"Fake" widescreen?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Derek Miner, Nov 2, 2006.

  1. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    I wanted to drop by this forum and present an examination of the framing of the Beatles' animated film Yellow Submarine that I posted elsewhere.

    The reason I went to all the trouble was that I had seen some people claiming that the DVD release of the film in widescreen was wrong and that the film was intended to be seen in a 1.33 (or 1.37) to 1 aspect ratio. I know that people here would have opinions on such things, so here's my analysis.

    As a preface, my argument is based on the idea that just because a full frame of 35mm film is exposed, that does not mean it was meant to be seen in a theater. Here's an example of what I mean.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    On the left is a frame from A Fish Called Wanda, letterboxed to present the film as it would be shown in a theater. In this scene, John Cleese is supposed to be standing naked in front of the people. As you can see on the right, the scene was filmed with Cleese wearing pants. It should be obvious, however, that the director (and cinematographer) would never intend you see the pants, because it ruins the joke. Movies have been shot like this - with the intent of only the center portion being seen - since the mid 1950s. While this change was not instantly adopted, I would think by 1968, when Yellow Submarine was released, the practice would be standard.

    To see exactly what is lost by "matting" the top and bottom of Yellow Submarine, I decided to compare a "full frame" version from the 1980s laserdisc to the letterboxed DVD transfer.

    First, I grabbed a section of each version of the movie (approx 8 min., or about 1/10 of the film) from the "Sea of Time" sequence through the end of "Only A Northern Song." I loaded these clips into Final Cut Pro. I cropped the black bars off the DVD clip and laid the laserdisc video underneath.

    For the sake of this sample, I am assuming the DVD accurately represents the full width of the original film image.

    Immediately I realized the laserdisc transfer showed less image width than the DVD, so I shrunk it down to match the DVD. I lined up the two as closely as possible without altering other dimensions of the image - there are skewing issues with the laserdisc transfer, particularly on the left side, so that part did not line up exactly.

    [​IMG]

    As I looked through my sequence, I noticed that the size of the laserdisc video was not constant. In a few sections, I needed to adjust the laserdisc clip to be SMALLER, which means that the old video actually showed LESS of the full film image in those sections.

    Here's an example of this during "When I'm 64"

    The full image represents a 35mm frame. The DVD image is in the center, taking up 80% of the height. The blue box outline represents the section of the frame shown on the laserdisc.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    On the left, you can see a frame that shows the most common framing of the laserdisc compared to the full film frame. In the center, however, you can see that in the next shot of the film, the laserdisc framing was adjusted (the image was enlarged). This is actually common for films transferred to video in "full-frame" versions. The picture will be enlarged then moved up or down to avoid showing something such as a boom microphone (or, if "A Fish Called Wanda" had been done properly, they could have avoided showing John Cleese's pants).

    What this tells me is that in this section of the film, the image was manipulated to crop out something either at the top or bottom of the frame. This had to be done for a reason, because as the right image shows, more of the artwork is being lost on the side than if the framing had stayed the same as in the previous shot. Also, the word "let" in the center image is much too close to the edge of the laserdisc frame. On many television sets, that letter would probably never be seen. Again, there has to be something objectionable on the top or bottom of the frame that would warrant such a compromise.

    Well, what kind of objectionable thing would be seen in the fringe of the full frame image? How about this one that was missed:

    [​IMG]

    In this scene on the laserdisc, several frames show missing sections of Ringo's arm and shirt. I can't imagine they would have photographed the frame like this unless someone KNEW it wouldn't be seen in theaters.

    Here's another example of something that I doubt the filmmakers intended to be noticed:

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    These are three consecutive positions of the submarine. Notice that the middle and right ones are not too different. It's not even seen in the first frame. You would think if that top portion of the frame was supposed to be seen, they would have animated the sub up there in the first frame, otherwise it appears to "pop" on the screen. If matted to widescreen, the "pop" isn't as noticable.

    It's also interesting to note that of all the captures I've done, this sequence shows the most of the entire original frame.

    Again, if we really were supposed to see the whole 4:3 frame, why would they have to reposition the video version at various points in the movie?

    And keep in mind I only viewed about 10 percent of the movie.There could be other errors that slipped through the original laserdisc transfer, and there are likely other sections where the image was enlarged to crop out errors.

    For these reasons, I fully believe Yellow Submarine was intended to be viewed in a 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio.


    After this, I was referred to a similar presentation at:
    http://www.fab4art.com/New%20pages/9968.htm

    And I responded to a couple claims from that site:

    From the site:
    This is also wrong, unless I'm misinterpreting the comment. Nothing was sacrificed for the new DVD release. It has since been chronicled that following the London premiere of the film, animators were brought back to rework the ending of the film, which also included significant changes to "All You Need Is Love," also not mentioned by the fab4art site. The restoration of the film was done from original negatives. It is likely that earlier video releases were done from an element sent to the USA for making prints there (which would have contained the changes made following the London premiere).

    Just to wrap up my thoughts...

    I can respect that people might prefer a 4:3 image that allows extra artwork to be seen. I went into this merely to counter the claim that somehow we've been defrauded because Yellow Submarine has been made into a widescreen movie when it wasn't meant to be. My experience as a film buff tells me that a theatrical film in 1968 would be intended to be shown matted to widescreen and that there may be visual material on that frame that was not meant to be seen. My technical background tells me that when images are repositioned for TV, something's being cropped out that you are not supposed to see. I don't like seeing someone claim that making a matted widescreen version of this movie is an "art-crime" (in the words of fab4art.com) when there are some valid reasons to believe that it was fully intended to be presented that way.
     
  2. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    Good job. This is an issue that just rears its ugly head time and time again.

    Before anyone else inaugurates this thread, I'll let you know something: you're totall right on just about every point, but sadly, there will be those that you will never convince otherwise. They've seen these films for years the way they've seen it on the TeeVee, and no scrap of photographic or documentary evidence will prove it to them otherwise.

    Or, it's "not an important enough film" to be presented correctly, in the aspect ratio that the filmmaker's intended.

    Or, "it's ok because you're not losing anything!"

    Yeah, just about every movie gets that at one point or another. Just a word to the wise before this thing takes off.
     
  3. Ira Siegel

    Ira Siegel Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Derek, I take issue with the use of A FISH CALLED WANDA as the poster-child for the perils of open-matte transfer. If imdb is correct, that movie has errors in any aspect ratio:
    and my post above is being edited accordingly.
     
  4. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    Isn't it possible that the person who entered those goofs was looking at the unmatted video release of the film?
     
  5. Ira Siegel

    Ira Siegel Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Jack, Maybe. However, note the lack of qualifying commentary on the other goofs, but when the jeans for nude goof is mentioned on the imdb page, there is a qualification which limits the goof to the open-matte version:
     
  6. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    That's the irony here. With my particular example of Yellow Submarine, I'm dealing with people who think an important film has been marred by some crass commercial desire to sell widescreen. Believe me, if I had enough reason to believe this film should have been in Academy ratio, I'd side with them.

    The debate also applies to the Miramax DVD of A Hard Day's Night, but I can't really point to any conclusive evidence 1.66 is the right ratio for that.

    BTW, in reference to my choice of the scene from A Fish Called Wanda...
    This was the only definitive example I could find last night to illustrate my point. I really wanted the bike chain shot from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, but my DVD has gone missing (plus I head they corrected that framing on the "full screen" presentation)... I couldn't find a picture of that shot online either.

    Also, I'm not trying to slight Wanda for "bad open-matte composition." Who says filmmakers are required to have good open-matte composition unless they are shooting 4:3 intentionally?
     
  7. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    This thread isn't really about fake widescreen, which does exist. The original disk of The Searchers seemed to use about 50% of the available picture, cropping it on all 4 sides.

    And the original disk of Ben Hur used a 'scope print of 2.35:1 and chopped it top and bottom even further to make it 2.75:1.

    Ratios may be somewhat malleable, but they should be done with care.

    Personally, I might advocate opening the matte on all 1.85:1 movies, to make them 1.77:1, an exact 16:9. Note, I would never advocate cropping of any theatrical ratios, simply opening up top and bottom slightly.

    1.66:1 ratios are more complicated.
     
  8. SilverWook

    SilverWook Cinematographer

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    Many people first experienced this film on tv growing up. (Myself included.) So naturally shots like the tombstone in "Elanor Rigby" look chopped. We're noticing less information as opposed to seeing more if it had been a scope film. If the next release had both versions (like the new Transformers movie DVD) everybody would be happy.
    I personally think Weird Al's movie "UHF" looks overcropped on DVD. And the flip side isn't open matte, it's zoomed in to allow the commentary track sight gag to work.
     
  9. Ira Siegel

    Ira Siegel Stunt Coordinator

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    and my post above is being edited accordingly.
     
  10. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    Taking a quick look at UHF, I do notice some image missing on the sides of the full-screen version, but there is also more picture on the bottom. As I mentioned with Yellow Submarine, the amount of the filmed frame visible probably varies from scene to scene. I'm guessing they decided to keep the top of the frame fairly consistent with the 1.85 version, since an unaltered open matte version would have an awful lot of headroom.
     
  11. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Isn't it speculated that Yellow Submarine is merely cropped from a fullscreen transfer? It looks pretty awful on the DVD (really soft image and a ton of edge enhancement), so maybe MGM didn't want to shell out for two transfers.
     
  12. MielR

    MielR Advanced Member

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    My understanding is that there was a brief sequence that the animators came back to do for the American release, in order to fill in the space where the "hey bulldog" scene was. (The bulldog scene, for some reason, was cut from the American release). The DVD omits that sequence, and replaces it with the original bulldog scene, which was never seen in the US prior to the restored VHS/DVD release.

    Great job with the captures! [​IMG] You really make the case that just because a widescreen version of a film is cropped differently than the pan-and-scan version, it doesn't automatically make it "wrong".
     
  13. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    FWIW, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT has "Run at 1.75:1" printed into the leaders. That's pretty conclusive evidence to me, but there are people who will even contest that!

    Zooming in on a 1.37 image that is meant for 1.85 is pretty common, particularly when the film is hard matted. This is a constant irritation to me, as you lose side information, too!
     
  14. Mattias_ka

    Mattias_ka Supporting Actor

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    Derek, nice thread. Btw, the 1999 LD release of Yellow Submarine is 1.66:1 as a understand. The DVD is also that?
     
  15. SilverWook

    SilverWook Cinematographer

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    It may not answer any questions, but I just got wind of a possible YS screening coming up next January. And I might just be able to go check it out. [​IMG]
     
  16. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Indeed, the point is OAR, and OAR is *not* always widescreen.

    Another film like this which has been botched on DVD is Koyaanistqatsi, which is really quite unfortunate, as it's such an important film and one of my all time favorites. While it did finally get the light of day on DVD (which is fantastic), it was cropped down to 16:9 which is a shame. I still have a VHS of it in 4:3 which looks terrible in comparison, but I would love to see a 4:3 of this DVD. Apparently there was a previous DVD in 4:3 available by donation of like $250 or something, but the more recent release by Miramax is 16:9. I watch the 16:9 version anyway, and it still retains its impact, but it still isn't the same.

    http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDCom...aanisqatsi.htm
     
  17. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    Yes, the DVD is non-anamorphic 1.66:1.
     
  18. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    Don't forget the sequence with Ringo looking up at the words on the door to the thrift shop. It's supposed to read

    WE
    BUY
    ANYTHING

    but the word "We" is sliced in half on the Miramax DVD. No way that was intended.

    As for YELLOW SUBMARINE -- on the DVD, there are times when the tops of characters' heads are cut off. I can't recall which song it is, but one of them uses an arc-rainbow with the Beatles standing atop it, and it brings them up and then down, like an escalator. You miss their heads when they go up "into" the matting, if I recall rightly.
     
  19. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Joe: Check the last few comments in this discussion of The Monkees film HEAD. They will explain to you what is wrong with these specific shots in the Beatle films.

    http://hometheaterforum.com/htf/showthread.php?t=257423

    In short: Correct ratio - Improperly framed telecine transfer.
     
  20. chas speed

    chas speed Second Unit

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    One easy solution to this problem would be to offer both versions on the dvd. I would also love to hear someone defend the letterboxing of 1.33 films like Evil Dead and Pink Flamingos. The director's were more then happy to sell out these films to make a extra buck on "letterbox" versions. There are also people naive enough to think that because it says "letterbox" that means that the video has been done at the correct aspect ratio when this is often not the case. There are plenty of hacks who work at movie studios who couldn't care less that they have matted way too much of the picture and know that the letterbox crowd seem to have a blind faith that everything has been done right. Remember MGM came very close to releasing many classic Ingmar Bergman films at a 1.85 letterbox when they were really shot at 1.33 (full frame). If many Bergman fans hadn't screamed bloody murder they would have got away with it. The dvd box would have said letterbox on it and I'm sure many people in the forum would have defended it.
     

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