shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Discussion of television and radio technology - professional and domestic.
Post Reply
User avatar
Spiny Norman
D-MAC
Posts: 881
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:32 pm

shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by Spiny Norman »

Is there perhaps someone who knows the following?
Bear in mind it's a bit detailed, and it may not apply to the UK at all!!

In the nineties, American TV series would still be shot on film, right, but like this (correct if wrong):
A 35 film cell would contain a lot more space on all sides, almost as if zoomed out much too far.
A much smaller square would then be used.
(This way, some series are now appearing widescreen without having been cropped.)

My question: When did this practice start? Surely, earlier on, it must have been easier to just shoot it the way you wanted the output to be?
This is nøt å signåture.™

User avatar
stearn
Committee
Posts: 669
Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2012 5:48 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by stearn »

I know nothing about film, per se, but do remember reading something in a magazine about a series being released in full for the first time (vague nagging doubt says Babylon 5). I got the impression the cameras in studios at the time were built for movies, so cinema screen size rather than 35mm, and a the image was cropped for standard TV size. If the film masters were kept there would be potential for including everything, but the comment that stuck was it was shot knowing what screen size it was intended for and there was an awful lot of post-production for the TV series, so any extra screen would be dead space. If I have remembered correctly, and it were for a sci-fi series like Babylon 5, that could mean just black with a few stars!

User avatar
Ian Wegg
625 lines
Posts: 336
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:10 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by Ian Wegg »

On The Avengers International Fan Forum, this discussion: The Avengers in Widescreen suggests that the practise existed in the UK in the 1960s.

brigham
HD
Posts: 1061
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:59 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by brigham »

In the film industry, 35mm widescreen was obtained using this device. The cameraman concentrated on the central band of the viewfinder, and the print was masked off at the projector during viewing. Instructions for the masking were included on the can.
Not sure if the technique was used in television. It would have been far-sighted to have done so.

Brian F
D-MAC
Posts: 500
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:09 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by Brian F »

Earlier telecines often didn't cover the whole frame when programmes were often transmitted straight from film maybe to hide problems with instability. I would imagine the camera operators would been in the habit of composing for this. The New Avengers shown from 35mm prints at an NFT event showed even the titles didn't fill the full frame when overlaid on live action. I would image in was just standard operational practice not to use the whole frame as 525 TV wouldn't show any degradation of image quality from playing safe.

Also true with 16mm in the UK, remember the (3?) "Widescreen" episodes of The Sweeney released on DVD shat showed extra picture at the sides.

User avatar
Spiny Norman
D-MAC
Posts: 881
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:32 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by Spiny Norman »

To be honest, none of these replies deal with what I had in mind. I was thinking of how some series from the 1990s can suddenly find extra surface for their widescreen versions rather than guillotining top and bottom off. I think I have been answered elsewhere though. :)
This is nøt å signåture.™

User avatar
stearn
Committee
Posts: 669
Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2012 5:48 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by stearn »

Spiny Norman wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:40 pm
I think I have been answered elsewhere though. :)
Why not share that insight with us here.

User avatar
Spiny Norman
D-MAC
Posts: 881
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:32 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by Spiny Norman »

stearn wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:04 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:40 pm
I think I have been answered elsewhere though. :)
Why not share that insight with us here.
Once I'm able to repeat the information coherently and fully grasp it...

The dead space you mention - well that won't work if anything is coming into, or moving out of, view. Which is probably why Babylon 5 famously effed up on the HD/widescreen front.
This is nøt å signåture.™

User avatar
stearn
Committee
Posts: 669
Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2012 5:48 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by stearn »

Probably me failing to convey what I meant.

Having read the Avengers Forum thread, what I understood is best explained in the same way they did: The camera recorded a larger canvas than was going to be used on screen. Anything outside of the screen canvas size was the 'dead space' I was referring to - whatever happened there wasn't meant to be included in the broadcast. This might be the cameraman's foot (as used in the Avengers example) or it might just be extra set, or blackout to represent space on a model shot. I've never watched Babylon 5 so have no idea how it was shot.

You'd certainly not want extras loitering in that space as if you needed adjust the position of the 'transmission screen size', you wouldn't want half an actor in shot. Now screen sizes are different, if the original film was available, you could change the 'transmission screen size' and incorporate what was 'dead space' before if nothing was happening in it that would make it awkward to use.

It was a pity the images were not showing on the Avengers forum as I am sure it would have made much more sense. Simply it was boxes within boxes.

User avatar
Spiny Norman
D-MAC
Posts: 881
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:32 pm

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by Spiny Norman »

stearn wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 5:25 pm
Probably me failing to convey what I meant.

Having read the Avengers Forum thread, what I understood is best explained in the same way they did: The camera recorded a larger canvas than was going to be used on screen. Anything outside of the screen canvas size was the 'dead space' I was referring to - whatever happened there wasn't meant to be included in the broadcast. This might be the cameraman's foot (as used in the Avengers example) or it might just be extra set, or blackout to represent space on a model shot. I've never watched Babylon 5 so have no idea how it was shot.

You'd certainly not want extras loitering in that space as if you needed adjust the position of the 'transmission screen size', you wouldn't want half an actor in shot. Now screen sizes are different, if the original film was available, you could change the 'transmission screen size' and incorporate what was 'dead space' before if nothing was happening in it that would make it awkward to use.

It was a pity the images were not showing on the Avengers forum as I am sure it would have made much more sense. Simply it was boxes within boxes.
Right so similar to safe space then. With the SF example, I jumped to the conclusion that you meant space (the final frontier) in exterior shots.

It boils down to, how much space? Obviously between the film camera and the television screen, there would be a "zoom in", as it were (but not literally).
But was that going to be more than, say, 5%?

My question was triggered by once seeing how little of the camera negative (or whatever it's called) was used; it was a film cell from Buffy that I am unable to google again. So I was wondering when that practice started; because the first impulse would surely be to just film what you want the end result to look like - plus that dead space.

So far it looks like 3-perforation 35mm film was responsible for this. That was offering widescreen a decade before that became the standard. So the safe space and the dead space all added up to a lot of unused surface on the camera film.

The converting to widescreen of 4:3 television is IN THEORY not as crazy as it sounds - for 1990s series, that is.
This is nøt å signåture.™

fatcat
D-MAC
Posts: 829
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:02 am

Re: shooting tv series on 35mm - historical technical detail

Post by fatcat »

Spiny Norman wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 8:26 pm


My question was triggered by once seeing how little of the camera negative (or whatever it's called) was used; it was a film cell from Buffy that I am unable to google again. So I was wondering when that practice started; because the first impulse would surely be to just film what you want the end result to look like - plus that dead space.

So far it looks like 3-perforation 35mm film was responsible for this. That was offering widescreen a decade before that became the standard. So the safe space and the dead space all added up to a lot of unused surface on the camera film.

The converting to widescreen of 4:3 television is IN THEORY not as crazy as it sounds - for 1990s series, that is.
I think the process was all to do with the first TV sets....TV sets used to be aligned by individuals ie. the man in the TV shop, and along with aging of components in the TV set, what you got to see on your particular set could vary a great deal with your neighbours. For example certain valves (and even later transistors) as they aged, the picture would start to zoom in a subtle way and things you once saw at the edges were now gone. Also most viewers way back when were not aware of the advert warning cube on a live/VTR programme as the TV man had set up the picture to the box of the test card and not the markings outside the box.
So programme makers worked to a 'safe area' ie the section of image that would definitely be seen.

Post Reply