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70 mm film (or 65 mm film) is a wide high-resolution film gauge, with higher resolution than standard 35 mm motion picture film format. As used in camera, the film is 65 mm (2.6 in) wide. For projection, the original 65 mm film is printed on 70 mm (2.8 in) film. The additional 5 mm are for magnetic strips holding four of the six tracks of sound. Although more recent 70 mm prints now use digital sound encoding, the vast majority of 70 mm prints predate this technology. Each frame is five perforations tall, with an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. The vast majority of movie theaters are unable to handle 70 mm film, and so original 70 mm films are shown with 35 mm prints at these venues, in the regular Cinemascope / Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1.



Film formats with a width of 70 mm have existed since the early days of the motion picture industry. The first 70 mm format film was most likely footage of the Henley Regatta, which was projected in 1896 and 1897, but may have been filmed as early as 1894. It required a specially built projector built by Herman Casler in Canastota, New York and had a ratio similar to full frame, with an aperture of 2.75 inches (70 mm) by 2 inches (51 mm). There were also several film formats of various sizes from 50 to 68 mm which were developed from 1884 onwards, including Cinéorama (not to be confused with the entirely distinct "Cinerama" format), started in 1900 by Raoul Grimoin-Sanson. Two other formats, Panoramica and 20th Century Fox's Grandeur, began distribution in 1929 and 1930, respectively.

The "Todd-AO" format, introduced with the movie Oklahoma! in October 1955, popularized the format for use in feature length films. The original version of the Todd-AO process used a frame rate of 30 per second, slightly faster than the 24 frames per second that was (and is) the standard. Due to the costs of 70 mm film and the expensive projection system and screen required to use the stock, distribution for films using the stock was limited, although this did not always hurt profits. All 70 mm films were also re-released on 35 mm film for a wider distribution after the initial debut of the film.

Lawrence of Arabia , made in 1962, My Fair Lady, made in 1964, and The Sound of Music , made in 1965, are well-known films widely shown in 70 mm format; the clarity of their images and dramatic impact is apparent in theaters, though less so on VHS or DVD, since those formats have comparatively very much less resolution.

70 mm movies were rare by the 1980s, and with the advent of small multi-cinema theaters and the availability of digital soundtrack systems for less expensive 35 mm film, they were not only made less often, but were not always shown in their original size. (This does not mean that they were cut, only that the screen used to show them was smaller than the one that the films were meant for.) The 1996 Kenneth Branagh Hamlet, for example, was filmed in Panavision Super 70, but because it was largely shown in multiplex theatres, was mostly screened in reduction prints.

The number of films released in 70 mm dropped even lower in the mid-1990s.

Conversely, many famous 35mm films made during the 1960's and 70's and intended for roadshow presentation were "blown up" to 70mm size in order to make them appear even more impressive on a larger screen. These included such films as Camelot (1967), Oliver! (1968), Cromwell (1970), and Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

70 mm has presented a difficulty in recent years for VHS and DVD releases, as telecine machines for high-level scanning have only been available in limited quantities until recently. This has unfortunately sometimes meant that films were transferred to video from their 35 mm blown-down elements instead of the high-quality full-gauge intermediates; luckily, now more and more DVD releases, such as West Side Story and the Branagh Hamlet, are using the original-gauge source elements.

There is currently one type of digital cinema camera with a 65 mm sensor, the Phantom 65. Otti International's Phil Kroll developed the world's first 65/70 mm telecine transfer system. This has been used in Hollywood to digitally master 70 and 65 mm films.

Uses of 70 mm


Ultra Panavision

65 mm film combined with an anamorphic squeeze allowed for extremely wide aspect ratios to be used while still preserving quality. This was used to great effect in the 1959 film Ben-Hur, which was filmed with the MGM Camera 65 process at an aspect ratio of 2.76:1. Nearly three times wider than its height, this was one of the widest prints ever made; it required the use of a 1.25x anamorphic lens to horizontally compress the image, and a corresponding lens on the projector to uncompress it.

Special effects

Limited use of 65 mm film was revived in the late 1970s for some of the visual effects sequences in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, mainly because the larger negative did a noticeably better job than 35 mm negative of minimizing visible film grain during optical compositing. Although a handful of recent films, such as Spider-Man 2 have used it for this purpose, the usage of digital intermediate for compositing since the 1990s has largely negated these issues, while offering other benefits such as lower cost and a greater range of available lenses and accessories to ensure a consistent look to the footage.


A horizontal variant of 70 mm, with an even bigger picture area, is used for the high-performance IMAX format which uses a frame that is 15 perforations wide on 70 mm film. The Dynavision and Astrovision systems each use slightly less film per frame and vertical pulldown to save print costs while being able to project onto an IMAX screen. Both are rare, Astrovision largely in Japanese planetariums.

Recently, Hollywood has released blockbusters shot in 35 mm as IMAX blow-up versions. Even 3D films are being shown in the 70 mm IMAX format. The Polar Express in IMAX 3D 70 mm earned 14 times as much, per screen, as the simultaneous 2D 35 mm release of that film in the fall of 2004. With the recent interest in 3D, some of the hundreds of existing 70 mm projectors may be used to show 3D on standard-sized screens in multiplex cinemas.


Starting in the late 1950s and continuing until the mid-1990s, many 35 mm films were converted onto 70 mm prints for premiere showings in large cities or venues which could accommodate the format. This practice occurred for two reasons: The larger image area on each frame of 70 mm film allowed for clearer, sharper, and steadier images on screen, and the six magnetic sound tracks available with 70 mm prints were vastly superior to the four-channel stereo sound tracks available on 35 mm prints (from 1953 to 1977, many 35 mm prints carried four-channel magnetic sound, and required special print stock with narrow perforations, type CS-1870). 70 mm prints were also used by a limited number of drive-in theaters because the larger frame area allowed use of higher intensity light to project a brighter image on their large screens. After the introduction of digital sound formats (DTS, SDDS, and Dolby Digital), 70 mm lost one of its major advantages over 35 mm film. 70 mm film is more expensive to print than 35 mm film.

The use of 65 mm negative film has been drastically reduced in recent years, in part due to its higher cost. Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet was the last film shot entirely on 65 mm stock. Terrence Malick's The New World, the most recent film to use the format, used it sparingly — only in a handful of scenes — because of the high price of 65 mm raw stock and processing.

Ron Fricke, director of the 70 mm Baraka, plans to release a sequel entitled Samsara. It will be the first feature-length film in over a decade to be shot entirely in 65 mm.

Technical specifications

Standard 65 mm (5/70)

(Todd-AO, Super Panavision)

  • spherical lenses
  • 5 perforations per frame
  • 42 frame/m (12.8 frame/ft)
  • vertical pulldown
  • 24 frames per second
  • camera aperture: 52.48 by 23.01 mm (2.066 by 0.906 in)
  • projection aperture: 48.56 by 20.73 mm (1.912 by 0.816 in)
  • 305 m (1000 feet), about 9 minutes at 24 frame/s = 4.5 kg (10 pounds) in can
  • aspect ratio: 2.2:1

Ultra Panavision 70

(also known as MGM Camera 65) Same as Standard 65mm except

  • Shot with special anamorphic adapter in front of lens
  • 1.25x squeeze factor, projected aspect ratio 2.76:1


Same as Standard 65 mm except

  • 60 frames per second

IMAX (15/70)

  • spherical lenses
  • 15 perforations per frame
  • horizontal pulldown, from right to left (viewed from base side)
  • 24 frames per second
  • camera aperture: 70.41 by 52.63 mm (2.772 by 2.072 in)
  • projection aperture: at least 2 mm (0.080 in) less than camera aperture on the vertical axis and at least 0.4 mm (0.016 in) less on the horizontal axis
  • aspect ratio: 1.35:1 (camera), 1.43:1 (projected)


Same as IMAX except

  • special fisheye lenses
  • lens optically centered 9 mm (0.37 in) above film horizontal center line
  • projected elliptically on a dome screen, 20 degrees below and 110 degrees above perfectly centered viewers

Omnivision Cinema 180

Cinema 180, West Germany 1979

same as standard 65/70 except:

  • photographed and projected with special fisheye lenses matched to large 180 degree dome screen
  • Theatres upgraded from 70 mm 6track analog sound to DTS digital sound in 1995.

Omnivision started in Sarasota, Florida. Theatres were designed to compete with Omnimax but with much lower startup and operating costs. Most theatres were built in fabric domed structures designed by Siemens Corporation. The last known OmniVision Theatres to exist in USA are The Alaska Experience Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska, built in 1981 (closed in 2007, reopened in 2008), and the Hawaii Experience Theatre in Lahaina, Hawaii (closed in 2004). Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire has a "Vertigo Theatre" that is a Cinema 180.

One of the few producer of 70 mm films for Cinema 180 was the German company Cinevision (today AKPservices GmbH, Paderborn).

Dynavision (8/70)

  • fisheye or spherical lenses, depending on if projecting for a dome or not
  • vertical pulldown
  • 24 or 30 frames per second
  • camera aperture: 52.83 by 37.59 mm (2.080 by 1.480 in)

Astrovision (10/70)

  • vertical pulldown
  • normally printed from an Omnimax negative
  • projected onto a dome
  • almost exclusively in use only by Japanese planetariums
  • the only 70 mm format without sound, hence the only with perforations next to the edges


See also

External links


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