How can companies not know if a show is cut or not?

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Mark To, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. Mark To

    Mark To Supporting Actor

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    This whole quagmire that seems to be developing with companies (not the studios themselves) releasing shows just has me puzzled. I find it difficult to believe the explanations given of "we didn't know". Kind of sounds the same to me as the baseball players who took steriods saying they thought it was flackseed oil. I mean, c'mon. Rhino didn't know that a half hour show in 1980 didn't run 22 minutes? They didn't get suspicious when they first put out 4 episodes of My Favorite Martian with 3 of them running 25:30 and one running 22? Or Image with I Spy? It didn't seem strange to them that some episodes are 51:20 while others are shorter? Seems to me that they either A) Don't know a heck of a lot about television or B) They hope no one will notice these things. Either way, not a good thing. It's nice that Rhino listens and tries to rectify the problems but who is running their DVD department that doesn't recognize the problem to begin with? How about the concept of, if you don't know something, ask and not wait until it's done wrong and people complain? Just mind-boggling to me.
     
  2. Alex-A

    Alex-A Stunt Coordinator

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    It's been proven many times that the people in charge really don't know what they're doing. Its a shame yes, but the sad truth is that companies just want to make money, few are actually willing to hire people who have some prior knowledge dealing with the product they want to release...
     
  3. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]

    I agree with everything you have said. But I think the problem is that they get the first and most recently made master and assume it is complete. Seeing how it is more expensive to remaster a whole TV show (collectively as a series, not individual episodes) than one movie. Frankly, I can wait a little while longer while things are done right.

    It never ceases to amaze me the lack of basic knowledge about these things. Considering the passion of people like George Feltenstein at Warner for classic movies, why is there no one like him for TV shows?

    Lion's Gate is the perfect example of corporate hubris. They release cut episodes of ALF season 1, insist they were of better quality, force TVshowsondvd.com to remove their explanation, refuse to address complaints adequately, and continue on their merry arrogant way with season 2.

    And with Sony, who get uncut shows in most cases, you can't even contact them!

    I read about how Lucille Ball, in her later years, would watch reruns of "I Love Lucy" and yell at the TV when something was cut. She was extremely angry that they took scenes out (often rendering some episodes incoherent and disjointed), and, since she and Desi Arnaz sold their interest in the rights to CBS, she was powerless to do anything about it. Luckily, Gregg Oppenheimer, son of creator Jess Oppenheimer is going to great lengths to present the show on TV uncut and beautifully remastered.

    But I don't seem to see the passion for proper presentation among producers of any other shows except The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Simpsons (I know their are others, but I can't remember off hand).

    Did Norman Lear complain when a cut episode showed up on Sanford and Son: S2? Did Susan Harris do anything about the cuts on Soap: S1 or the sound issues on The Golden Girls: S1? Worse yet, Paul Fusco blithely allowed the cut episodes of ALF to show up on DVD.

    If the studios are reading this, let me just say that a little research can help greatly in this case. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
     
  4. Gord Lacey

    Gord Lacey Cinematographer

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    They didn't force us to remove it (no one can force us to do anything), but they promised a good explanation which turned out to be pretty freakin' lame. I removed it based on the promise of the explanation, and ended up looking foolish for doing so. Lesson learned.

    I don't understand a lot of what Lions Gate does, which is a shame because they have some decent content.

    I think there's a lot of assumptions made at the studios. People assume that the label on the tape is correctly labeled. If a show is shorter than others then they assume it was a shorter episode. Since I've started logging the lengths of each episode in my reviews I've noticed a few episodes which appear shorter than the others, but I don't have the "original" episode to compare to, so I have no idea if something is missing. It's good to have people like Mark around who are die-hard TV fanatics, but Mark can only get involved AFTER the show is released.

    I forget where I saw it, but someone (it may have been Mark) posted the typical running times for network shows over the years. Does anyone remember where that was?

    Gord
     
  5. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thanks for a well written post Mark.

    This stuff is not rocket science. Anyone in the home video business should have access to what a typical running time was for either that particular show or a show from that era. It should not be difficult to check the length of the material against the standard.

    Steve
     
  6. Deb Walsh

    Deb Walsh Stunt Coordinator

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    I can see where there would easily be confusion about the running time on episodes - take a look at Deadwood on HBO, which may have a 52 minute episode one week, and a 57 minute episode the next week. Was that 52 minute episode cut or time compressed? No, it just ran shorter. CBS shows are even weirder - some run about 45 minutes with the teaser, tag and coming attractions. Others, like CSI:NY, run 40 to 42 minutes all combined. Is this a new phenomenon, or one that's been around for a long time? Has anyone ever really examined the question before, I wonder.

    That said, if I have to choose between slightly lesser video quality for uncut material, and perfect video quality but a cut source, I'd prefer uncut. I know that in trading circles, I appear to be in the minority, since more people seem to prefer the cut-but-perfect video to the uncut-but-good video. Perhaps the same can be said of the average consumer ...
     
  7. Gord Lacey

    Gord Lacey Cinematographer

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    Deb, HBO shows don't really count for the time constraints since they can do whatever they want on that channel. It used to drive me crazy when I would record an HBO show only to discover it ran long and I missed part of the episode (luckily I could always catch it later).

    I think it must be pretty difficult to be a drama writer these days because you have a shorter amount of time to tell your story. I recently reviewed Kojak, and those episodes were running somewhere around 50 minutes, and now episodes run around 42 minutes. Pretty sad.

    Gord
     
  8. Mark To

    Mark To Supporting Actor

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    I'm with you Deb. I've held off on transferring The Invaders, thinking at some point someone will realize that it's SciFi and SciFi sells. But in the event I have to transfer them from videotape, I will go off my PBS recorded complete versions, even though they are from crappy, faded old 16mm prints rather than the 45:30 versions that looked beautiful on SciFi channel (not to mention having the bug on the screen the whole episode). I had to make the same call on The Immortal. I had 11 of the 15 from AFN which ran old 16's, but they were complete and bug free.
    As for running times, I can only speak for shows that are not from the "modern" era, as they are 99% of what I care about. I think they tended to run a uniform length, at least in each season, although there may have been a slight difference season to season. I also don't think each network had the same exact running time. For the most part, shows from the early to mid fifties tended to run about 26:30. From the mid fifties to early sixties, 26:00, and then from the early sixties to mid seventies, 25:30. These are all give or take a few seconds. My Batmans come in at about 25:15 or so. Hour shows, anywhere from 52:00 to 50:00, depending on the show and the network. The only hard and fast rule is if you see a show, like Too Close for Comfort, from 1980, it sure isn't complete at 22:00. Network series didn't run at that length until the late 90s.
     
  9. JeffWld

    JeffWld Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm wondering to what extent there is discussion about the state/condition of the show's elements prior to financial agreements about a given DVD release.

    It almost appears as if Lion's Gate (for example) went through all the hoops to acquire DVD rights, finalize licensing costs, distribution costs etc. without ever inquiring about the state of the program elements to be used. It seems (I'm speculating) that it isn't until long after the wheels are in motion that it is "discovered" that flawed/edited elements were provided. By then, it's too late to do anything since retreiving replacement/corrected elements would alter the bugeted project costs.

    Is it unreasonable to think that companies negotiating DVD rights would have checklists up front before projecting the viability of a given property?
     
  10. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Screenwriter

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    What's sad is when a lesser quality complete master is found, and a better quality cut one is as well, that they don't EDIT THE BEST SHOTS FROM EACH into a new master. So much of DVD production is "grab it from the shelf and let's go", which is a shame.
     
  11. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    I can see this from two perspective's: the consumer (me) and the studios.

    On the consumer side, I will not buy any show that is cut, chopped, sliced and/or diced in any way, shape or form. This includes "new music" even if the producer's hand-picked it. I had the first season of Dawson's Creek and was ready to keep going until I found out subsequent years would not have original music. Sold off the set I had and didn't even look at the following years. I will not support any release that is not complete. Heck, some series are even ADDING footage, not taking it away (Farscape and Friends).

    However, as a studio, I would have to justify taking the extra time, money and effort to track down the original masters of any episode I thought was incomplete. Add into that the research time to see if anything is missing and you're probably looking at a small fortune. Chances are on releases like ALF and Too Close for Comfort, you're not going to make that amount back to turn a profit.

    Add to that the portion of DVD buyers who read this board, TVSoD and are saavy about this kind of thing are very few. Joe Six Pack isn't going to notice because it's what he's been seeing in syndication for years. He's still going to buy it and that money is still going to go to the studio.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not condoning cut episodes and whatnot; I can just see it from both sides. It's especially hard for the fans who know something isn't right when they pop the disc in the player. To buy or not to buy...
     
  12. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    The reason shows were longer is because there were legal limits on the amount of commercial time in prime time.

    As for proper length, here's a guide to decade-by-decade lengths, judging from the shows I have seen in their uncut form:

    1950s:
    half-hour shows: 25:30—26:30
    hour shows: 52:00—53:00

    1960s:
    half-hour shows: 25:00—26:00
    hour shows: 50:00—52:00

    early 1970s:
    half-hour shows: same as before
    hour shows: 49:00—51:00

    mid-late 1970s/early-mid 80s:
    half-hour shows: 24:30—25:30
    hour shows: 48:30—51:00

    late 1980s (the beginning of the end, IMO):
    half-hour shows: 23:30—24:30
    hour shows: 47:30—49:00

    early 1990s:
    half-hour shows: 22:30-23:30
    hour shows: 46:30—48:00

    mid 1990s:
    half-hour shows: 22:00—23:00
    hour shows: 45:30—47:00

    late 1990s:
    half-hour shows: 21:30—22:30
    hour shows: 44:00—46:00

    today:
    half-hour shows: 21:00—22:30
    hour shows: 42:00—44:00

    Half-hour shows that aired at half-past the hour may have been shorter than the top-of-the-hour shows due to news breaks (at least that's the case with the CBS airings of One Day at a Time in 1980/1981).

    Jason, would Joe Six Pack (a term whose usefulness has dried up, as far as I am concerned) not buy a set if it was uncut?

    Looking for the proper length is as simple as going back and looking at ALL available elements on the shows, and comparing the lengths to what the standard was on the years it was made. This isn't like raising the Titanic.
     
  13. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    The meaning was the average consumer who is not interested in things like extras, picture quality or snapper vs. keepcase will buy the set no matter what. It's the hardcore folks, like us, who notice and make the noise.
     
  14. BrianEX

    BrianEX Auditioning

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    So, it's basically like the wisescreen vs. pan & scan debate. Most people don't realize that they're missing something, and it takes some work to convince them that edited TV shows on DVD are a bad thing.

    As long as we keep reporting changes and making certain that people can easily find that information, then they will eventually learn and demand better.

    I know my experiences with informing people haven't always turned out well, but I still try. Most people claim that I should be grateful that a series has come out on DVD at all or say that I am being unreasonable by expecting rights holders to do some basic research and correct any mistakes.
     
  15. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    "Most people claim that I should be grateful that a series has come out on DVD at all or say that I am being unreasonable by expecting rights holders to do some basic research and correct any mistakes."

    I'm not saying that you're right or wrong but (I assume) you're paraphrasing people on this board or one like it. So how much do you think the average person that wants to see ALF for nostalgic reasons is gonna care if it's edited when some HT faithful don't care?
     
  16. Mark To

    Mark To Supporting Actor

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    The whole point of buying something is to get it in a form you can't get otherwise, i.e., complete with no bugs. Even Joe sixpack I don't think wants to buy something if he knows he's getting it edited, the same way he can watch it off air.



    Read what you just said. A lesser quality master? Do you know how preposterous that is? Copies and dubs can't be lesser quality than the master. Go take a tape and dub it down 2 or 3 times then tell me if your 3rd generation dub is better than your master. That was just some bullshit reason offered up by some company that was too lazy to run the shows off the original tapes. Real explanation: this is what we already have on Beta SP. It's too much trouble and we're too cheap to locate a 1-inch machine and go off the original source so we'll just use what we have. Simple. But don't for one second thing a master would be worse quality than a dub. Impossible.
     
  17. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Screenwriter

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    Not the original master, no. But what if all they have is a mulitgenerational dub of the uncut master, or the uncut master was damaged sometime after the cut version was made? A master could have been run too many times and be full of dropouts. A master could have been creased by a faulty pinch roller in a tape deck. A master could have been chewed up by a deck or just plain missing and the only copy of the uncut episode that's usable is a dub.

    I agree there is laziness and bullshit and "well, here it is on Beta SP, so..." minsets at work here. And yes, any analog copy of something is by definition a generation worse in quality than its master. But a lot can happen to that master over the years.
     
  18. JeffWld

    JeffWld Stunt Coordinator

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    In the case of ALF, this situation is virtually impossible.When ALF was produced, an edited master was prepared for NBC. 4 copies of this complete edited master were sent to NBC (2 for East Coast, 2 for West Coast). In addition, a "protection master" is always made for storage at Lorimar.

    Additional copies of the edited master were also made for use at Compact Video Satellite which uplinked the master to Canada each week for Canadian stations who had purchased the show. Once uplinked, these tapes were returned to Lorimar to be used for future international sales.

    In other words, there were at minimum, 8 copies of the edited master for each episode generated and eventually returned to Lorimar for storage. It is impossible to believe that Lorimar subsequently destroyed/erased/reused these copies and left themselves with only 1 single precious master that has now been deemed unusable as a source element. The bottom line: Lion's Gate was too lazy to acquire and hook up a 1" machine.
     
  19. BrianEX

    BrianEX Auditioning

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    It was actually alt.toys.transformers, and the posts were discussing Rhino Home Video's inattention to detail and deliberate changes when releasing the first two seasons of Transformers on DVD.

    Most people probably don't notice when a TV series is edited, which is why it's important that we provide that information. Ultimately, they need to make their own decisions, but I would hope that the poor editing some series have been subjected to would convince them that the original version is more desireable.

    After a studio releases an edited version of a series, particularly ones with smaller audiences or large episode counts, there is much less incentive for them to release a new, unedited version.
     
  20. Hank E

    Hank E Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm glad there was mention of the inconsistant running times for shows. I'm worried that people are screaming "3 episodes on this set are uncut!" when they actually aren't.

    Since I got a DVD recorder I've been paying attention to running times for the shows I'm recording and some of them have some noticable differences. "Numbers" usually runs 42-43 minutes, but one week it actually clocked in at 39 minutes!

    I'm hoping all you guys will have actual proof of scenes cut from shows in the future and not yell "cut episode!" just because the running time is shorter. Don't want to be as sloppy and ignorant as the studios, do we?? [​IMG]
     

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