John Schwartzman: Anamorphic & Resolving Latitude?

From American Cinematographer, When Worlds Collide by David E. Williams (July 1998)

Though Schwartzman and Bay expressed enthusiasm for the Super 35 process while shooting
The Rock, the theatrical prints were a bit of a letdown for both men.

"The drag about Super 35 is the grain and its 'optical' feeling. We did about 30 ENR-treated prints on The Rock to keep some of the contrast. Those were shown in major cities, but the other prints lost a lot of snap. The film looked good for Super 35, but we were still working with this tiny negative."

- Micheal Bay

"What became very apparent to me was that Super 35 is not just an optical process that makes the grain more apparent; the grain is also bigger because it's enlarged so much during projection. You're getting boned on both ends. The beauty of anamorphic is that there is no intermediate optical process. If you like your dailies, you're going to love your release print. The larger negative also gives you greater shadow detail and greater latitude, so even though I was shooting deeper stops in 'Scope, I felt I was using [relatively] less light to get more image.

Conspiracy Theory, I was doing very large night exteriors in New York City, and I needed to be working at least a T4 or 4.5 for them to look good. But that didn't mean I had to light everything to that exposure. If I could get the lenses to that range, I found that the level of shadow detail I could get in the darker areas was quite extraordinary. One of the things I explained to Michael on Armageddon was that for shuttle interior scenes, I was going to be shooting at a T4.5. I might only have a T2.8 on the actors' faces, but he'd be able to read them beautifully even though they would be underexposed by a stop-and-a-half. The faces wouldn't be muddy, just dark. I was able to do that simply because of the resolving power you get with anamorphic's big negative."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

"You just have so much more resolution in anamorphic, and the dupes look great. That's why I wanted to use it even though I had to give something up in the lenses. I like the depth and close-focus effects you can get with spherical lenses, but the sacrifice was well worth it."

- Micheal Bay

Schwartzman points out, however, that Bay's definition of "close-focus" is an extreme one:

"What he means is that he can't take a 75mm anamorphic lens and focus it down to 11 inches. He considers the 17.5mm close-focus Primo to be a 'normal' lens. On The Rock, when Ed Harris was giving his speeches, the camera was literally 11 inches from his face. Most cinematographers would consider the 180mm anamorphic lens at seven feet to be close we were routinely working where there were no more measurement markings, at about 41/2 to 5 feet. And that is where camera assistants do not want to live."

- John Schwartzman, ASC

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