Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Whether To Use 3 or 4 Perf 35mm

I realise that this has been discussed at length elsewhere and that I'm probably opening up a can of worms but......

With TV production going 16:9 and most movies shot 1.85, why are we not shooting 3 perf?


Geoff Boyle

Viacom has been shooting a TV series called "Diagnosis Murder" (and others I think) for years with Panavision cameras modified with 3 perf pull downs.

They are doing it for the stock & lab savings. One of the problems is that they are relegated to single (older) Rank because of the odd patch size.

Don Hayashi

I've been wondering why Super35 features don't shoot in 3-perf. The extra cost of the optical blow-up step would probably be paid for by the 25% savings in raw stock - plus you still have a negative/IP for home video transfer that is easier to pan & scan (if necessary) than anamorphic 2.35.

David Mullen

I shot some of the first American TV shows to try three-perf for Lorimar Television (now Warner Bros.) in the late 80's and early 90's. They tried it for a couple of seasons, but abandoned it finally because it caused post-production problems when they went to make PAL versions for Europe. Didn't seem to us like a big hurdle to overcome, but we were glad because the cameras were VERY noisy.

Lowell Peterson

For television, it should be pointed out that nearly all multicamera film sitcoms that are on 35mm are being shot in 3 perf. That's quite a bit of television production. As mentioned before, Diagnosis Murder is also on the format, as is Nash Bridges (at least it was, don't know if it still is -- they keep changing cameramen and post facilities). Part of the resistance is probably the lack of complete support on the film finish end -- the TLC still doesn't support 3 perf keys (although it is about to), and Avid still doesn't support them. Without those two devices directly supporting 3 perf key counting, negative cutting is more complicated than it needs to be.

But what really gets me is that television producers, many of whom have only been around since the fairly recent advent of electronic post production, are being told that their shooting format is not "just" 35mm, but SUPER 35mm -- and, of course, as they will tell you, since it's SUPER 35, it is, by definition, bigger and better than "plain old" 35. They wouldn't think of shooting on that "tiny" 3 perf "garbage", since it will sacrifice the quality! So if you want to know why 3 perf isn't being used, that's a significant reason. Stupid, but significant.

For my own purposes, I kind of like being on this nonsensical "shoot and protect" stuff, simply because it gives me quite a bit of added flexibility in building visual effects shots (resizing, repositioning, etc.), as well as in production, where I can often "use" this extra image area to my advantage.

Mike Most, Encore Video, L.A.

PS - I am, of course, assuming that most everyone here understands that the image area in a 1:77:1 (16:9) extraction from a 4 perf frame is almost identical to that of a 3 perf frame shot with an optical center.

Well, Super-35 usually doesn't pan and scan -- it extracts a flat image from the Super 35 neg or IP. In the case of James Cameron or Apollo 13, it's all common topline, so you get extra image at the bottom of the frame -- probably the least objectionable way to go. Three-perf would get back to panning and scanning (slightly).

We could also go back to Techniscope! ;-) (Actually, I have a friend who is doing just that -- he's shooting 2-perf for straight to letterbox films. He's converted an XR35 and an Arri IIc in the rare Panavision Handheld Blimp (David, remember these?).

He's a little crazy, but enjoying it...

Jeff "how many perf's d'ya want?" Kreines

All our new generation cameras have been designed to be able to accept a 3 perf movement if so desired. Unfortunately, for various reasons already discussed here, we have not gotten any orders for 3 perf movements. All our cameras run 4 perf right now. The only people I know of that use 3 perf is episodic television shows in LA shooting with 3 perf Panavision cameras. A very specialized market.


Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative

Arriflex Corporation; 1646 N. Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago, IL 60647-5319, USA

Having asked how much to convert my 435 to 3 perf I'm now a major advocate of 4 perf.

I don't know why I ever thought about 3 perf, daft idea really :-)


Geoff Boyle

I agree with Geoff, at least as far as film commercial production for TV is concerned.

For the past two years I have been shooting with my cameras set up with the lens centered on Super-35, and have groundglasses made with the standard sized SMPTE "TV Scanned"area (that is ususally centered on the Academy aperture) moved over to be centered on the Super-35 centering.

I frame and compose withing that area, and try to protect as much of the silent aperture as I can. Now, I have a tremendous area around the image that can be utilized in post production for resizing, recentering , reducing, post production zooming, rotating, squeezing, etc.

If we were to shoot 3 perf. All these things would not be possible.

With so much of my image crafting being done in post production, I want to have as much flexability as I can get in the original negative.

Bill Bennett

Sorry for the "me too" posting but I totally agree with you, when I suggested a while ago to some french DPs to shoot in S35 to gain in quality, most of them said they would prefer to have the extra image.

Regards JC.

Both Evertz and Aaton telecine Keycode readers support 3Perf.

Since they both generate 3Perf-correct FLeX lists, TLC (telecine controller) or not, where is the problem Mike?

Lightworks v.6 supports 3Perf and Avid FilmComposer version 7 will by March 98.

We like 3Perf since it makes the Aaton35 a much quieter cat on the shoulder, it gives hanheld 400 foot mags a longer life, and reduces the number of short ends force dragged to the emporium...


PS: Those not familiar with 3Perf could have a look at

A- Academy and Academy-4Perf cropped 1:1.78 (273.5mm2)

1.27mm off-centered; standard dia 27.2mm lenses.

B- Super35-Goskino proposition (337.8mm2)

centered; 'super35' dia 28.4mm lenses.

C- Super35-3Perf 1:1.78 (316.5mm2)

centered; standard dia 27.2mm lenses.

'C' offers 16% bigger image area than 1:1.78 cropped Academy,

and an 8% wider angle of view from a standard lens.

Further to the comments on 3 perf and Super 35, whether we like it or not,there is now almost an inevitability that the future both in TV and Film will be 16:9 in shape. Indeed at the recent International Standards meeting for Cinematography, a project group was established to study a Code of Practice which would consider only two origination formats for the future: 16:9 and 'scope. This came about from a suggestion by Walter Lassally BSC, and was endorsed by Imago at their Madrid meeting last month.

The ASC web site also carries a report from their President Bob Primes ASC, who was present at Imago. It is well worth reading for a perspective of Europe as seen from the USA. See

The first question which comes to everyone's mind is "What about the exhibitors? They are wedded to 1.85 masking." Are they? That's the general idea, but it is interpreted in such a vast number of ways, that one is lucky if the picture on the screen is not cropped in some way or other, since projectionists are presented with a perplexing array of images on release prints. At least if everything was either 1.78 or 2.39:1 the results would be consistent.

Major exhibitors in London who were approached by Lassally, indicated that the small change in masking from 1.85 to 1.78 would not really be a big issue in most cases. If a common top line policy were also standardised, then presentation in the cinema could be much improved.

As Walter said "The important thing to remember is that even if no alterations are made in the theatres at all, producers switching to 16x9 will be no worse off in respect to theatre presentation than they are at present."

As others on CML have pointed out, most US TV productions are now shot Super 35 using 16:9, much of European TV is already 16:9. If distribution of motion pictures to theatres were ever to be carried out digitally then you can bet your bottom dollar that those projectors will be 16:9.

If you have any input on this issue which CML want to bring to the attention of the ISO Project Group, then I shall be happy to pass it along.

John Croft

As others on CML have pointed out, most US TV productions are now shot Super 35 using 16:9...<

Some comments on the above:

Gate changes are not needed for 3 perf on the Quadra or the Spirit. The standard gate is used, and 3 perf operation is built into the software (single button toggle). Since there is no scan patch to be concerned with, they are both ideal machines for use with multiple formats.

For those not working in Los Angeles, here are some current Hollywood television production "facts of life:"

1. Although both Evertz and Aaton support 3 perf in terms of reading, interpreting, and displaying in windows, few L.A. facilities (I'm not saying none, just few) use either program to generate daily transfer logs. The TLC is the primary piece of equipment used for this purpose.

2. Although Lightworks now supports 3 perf, Avid is by far the dominant editing system for television, and until 3 perf support is implemented directly in Film Composer, my previous comments stand.

3. Although US TV productions are "shot in 16:9," this is only a technicality. They are all framed for 1.33, with lots of air on the sides. Everyone, from cameramen to directors, would prefer to have one frame, and I would venture to say that most would prefer that be the 1.77 frame, but American networks are ****very**** hesitant to broadcast letterbox. The early adopters of 16:9 in the US will likely see a lot of bad widescreen framing, with all the action in the center of the screen and lots of air filling the rest, particularly in multicamera productions. It might interest those here to know that Fox and Columbia

(Sony) are actually post producing much of their programming in 16:9, then extracting 1.33 for current broadcast, both domestic and foreign (of course, they're not **paying** any more for any of this!). All of the 16:9 post production is "hidden" from the producers, as both the dailies and the final product are presented to them using the 1.33 extraction. This has caused much consternation on the part of associate producers and post supervisors this season, both of whom now have to deal with creating 2 different products for the studio, only one of which means anything to their producers.

Mike Most, Encore Video, L.A.

I remember about 10 years ago when 3 perf was catching on as the next big thing.

From what I heard at the time, it died out for a variety of reasons.

--Editing of the film was difficult because the lines between frames were VERY thin or non-existant

--3 perf requires completely different camera movements, editing equipment, projectors, etc., most of which were expensive and bothersome to implement. And then every rental house, lab, and post facility would have equipment with two different standards to deal with or have to switch formats back-and-forth

--As mentioned here elsewhere, some people liked having extra room around the image for a margin of error

--And the rumor was that when directors knew they were using 25% less film, they (consciously or subconsciously) figured they could shoot 25% more -- extra takes,

extra inserts, extra angles, etc. -- so they ended up shooting just as much film

-- Joel Rome

Otto Nemenz International


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