Why do studios release pan and scan DVDs in 2007?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by PaulKTF, Aug 10, 2007.

  1. Pete York

    Pete York Supporting Actor

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    Joe, it has nothing to do with intelligence and I'm not sure why you think a preference for "films to be represented as complete as possible and with their full image, as intended by the original creators, intact" (as quoted in this forum's mission statement) is some kind of class warfare attack. I happen to agree with the above quoted statement, whereas at one time I wouldn't have thought twice about it. So naturally I feel its simply a matter of being informed.

    I think its a good question to ask; why are the studios themselves the biggest obstacles to their properties being seen as they were meant to? As Ray H posits, what percentage of the market are they losing if they only release a film in proper aspect ratio? Maybe they are actually creating a market that doesn't really exist, like I believe they do with colorized editions. What cost is it really to a studio to go OAR exclusive as opposed to significantly compromising a piece of work (or dare I risk calling it, art) over and over?

    As for why I care, when there are both versions available, it goes back to the HTF mission statement. If I agree with the statement, which I do, then I would obviously be against anything that is incompatible with it, such as pan and scan DVDs. Simple as that. I'm not tangibly hurt by their existence, its more the principle. New fullscreen releases continue to perpetuate the myth of getting more picture and distance us from having the "films be represented as complete as possible...".

    The bottom line is the consumer has already noted, with overwhelming authority, its preference for improved quality in the home viewing presentation (DVD>VHS). Doesn't it stand to follow that the same consumers, with knowledge in hand, would prefer OAR? The size of the screen is changing, widescreen editions already outsell their fullscreen brothers, so the OP stands. Why?
     
  2. PaulKTF

    PaulKTF Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes! I was going to follow up to my post but you've managed to sum up my reply much better than I could. Pan and Scan is a relic of the VHS days and it has no business in this day and age of DVDs.
     
  3. RickER

    RickER Producer

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    Ive said before, and it is worth repeating again. I know people who are doctors that buy P&S DVDs to watch on their widescreen sets. they stretch a pan and scan image to fit! So smart people are not in the know too!
     
  4. Alf S

    Alf S Cinematographer
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    Meh...that's just silly.

    The world will always have the PS crowd for years to come...I couldn't care less...I can get what I need (WS) and that's all that matters...lifes too short to still be worrying about this 1998 topic.
     
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    We just had a discussion in this week's Weekly RoundUp about why so many of the cheap deals each week at places like Circuit City and Best Buy involve ONLY the P&S versions of films which had two separate AR releases. The bottom line is stores are getting rid of excess inventory because 1.) retailers ordered too many of the P&S versions...or 2.) because noone is buying the MAR versions. It also seems that it is usually the P&S version of a two-release title which ends up in Wal-Mart's dump bins.

    It sure would be interesting to know which reason is correct.

    For those who were posting early-on in this thread...Widescreen Advocate is a great resource to use to help educate people on "why widescreen." I actually have one of WA's downloads printed up and posted on the door of my office at work. I can't tell you how many people I have converted after giving the simple explanation about OAR. [​IMG]
     
  6. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    But re-read the topic heading. I think it is a valid topic. I am surprised P&S still exists in '07. Fewer and fewer new releases are getting separate AR releases. It seems like MAR'd versions are ending up in overstock and dump bins.

    The question, I suspect, could only be answered by corporate suits with access to sales figures. There must be a reason that defies the various trends away from P&S.
     
  7. Steven Good

    Steven Good Second Unit

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    I have encountered countless people in retail stores' DVD sections over the years, and my conclusion is that these otherwise smart people have a lack of intelectual curiosity regarding this issue. They really have no awareness of the world around them. When asked what shape the screen is when they visit a movie theater, their eyes glaze over. They have stared at them for years, but have no idea what the shape is. When I say rectangular, while a standard analog TV screen is almost square, the eye glaze thickens. I think anything that glows on a TV screen is the same to them, just background noise, whether it is a low-brow sitcom or an Oscar-winning film. It doesn't matter to them...

    I take a dollar bill from my wallet and do the folding trick to demonstrate how panning and scanning takes the rectangular image and removes part of it, with a square portion remaining. Just when I think I'm making progress, I appeal to their wallet. I ask if they asked me to make change for a dollar bill and I only handed them 57 cents back, would they feel cheated. Yes. If they purchased what they thought was a two-hour movie and the disc stopped playing back after an hour, would they be mad that they were not able to see the entire movie. Yes. So... why would you want to see less than the entire film as it was shown in the theater?

    I hate those black bars....


    Does no one remember geometry from high school? Evidently not...

    I could rant on, but it just makes me sad.
     
  8. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Uh, they DIDN'T do separate pan & scan versions on DVD in 1997 and 1998- most discs had BOTH versions on the same disc if they could fit each one on a single-layer side or both on a dual-layer side (this was one of the most hyped features of the DVD format, that you'd be able to choose the format on EVERY movie), some movies just had one or the other, but by the end of 1999 most new releases were on dual-layer discs with ONLY the widescreen transfer, especially longer movies or ones that had a lot of bonus material. Wal-Mart then insisted that more pan & scan versions be available, as their uneducated customers were complaining about 'dem black bars'.

    The first movie to have a separate pan & scan release was "Patch Adams", that had a widescreen edition with extras for $34.99 and a pan & scan edition with no extras for $29.99 (which makes sense, since people who would choose pan & scan wouldn't care about extras anyways). A few months later they put out "The Mummy" in separate editions, this time both with extras at the same price. This didn't become commonplace for most new releases until around 2002 however. The BIGGEST mistake they made with these though was to label the pan & scan discs as "Full Screen", which of course makes no sense but undoubtedly further confuses and misleads the people who don't understand. They should have clearly labeled them as "Pan & scan" or "Formatted to fit 4x3 screens".

    Assuming pan & scan transfers were going to be available at all, I thought it was best that they be included on the same disc with the widescreen versions so that there wouldn't be any confusion over which version to buy, and those who preferred pan & scan could have it and still be able to watch the correct version once they came around. The market then wouldn't be flooded with hundreds of unsold "fullscreen" DVDs either. It was hoped that 2-sided dual layer discs (DVD-18s) would be more commonplace by now, but sadly it looks like they've been given a bad name with all the defective ones that were manufactured in Mexico, mostly of Universal titles, and I've never understood why 2-sided discs can't have better printing on them (most current 2-sided discs have NOTHING printed on side 2, which is just insane!!)

    Another solution though is to have the player crop the movie, which can sort of be done now. Most new players have a zoom function, and I have a Pioneer with modified firmware that, among other things, will crop EVERY anamorphic disc to 4x3, including all the ones that aren't flagged for auto pan-and-scan. Of course 2.35 movies are only partially cropped, but the user can then use the zoom control if they so desire. I've seen some players advertised with a "letter-box eliminator" which I assume also does this. Many widescreen TVs offer options for cropping as well, so hopefully nobody will find it necessary to do a "full screen" 16x9 pan & scan disc of a 2.35 movie, or a vertically cropped transfer of a 4x3 'academy' ratio movie, though I've heard they already do this on cable.

    I've been debating the merits of letterboxing or whatever you want to call it since the late 1980s, and am amazed that there are still people who would rather have pan & scan. I wish that VHS had stayed in production for them, or at least have more DVD players that can crop the movie automatically without the need for a separate transfer, ESPECIALLY on a separate disc!
     
  9. RickER

    RickER Producer

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    Steven, i have done the same thing with the same results. I have converted a few, but most dont care. My kids dont even care. My son has 2 of The Lord of the Rings in widescreen and one in fullscreen. Course i have my own copies, in widescreen. I dont watch TV just to kill time. Its not even on unless we have something we want to watch, and we dont watch much network or commercial TV (but thats another subject). I watch to be entertained, thrilled, challenged, and of course to see a fantasy life i wouldnt, or couldnt live. I dont like to watch just to be a zombie, thats why i have the internet! [​IMG]
    So, to answer Alf's post i dont worry about it. I will sleep well tonight. But i get to see more than the pan and scan people get to!
     
  10. chas speed

    chas speed Second Unit

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    It's probably worth noting that not all full frame release of films 40 or 50 years or older (1950-present) are pan and scan. Many of these film were shot with an open matte and there would be no pan or scanning on them. One stupid release that is bugging me is McKenna's Gold. A real widescreen epic that first came out with full frame on one side and widescreen on the other then the studio released all future discs full frame only. Really annoying. I rented it out on Netflix twice and got nothing but full frame. If they want to release full frame discs do it on a title like "The Kids are Alright". That film is made up of almost nothing but tv footage. I can't imagine anyone dumb enough to want to see that film letterboxed.
     
  11. JustinCleveland

    JustinCleveland Cinematographer

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    I just started selling TVs at Circuit City and am amazed by the amount of people who simply do not know the difference. I have to explain how standard definition television differs from high definition. The simple fact is there is still a market for MAR product because of a willful ignorance, one which I hope to see eliminated along with the lessening amount of 4:3 TVs.
     
  12. Elphaba

    Elphaba Stunt Coordinator

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    It isn't really level of intelligence as it is level of knowledge and degree of involvement.

    We're enthusiasts. To many of us, this is both an issue of artistic integrity and of replicating the theater experience.

    Most people simply don't care about these issues as much as we do.

    They lack the knowledge of the various aspect ratios involved, and look at movies as a variant form of TV, as disposable entertainment rather than as a durable art form. As such, as long as it's reasonably entertaining to them, whether it accurately reflects the director and cinematographer's original artistic vision is irrelevant.

    There's also the home theater aspect of things. For non-enthusiasts, it's about watching movies, not creating an effect. A pan 'n' scan version is fine because it's what they're used to as part of the tv watching experience. They don't feel a need to differentiate between watching a TV show and the theatrical experience.

    And, as I mentioned, it's familiar. Most people watch far more TV than they do movies, and most TV shows are 4:3 to fill the screen. They're used to this, so they expect it.

    To try to understand, because I know it can be difficult to climb into another person's shoes when it's blatantly obvious to you that OAR is better in several ways, let's look at something outside this issue.

    Roller coasters.

    There are people who are just as enthusiastic about riding roller coasters and the artistry that's involved in creating a good one as HT people are about movies. They see a well-constructed coaster as a work of art, especially when it's both physically beautiful to look at and provides a great ride. They'll scoff at things most people never think about, don't care about, and it often seems silly to those not so heavily invested in the hobby. They have shorthand for things that get discussed frequently, know the names of the various types of coasters and the elements used in them, know statistics for the major parks and coaster, keep checklists of the coasters they've ridden and the number of times they've ridden them (sounds familiar, doesn't it?).

    For example, if you have a Six Flags park nearby, there's a good chance it has a Batman coaster. This coaster is going to be identical to every other Batman: The Ride coaster at every Six Flags park, because it's been cloned again and again. It's a successful formula, so why not reuse it?

    If you're visiting your local park for the day, you probably don't care that your Batman coaster is a clone and doesn't offer anything new--you haven't ridden the others and probably never will. To an enthusiast, cloning can be akin to evil, because they want new and different, something unique to the park, and travel to find these rides.

    But the average park goer doesn't care. It just isn't an issue because all they care about is whether their visit to their park is fun.

    Think about that for a moment, those of you who aren't enthusiasts. Doesn't it seem a bit silly to be critical to the point of outrage that a newly built roller coaster is a copy of one in another park?

    That's how a lot of the general public thinks of things like OAR.

    As long as their visit with a particular movie entertains them, they don't care that the artistry of the form has been compromised--it's about what entertains them, occupies their time and attention for a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable price.

    I'd bet most of the people who watched it didn't care about any of those things. They

    The art simply doesn't matter to most people. If it's entertaining, they're satisfied.

    I say this not to defend pan 'n' scan, but as a way of trying to understand. I'm an OAR enthusiast myself. I don't buy chopped up movies, don't rent them, and I find it despairing to find only a PNS version on the racks, but I do understand why people tolerate and watch them. I want my OAR, with no edge enhancement, as close to the original intent as possible. This stuff is important to me.

    Not everyone has the knowledge to know better, and most simply to care enough to get it.

    That said, of course it's partly the demand driving the supply, but it works the other way as well. The Harry Potter books didn't become a big hit in the US in bookstores--they first captured the imagination of children by selling through Scholastic book orders in schools at a steep discount. Their availability through the right channel helped initial market penetration. The same thing is happening with Bone trade paperbacks right now. Go into a book megastore and you'll see cases and cases of manga, and perhaps one shelf of American comic trades. This didn't happen by accident. The main buyer of comics for Barnes and Noble roughly a decade ago was a manga fan, and started ordering them for the stores. Kids browsing in the stores found them, loved them, and they sell in the millions now. Sure, the product had to actually appeal to an audience, but it had to be available to them first for them to start buying it.

    Marketing decisions influence taste and demand. Demand influences product distribution. It works both ways.

    As long as I get my OAR--I used to watch OAR VHS tapes on a 20" CRT and would get excited at a widescreen showing of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or Guys and Dolls on AMC, so I've been doing this for awhile--as long as I get the version I prefer, it's fine with me if the people who don't understand or don't care get the butchered version.
     
  13. mdnitoil

    mdnitoil Supporting Actor

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    The irony of all this is the connection of this topic to the adoption of hi-def. As long as folks are buying these disks in any kind of volume, you can delay the widespread adoption of hi-def. I suppose it's some consolation that this will eventually die off as the old TVs hit the junkyard, but that could take a while.
     
  14. Jeff Jacobson

    Jeff Jacobson Cinematographer

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  15. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    It will not die off, it will just evolve (or degenerate) into cropping 4x3 and 2.4:1 material to 16x9.
     
  16. Stephen J*

    Stephen J* Stunt Coordinator

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    Six Flags is losing money...they're the Fullscreen of Theme Parks!
     
  17. Tarkin The Ewok

    Tarkin The Ewok Supporting Actor

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    Having P&S versions available can sometimes hurt the OAR consumer. Just today, I was shopping at Best Buy and happened to see Cars on the shelf. I'd been meaning to buy it, so I looked through the four copies on the shelf. All of them were P&S. What are the odds that whoever is in charge of inventory thought they had plenty left and didn't need to reorder, even though they had zero widescreen copies in the store?
     
  18. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Pretty much zero, since major retailers like Best Buy don't depend on people wandering down the ailes and doing visual checks to figure out what needs to be reorderd. Their inventory system is computerized, based on SKU numbers and scanners. When they receive 100 copies of a the widescreen version of a title that gets scanned into inventory. As each copy is sold it is scanned again at the register and removed from inventory. When the inventory level hits a pre-set number, the title is reordered automatically or the title is flagged so the store or video department manager can decide whether or not to reorder. Since the P&S and widescreen versions have different SKUs, and since all of this is based on barcodes, not pictures, how many copies of the P&S version sell or are left has no effect at all on the widescreen version.

    There are a lot of reasons for disliking P&S, but this isn't one of them. And whille it is certainly unacceptable for anything that had a widescreen OAR to be released in P&S only, I don't see how having P&S as an alternative for those who want it hurts OAR releases, much less people who prefer OAR.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  19. Jon Lidolt

    Jon Lidolt Stunt Coordinator

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    My brother-in-law is a not a movie buff and the words "full screen" on a DVD box leaves him with the impression that he's seeing the whole movie when he buys or rents that version. He, and a lot of his friends, feel cheated when they see black bars on their TV sets and avoid wide-screen DVD's whenever possible. In my opinion, the studios should never have used the full-screen label in the first place. It only confuses a lot of people.
     
  20. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Well, I know you can argue this isn't really to your point, Joe...but my son and wife were recently trying to find copies of both Billy Madison and Hitched to watch together. We went to some Target and Wal-Mart store and could ONLY find P&S versions...meaning that we will, eventually, someday, have to make a trip to a Best Buy (or somewhere similar) to find them in their proper OAR.

    While the above example is not directly the fault of the studios for having separate DVD releases...it DOES allow for retailers like Target and W-M to stock only the P&S versions...which I will then argue shouldn't have even been released in the first place. [​IMG]
     

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