Wide-Film Motion Picture

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wide-Film Motion Picture


a type of motion picture in which films from 50 to 70 mm in width are used for photographing and projecting. Wide-film motion pictures gained acceptance in the mid-1950’s, after experience in the filming and exhibiting of 35-mm wide-screen motion pictures using anamorphic optics indicated that the increase in image dimensions was achieved at some cost in image quality. The development of wide-film formats marked a new stage in the progress of motion pcitures, characterized by a substantially increased image size on the screen and improved image quality, which was achieved by the use of film of twice the width of standard film, improved wide-angle optics, and a six-channel stereophonic system of sound recording and reproduction. Some wide-film systems use anamorphic compression in addition to the wider film.

Beginning in 1955, a number of wide-film systems (Todd-AO, Super Panavision, Ultra Panavision, and a Soviet system) were proposed in the USA and the USSR; they have since become widely used in modern motion-picture photography.

Figure 1. Frame dimensions of the positive film used in the Soviet wide-film system: (1–6) sound tracks

The Todd-AO system was developed jointly by the American Optical Corporation (AO) and the producer M. Todd. The photography uses 65-mm negative film exposed at 24 frames per sec (570 mm/sec). The frame area is calculated for a height of five standard perforations and is approximately 3.5 times greater than the area of standard 35-mm film. Copies are printed on 70-mm color positive film having the same perforations as the negative. The greater size of the positive film accommodates six magnetic sound tracks with no change in the size of the image; five of the tracks are for stereophonic sound reproduction through loudspeakers placed behind the screen, and the sixth is for the production of sound effects in the auditorium. The frame on the integrated film copy has an aspect ratio of 1:2.2. The first US film made with the Todd-AO system was Oklahoma, first exhibited in late 1955.

Super Panavision, developed in 1958 by the optical firm Panavision, Inc. (USA), has technical specifications similar to those of Todd-AO. The principal differences are in camera design (both mounted and hand-held) and, in particular, in the selection of high-quality camera optics.

Ultra Panavision, developed jointly in 1962 by the motion-picture studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (USA) and Panavision, Inc., uses 65-mm film for cinematography (with the same frame parameters as for Todd-AO) and anamorphic projection optics having a low anamorphic compression of 1.25:1, which makes it possible to obtain wide-film copies with an aspect ratio of 1:2.75. Optical printing is used to derive all types of film copies from the original negative; the copies are printed on 70-mm motion-picture film. The principal merit of Ultra Panavision is that a sense of participation similar to a panoramic motion picture is created without the use of complicated and cumbersome equipment.

The Soviet wide-film system was developed by the Motion Picture and Phototography Institute (NIKFI) and the film studio Mosfil’m. It uses film of the same width (70 mm) for both photographing and copying, thereby substantially simplifying preparation and processing and ensuring compatibility with many foreign systems so that exchange of motion pictures is possible. The Soviet system uses a six-channel magnetic sound track on the integrated film copies (see Figure 1). The first Soviet wide-film feature motion picture, Tale of Fiery Years (Mosfil’m), was released in 1961. Universal projection equipment can be used for 70-mm films as well as 35-mm wide-screen and standard films with optical or magnetic stereophonic sound tracks.

The wide-film motion picture has significantly enriched the graphic resources of motion-picture photography, especially for large-scale productions. The increased frame area with the favorable aspect ratio of 1:2.2 makes it possible to maintain the necessary image sharpness for projection on large and extra large screens. The use of an integrated film copy, in which the image is combined with multichannel stereophonic sound, lends verisimilitude to the events shown on the screen.


Vysotskii, M. Z. Sistemy kino i stereozvuk. Moscow, 1972.
Goldovskii, E. M. Vvedenie v kinolekhniku. Moscow, 1974.
Konoplev, B. N. Osnovy fil’moproizvodstva, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1975.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.