Thursday, November 14, 2013

Another shoutout to the Widescreen Museum

So I was watching Gunfight at the OK Corral last night. Unsurprisingly, at the beginning of the movie, up pops the VistaVision logo. The movie, however, didn't seem to be particularly wide in its aspect ratio, at least not as wide as I remember other VistaVision movies like North by Northwest being. And on my 16:9 TV, there didn't appear to be any letterboxing, which would have implied that Paramount provided a print cropped to 16:9, or about 1.78:1. FMC seem to have been doing this with a number of their Cinemascope movies, with the latest I noticed being Return to Peyton Place. But Cinemascope was a 2:35:1 aspect ratio, much wider than what we see nowadays.

So it was off to IMDb, which lists the aspect ratio of Gunfight at the OK Corral as 1.85:1, which is more or less the standard these days. For some reason, I thought VistaVision had a wider aspect ratio than that, since the widescreen aspect ratio hadn't been standardized in the 1950s. So off to do some more research. Unsurprisingly, Google searching very quickly brought me back to the Widescreen Museum, a site I first mentioned very early on in my blogging because they also have an extensive section on early color processes.

To make a long story short, apparently the widescreen aspect ratio was closer to being standardized than I had thought, with Cinemascope being a decided exception. I knew that there was an odd practice of studios cropping the top and bottom off of some of their old pictures in the 1.37:1 "Academy ratio" when they re-released them, but didn't know that 1.85:1 was decided on fairly quickly. Widescreen Museum's page on VistaVision has a good deal on this, as well as a bunch of technical and promotional pictures from the early days of VistaVision.

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