El Capitan Film Restoration by Fred Padula (Kickstarter)


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Trad climber
San Diego
May 27, 2013 - 12:01am PT
Thanks, Jim Brennan! My googling didn't turn up his facebook for some reason. Sent him an email.

George Bell

Trad climber
May 28, 2013 - 10:35am PT
Just watched the BluRay version last night. Wow! How do you think they filmed that sequence with the full moon passing in front of the climber in silhouette on the wall? These days, one would just do it by digitally merging two shots, but in 1968, I have to think it is real.

For the full moon to fill the frame you'd have to use at least a ... 2000mm lens? It is cool that you can see the moon moving and the climber moving in real time. The moon really moves really fast when zoomed in so close. I would think they only had one chance at filming that sequence!

The night climbing scenes are pretty much black, but the sound track is very real. Reminds me of getting benighted on a climb in Yosemite. Did they really have no head lamps? Looks like they are truly climbing in the dark in that sequence.

Thanks, Fred, for updating this classic film!!
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
May 28, 2013 - 11:17am PT
Got my poster over the weekend. It's a real beauty!

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
May 28, 2013 - 12:07pm PT
Still waiting excitedly for my copy to come... I've got the poster "relaxing" on the table...

How do you think they filmed that sequence with the full moon passing in front of the climber in silhouette on the wall?

assuming it's 16 mm film, the moon subtends a 0.5 angle (=0.009 radians) so to fill the frame you have:

0.009 = 16 mm/f

f = 16mm/0.009 = 1833 mm

with a film camera you'd use a zoom lens... don't know the standard lenses for film cameras though...

to set up the shot you'd take the size of the scene you'r interested in, say you wanted a 50 foot section of the climb, a climber would be a little more than 10% of that scene... then

0.009 = 50 ft/d

where d is the distance from the scene you'd have to setup...

d = 50 ft/0.009 = 5,556 feet, a little more than a mile away.

Now you have to find the place that gets the Moon and your scene on a common bearing, and that's a trick but the calculations are available (and usually trial and error in shooting during multiple attempts)

The moon is "late" by nearly 2 hours on consecutive days... that would mean the sky is lighter and the contrast between the moon and sky less... but that's a second order consideration.

All in all, I find setting up the real shot to be easier and results in a better image than photoshopping in a moon, as easy as that is these days. And the rush of having the scene come together after the planning is a feeling I relish.

Lloyd Campbell

Social climber
St. Cloud, MN
May 28, 2013 - 12:31pm PT
Denny came back to the Valley in the autumn to jug fixed lines on El Cap and shoot scenes of swifts darting off the side of the cliff. Padula used a telescope to film a full moon rising over the Big Stone. The following spring, Denny trained his camera on Horsetail Falls. He thought the water glinting off the side of El Cap could make a lyrical opening for the movie. If it ever got made.

George Bell

Trad climber
May 28, 2013 - 01:54pm PT
In the age of UTube and helmet cams, that film marks a point in history. I forgot about the article in Alpinist. It is interesting that the film makers had so many disagreements, these days nobody thinks twice before uploading their climbing videos on UTube.

I can't imagine doing the King Swing with a few strands of webbing about my waist, man that would be painful!
david r

Social climber
Seattle now NY then
Jun 3, 2013 - 02:51pm PT
Hi All.
Any word on obtaining the dvd apart from the kickstarter project?

Social climber
Jun 3, 2013 - 04:47pm PT
Watched this, finally. Beautiful to see.

It starts a bit slow, but gradually draws you in, and in a big way. After a while you realize that every climbing movie you've seen in the last decade started out with the idea of desperately grabbing the viewer's attention in the first 15 seconds. The slow build-up is so laid back, so unusual it looks original, new.

The technical aspects, sound, color, are expertly managed. Colors look just about perfect. Sound is managed well. I heard they had real struggles with the sound equipment, but in the end they won, because the finished DVD sounds great. Loved the various sounds of the pitons being hammered on. Must have been desperate to balance loud percussive hammering with quiet voices.

The actual climbing is what really sucks you in. No idea how much was staged, how much actual footage (lots of scenes with a camera above the lead climber, so clearly some staging) but the climbers handled this well; no showboating, all appeared pretty authentic.

Not so psyched on the soundtrack; it's a bit jarring, judged against the down-to-earth humor of the climbers, and it's overly strong for the subtle natural-scenery shots. Does give an authentic late-60s experimental feel though; a good reminder that this is no nostalgia trip, it's the real thing.

And it really is the real thing: a powerfully-realized, individual artistic vision. There's not a hint of compromise or of short-cutting. I love how the climbers are not the focus. The movie begins and ends with long, slow shots of the cliffs and scenery. The climbers are just there to give scale, proportion. The Nose of El Cap is the real star. Not a hint of "human-interest" backstories on who the climbers are. Very brave, very original. Very difficult to pull off. Yet it works.

My wife, of short attention span with movies, initially was skeptical, eventually was converted, and has already started lending it out to friends, a sure sign of a keeper. (Though how long we'll keep hold of this copy I don't know....)

Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Jun 3, 2013 - 04:52pm PT
David F look at my post above for info.
John Butler

Social climber
SLC, Utah
Jun 20, 2013 - 04:38pm PT
after a few tense moments waiting to see if the old Blu-ray player would read the disk, climbing film bliss... Thanks Fred and all who helped. Priceless.

John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Jun 20, 2013 - 05:32pm PT
Still waiting ... hopefully it won't be much longer now before the stuff shows up in the mail!
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Jun 20, 2013 - 08:14pm PT
Movie and T-shirt arrived last week. Thanks Fred !

Now waiting for the poster...

Big Wall climber
Jun 20, 2013 - 08:41pm PT
Still waiting. I hope he got my address change.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 24, 2013 - 12:59am PT
Got mine last week, watched it with Debbie tonight...

thanks for all the work on this! great to have come together and helped to get it released.


Trad climber
The great state of advaita
Jun 24, 2013 - 02:35am PT
I got the poster a while back and the DVD and T-shirt came this past week. What a nice surprise since the project has slipped of my radar (easy to do).

Watched a good chunk of it with my son yesterday. Looks fantastic! Great work!


Seneca area
Jun 24, 2013 - 11:09am PT
Movie and t-shirt arrived. Thanks Fred!
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Jun 27, 2013 - 08:36am PT
Movie and Tee Shirt arrived! Thanks Fred!

Santa Monica, CA
Jun 27, 2013 - 01:02pm PT
Hey all,

I sent an e mail to the address posted above...never received any kind of response - imagine Fred is a little busy but any help that any of you could give me so I can buy a copy would be much appreciated.

Dave Johnson

Mountain climber
Sacramento, CA
Jul 1, 2013 - 11:25pm PT
Tee-shirt & DVD arrived a few days ago. Watched it for the first time in 30 years. Beautiful film. Thanks, Fred.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jul 2, 2013 - 10:05am PT
I'm with crusher: I haven't been able to find out how I can buy a copy of this film.
Any help?
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