1.19:1 Aspect Ratio: Available films?

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Matt
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1.19:1 Aspect Ratio: Available films?

#1 Post by Matt » Thu Dec 23, 2004 9:48 am

With the recent release of M in its proper aspect ratio of 1.19:1, there are two films which I know to be available on DVD in that ratio, the other being The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. This rather peculiar ratio didn't last long, but it had its moment. As the title thread suggests, I am curious to learn whether there are any other films out on DVD which have been presented in this aspect ratio. Anyone know?
Sunrise and The Blue Angel are two available DVDs that I know of, but basically, any film that was shot silent in the late '20s and early '30s and then had an optical soundtrack added or that was shot using cameras built for silent shooting will be 1.19:1 (or thereabouts). Now, whether these will be presented on DVD accurately is another question.

Here is IMDB's listing of films in the 1.20:1 ratio
Last edited by Matt on Mon Jan 02, 2006 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Tribe
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#2 Post by Tribe » Thu Dec 23, 2004 10:13 am

Was this aspect ratio primarily a European thing?

And Matt....go back to the Peanuts avatar!

John

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Matt
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#3 Post by Matt » Thu Dec 23, 2004 10:35 am

No, it wasn't primarily Europe (though they were later to upgrade their filmmaking equipment because of issues agreeing on a standard for sound-on-film production). It was simply just a matter of needing new cameras and not having them.

The 1.19:1 (or 1.20:1) ratio comes from using standard 35mm film (with a 1.33:1 image area) and then sticking an optical soundtrack on the left side of the image, reducing the projectable image area. Once optical sound became standard (replacing sound on disc and a bunch of other kooky formats), cameras and film stock were standardized to be able to add the optical soundtrack to the film without compromising the aspect ratio and available image space.

Now, that's sort of a back-of-the-cereal-box explanation of something that people have explored in-depth, but I'm sure you get the idea.

And I might go back to Charlie Brown, but I'm in a Bat-Mite mood these days.

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denti alligator
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#4 Post by denti alligator » Fri Nov 25, 2005 11:29 pm

Were most films shot between 1929 - 1931 projected in this ratio? Or were only some of them? What determined this? If Criterion's Le Million should in fact be 1.19:1 (according to imdb), shouldn't Under the Roofs of Paris also be presented in this AR (imdb has no technical specs)? Just curious. And why exactly was the screen narrower in this period? Something to do with the soundtrack, I understand.

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#5 Post by david hare » Fri Nov 25, 2005 11:51 pm

Movies made in the Vitaphone system (which of course used the synchronized disc for sound) remained in 1.37 but Moveitone and other sound on film systems were all 1.19 until about 1931 when the tehcnicians were able to squeeze the soundtrack onto a narrower sliver of the frame. The Clair should be 1.19, an so should Sternberg's Morocco and Dishonored (but there are no original/existing negs or positives in this ratio.) Ditto of course City Lights.

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denti alligator
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#6 Post by denti alligator » Sat Nov 26, 2005 12:27 am

davidhare wrote:Movies made in the Vitaphone system (which of course used the synchronized disc for sound) remained in 1.37 .
For example?
The Clair should be 1.19, an so should Sternberg's Morocco and Dishonored (but there are no original/existing negs or positives in this ratio.) Ditto of course City Lights
So the existing prints of these films are cropped on the top and bottom? City Lights we know from dvdbeaver's comparison does exist in a 1.19 print and the Image DVD retains this aspect ratio.

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#7 Post by david hare » Sat Nov 26, 2005 2:25 am

Vitaphone talkies include Little Caesar and Chain Gang.

The Chaplin neg was available for the Image (and would have been for MK2 but they cropped it.)

The two Sternberg's are cropped but they have always looked fine to me in 1.37. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than me could comment on the cinematographer's practice of the day - did they shoot with a view to preserving the image for 1.37 display? Just as DPs routinely did in the post 53 to 1960 era when they were filming optically for projection/masking in multiple ratios (1.37,1.66,1,75, 1.85?) I don't know. Certainly something like M is njow unthinkable in cropped 1.37 after the masterly restoration, but you can't say the same for, say Morocco which looks perfectly composed in 1.37.

Where are the technically minded folks here?

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#8 Post by A » Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:00 pm

So, does anybody else have some news on this?

I'm glad the 1.19:1 restoration of Dreyer's Vampyr has finally found its way to DVD. =D>

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HerrSchreck
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#9 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Jul 11, 2008 6:29 pm

News on what? Whether or not these films were composed/shot for 1.2 and academy? You can say a definite yes for things like Sunrise and The Man Who Laughs-- the sonorized silents-- because at this point most theaters were not wired for sound and therefore were presented with the fullframe image intact without the soundtrack printed down the left. The famous image of the interior of the house where Woman From The City in Sunrise is vacationing, when the old hubby & wife are eating soup and she comes out looking for a shoeshine... you see the lamp chopped in half along the edge of the frame: this was a very influential shot because it looked great-- that half a lamp looked like it was built to be there.

Truth is that lamp was composed entirely (more mostly) within the frame, and was only chopped off by the optical soundtrack. But thats the genius of Struss and Murnau. Take the glorious Man Who Laughs by Paul Leni-- the Kino disc shows the Bologna restoration which is in full academy-- but yet the soundtrack runs with it on the disc: how is this possible? Digital baby.. this is an artificial digital marriage of a academy original nitrate silent print from italy (w/o optical soundtrack, presented w accompaniment back inna day), merged on digibeta with the soundtrack provided by universal from original nitrate elements... thus creating a version which never existed in 1928.

Same with Dreyer's Vampyr, which was shown silent in full 1.33 (and fact of which to a raging debate about its intended AOR between myself and a couple guys here.. wherein I hadta chalk up ransom tix for it's "official" aor.. at least for sonorized), many of these transition era films had silent and talkie versions (think Prix de Beaute') because to not produce a silent version would cut out the potential profits of a huge swath of the non upgraded market at the time.

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#10 Post by fiddlesticks » Fri Jul 11, 2008 6:48 pm

Three of the films in the Lubitsch Musicals Eclipse set are 1.2-ish:
The Love Parade (1929) is 1.21
Monte Carlo (1930) is 1.20
The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) is 1.21
The fourth, One Hour With You (1932), is 1.36
(At least, that's what the sleeve claims; I haven't measured it.)

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Tommaso
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#11 Post by Tommaso » Sat Jul 12, 2008 6:17 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Same with Dreyer's Vampyr, which was shown silent in full 1.33 (and fact of which to a raging debate about its intended AOR between myself and a couple guys here.. wherein I hadta chalk up ransom tix for it's "official" aor.. at least for sonorized), many of these transition era films had silent and talkie versions (think Prix de Beaute') because to not produce a silent version would cut out the potential profits of a huge swath of the non upgraded market at the time.
I'm getting somewhat confused about this; if "Vampyr" was shown silent in 1.33 it must have been from different prints than the sound version. But then on the sound version something would have been cut off on the left side to make room for the optical soundtrack, is this correct? So, how can one explain that on the 1.33 MK2 and Image disc something is missing on the top of the frame and not on the side? Answer, probably: they zoomed in, thus losing information on both the left hand side (compared to an old silent print) and the top.

Thus, on a silent showing of "Vampyr" in 1932 people would still have seen a different image than we do now on the CC and MoC discs. The question then remains whether what is (still) missing on the left is in any way essential or whether Dreyer composed the whole thing with 1.19 in mind, just as in your Murnau example. I believe he did, as the framing looks perfect , of course. But it must have been a terribly difficult job to get it right.

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HerrSchreck
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#12 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Jul 12, 2008 1:19 pm

Yes-- Vampyr was originally exposed in the camera as a full academy film. Then during processing, the soundtrack, which was of course recorded seperately, was exposed onto the left hand edge of the frame. What you mean by different "prints" I'm not sure.. but if you're asking whether or not the silent versions of the film did NOT have the left hand side of the film impinged upon by the absence of the soundtrack, the answer is YES. People in 32 watching Vampyr in an unwired theater, watching a silent print, would have seen things on the left hand that we do not on the sound prints we look at today.

You pretty much answered your question, r e zooming in. Shepard/Image and MK2 (and CC on the early Clairs Le Million, Under the Roofs.., etc etc.. any time academy is recreated out of a 1.19 film) zoomed in to the already cropped image to create an academy shape to fill the screen. A heartbreaking example of this is the MK2 sourced City Lights (in R1, distrib by WB).

But as to the original processing of Vampyr: If Dreyer shot the film with one camera (and I have no information either way) then the lab obviously printed--extrapolated from the original camera neg-- an interneg from for each version of the film, one "open matte" without the sonorization on the left, and one with the sound. Then just bang out prints for markets as needed. In this case it gets more complicated because of the multiple language markets having their own dialog sountracks, so each sound market probably had their own interneg.

In the case of The Man Who Laughs, two cameras were used, and it looks like the prints meant to be sonorized were shot with a camera in a bit more of an oblique position and the compositions arent as tightly composed.. whereas the prints (or export negs, as they did that to save duties: send a neg to a regional distrib, rather than a load of prints.. then prints could be struck from the single neg shipped; this saved huge on duties) that were used for silent exposition (at least the prints sent to Italy) look like they were meticulously composed by Gil Warrenton, and have more of that Germanic look to them. So the sound version for Man Who looks like it wasn't as tightly set-up.. because they knew the image would be compromised/sliced by the soundtrack-- whereas the silent version's camera was closer in on the action.

One thing we also have to remember when thinking what was on the directors mind, and which he "composed" for-- sound or silent-- is that these guys hated sound. They thought it was a gimmick, that it was cheap little fad that would go nowhere, and that it sucked the painterly, literary quality from filmmaking, so it doesn't surprise me that Leni & Warrenton composed their "sound" neg images almost as throwaways (at least in the case of Man Who). Add to this the fact that very few theaters at this time were wired for sound-- i e the overwhelming majority of prints were going to be silent-- you have a filmmaker regarding the sound version as a sort of tiny special edition, versus the overwhelmingly vast number of silent prints that would be produced.. it's not surprising the silent version was considered the "official" version in their mind.. or at least the one that the real image-composition went into, with the lighting corresponding to the angle represented by the proximity of the silent camera, and the sound camera feeling a bit off (for a wonderful exposition of the print to print differences for the Leni film, see Kino's Man Who Laughs essay on the dvd extras; I cant recommend this disc enough).

Totally silent prints of Sunrise exist in archives as well, though I have no idea whether or not they were shot with a different camera or not. One of my frustrations with the present editions of the film is that no captures of this version are ever shown. I'd love to see what the full frame images of the film looked like.

But this was what was crowding my thinking on the Vampyr bet: what the "official" AOR of the film was. I knew that the film was composed in 1.33, by Dreyer and Mate who were longtime silent era veterans.. and this was their first film with versions that would be sonorized... and that like Prix de beaute etc etc they knew there was going to be a huge number of silent 1.33 prints (perhaps even a majority vs sonorized, I have no info either way) that the production/post-production was servicing. Not to mention the general artistic perceptions regarding sound by quality filmmakers at the time (not all leapt headfirst with searing brilliance into the sound medium like Lang).. though I don't know what Dreyer and Mate thought about sound at the time. But many filmmakers looked at it like a fad or gimmick they prayed would pass quickly-- sort of like the way CGI is regarded nowadays.

An interesting question would be "what was the first 1.33 sonorized film without the Vitaphone process?" i e what was the first movietone-style optical sonorization type film which benefited from the advance in cameras/stock.. and conversely "what was the last 1.19 film?"

I rarely use imdb, so I'm not good w the search feature, but is there a way to get the list ,linked in matts post, i e
matt wrote:Sunrise and The Blue Angel are two available DVDs that I know of, but basically, any film that was shot silent in the late '20s and early '30s and then had an optical soundtrack added or that was shot using cameras built for silent shooting will be 1.19:1 (or thereabouts). Now, whether these will be presented on DVD accurately is another question.

Here is IMDB's listing of films in the 1.20:1 ratio.
to sort by year instead of alphebetically by title?

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Tommaso
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#13 Post by Tommaso » Sat Jul 12, 2008 2:42 pm

Thanks Schreck, great and very illuminating post!
I indeed meant to ask whether the silent version of "Vampyr" showed more on the left side than the sound version, but I wasn't aware of the fact that actually two cameras were used for the two different versions of "Man who laughs". It's amazing to see how these filmmakers cared for each of the individual versions to be 'right' for the viewer. No idea whether anything like this was attempted for "Vampyr", of course. I never heard of a silent version of this to survive, in any case.
HerrSchreck wrote:. Shepard/Image and MK2 (and CC on the early Clairs Le Million, Under the Roofs.., etc etc.. any time academy is recreated out of a 1.19 film) zoomed in to the already cropped image to create an academy shape to fill the screen. A heartbreaking example of this is the MK2 sourced City Lights (in R1, distrib by WB).
Even more heartbreaking is the CC of Renoir's "Boudu" in this respect. But this, and the Clairs as well, were simply licensed from Pathé, IIRC. So the French got it wrong in the first place, but that's no excuse of course.
HerrSchreck wrote:But many filmmakers looked at it like a fad or gimmick they prayed would pass quickly-- sort of like the way CGI is regarded nowadays.
How I pray for a world without CGI nowadays. I initially found it exciting, but it all tends to look absolutely the same. Perhaps there's just noone who can use it inventively, though. But as with sound, it seems it's firmly established and will not fall into oblivion any time soon.

That said, even if Dreyer wasn't very much into sound, he of course made astonishing use of it in "Vampyr". Very sparse, and intentionally or unintentionally recorded in such a way that it sounds completely otherworldly. For me, as inventive in its own way as Lang's very different "M" and "Testament".

Talking of German silents and to return to the original question of this thread, I can confirm that the following German discs from Black Hill are all in 1.19 (or something close), although the cover reads 4:3 , which can mean anything; and I only noticed they were not 1.33 when I played them briefly on the computer recently and saw the black borders, but it explains why the framing always looked right to me, an absolute rarity with early German talkies:

F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Hartl)
Ich und die Kaiserin (Hollaender)
Lachende Erben (Ophüls)
Einbrecher (Schwarz)

Good job, then.

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#14 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Jul 12, 2008 3:08 pm

Tommaso wrote:How I pray for a world without CGI nowadays. I initially found it exciting, but it all tends to look absolutely the same. Perhaps there's just noone who can use it inventively, though. .
Have you ever seen Sokurov's The Sun? I was pointed toward it by David Hare, and it did not disappoint (despite the transfer). There's very impressive artistic use of cgi to represent the nightmares suffered by Hirohito towards the end of the war. Its such a breath of fresh air-- seeing cgi used to realistically create abstracted visions of the suffering human mind that could not be rendered by live action. Not quite animation and not quite tweaked live action, its like a digitally executed oil painting that keeps moving.

Interesting is the sonorization of the 65mm grandeur Big Trail from Fox! Wonder how much a problem that sucker must have been in 1930/1 to project! This as opposed to something like the 65mm The Bat Whispers, by West, which I believe like his Alibi had a record playing in synch with the projection a la Vitaphone.

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Tommaso
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#15 Post by Tommaso » Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:41 am

No, I haven't seen the Sokurov, and it sounds definitely interesting (not just because of the cgi). I'm not sure whether cgi should necessarily be used to make non-existing things appear 'realistic' (which is precisely the problem with all the films following in the wake of Jackson's "Rings", a TRULY awful example being Branagh's "Magic Flute"); sometimes I like it if the technology is used so that it is intentionally visible. I know you don't like him, but Greenaway's "Tulse Luper" trilogy is a good example of how to do it otherwise. Even if the effects were criticized for looking cheap (they do), he nevertheless manages to create images (and a visual 'world') that were 'unseen' before in this form. Another exception from the rule are Tim Burton's last films ("Charlie" and "Sweeney Todd"), though here again the cgi tends to look 'samey', though in the distinctive Burton style.

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HerrSchreck
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#16 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:18 am

Never mind the 'realistic' thing-- (what I mean is "believable", i e that you are 'actually' seeing the inside of a mans nightmiare) check out the film, Tom!

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zedz
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#17 Post by zedz » Sun Jul 13, 2008 5:56 pm

I think a 'Creative / Original Use of CGI' thread would be a great idea, and would strongly recommend a couple of Michel Gondry videos as textbook examples:

Let Forever Be (Chemical Brothers) - uses CGI to transition into faux (and non-CGI) kaleidoscopic Busby Berkeley routines, all in tribute to cheesy early video effects - a great example of CGI going for a determinedly low-tech look.

Come Into My World (Kylie Minogue) - a masterpiece of digital composition / motion control and four-dimensional choreography. It's not exactly CGI, but the new digital tools are used to facilitate an unbelievable feat of single-take 'real' filmmaking.

These are both great examples of an imaginative filmmaker using digital tools for counter-intuitive ends (and, tellingly, the real star of the show in each case is old-fashioned real-time filmmaking sweat).

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domino harvey
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#18 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 13, 2008 6:20 pm

zedz wrote:Let Forever Be (Chemical Brothers) - uses CGI to transition into faux (and non-CGI) kaleidoscopic Busby Berkeley routines, all in tribute to cheesy early video effects - a great example of CGI going for a determinedly low-tech look.
My favorite music video! And a great example of how to use computer effects as tools to bind, combine, blur, or assist-- in other words, not the beginning of the process.

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GaryC
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#19 Post by GaryC » Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:29 pm

Optimum's Region 2 release of Blackmail (in the Early Hitchcock Collection boxset) is in 1.20:1. One of the extras compares the "knife" scene in both the sound and silent versions - sound in 1.20:1 and silent in 1.33:1.

Unfortunately, the other talkies in the box (Murder!, The Skin Game, Rich and Strange, Number Seventeen) are all transferred in 1.33:1.

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