(Reprinted from issue 60 of UHF Magazine. To purchase the issue, click here. Or click here to subscribe to UHF)

Gossip

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     We're not telling you anything new when we say that DVD is way superior to videocassette, but sometimes the difference is greater than the change in technology would suggest.

     That's the case of 1950's films originally shot in Todd-AO (the process was named for its originator, Mike Todd, and his corporate partner, American Optical. The company still exists, though the process is history). Todd-AO was a single-projector big-screen process intended to compete with the three-projector Cinerama (see Gossip in our last issue). It used 70 mm film, with a stunning 12-channel surround sound system, projected on a deeply-curved screen scarcely smaller than that of Cinerama. It was a forerunner of Imax. A number of musicals were shot in Todd-AO, including such Rogers and Hammerstein blockbusters as Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music. These films are now available for watching at home, on both cassette and DVD. What you might not suspect is that the two formats don't contain the same film.
     Here's why. Only a few large cities had cinemas equipped to show Todd-AO, and conventional cinemas got a tamer widescreen version in CinemaScope. The CinemaScope version was not just scaled down, however. The two film formats were just not compatible.
     One reason is that the Todd-AO frame was so huge. CinemaScope, despite its wide aspect ratio, had a narrower angle of view, which meant some important areas of the image would be cut off...at least if the director attempted to use all of the large Todd-AO view. And blowing up a 70mm frame to such huge size meant a dimmer image. To get more brightness, the Todd-AO camera and projector were run at 30 frames per second instead of the conventional 24 fps. How do you convert 30 frames to 24? You can't...without getting artifacts that would be visible on a large screen.
     And so all the scenes were shot twice: once with the Todd-AO 70mm camera, and once with a conventional 35mm camera fitted with a CinemaScope anamorphic lens. The videocassette was made from the CinemaScope version.
     But why? North American video just happens to have a 30 frame per second rate...just like Todd-AO. The higher resolution of DVD (and the LaserVision disc too for that matter) was good enough to allow putting all of the huge image onto a letterboxed video screen.
     The credits clearly tell the story. On DVD, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma! have the Todd-AO credit, and the entire credit sequences are different from those on the cassette.
     We wonder whether the same change was done with other films originally shot in very wide formats. Our guess is that close comparisons of cassettes and DVD will turn up lots more examples of films that were shot twice.

(To read the the entire three-page Gossip section, order the print version of UHF No. 60)

PARTIAL TEXT: Reproducing Extreme Lows, Acoustics for Surround Sound, Monitor Audio Silver 9, Klipsch RB-5, Coincident Triumph Signature, Mirage BPS150i, Audiomat Solfège, Gossip
FULL TEXT: The Digital Radio File, Reference 3a MM De Capo, State of the Art

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