The Panavision Platinum

The Californian Company Panavision is founded in 1954 by Robert Gottschalk and Richard Moore.

By The Cinémathèque française

Objectif de projection à anamorphose variable (1955) by Robert E. GottschalkThe Cinémathèque française

The firm is specialized in variable lenses for the Scope system, one of which was the Super Panatar for projectors (March 1954). It was a variable anamorphic prism lens that allowed the ratio to be changed from 2.55:1 to 1.375 by turning a simple dial. The Ultra Panatar for 70 mm film and the Auto Panatar (1958), which would correct Scope distortions in the camera, were to follow. This process won the company its first Oscar, and allowed it to overtake its competitor Bausch & Lomb, the manufacturers of CinemaScope lenses.

Panavision worked on the MGM Camera 65 system (1956), which was hardly used in the end (MGM's Ben Hur, 1959, was shot with Ultra Panavision lenses). In 1961, the company bought MGM's camera department, which gave them access to the Mitchell 65 mm Realife cameras. These would be re-covered with Panavision magnesium blimps (designed by the company's genius Tak Miyagishima), and equipped with new monobloc anamorphic prism lenses called Super Panavision then Ultra Panavision 70 (1962).

Objectif de projection à anamorphose variable, Robert E. Gottschalk, 1954, From the collection of: The Cinémathèque française
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A luxurious 35 mm camera, called the Silent Reflex (PSR), was produced in 1967. At that time, the company decided it would no longer sell its cameras and lenses, but would rent them out instead.

Caméra Silent Reflex SPR, Mitchell Camera Corporation, 1965, From the collection of: The Cinémathèque française
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Another camera was released in 1972: the Panaflex, a studio camera that could also be carried on the shoulder. Silent, equipped with a mechanism inspired by Mitchell, and with a reflex viewfinder, it was immediately adopted by Steven Spielberg (Sugarland Express, 1974). An improved version, called Gold, was released in 1976.

Panaflex Gold, Robert E. Gottschalk, 1976, From the collection of: The Cinémathèque française
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In 1986, the Gold was replaced by the Platinum, which had an impressive list of features: ● 35 mm film in every ratio, from Super 35 mm to full frame, 1.66, Scope, or 1.85. ● 500- or 1000-foot magazines that could be mounted in two different positions ● ability to record 4 to 36 frames per second forward and reverse ● standard or anamorphic viewfinder ● variable shutter from 45° to 200° ● remote control zoom, which worked through an electronic zoom control, a sort of curious little gun

Panaflex Platinum, Robert E. Gottschalk, 1986, From the collection of: The Cinémathèque française
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Platinum became one of the favorite cameras of Hollywood directors from the end of the 1980s until the introduction of the Millennium camera (1997). Meanwhile, a new camera had been designed (System 65 - 1991), which used 65 mm film.

At George Lucas' request, and in collaboration with Sony, who took care of the electronics side of things, Panavision took on the digital world in 2000 with a camera equipped with high-definition Primo Digital lenses: Lucas used it for Star Wars: Episode II (2002). The next version, the Genesis (2005), with a larger recording surface than the 35 mm, was used to shoot Flyboys (2006).

Photographie de tournage de Khartoum (Basil Dearden), 1966, From the collection of: The Cinémathèque française
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Panavision remains a major player in the film industry today. Their anamorphic Ultra Panavision 70 system, not used since Karthoum (Basil Dearden, 1966), was brought back to cinema screens by Quentin Tarantino in 2015 with The Hateful Eight.

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