Not just vinyl for hipsters! The return of Ultra Panavision 70! Film is back with a vengeance with The Hateful Eight and Tarantino has a behind the scenes look for us

For his upcoming snowy western Tarantino unearthed special cameras and 1.25x anamorphic lenses at Panavision which hadn’t seen the light of day since 1965.

The film was shot on 65mm film and will get a ‘Roadshow’ release on Christmas day in amazing 70mm.

The Hateful Eight - Ultra Panavision 70

Obsessions are a good thing in filmmaking and clearly Tarantino is going through his Western movie making era.

DP Rob Richardson (who also shot Django Unchained in anamorphic – EOSHD article here) was tasked in finding the most authentic ‘old-west’ look for The Hateful Eight. He found it abandoned in the corner of a room at Panavision.

The old Ultra Panavision 70 cameras were in good shape but had to be rebuilt to ensure reliability for the freezing cold shoot in Colorado.

Richardson also found the original 65mm anamorphic lenses for the system. These as you can see from how incredible The Hateful Eight has turned out, are a thing of sheer beauty with a high rarity value. Tarantino and Richardson have guaranteed this movie a uniquely authentic look compared to everything else released in the last 40 years.

There’s also a wonderful romance to the old fashioned release and shooting format, which surely helped the atmosphere on set and the actors.

The anamorphic lenses used on Ultra Panavision 70 cameras are quite different to the usual Cinemascope 2x compression lenses commonly used on 35mm film. From Wikipedia:

“Panavision also had another 65mm system, (Ultra Panavision 70), which sprang from the MGM Camera 65 system they helped develop for MGM that was used to film Raintree County (film) and Ben-Hur (1959 film). Both Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65 employed an anamorphic lens with a 1.25x squeeze on a 65mm negative (as opposed to 35mm CinemaScope which used a 2x compression, or 8-perf, horizontally filmed 35mm Technirama which used a 1.5x compression). When projected on a 70mm print, a 1.25x anamorphic projection lens was used to decompress the image to an aspect ratio of 2.76:1, one of the widest ever used in commercial cinema.”

Just how big is 70mm?

Ultra Panavision 70 is about as tall as the full frame sensor in the Sony A7S II at 22mm but much wider at around 48mm compared to 35mm for photographic full frame 35mm.

It isn’t as big a imaging area as you get with IMAX or 65mm photographic (medium format) film but it is a lot larger than the cinema standard of Super 35mm.

What is the closest look the mere mortal can get to Ultra Panavision 70mm?

It’s probably a 1.5x Iscorama on full frame.

I hope digital goes in this direction. We need more anamorphic lenses and for a larger sensor size to become standard. Super 35mm will likely be considered the ‘video’ standard in a few years and 70mm will be the cinema standard.

Panavision 70mm digital cinema camera

Interestingly Panavision does allegedly have a digital 70mm camera out there, which was developed for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

I wrote about this a few years ago at EOSHD.

So when can we see The Hateful Eight in 70mm at a cinema near us? Unfortunately the limited number of 70mm film projectors and costs involved means The Hateful Eight will only open in the US on Christmas Day. The rest of the world will have to wait until the crappy digital print is released in January which rather takes the romance down a notch.

There may at some point however still be a limited number of 70mm projections in other countries… I’ll certainly have one eye open for that, squinting menacingly in 2.76:1 aspect ratio.

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About Andrew Reid (EOSHD) 1394 Articles
British filmmaker and editor of EOSHD. On this blog I share my creative and technical knowledge as I shoot.