Skip to Content

Jurassic World Calls for 65 mm Film

  • June 12, 2015

John Schwartzman, ASC has more than 35 studio feature films to his credit, including Seabiscuit, which earned him an Oscar® nomination, and The Rock, Armageddon, Saving Mr. Banks, and Dracula Untold – all shot on film. One of the executive producers on his most recent assignment, Jurassic World, was Steven Spielberg. So when Schwartzman proposed shooting on film, it seemed like an obvious choice.

“I had some previous experience shooting very big budget movies in Hawaii, on Pearl Harbor,” he says. “I knew the contrast ratios of day exteriors in Hawaii, and almost everything we were going to shoot in Hawaii was day exterior. We were there for the big vistas and the scope and all of the things that you can’t do on stage. Nothing else was going to capture the 18,000 footcandles in the highlights of the sky, and the 20 footcandles in the shadows of the jungle, in the same shot. I didn’t have to choose to preserve either the highlights or the shadows. I knew that if I placed my exposure where I thought it should be, I was going to have all of that information there. Film was simply the right tool.”

Many interior scenes were filmed on set in Louisiana. In addition to shooting the majority of the film on 4-perf 35mm, Schwartzman shot roughly 150,000 feet of 5-perf 65mm film to take advantage of the additional dynamic range and resolution.

“I used the 65mm camera if I knew I had a wide shot in which we were either going to change the background or introduce dinosaurs,” he says. “Why not give ILM the master shot on a format so large that they could do a move across it if they wanted to? In Hawaii, we would generally use the 65 for our master. When we went in for the coverage, I would go to 35mm.”

Industrial Light & Magic, the venerable effects house that brought the dinosaurs to life, approved, says Schwartzman.

“ILM was very much behind us shooting film,” he says. “They didn’t want digital. They wanted the dynamic range, and all the subtlety and color gamut that negative film has versus digital. I knew that Panavision had refurbished 65mm cameras for P.T. Anderson and Mihai Malaimare on The Master.”

Director Colin Trevorrow, known for Safety Not Guaranteed, is now a convert, according to the cinematographer.

“We shot our 65mm tests at Panavision, sent the negative over the FotoKem, and saw it projected the next day,” he says. “It was like, ‘Oh, my god. Why aren’t we doing this on every movie?’ It’s just so beautiful.”

Schwartzman is also known for shooting anamorphic, the widescreen process that squeezes a 2.4:1 image out of a standard 4-perf 35mm film frame. This time out, however, he went with a 2:1 frame. The filmmakers felt that the very horizontal 2.40:1 frame was not ideal for gigantic prehistoric lizards.

“Colin and I both felt that 1.85 was a little too much like TV,” says Schwartzman. “The new IMAX digital format is 2:1, and 2:1 works well with 65mm. The tests were pretty fantastic, and there were no additional costs. In theaters set up for 1.85 projection, there’s a slight black bar at top and bottom. I love the aspect ratio. If I shoot spherical again for theatrical release, I will certainly go 2:1.”

Depending on the situation, the 35mm scenes were filmed with KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213 or with KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219. The 65mm cameras were loaded with the 200T emulsion or with KODAK VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 5203.

“The 65mm, shot on the 50 daylight film, looks like you could walk right into the screen,” Schwartzman explains. “If it was sunny in Hawaii, I used the 50D anytime I could. Sometimes I’d throw on a polarizing filter, shoot at 11.5, and I knew it would be gorgeous.”