second take

WIDER AND WIDER by Bill Crumplin

Widescreen Shoe 1989
After I had shown the film "THE RACERS", about motor cycle racing at Brands Hatch and Le Mans in Cinemascope format, Norman said that maybe some of the members would be interested to hear a little more about my ventures in cinema formats other than the original Academy 4:3. After seeing "THE ROBE","TEN COMMANDMENTS" and the "THREE COINS IN A FOUNTAIN“ in Cinemascope 2.66:1, I thought this is the way to make movies.
So around 1954 I was fishing around, trying to find out how it was done, when, lo and behold, in dear old "ACW" (Amateur Cine World to you of tender years, everybody doff caps and observe one minutes silence in memory!!) - there appeared an article on how an amateur could achieve the new wonder of 'scope'.
It involved purchasing two lenses (which were combined in one mount) and this combination used first on the camera, and when your film came back from the processing, was placed over the projector lens. The power of one lens was to be plus ten dioptres and the other minus five dioptres (10 / 5 = 2) thus you have the two times squeeze when used on the camera and conversely two times spread when used on the projector. Thus restoring the image back to normal in the process. The only difference in these two mounted lenses is that they can be thought of as slices of a cylinder of glass as opposed to a slice off a sphere or ball of glass as is the case in most ordinary lenses - hence the width of the image is doubled - the height remaining unaltered. So, along to the opticians I trot, thinking that I would blind him with science! “A negative and positive cylinder lens, please, of plus ten and minus five dioptres respectively, fifty millimeters or more in diameter" "Yes sir" says he "call in at the end of the week!!" So it was me that was astonished. “No trouble,” says the optics man. “We often prescribe cylinder lenses for specs.” Cinemascope eyeballs - the mind boggles? The camera that I first used the home-made anamorphic on was a war surplus American gun camera (made to fit into fighter aircraft wings alongside the machine guns and record hits, if any!) Designed to use the 1936 magazine cine Kodak cassettes, it cost 30/- without lens. I acquired an English 25 m/m cine lens (1939 Cooke Speed Panchro - an excellent lens) also 30/-. Snag was, the motor took 4 amps at 24 volts - needed two car batteries to drive it. I soon replaced that motor! - With a high speed model motor, which, when geared down provided plenty of power, and I drove it with three grid bias batteries contained in a small box bolted to the camera. This ran on 18 volts, so as the battery ran down, I merely went up a terminal on the grid bias. Anyway, it fired off a 1000 feet of 16 m/m in Russia (Moscow, Leningrad Petrodvorets etc.,) not to mention Denmark and Sweden on the way! Got told off a time or two in Russia but had already got the shots "in the can" before they noticed.
Back to Brand’s Hatch: Since the home made anamorphic I have bought the Proskar Kowa and Centavision squeeze lenses. Now, my friend in the Widescreen group, whose idea it was to make the motor cycle film said "Lets put a camera" (no doubt meaning one of mine!) "- on the front hub of a motor bike." I said, 'Whose anamorphic lens are we using?" "Yours," he said. "- because I want to get a shot of them coming round Druids." I thought, no way am I putting one hundred pounds worth of lens on a ton-up bike probably to meet a ton up wasp coming the other way. Well, you’ve guessed it; it finished up with the poor old gun camera plus home made wide screen lens, this time the camera was powered by the motor bike battery. Once in place on the front hub of the bike, the whole set-up had to be OK’d by the bosses of Brands Hatch. They came and looked at it and said
Bill Crumplin
Bill Crumplin
"If you are happy that it's safe enough, then it's 0.K. by us - but, it must come off after the first lap," It stayed on for six. They didn't come into the pits till then! However, the whole thing was hair raising because I hadn't realised how close to the ground the camera was when they leaned the bike over on right hand bends -couldn't have missed it by more than one inch. When fitting the camera on the bike for the first time I said to the rider "I hope the vibration doesn't ruin the definition.”No vibration on our bikes." says the rider, Anyway, whatever there was, was enough to shake the front element of the camera lens completely free, and as far as I know Brands Hatch has a front element laying on the track somewhere to this day. Luckily I had another war surplus lens laying about which I was able to fit. Other unforeseen gremlins struck too. I had a thin Perspex disc in front of the lens and also to protect the orange artificial to daylight filter, the whole lot surrounded by a three inch diameter lens hood one and a half inches deep. A hundred mile an hour wind plus, driving onto this managed to suck the filter half out from underneath the Perspex would you believe. I had to drill a row of holes round the lens hood to let the wind out. As Brands faces all points of the compass track wise in one lap, what to do about exposure? None of yer automatic exposure gubbins on that camera, and I couldn't expect the rider to lean over and take a meter reading. So, I pointed the meter in all directions and got from f/4 to f/11, so set on f/6.3, and as we were using 7247negative colour film the printers were able to correct the density in the final print.
Screen Formats
........ Have you heard of Super Sixteen? I think it started in Sweden. Normal film is used, but the camera gate is extended width ways to within 1 m/m of each edge. You finish up with a screen ratio of 2.25:1, a most pleasing shape I think, with no anamorphics involved. It was developed with Hollywood in mind, so that they could put the smaller l6m/m camera in places the 35m/m or 70m/m couldn't reach, their stunt films - the16m/m frame being blown up to the larger formats in the printing stage.

So, out with the file, I promptly opened up the camera gate to the appropriate dimensions. First reel comes back from Kodak - beautiful edge to edge picture - but, - I had forgotten the trademark Kodak that they print down one edge plus the edge numbering. The edge numbering is small enough not to be projected but every nine inches of film that passes through the projector a dirty great "K" appears on the side of the screen. I wrote to Kodak asking them if they could print their trademark smaller! Well, lo and behold, the next roll that I bought did have smaller printing! I like to think that it was through me - but they must have already done it anyway. I should have used single perforated film of course which I do now occasionally but so far I have only converted two magazines. The single perforated film gives a ratio of 2:1 - still a very pleasing shape. Despite big Widescreen it's still a small world some times. Around 1972 - 73, Tony Shapps (Mr Widescreen) gave one of his demo’s of it in Croydon. He borrowed my 16m/m films for part of the demo. In the audience there happened to be a young Jim Silver, unknown to me then of course. Happily, I met up with him many years later at Epsom Cine when a chance remark by him made me realise that it was the Croydon show that he was talking about - and this is what hooked him on to widescreen - a small world indeed. I'll finish with a little anecdote involving another member of Epsom Cine. I thought about trying another film format, this time partly for economy reasons. The idea is to mask half the projector gate and, of course, half the camera gate also. (This is 16 m/m I am referring to) The camera and projector are turned on their sides and the film after running through once is then reloaded and the other half exposed as with standard eight. You finish up with 8 1/2 minutes of film, with a screen aspect ratio of 1 1/2:1, quite pleasing, larger than standard 8 and no extra lenses involved. One Harold Bailey was interested in this. I said to him that if he was going to try it he MUST make sure that he masks the appropriate same side of the viewfinder and camera gate. Unfortunately! ------ Something went wrong, because Harold went into Leatherhead and filmed a carnival procession. He is now the possessor of an 8 1/2 minute film which is all feet, heels and dogs. Still better than some of the stuff you see on television, he said! THE END


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