Posted May 11 2003 - 02:02 PM
| The live-action was shot with both 16:9 and 4:3 ratios in mind, but the CGI wasn't. |
Wrong. The CGI was designed
with both 4:3 and 16:9 in mind. Although it was impossible with the existing technology to output 1.77:1 (or even 1.6:1 Super35-type) CGI files, the shots could be and were
composed for both ratios. In effect the 100% CGI shots were "padded" top and bottom with dead space so they could be easily trimmed to 1.77:1.
The whole problem is that when all this was happening nobody was thinking in terms of anamporphic widescreen. If the whole show were hard-matted letterbox the CGI and the live action would be treated in much the same way, with the CGI only slightly zoomed. Because anamorphic is now a (very desirable) option for the live action the CGI has to go through an extra step and looks worse than it should - but mostly because of the contrast with the live action.
The CGI/live action composite shots tend to be the most problematic. Since they probably constitute something like five percent of the total screen time, this doesn't strike me as something to have kittens about. I think they crew gradually got better at planning and framing these things as the series went on. The on-screen superimposed titles in the mock newscast in S2, for instance, were ill-placed given the requirements of the widescreen version. I think similar things in later seasons were handled better. But, hey, this was the very first American TV series to shoot in Super35 with widescreen in mind, and the first to use 100% CGI for FX works without any models. There was a learning curve involved in both things, and it is natural that the most miscues happen where the two were combined.
I still think that the 100% live action shots and the 100% CGI shots gain more in terms of composition and aesthetic quality than the combined shots lose. The space battles are clearer and easier to follow, you can see more detail in the docking area and for once I was actually able to follow what everybody was doing on the ground during the Icarus
expedition. I'm glad
that the padding was removed from these frames so that the viewer's attention is focused on the real action now. As far as I'm concerned, this is an improvement
- just as a 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition is often an improvement over an "open matte" transfer of the same scene shot on 35mm.
The DVDs are derived from the same hi-def masters that were also used for the Sci-Fi widescreen broadcasts. (After the S2/S3 errors were corrected.) The reason the flaws aren't as evident on Sci-Fi is that the broadcast versions are hard-matted letterbox and inherently lower resolution than the DVDs. Believe me, the broadcast widescreen version does not look better
on my widescreen set than the DVDs do, either for live action or CGI, but everything looks uniformly fuzzier, which conceals a multitude off sins.