VistaVision is a higher resolution, widescreen variant of the 35 mm motion picture film format which was created by engineers at Paramount Pictures in 1954.
Paramount did not utilise anamorphic processes such as CinemaScope but refined the quality of their flat widescreen system by orienting the 35mm negative horizontally in the camera gate and shooting onto a larger area, which yielded a finer-grained projection print.
As finer-grained film stocks appeared on the market, VistaVision became obsolete. Paramount dropped the format after only seven years, although for another forty years, the format was used by some European and Japanese producers for feature films, as well as American film studios for high resolution special effects sequences.
As a response to an industry recession brought about by the popularity of television, the Hollywood studios turned to large format movies in order to regain audience attendance. The first of these, Cinerama, debuted in September 1952, and consisted of three strips of 35mm film projected side-by-side onto a giant, curved screen, augmented by six channels of stereophonic sound.
Five months later, in February of the following year, Twentieth Century Fox announced that they would soon be introducing a simpler version of Cinerama using anamorphic lenses instead of multiple film strips; a widescreen process that soon became known to the public as CinemaScope.
As a response, Paramount Pictures devised their own system the following month to augment their 3D process known as Paravision. This process utilized a screen size that yielded an aspect ratio of 5 units wide by 3 units high, or 1.66:1. By using a different sized aperture plate and wider lens, a normal Academy ratio film could be soft matted to this or any other aspect ratio. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that all of their productions would be shot in this ratio.
This "flat" widescreen process was adopted by other studios and by the end of 1953, more than half of the exhibitors in America had installed wide screens. However, there were drawbacks: because a lower portion of the image was being used and magnification was increased, excessive grain and soft images plagued early widescreen presentations. Some studios sought to compensate for this by shooting their color pictures with a full aperture gate (rather than the Academy aperture), and then reducing the image in Technicolor's optical printer.
Paramount took this concept a step further, and using old Stein cameras that were originally meant for an aborted early 1930s color process. For the color process, instead of an image four perforations high, the camera exposed eight perforations (essentially two frames), with one 4-perf image through two filters, one red and one green. In shooting VistaVision, the film was run horizontally rather than vertically, and instead of exposing one 4-perf frame twice, the entire eight perforations were used for one image.
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