unmatted vs. pan and scan

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Mike DB, Aug 20, 2003.

  1. Mike DB

    Mike DB Agent

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    I know this is a tired subject but I don't think this specific question has been covered:

    When a film is available in both letterbox and full frame on DVD, is there any way to tell whether the full frame is an unmatted version or a pan and scan version?

    To elaborate, in some film formats, the film's actual framing is letterboxed and widescreen even as it is shot. In these formats, the only way to derive "full screen" AR for video is to crop the image, i.e. pan and scan it.

    In other formats like 35mm (spherical lense?) the original film framing is actually more or less a full video frame AR and then it is matted to create a wide screen image for theatrical release. In these cases, generating the full frame for video is a simple matter of presenting it un-matted.

    So, to re-iterate: is there any rule or guideline to check in the specs that would tell us which way a film was created? If it was shot in a widescreen AR and then cropped for video full frame, or if it was shot unmatted and then cropped for theatrical? :b
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    The short answer is "no".

    A somewhat longer version would run like this: If you know the format of the original film, you can make an educated guess, but that's not something typically disclosed on the DVD cover. But if you know for certain that it was a "scope" film shot with anamorphic lenses, then you can be certain that a P&S version has major cropping. If, OTOH, you know for certain that the original film was shot unmatted with spherical lenses for 1.85:1 or 1.66:1 projection, then you can hope that a P&S transfer doesn't involve any significant cropping.

    MAJOR CAVEAT: There is a common and incorrect assumption that an "open matte" transfer of a film that was spherically shot involves no cropping. This is wrong. On a shot-by-shot basis, the transfer process may involve zoom-ins, tilts up or down, even some degree of panning. There can be all sorts of reasons -- hiding equipment that intruded into the safe area, hiding splices or damage to the film element, "artistic" judgment, simple mistake, etc. So just because a transfer is pronounced "open matte" doesn't mean it won't be cropped.

    And if I don't point this out, someone else surely will: Special effects shots are routinely hard-matted, and the images containing them are almost always cropped. If you want a great example, compare the P&S and widescreen versions of Death Becomes Her (you'll need the widescreen LD for the latter).

    And finally (because otherwise someone else will feel compelled to say this), open matte transfers, even if they involve no cropping, usually destroy the composition of the frame intended by the filmmakers. We don't like 'em. [​IMG]

    M.
     
  3. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Exactly as Michael said - I/We don't care if a non-OAR fullscreen is open-matte, Super 35, panned, scanned, sliced, diced or julliened, it is not the correct presentation (Kubrickian arguments aside). Therefore to distinguish between the two is moot and no, the fact that a viewer can "see more of the picture" is not a good thing.

     
  4. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Well, just to play devil's advocate for once, flat movies are usually a lot less painful to watch in "Foolscreen" format than ones shot 2.35. Still don't make it right though.
     
  5. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Jesse,

    That's like saying cutting off a finger is less painful than cutting off your arm. Whether it is true or not is not something I want to test myself. I stick to a hard, fast (and painless) rule . . . No AOR (oops, I mean OAR), No Sale. Seems to work for me!
     
  6. Andy_G

    Andy_G Stunt Coordinator

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    Is this the French acronym? [​IMG]
     
  7. Tony-B

    Tony-B Producer

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    AOR mateys! [​IMG]
     
  8. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The MPI and Miramax editions of A Hard Day's Night are like this.

    Both feature the same horizontal image, only that Miramax's version adds 1.66:1 matting.
     
  9. rob kilbride

    rob kilbride Supporting Actor

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    Real Name:
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  10. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    It's been a long day! So long that I typed AOR in two places!:b
     
  11. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    I was just watching the 'extras' on the DareDevil DVD and you can see how the montior is overlayed with a 2.35:1 box and a 3:4. This way the director can shoot both versions at the same time.

    Although the FX sequences would have to be P&S'ed, but at least most of the movie won't suffer too much.
     
  12. AlanBrom

    AlanBrom Second Unit

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    Michael, thanks for the great information. I learned about "hard matting" effects shots from the film AT THE EARTH'S CORE. I once saw an open matte presentation that had hard-matted bars in some effects shots (ah, if you want to call them effects) and the rest was open matte, full frame. MGM's disc is correctly 1.85:1. The letterboxing of open matte lensed films seems to cause so much controversry on these forums, but I stand behind OAR no matter what.
     
  13. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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  14. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Whenever the open matte version of "The Money Pit" is on tv, I LOVE the part when Shelly Long opens the dumb waiter and you can see the hand throw the fake raccoon at her [​IMG]

    And of course, the famous scene in "A Fish Called Wanda" where John C. is supposed to be naked, but you can see he is wearing shorts.
     
  15. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    Michael Reuben's right -- there's no way to tell from the box.

    And I'll give you a perfect example of how even full open matte can ruin a shot.

    Though I never buy just a full frame DVD (unless there's no other choice), there have been a couple movie titles that I'm really gaga about that I have purchased in both widescreen and full frame. I love them so much that I even want to know what did NOT make it into the frame.

    Chicago: The end of the "Roxie" number, my favorite part of the movie. In the theatrical version (meaning, 1.85 version), the song ends with the spotlight going out and the screen going completely black.

    But in the full frame version, the spotlight goes out, but only Roxie disappears -- the glowing red heart she's leaning against, which was below frame in the theatrical matting, is left DANGLING THERE IN THE AIR! Looks completely stupid and totally ruins the shot.

    And most of what's on there is not really FULL frame -- the sides are slightly cropped off to about 1.66 in any shot that has lighting from above (most of them), with all the additional picture information at the bottom of the frame.

    I'd go for the widescreen version, MikeDB, unless, like me, you're buying the FF as a curiosity.

    And remember... someday we're all going to have widescreen sets, and then the full frame DVDs will have black bars on the SIDES.
     
  16. Jeff Jacobson

    Jeff Jacobson Cinematographer

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    On the DVD commentary for this movie, it sounded as if this scene had been digitally altered to remove the chain error. So this error may have originally been in the widescreen version, too.

    I heard about (but haven't seen) an LD of The Muppet Movie which was open-matte, leaving the "muppeteers" visible.
     
  17. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    How disturbing! Can you imagine showing the film to your son or daughter and having them ask uncomfortable questions about why Kermit has a hand up his nether regions? Ouch!

    "It's important to begin having screenings for prostate cancer at an early age, honey."
     
  18. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    To add another comparison of open matte.

    In the new, letterboxed VACATION DVD, released Tuesday, Beverly D'Angelo's toplessness is cut out.
     
  19. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Jon, they did the same with "Revenge of the Nerds" (i.e. the Shower scene).

    Nothing worse than Zooming on top of P&S'ing [​IMG]
     
  20. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Pee-Wee's Big Adventure's problems are solved simply by matting. When they filmed the "visible trick" scenes, they put that stuff BELOW the area that wouldn't be matted. When the mattes are there, they aren't seen. When the mattes are not added, you see a visible trick. I know one transfer of the film in 1.33:1 zooms in on those scenes to hide the tricks at the bottom of the frame.

    Matting is our friend...matting goooooood!
     

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