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Ultra Panavision 70

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Ultra Panavision 70
TypeFilmmaking technology
InventorRobert Gottschalk
Takuo Miyagishima
Inception1957 (1957)
Models madeUltra-Panatar, APO-Panatar
The 1959 historical epic Ben-Hur, particularly its iconic chariot race sequence, is arguably the most popular use of Ultra Panavision 70.

Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65 were, from 1957 to 1966, the marketing brands that identified motion pictures photographed with Panavision's anamorphic movie camera lenses on 65 mm film. Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65 were shot at 24 frames per second (fps) using anamorphic camera lenses. Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65's anamorphic lenses compressed the image 1.25 times, yielding an extremely wide aspect ratio of 2.76:1 (when a 70 mm projection print was used).

Ultra Panavision saw much less use than its sibling, the more popular Super Panavision 70, and was only used on ten films from 1957 to 1966. However, nearly fifty years later, Robert Richardson famously resurrected Ultra Panavision 70 after the lens test he came to do at the Panavision headquarters for the upcoming project with Quentin Tarantino, where he discovered that the lenses and equipment were still intact. Tarantino was fascinated by this and was able to refurbish the lenses for use in his next film, The Hateful Eight; which was shot entirely on 65 mm film using Ultra Panavision lenses, the first film to do so since Khartoum. Tarantino also released the film as a roadshow release, and this was the first time there were widely circulated 70 mm film prints to theaters with 70 mm projectors since 1992's Far and Away.[1] This ultimately led to a resurgence in the use of Ultra Panavision lenses, which have now been used (albeit with digital cameras) to shoot blockbusters such as Rogue One and Avengers: Endgame.[2][3]


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) approached Panavision founder Robert Gottschalk in the late 1950s to create a large-format widescreen system capable of filling the extremely wide screens of Cinerama theaters while using a single projector, and would also be capable of producing high-quality standard 70 mm and 35 mm CinemaScope prints, which Cinerama's three-strip process did not allow for. Gottschalk developed a lens system using front-mounted prisms to impart a slight 1.25x squeeze onto a 5-perf 65 mm negative, resulting in a projected ratio of 2.76:1. These prism lenses were released under the name MGM Camera 65 in 1956.

In 1962, MGM's production of Mutiny on the Bounty, which was being produced in the format, ran far over-budget, and MGM was forced to sell off many of its assets to account for the losses. This allowed Panavision to purchase the Camera 65 equipment it had developed for MGM, and the system was renamed Ultra Panavision 70. As the prism lenses were bulky, oddly shaped and optically flawed, Panavision's optical engineer Takuo Miyagishima set to work on designing a more traditional set of 1.25x lenses using cylindrical glass, which became known as the Ultra Panatar series.

In 1963, the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles became the first Cinerama theater built specifically for Ultra Panavision 70, and the theater opened with the premiere of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which was filmed with the new Ultra Panatar lenses.

70 mm Ultra Panavision prints could be produced directly from the negative for use on flat screens, or "rectified" with increased compression towards the sides for use on curved Cinerama screens.

Panavision also developed a non-anamorphic 70 mm photographic system in 1959; this was named Super Panavision 70.[4]

Differences from Todd-AO[edit]

The Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65 lenses and cameras were similar to the 1955 version of the Todd-AO 65 mm photographic process, in that both were intended as replacements for three-strip Cinerama. The Todd-AO system was shot at 30 frames per second (fps), while Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65 used the industry standard of 24 fps, and while the original Todd-AO process included the use of a deeply curved screen similar to that used for Cinerama (with fisheye optics to recreate its peripheral vision),[5] its narrower, non-anamorphic 2.20:1 aspect ratio was incompatible with true Cinerama screens without cropping.


The following films were shot in either MGM Camera 65 or Ultra Panavision 70:[6]

Many sources often claim the 1959 film The Big Fisherman was filmed in Ultra Panavision, but Panavision itself says that the film was shot in Super Panavision 70.[16]

Additionally, several films have been recorded digitally in conjunction with Ultra Panavision 70 lenses: Rogue One (2016), Bright (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019) and The King (2019) with the Arri Alexa 65 camera, and The Hate U Give (2018) and Like a Boss (2020) with the Panavision Millennium DXL camera.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How Quentin Tarantino Resurrected Ultra Panavision 70 for 'The Hateful Eight'". 8 December 2015.
  2. ^ "The Amazing Camera Technology Behind the Look of Rogue One". 16 December 2016.
  3. ^ "The Ultra Panavision 70 Lens: The Classic Glass Behind Avengers Endgame". 5 May 2019.
  4. ^ Samuelson, p. xiv.
  5. ^ "In the Splendour of 70mm", Grant Lobban, Journal of the BKSTS Vol. 68 No. 12 Dec 1986
  6. ^ Haines, p. 116.
  7. ^ The most difficult scenes to shoot were captured in Ultra Panavision, while the rest of the film was shot in three-camera Cinerama. The Ultra Panavision scenes were then optically separated into three images, and projected using the three-project Cinerama projection system. See: Hutchison, p. 100.
  8. ^ Hall and Neale, p. 154; Lev, p. 115.
  9. ^ McGhee, p. 356.
  10. ^ Balio, p. 185.
  11. ^ Hughes, p. 239.
  12. ^ Finler, p. 371.
  13. ^ Kastrenakes, p. 2
  14. ^ Kastrenakes (11 July 2015). "Quentin Tarantino defends the decision to shoot — and screen — The Hateful Eight on 70mm film". The Verge. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  15. ^ Dillard, Samantha (September 20, 2018). "Christopher Robin: Making Magic with Mixed Formats". American Cinematographer. American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  16. ^ "About Panavision. The 1950s." Panavision.com. No date. Accessed 2012-01-29.


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