need ... a two speed motor installed higher frame
rates." Actually, we using robotic digital motor-control technology that is
a good deal more sophisticated. In fact, we can operate at any pulldown
mode (2-perf, 2.5perf, 3-perf, or 4-perf) at any speed from old silent speed
(16 to 18-fps) to 24-fps (our default mode) and on up to 30-fps or 48-fps.
There is a new-yet-familiar beauty about 48-fps. It has the same pulse rate
as the 24-fps standard we're all used to (assuming a double-bladed shutter),
but in each pulse, you see a new image. That image is not only sharper
(because of the faster shutter speed), but larger on film. The higher
temporal resolution is revolutionary both with motion capture and
resolution, but simultaneously comfortable and cinematic because it's the
same pulse rate we grew up with. The only difference is that instead of
seeing each frame twice, as is now the case, you're seeing each frame only
once. That's what gives people the illusion of three-dimensionality. It
does look almost like 3-D, but that's just because your visual cortex is
processing more than twice the information.
You said MaxiVision "allows converting between formats with the flip of a
switch." Well, it actually does that without the flip of a switch. It does
it automatically in response to a code read from film, and it can switch
back and forth between either formats and/or frame-rates on the fly, while
in full operation! So, you can create one sequence of a movie at 24-fps,
and another at 48-fps, and the projector will switch back and forth between
frame-rates as needed without operator attention. Note that though the
format switching (e.g. Scope to MaxiVision) can be actuated on the fly, the
system must change lenses with a turret rotation, and that takes a couple of
seconds, so you wouldn't do that mid-movie. That sort of switch should have
a couple of feet of black leader to allow time for the turret rotation. But
you could switch frame rates using the same format (e.g. 3-perf) mid-movie.
I appreciate your analysis of the shutter angles needed to eliminate flicker
with pulsed light sources (172.8 for 50hz or 144 in a 60hz country). I
wonder if you see a problem in the extreme accuracy needed? Is a Panavision
Millennium capable of this accuracy? What about an Arri 535 or 435?
As to "fighting for exposure," I am sympathetic, but can only hope that
film's increased speed provides some comfort. If the required light were
unavailable, you could shoot a difficult night scene at 24fps and have the
projector switch accordingly. Even at 24-fps, the MaxiVision image would
look about 250% better than current standards because of the larger frame
and perfect registration. As to the one stop loss at 48-fps, "you can't
make omelettes without breaking eggs." We're shooting twice as many
pictures per second, so you do need one more stop. Agfa just announced a
new film technology that is 10 times faster, they say. Let's hope they make
it work for real-world applications.
One other problem we hope you'll make peace with is that at 48-fps, the
camera-even a Panaflex-will make more noise. A light blimp may be necessary
for interiors, or a barney in outdoor situations. I've discussed this with
a few of the camera manufacturers and we talking about designing something
that is very light, likely made of carbon fiber composite. They tell me
that can do the job and still put a silent camera on a Steadicam.
Fortunately, the cameras are all very quiet now to begin with, and we're
just asking them to go 50% faster, not 100% faster, thanks to the 3-per
As to your concern about "strobing or image chatter when MaxiVision (48)
footage is converted to 24-fps by dropping every other frame," that's not
the way we plan to do it. We plan to do it digitally. One frame is made up
of an interpolated combination of two camera originals, with motion blur
created as needed based on the amount of movement of pixel blocks.
Skip-frame conversion, on the other hand, would be okay for dialog scenes,
but with any significant movement, it would-as you quite rightly say-look
like a 90-degree shutter. Yuk. But don't be too startled about the idea of
digitally modified 24fps versions. It's not like doing CGI. I can't say
too much more right now because some of these things are trade secrets and
In any case, the 48 to 24 conversion would only be a factor for the first
year or so of our deployment. It's all pretty quick. We'll have 10,000
screens within about three years, assuming we close the financing deal we're
now negotiating. We'll move into Europe and the rest of the world as soon
as we do a bit of research there, which will likely be in parallel with the
U.S. and Canadian deployment. Once that many screens are in place, you
won't need to worry about a 24-fps version except for third-world countries.
As to the TV transfer, all I can say is it looks great, we've already done
it; but there are techniques we've used I can't yet disclose. We did try
the Rank Meta-Speed, but it didn't look good. It drops frames, so it
creates stutter rather than providing additional clarity, which is our goal.
What I can tell you is that we have a video version that looks better than
standard film to video thanks to a few crazy ideas I came up with and
application research supervised by Mark Miller at Digital Magic / POP. But
it's nothing compared to the theatrically projected 48-fps version and
that's okay with us. We seek to make "going to the movies" an event that is
really special, one that cannot be duplicated at home. The advantages of
high temporal resolution have been understood since Mike Todd joined forces
with American Optical to form Todd-AO. All we've done is make it practical.
As to "shooting in aspect rations wider than 1.85:1," we've thought of that
too. First of all, you can shoot at 48-fps with standard scope 4-perf
pulldown. The problem is you'd use 180-fpm of film that way, instead of
135-fpm as with MaxiVision48. Alternatively, we plan to provide a 2:1
aperture mask in our projector, for use with our spherical MaxiVision
projection lens. I met with Vittorio Storaro and discussed his "Univision"
idea/desire for a 2:1 aspect ratio. MaxiVision will support that in our
patented 3-perf full-aperture format but as you say, it would entail some
masking and therefore waste of the available stock in a 3-perf pulldown. I
think the idea of a 2:1 aspect ratio is strictly an aesthetic choice that
properly belongs with filmmakers, so we support it. However, our primary
format is 1.85 simply because most of the best new screens in the U.S. are
designed around that aspect ratio and that's the best use of all the film in
a 3-perf full aperture format. Moreover, it is the format that most
directors seem most comfortable using. Also, these days, exhibitors use
top-masking rather than side-masking for scope pictures; just the reverse of
what one expects. The scope picture is actually smaller than 1.85.
As to your statement that "editors will indeed be tearing their hair out on
this one," I hope not. I hope it will be pretty seamless. We are building
special KEMs and synchronizers and Acmade coding machines and even Movieolas
(for one particular editor) and film to tape transfer systems (the portable
Cinemaestro) and equivalent plans with Digital Magic and POP for telecine in
Hollywood. One revolution of the synchronizer will constitute 24 3-perf
frames rather than 16 4-perf frames.
Some people say that all the studios want is to cut costs. Wrong. Studios
want to make more money; the question is how to do that. They may have said
that all they want is to cut costs, but they didn't know there was any other
option, and most of them still don't. The whole MaxiVision story was a
secret until June. It's a cost/benefit calculation for the studios. One
way to make more money is to cut costs, that's true. But if heightened
showmanship can increase theatrical boxoffice admissions in a substantial
way, the studios will embrace it. The question is: does showmanship work?
Of course it does. Film stock cost is small relative to stars, locations,
crew, etc. The studios will fight over the cost of film and play Fuji
against Kodak when they can, but that's because they see rawstock as a
commodity, like with laboratory services or telecine. They won't consider
using 70mm because there are too few screens and it's too awkward in
production. But MaxiVision48 is half the cost of 70mm and high temporal
resolution is actually more remarkable because it realistically captures
Look for a big story on MaxiVision in the February issue of American
Cinematographer. It will disclose very specific information about how our
Active Crystal Registration actually works. No pun intended, but that will
clear up allot of misconceptions :-) Also, remember that the MaxiVision
system is very, very flexible. It allows filmmakers to use the 3-perf
format, or even a 2-perf format to save film at 24-fps and cut costs where
necessary. Thanks to the registration technology, it'll still look better
than current 1.85. And, as I said above, it allows you to switch
frame-rates on the fly for different creative aesthetics in the same movie.
And of course, the MaxiVision system is fully backward compatible:
yesterday's movies will work perfectly in a MaxiVision projector.
If IMAX can pack 'em in to see 40 minute documentaries at full-rate ticket
prices with no stars or sync sound, what might an enhanced visual experience
do for feature films? Nobody really knows for sure, but if history is any
guide, a better picture will draw larger crowds. We think that with the
help of cinematographers, directors, producers, distributors, exhibitors and
the labs (who are our greatest supporters), we can reinvent motion pictures
for the 21st Century.
MaxiVision Cinema Technology
phone: 323 650-0860
fax: 323 650-8744
Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative
Arriflex Corporation; 1646 North Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago, IL
Tel: 773 252 8003, Fax: 773 252 5210
Email: msmueller at arri.com, Web: http://www.arri.com
Thanks to Seamus O'Kane for support in 1999
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