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Aspect Ratio Documentation

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

  1. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    The Great Allied Artists Aspect Ratio Mystery has been solved!
    When Allied Artists announced their nearly two month old widescreen policy to the trades on July 3, 1953, they did not specify a house ratio. It wasn't until four months later - on November 17 - that 1.85 was indicated. For that reason, we assumed that 1.85 had been their chosen ratio from day one.

    That's not the case.

    We are currently working on the restoration of DRAGONFLY SQUADRON in preparation for 3-D Blu-ray release through Olive Films this summer. It began shooting on August 12 so we matted the film to 1.85. We found the compositions were VERY tight and one of the credit cards was clipped.

    After that discovery, I've looked at nearly every Allied Artists production from May through November of 1953.

    Starting with THE ROYAL AFRICAN RIFLES which rolled on May 7, I can now confirm that 1.66 was their initial widescreen ratio. It appears that AA first composed for 1.85 starting September 17 with their Technicolor production, ARROW IN THE DUST.

    Unfortunately, many of these films were released in the early months of 1954 before the trades began listing aspect ratios so visual evidence is our only source.

    Here is a series of medium and close-up images from an old open-matte, full frame transfer of RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11. I've done a center crop utilizing an SMPTE RP 40 test loop. During scenes of movement, the cameraman is constantly tilting to keep the actors in frame for widescreen. The first close-up is from the opening 2-1/2 minutes of 1.37 stock footage.

    Click to enlarge.
    Riot-collage-top.jpg
    The final piece of visual evidence is a frame just before a reel change. Notice the changeover cue in the top right corner? It's placed perfectly in line with the top of the 1.66 image.
    Riot-changeover-cue.jpg
     
  2. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

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    Well done Bob.
    You can rest your case.
    There's no longer any need for the jury.
     
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  3. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Thanks, Doug, it felt good to finally settle the matter.

    In fact, I've just solved another aspect ratio mystery which I'll share very soon.

    Here's the second set of 1.66 frames from RIOT.

    Riot-collage-bottom.jpg
     
  4. EddieLarkin

    EddieLarkin Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure Criterion are smart enough to see they have a widescreen film here, I'm just concerned it may be too late (or too costly) for them to correct it and they're going to push ahead with 1.37:1 regardless.

    By the way Bob, does this mean the Dragonfly Squadron Blu-ray will now be 1.66:1 instead of the previously proposed 1.75:1? Not that it'll make too much difference either way.
     
  5. John Hodson

    John Hodson Well-Known Member

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    Bob, while you're in conversation with Criterion, this from the TCM Classic Film Festival press release may be of interest - "A Hard Day's Night (1964) - World Premiere Restoration, Fully restored from the original negative and presented in collaboration with Janus Films"

    It's also being released by Second Sight in the UK - I've alerted them to your OAR smoking gun!
     
  6. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Yes, DRAGONFLY will be 1.66.

    If they have restored AHDN from the original 35mm elements, they would certainly have seen the 1.75 projection instructions on the ID card in the original leader.

    So far as RIOT, the smoking gun for me was the printed-in changeover cue. Those cues are in the original 35mm elements. They would not have placed the cue at the top of the 1.66 image if the film was intended for 1.37.

    AHDN_5Bcrop.jpg
     
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  7. John Hodson

    John Hodson Well-Known Member

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    Even though it's cropped tighter than it probably should be this obviously composed for widescreen trailer gives an indication as to how 'Riot' should be cropped, i.e., not Academy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMw9NfSLnk8#t=0
     
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  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Having viewed Riot in 1.37, and matted a monitor for 1.66, my personal preference -- as predicated by the use of height in the frame -- is 1.37. Certain that 1.66 would work nicely, just not my preference. Anything more cropped than .66 damages the overall look of the film.

    Even in .66, in one sequence a player reaches for something on a shelf above a door. In .66, there is no shelf.

    RAH
     
  9. John Hodson

    John Hodson Well-Known Member

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    I. for one, sincerely hope that Criterion follow plain facts, the intentions of director and cinematographer, and put any and all personal preferences to one side.
     
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  10. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Robert: did you see all the shots where Harlan is tilting the camera up to keep actors in the frame for widescreen? He's doing that constantly throughout the film.

    If 1.37 was the intent, those camera moves would not have been necessary.

    Here is an example. In this shot, he starts with a close-up of the actor and his newly made weapon. As he stands, the camera pulls back. He bends over to pick up a stool and the camera tracks his movement. He stands, places the stool on a shelf and brings the weapon over it. In frame 5, the camera tilts up to show him place the weapon over the stool. He snaps it and the camera rests on the medium shot.

    Please note that all of this movement is done to keep him in frame for 1.66 widescreen.
     

    Attached Files:

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  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Main titles are centered, and can be viewed at any AR.

    Framing is set at .37 with head room, but little foot room. Especially in shots showing looming floors of cells above, I prefer .37.

    Noted camera moves. I feel it can be viewed comfortably at either .37 or .66, but in this instance, ie. content, prefer .37.
     
  12. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Here's the shot that Robert mentioned, in 1.37 and 1.66.

    It's a quick scene with lots of movement. It opens on a medium shot and the camera tilts down as he beats the prisoner. He gets up and the camera follows him as he reaches up to grab the book off a dark shelf. The camera tilts down as he flips through the book to get the concealed weapon.
     
  13. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    I honestly don't see how the constant camera tilting can be ignored or discounted.

    Again, those moves would not have been done if 1.37 was the compositional intent.

    It's a classic example of composing for wide and protecting for standard ratio.
     
  14. John Hodson

    John Hodson Well-Known Member

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    Quite so; I'm afraid if Criterion cannot be bothered to listen to common sense on this and provide OTAR (hey - they can also offer full frame for the mis en scene crowd if they want to), then I cannot be bothered to buy it. In these situations, Criterion lock AR on BD so zooming is not possible, normally it doesn't bother me - who wants to zoom an Academy film?

    But this isn't an Academy film.
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Not necessarily. You're viewing a single trailer that happens to be widescreen.

    RAH
     
  16. John Hodson

    John Hodson Well-Known Member

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    I think Robert, that it's called 'weight of evidence'.
     
  17. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Oh, c'mon Robert, you know there was only one trailer for the film. Like the feature, it's intended to be shown wide (note the text placement) and protected for standard.

    When released to theaters in late February 1954, there were still many small-town theaters running 1.37, especially in the Southern and North Central parts of the U.S.

    This quote has been posted before but it's worth repeating.
    uring photography for the standard Academy ratio.
     
  18. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I've not researched it, and certainly don't "know" it. I've seen numerous examples of trailers both flat and widescreen, and not referring to pan and scan or adapted scope.
    Merely reporting what my eyes are telling me, and what my personal preference happens to be in this regard. I would presume that some theaters ran it 1.85.
    I feel the height works in this film's favor. A few examples... Not sure how one crops the bottom of the first.


    cell-4.jpg

    cell-1.jpg

    cell-2.jpg

    cell-3.jpg
     
  19. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    In the first, the widescreen crop calls attention to the exterior facade. I'm honestly not sure that any of the missing bottom information is crucial to the scene.
    Rule of Feet 2.jpg

    In the second, he drops into the shot from above and runs forward toward the guard. Your selected frame is taken while he is running forward. He stops and is positioned comfortably in the center of the 1.66 frame.
    Rule of feet.jpg

    The End title works quite well in 1.66, unless you want to see additional floor.
    End title.jpg
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I'm not arguing one aspect ratio vs. another. I prefer .37. You may prefer .66.

    Both work fine.

    RAH
     

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