IN A DOCUMENTARY
Greg Kimble and David Strohmaier monitor the assembly, in digital video, of a complete Cinerama image made from three individual films.
Showing Cinerama film clips in this documentary was a challenging task. First a way to
telecine from the original 3 panel - 6 perforation camera negatives had to be developed. Special effects
expert and Cinerama buff Greg Kimble labored for several weeks with the top engineers
at Pacific Ocean Post and Digital Magic in Los Angeles to perfect a technique to do this.
By using a Rank Ursa Gold Telecine with custom modifications, each panel was
separately converted into digital video. Once control of all three images was in the digital
domain the color between panels was corrected from the faded negatives. Using two D-1
decks and a modified Kaleidoscope, the images were combined and blended together into
a letterbox image that matched the Cinerama aspect ratio (2.59:1).
Three Cinerama films are combined to form a "letterbox" image.
Next the filmmakers and
engineers wanted to simulate the Cinerama screen by curving and bending the image as
if it were on a 146 degree Cinerama screen. This was done with a special group of settings
on a state-of-the-art graphics workstation called an "Inferno." Greg and the engineers
came up with the affectionate name for this process, "Smilebox". After seeing some of
these "Smilebox" clips inter-cut into the documentary in 2001, several Cinerama fans excitedly
commented on how much it looked like real Cinerama.
Smilebox frame from Search For Paradise
The Inferno workstation transforms the letterbox image to create a simulation of the Cinerama screen. This illustration is taken from a poor quality VHS tape. The image below, which is a frame from Search For Paradise gives a better representation of the state of the art Smilebox system today.
In addition to providing a simulated Cinerama image, there is less lost detail since a larger portion of the television screen is used. An unexpected benefit of the smilebox process is that distortions that would be normal when you display a curved image on a flat screen seem to disappear.
The Use of The Smilebox Logo