Chances are you'll never see Dunkirk the way Christopher Nolan intended
What happens when one creator's artistic vision comes into conflict with prevailing standards and industry mores? Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk gives an insight into the chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Christopher Nolan is famously attached to large-scale film when it comes to his productions. For Dunkirk he shot with a mixture of 65mm film and the taller, squarer IMAX 65mm filmstock—a decision that had unexpected benefits. Problems arise, however, when Nolan's film choice collides with an industry that has largely gone digital—with 2K and 4K projectors being the norm, many theaters simply can't show the film the way it was shot.
Film fan and president of the University College London film society, Anton Volkov, has put together a great infographic showing not only the different aspect ratios of the formats on offer, but also the relative sizes of the formats from which they're being projected.
Translation: You end up seeing a different amount of the picture, and differing resolution, depending on where you see it.
The digital formats in the infographic above are scaled based on IMAX's assessment of the pixel-equivalent resolution of the different film formats (film's digital-equivalent resolution varies, depending on the contrast of the subject, meaning the digital formats are probably somwhat under-represented and could be considered closer to the size of 35mm).
Volkov also illustrated the different aspect ratios using this short GIF, from the NolanFans forum:
Note also the shape of the 35mm image. It looks like it's been horizontally cropped to a very square format, but has actually been horizontally squeezed onto the film using an anamorphic lens (an asymmetrical lens that captures a wider field of view horizontally than it does vertically). This film is designed to be projected with another anamorphic lens to 'de-squeeze' the footage back out to its full width.
Of course, even if you are lucky enough to find somewhere able to show 70mm IMAX (we can't, here in Seattle, as our local IMAX cinema has gone digital-only), there's still a question mark about whether you'll be able to appreciate the full resolution.
If you've seen the film (whichever crop of it), let us know what you thought.
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