A couple of weeks ago a demo reel of Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight was screened during CineGear Expo at Paramount Studios — around noon on Saturday, 6.6, to be exact. I missed it but The Hollywood Reporter‘s Carolyn Giordina didn’t. She filed a story that afternoon, explaining that The Hateful Eight is “believed to be the first production since 1966’s Khartoum to use Ultra Panavision 70 anamorphic lenses.” But she didn’t say what 70mm anamorphic actually means or what Tarantino’s film will actually look like when it’s projected so allow me.

Ultra Panavision 70 image from 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty.

In a phrase, the aspect ratio of The Hateful Eight will be ultra-Scopey, super-duper, triple-ass wide.

If you own either the Ben-Hur or Mutiny on the Bounty Blurays you know what this looks like. Like those blockbusters of yore, the width-to-height ratio will be 2.76 to 1. We’re talking considerably wider than standard CinemaScope or Panavision aspect ratio of 2.39. to 1. The posters for The Hateful Eight are calling the process Super-CinemaScope. I don’t know if that’s a patented process but back in the Pleistocene Era of the early to mid ’60s it was called (and probably should still be called) Ultra Panavision 70.

Three other articles besides Giardina’s have attempted to explain the gist — AV Club, Ain’t It Cool News and Cinematography.com.

As Guardina noted, Khartoum (’65) was the last mainstream commercial film to be shot in Ultra Panavision 70.

The last film shot in a vaguely similar ultra-wide process that I’ve paid any attention to was a short film called On A Tuesday, directed by David Scott Smith and lensed by HE’s own Svetlana Cvetko. It was shot in an aspect ratio of 3.18 to 1.

The average moviegoer, trust me, can’t distinguish between 1.85 and 2.39. Ask anyone who’s just come out of a film what aspect ratio it was shown in and nine times out of ten they’ll say “Uhhm, I don’t know.” I once asked this question of Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone and she said “I don’t actually get it….explain it to me again?”

But I suspect that The Hateful Eight‘s 2.76 to 1 aspect ratio will make a distinct visual impression on the schmoes. Particularly those who see it projected in one of the 50 U.S. theatres that will show it properly in 70mm when it opens on 12.25. (Boston Light and Sound’s Chapin Cutler has been hired to properly prepare these 50 theatres.) Regular 35mm and digital cinemas will show it in simulated 2.76 to 1 — i.e., 2.39 Scope with the tops and bottoms matted out.

I still strongly suspect that The Hateful Eight will be a swaggering Tarantino machismo wankathon and that most critics and hipsters will regard it as negligible in dramatic terms, but the Ultra Panavision thing will make it interesting to look at, at least. The film’s dp is Robert Richardson.