Aspect Ratio Documentation

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Bob Furmanek, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. bujaki

    bujaki Screenwriter

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    For what it may be worth, TCM-HD showed The Ladykillers in 16:9 last time it was screened. I turned it on too late and kicked myself for missing it. It's definitely not 4x3,
     
  2. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    I think a lot of it has to do with most people now only being familiar with the film via television and just accepting the open-matte version to be correct.

    Sadly, many of the people making the mastering decisions have not done their homework.

    I did a little bit of research on THE DAM BUSTERS.

    It was produced by the Associated British Picture Corporation at Elstree Studios. Originally announced as an August 1953 start, production did not begin until late January 1954,

    In December 1953, ABPC had reported their in-house ratio to Kine Weekly as 1.75:1.

    It was picked up for release in the U.S. by Warner Bros. on May 3, 1955.

    The world premiere was held at the Empire, Leicester Square in Metroscope* on May 16, 1955.

    Dam.JPG

    Go to 12:57 for footage of the premiere.



    *As of January 27, 1955, Metroscope was the standard description in the UK for MGM panoramic screen pictures.

    It took about an hour to find this information in my files. If anyone wants to hire me to determine the proper aspect ratio on your post-1953 productions, I'm available! :)
     
  3. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Variety reported THE LADY KILLERS is "currently lensing" on May 26, 1955.

    It was filmed at Ealing and they reported their house ratio of 1.75:1 (tolerable for 1.85:1) on February 10, 1955.
     
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  4. Vahan_Nisanain

    Vahan_Nisanain Supporting Actor

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    I sometimes wonder how they feel about films that WERE in fact shot in widescreen?
     
  5. Gary Couzens

    Gary Couzens Stunt Coordinator

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    It was indeed shown in 4:3, but that isn't a surprise. The BBC bought permanent TV rights to the RKO catalogue in the 1950s and the showings are from the 35mm or 16mm prints they bought then, transferred to video (Digibeta?) in the 1990s;

    Here's another question, related to a specialist interest of mine. Is there a date when Australian production moved over from 1.37:1 to a wider ratio? Granted, there aren't many Australian features in the 50s. CAPTAIN THUNDERBOLT (which only survives in a shortened version) was shot in 1951 and shown abroad in 1953 before it was shown at home (in 1955) so that's certainly 1.37:1. RETURN OF THE PLAINSMAN (release June 1953 in Australia, September 1953 in the USA) is very likely 1.37:1, though I haven't seen either.

    JEDDA, Australia's first film in colour, was released in 1955 and the clips I've seen (I've not seen the whole film, indeed don't think I've ever had the chance to, given that I'm in the UK) are 4:3. However the clips here show a lot of headroom throughout, so I do wonder if this was in fact composed wide. As this did show in the USA, is there any documentation in the usual sources as to its aspect ratio?

    That was the one of the last all-Australian films given a commercial release there until 2000 WEEKS in 1969, which is usually reckoned to be the start of the Australian Film Revival. The ones in between were foreign productions and coproductions shot there (such as the Ealing productions THE SHIRALEE and THE SIEGE OF PINCHGUT, both 1.66:1 on DVD, THEY'RE A WEIRD MOB which is 1.85:1) and Hollywood films such as ON THE BEACH and THE SUNDOWNERS. Also, tiny-budget/experimental material often shot in 16mm and most likely in 1.33:1. Once production began again, 1.85:1 seemed to be the favoured ratio for non-Scope 35mm films, at least from those I've seen, but there may be exceptions to that.
     
  6. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    It was Mackendrick / Ealing authority Philip Kemp who said at the Criterion forum:

    "I've never seen TLK screened in anything but Academy ratio. In fact as far as I know, only one Ealing movie was ever made in widescreen - the late and rather feeble comedy Davy, which was shot in Technirama. So 1.66:1 would distort Sandy's film rather badly."

    Four years ago - unbelievably in retrospect - my former idiot self bought that.
     
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  7. Yorkshire

    Yorkshire Screenwriter

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    Just a quick heads up on differing aspect ratios - though I expect this film is so 'select' that few will have heard of it, let alone be interested.

    The old UK DVD of Bernard Rose's Paperhouse is 1.66:1. The new French Blu-ray Disc is 1.85:1. As far as I can see both are the same width.

    I'll give it a study and see how the framing looks when I get the chance.

    Steve W
     
  8. EddieLarkin

    EddieLarkin Supporting Actor

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    Mr. Kemp reveals the extent of his knowledge on this issue by pointing out the Technirama film, the only widescreen film they did that is indisuptably composed wide, it being anamorphic. This is a prevalent myth, that the widescreen transition came with all the new technologies (CinemaScope, VistaVision, Todd-AO, Technirama), and that shooting "standard" continued to mean 1.37:1. Ealing were making "standard" films until 1959, apparently all in 1.37:1 :rolleyes:

    There is an interesting debate here about The Dam Busters, and some early Ealing films:

    http://forum.dvdtalk.com/dvd-reviews-recommendations/420726-reviews-ealing-british-war-collections.html

    Check post #7, where another falls for this myth. The director apparently gave interviews in 1955 about the making of the film, stating that he deliberately avoided the new "widescreen technologies" and opted for standard shooting instead. This is used as evidence that the film is 1.37:1, and even fools the reliable Stuart Galbraith. Of course, sticking a matte on the projector is not a "technology", but things like CinemaScope and VistaVision are, which is obviously what the director is referencing. Shooting standard meant shooting 1.75:1 by that point, which is what The Dam Busters is, borne out by the documentation and a mere glance at the film itself.
     
  9. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I saw the Ladykillers on first release in 1956 at my local north London cinema and it was shown widescreen. None of my local cinemas at that time showed films in the old Academy ratio. Even when they showed pre-1953 reissues, they would crop the picture and adjust the framing up and down in order not to lose tops of heads!
     
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  10. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    I guess that means he did not see the film when it was released theatrically.

    Mr. Kemp is an authority on Ealing and he's never been through the UK trade papers from the period, such as Kinematograph Weekly or The Ideal Kinema?
     
  11. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Gary, I'm sorry, no luck on U.S. documentation for JEDDA.

    I'll keep digging...
     
  12. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Doug, you know more than the experts!
     
  13. HDvision

    HDvision Screenwriter

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    Doug your mind his playing tricks. There's no way you can remember it was widescreen. Now look into my eyes and sleep... sleep...
     
  14. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Producer
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    This might be a silly light question, and I apologize if it's been answered already...

    In reading the article and a lot of recent posts, I've been intrigued at how different studios had set "house ratios" for their productions to be filmed in, and it makes sense. It seems that depending on the studio, films were initially being shot at 1.66:1, 1.75:1, and 1.85:1. My question is -- how much did theaters typically pay attention to the variations in widescreen ratios between different studios? Would a theater adjust their matting from engagement to engagement, or was it more typical that a theater would convert their 1.33:1 screen to (for example) 1.85:1, and then show every film they got at that ratio, regardless of what the studio specified?
     
  15. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Hard to say, Josh. Other than documentation of when theaters switched to widescreen, there's precious little information on how things were actually projected in the field.

    I would believe the major chains and presentation houses were very careful with following studio recommendations. Beyond that, who knows?

    However, for mastering in 2014, the directors compositional intent should be followed to the letter.
     
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  16. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    :)

    I might well doubt my memory of many things from so long ago but i had an interest in the technical aspects of film from a very early age because my father had a film projector (he'd been making films from the early 1930s) and one thing I soon noticed was the different screen shape of films we saw at home (1.33:1) compared to those we saw at the cinema.

    Another observation I had was that not everyone even noticed screen widths because i would mention to friends the wider look of a CinemaScope film which we had just seen and they would have absolutely no idea what i was talking about!
     
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  17. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    I imagine one of the factors in the industry settling on 1.85 as a cross-studio standard by the late 60s was partially to avoid the headaches for theaters in trying to properly display 1.66, 1.75 and 1.85.Sent from my VS920 4G using Tapatalk
     
  18. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Don't forget that 1.85:1 had pretty much become the non-anamorphic industry standard in the U.S. by the fall of 1956.
     
  19. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Producer
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    Thanks for answering my question and so quickly Bob. I completely agree that for home theater mastering (as well as theatrical revivals), the director's intent should be what is followed.

    I was also thinking about how often theaters today get it wrong -- the digital revolution was sold to us as being something that would make each theatrical showing of a film precise and perfect, and that hasn't always turned out to be the case. For theaters that have always cared about presentation, I don't know that we really gained anything. For multiplex cinemas that were poorly run, we don't get scratched prints anymore, but all of the other problems associated with bad projection can still happen. And the so-called "premium large format" digital auditoriums don't use any screen masking at all, so even if the film itself is in the right ratio, you're more likely to see blank/unused screen area today than ever before.

    So when I think back to how theaters were then -- a single screen, presumably a projectionist working full-time, with a movie playing for more than a week or two -- it seems totally believable to me that theaters would take time to differentiate between aspect ratios and make sure that their house was set up for 1.85:1 for this month's feature, even if last month's was 1.75:1. On the other hand, I can just as easily believe a projectionist or general manager saw the variety of aspect ratios, saw that they weren't too far off from each other, and just settled on a single ratio that best fit the room that they had and then set it and let it as that.

    I honestly wish studios exerted more power over theater chains than they do. To me, it makes no sense to spend $200 million producing a modern blockbuster, another $100 million or more promoting it, and then just sending out a digital file indifferently, where the theater is free to show it at the wrong aspect ratio or out of focus or with the projector bulb too dim, or the screen not matted properly. I don't get putting all of that effort into making the film and then letting the most important part of that -- how an audience gets to see the film -- be entirely in someone else's control. But I suppose that's the model we've settled upon.

    All of which is to say... I'm grateful for the research Bob does so that, at the very least, when I'm watching at home I can get as close to correct as possible.
     
  20. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    I noticed NETWORK in the UK released the horror film CAT GIRL in 4x3 and list it as being in the original theatrical aspect ratio, but how can that be when the picture was released in 1957?
     

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