Devising a New Aspect Ratio for the Dinosaurs of Jurassic World

Published on in Equipment / Tech Reviews

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment Copyright: © 2015 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

by Doug Bankston

Jurassic World is another in a long line of big-budget tentpole features for cinematographer John Schwartzman, ASC (Armageddon, Seabiscuit, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, The Amazing Spider-Man). With a production scale rivaling that of its dinosaur-sized subjects, this fourth installment in the series served up something Schwartzman had not had on any film prior: the opportunity to create a new aspect ratio.

Schwartzman, an anamorphic advocate, wanted to shoot the film in 2.40:1, but executive producer Steven Spielberg preferred 1.85:1 because that ratio provided enough headroom for the dinosaurs. “Director Colin Trevorrow and I felt like 1:85 was too much like high-definition television in terms of an aspect ratio,” the cinematographer says. “That's where we conceived a 2.00:1 aspect ratio. We made a ground glass and shot some tests. It was such a great way to frame. It has the benefits of 2.40 without losing all the headroom. It's a 2.00 aspect ratio in what would be called a 1.85 container for the DCP (Digital Cinema Package), which means if the theaters set up their screens at 1.85, there will be a very small letterbox top and bottom and the good screens can adjust their cutters to maximize the picture. Coming up with our own aspect ratio was cool.”

John Schwartzman, ASC on the set of Jurassic World

On every one of his films, Schwartzman has used only Panavision. In fact, Panaflex number 452 is reserved solely for him and has been ever since The Rock in 1994. For Jurassic World, he selected multiple formats – including KODAK 35mm and 65mm film and RED Dragon 6K digital (aerials) – that were employed by a number of photographic units. “Nobody can support a movie with multiple shooting units like Panavision,” he asserts. “That's why I'm always at Panavision.”

Schwartzman lobbied for film as opposed to digital capture because of the shooting location. “Having previously done Pearl Harbor in Hawaii where there is a lot of contrast, I knew that film was going to give me the dynamic range that I needed,” he says.

Dialogue coverage was filmed on 4-perf 35mm. Large format 5-perf 65mm was strategically employed for master shots and for visual effects. With a native aspect ratio of 2.20:1, 65mm provided Industrial Light & Magic with some additional frame space to maneuver for the film's 2.00:1 aspect. “The 65mm film negative gave ILM an incredibly high-resolution image for effects shots,” he says. 

Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. Copyright: © 2014 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  

When it came to optics, Schwartzman wanted Primos of a different flavor, one referred to as “de-tuned,” so as to add a bit of glamor to what he considers “very contrasty and very sharp” lenses. Enter Dan Sasaki, Panavision's VP of Optical Engineering.

“The problem with de-tuning a lens,” Sasaki says, “is there is never a black-and-white answer, and what is de-tuned to one is not necessarily the same for another. As a result, we end up creating a variety of looks by bracketing the tests with different degrees of the adjustment in an attempt to target what the cinematographer wants. John wanted a type of glow around the lens, which required our adding passive optics in the middle of the lens to induce deliberate amounts of spherical aberration and small amounts of chromatic degradation.”

“I'm an anamorphic guy,” Schwartzman explains, “and since I couldn't shoot anamorphically, I didn't want something as recognizable as the Primos. I had Dan soften the contrast and make them look like Zeiss lenses from the 1970s, and they were absolutely beautiful.”

John Schwartzman, ASC on the set of Jurassic World

“We were able to find the 'look' for the movie after three rounds of tests and applied the treatment to the remaining focal lengths, including the zooms,” adds Sasaki, who de-tuned four sets of Primos for Schwartzman. 

The cinematographer notes that the 30mm and 60mm were used predominantly. “The idea was to put the viewer in the environment as opposed to being a voyeur,” he notes. “Due to location restrictions, we sometimes went as wide as the 24mm, but we were very conscious not to be 'self-conscious' with lens choices by trying to stay in the 'normal' lens range.”

The Hawaiian jungle canopy pierced with sunlight made for a high-contrast image, so Schwartzman shot with as much natural or augmented backlight as possible and made liberal use of ambient smoke to reduce the contrast ratio. A SuperTechno 50 topped with a Libra Blue Stripe remote head was mounted on a Taurus all-terrain base to provide reach and maneuverability within the forest“We also had a Panavision technician with us to clean the lenses every day so we wouldn't have any problems,” Schwartzman mentions. “From my previous experience shooting in Hawaii, I know the salt air just runs roughshod over the gear.”

Jurassic World photos with John Schwartzman  credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc

ProductionHUB ProductionHUB Logo

Related Blog Posts
ProductionHUB First Look: The MRMC's ARC-360 PTZ Camera
ProductionHUB First Look: The MRMC's ARC-360 PTZ Camera
When MRMC announced that they were adding the ARC-360 PTZ camera to their product line up, my curiosity was instantly piqued. When I previously thought about MRMC and their product line up, I typically envisioned their very cool and robust robotics loaded with cinematic cameras doing some amazing dance moves. For example, the awesome display from MRMC at 2022 NAB had attendees seemingly lined up four to five deep at times just to get a closer look. Of course, one doesn’t need the cool robotics to get great shots with the MRMC ARC-360 PTZ. The ARC-360 is being mounted and used in all types of productions. So, lets’ jump right in.
Published on Monday, January 16, 2023
The ProductionHUB Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2
The ProductionHUB Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2
We had such an overwhelming response to the original holiday gift guide, that I just had to come up with even more holiday gift goodness. So, for the first time ever, may I present the ProductionHUB Holiday Gift Guide Part 2. Keep on reading for some more incredible gift ideas along with additional input from ProductionHUB's very own Mike Valinsky, as well as some other highly respected (and familiar!) production professionals.
Published on Thursday, December 1, 2022
First Look: ZEISS Raises the Bar (and Then Some)
First Look: ZEISS Raises the Bar (and Then Some)
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Rule Boston Camera in Boston with renowned industry lens expert Jean-Marc Bouchut from ZEISS to take a closer look at the recently released ZEISS 15mm Supreme Prime lens.
Published on Friday, October 21, 2022


There are no comments on this blog post.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.