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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: How the West Was Won: Ultimate Collector's Edition

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#201 of 209 Simon Howson

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Posted September 25 2008 - 08:27 PM

Originally Posted by bearbutt
Just what does "enhanced for 16:9" mean? Its always appeared to me that something is chopped off the ends to compromise the 2.35 ratio to 16:9.
16:9 enhancement or 16:9 anamorphic encoding means that on the disc the image is horizontally squeezed to minimise the letterboxing (black bars) above and below the image. This means more of the resolution of the DVD format (720 X 576 = 414720 pixels for PAL, 720 x 480 = 345600 pixels for NTSC) is devoted to the actual film image, rather than wasted on simply black letterboxing. This is a more efficient way to encode the picture because it effectively increases the resolution of the image so it looks better quality.

The sad thing is, releasing a Smileboxed version on SD-DVD would've made better use of the (relatively) limited resolution of DVD, rather than releasing it in such an extreme 2.89:1 Letterboxed format. Even given 16:9 enhancement, the 2.89:1 ratio on the DVD release would only be using about 284 pixels vertically. The other 200 (approx) are 'wasted' on the black letterboxing bars. I don't have a degree in pure math so I can't figure out how many vertical pixels would be 'saved' by smileboxing, but my guess is it would be about 28800, or nearly 9% of the total resolution of the image.

Non-anamorphic discs (which thankfully are rarely released now) waste pixels on huge letterboxing bars (the wider the aspect ratio, the more pixels are wasted on letterboxing, 2.89:1 is the widest image ever released on home video as far as I know), which decreases the image quality. It also means you have to use the zoom setting on a widescreen monitor, which again reduces the perceived quality.
Originally Posted by bearbutt
(Does anyone have any facts on this?) Would love to see some of the Fox musicals (remember CinemaScope 55, / 2.55:1 the original ratio)
There were only two films shot in CinemaScope 55, The King and I and Carousel. They have both been released correctly formatted on DVD. All other 2.55:1 CinemaScope films were shot on 35mm film without an optical soundtrack, hence the wider than usual aspect ratio.

Smileboxing is only suitable for 3 panel Cinerama films. I don't think it is an appropriate way to show any other widescreen films. They simply weren't intended to be shown on screens with really deep curvature like proper Cinerama screens. Smilebox is simulating the curvature of a proper Cinerama screen (147 degrees). CinemaScope films were never intended to be shown on screens curved that deeply.

#202 of 209 widescreenforever


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Posted September 26 2008 - 07:26 AM

One of the best ways to describe what you are asking about is the Third disc itself.. ''Cinerama Adventure'' is ,, ( thank goodness ) "anamorphic widescreen" .. So about 60% of this 97 minutes documentary is, by itself, 4.3:1 ( archival footage) and we of course have the 'black pillars' on each side.. when played back on a properly setup 16x9 HD screen..,, BUT!!!.,,,, when the 'Film' displays the smilebox video it 'automatically' fills the 16x9 screen to its 'full dimension ' with widescreen 2.89:1 ..
It may sound a bit confusing, but another to describe this is.. 'If the Third disc was NOT' anamorphic the letterbox image would have been 'placed in the center of the screen with four black borders around each side' and the image would have been 'rectangular' in shape and view... Just as the older HTWWW was previous to this version.. the image was rectangular and the only to view it without the extra four borders was to 'zoom in' and that of course make the image seemed squished , if you kept pressing your remote to find a comfortable viewing angle by the time you had found 'wide zoom'.., it still appeared " stretched'' . Yech!!

#203 of 209 AdrianTurner


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Posted September 26 2008 - 07:28 AM

Originally Posted by ahollis
It was the most startling thing I had ever seen. Right after the great overture ended, they slapped on full screen Turner Logo with that awful Turner fanfare. . .

I asked about this way back at the start of this thread and, putting my purist's hat on, I have to say that one thing I found a little irritating about the new DVD are the pregnant pauses between the episodes, especially the pause between the end of the Overture and the start of the Main Title. In Cinerama presentations it blends seemlessly and without a second's silence, but on the new DVD there is a weird hiatus. It happens at the end of every episode.

#204 of 209 Douglas R

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Posted September 29 2008 - 07:03 AM

My only complaint about this DVD (apart of course from the lack of a smilebox version) is that Warner Bros did not include the "Making of" documentary which was on the previous release. This included some fascinating location footage and major contributions from stuntman Loren Janes (who is on the commentary track of the new DVD) speaking to camera and showing footage of what went wrong in some cases. I don't see why Warner didn't include it. It means I can't get rid of my old version!

#205 of 209 John Hodson

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Posted October 03 2008 - 11:25 PM

An open message to George Feltenstein:

Dear George

After reading and listening to various interviews in which you stated that folks were going out and buying BD players simply to watch the Blu-ray exclusive Smilebox version of HTWWW, my first dismissive thoughts were along the lines of 'well, I'm not going to fall for that flim-flam'.

Nope, not me.

You went a step further and suggested that anyone without a Blu-ray player couldn't possibly be a true HT enthusiast and, well, I got kinda angry at that one. How dare you, I recall thinking. Damned cheek.

Then my UCE box arrived and I looked at the beautiful SD transfer, and checked out 'Cinerama Adventure' with the all too brief clips of HTWWW in Smilebox. Holy frijoles, I thought; I'm doomed.

And I went right out, bought a BD player and ordered HTWWW. Again.

Waiting for the disc to arrive, I bought a couple more BD discs, 'Cool Hand Luke' which looks very nice indeed, and 'No Country For Old Men' which is pristine as one would expect. But it wasn't until this morning, when my Blu-ray HTWWW arrived, that I was truly sold on the format.

Flat, in SD, HTWWW looks gorgeous. In Smilebox HD, it raises the hairs on the back of my neck, and genuine tears of joy sting my eyes. I almost cannot believe what I am seeing, the detail, the colour and to top it all a recreation - even in a minor way - of this most thrilling of all thrilling cinematic experiences.

So, George, if the aim of this exercise was to sell BD, then this sucker is here to offer his soul in exchange for more of the same. What's the next project...?

Yours, in penury.

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#206 of 209 Robert Crawford

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Posted October 04 2008 - 12:05 AM

Welcome to the BR Club, others don't understand what they're missing.



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#207 of 209 AdrianTurner


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Posted October 04 2008 - 03:36 AM

I've just watched HTWWW again, this time with the commentary, and I thought maybe a few words here might be appropriate. To begin with, the guys give their commentary a real Roadshow feel - you're with them for the long haul and their timings, especially during the Overture and Entr'Acte, is very precise. I learned a lot from them and I'd have to say in the not too distinguished roll call of Commentary honor, this is an excellent effort. HOWEVER, it was ultimately disappointing and a bit superficial for my taste. While we learned all we wanted to know about the stars (which most of us knew already) and maybe we learned too much about the music and the folk songs, we were told NOTHING about the movie, what it signified, what it meant in 1962 and how it compares to other westerns. Th commentators were just in their own little Cinerama bubble. OK, there was a word or two about the film's sympathy for the Indians but this social commentary was the exception: nothing about the film's aesthetic, its Remington-esque visuals, its incredible optimism that places it right at the heart of the Kennedy era, its unusual placing of women - especially the Debbie Reynolds character - as the drivers of the narrative etc etc. That lack of critical perspective is a real failing. What we get are insights into HTWWW as a piece of material, a technical freak if you will; what we lack is any kind of insight into HTWWW as a work of art.

#208 of 209 GerardoHP


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Posted October 04 2008 - 05:21 AM

Originally Posted by John Hodson
Then my UCE box arrived and I looked at the beautiful SD transfer, and checked out 'Cinerama Adventure' with the all too brief clips of HTWWW in Smilebox. Holy frijoles, I thought; I'm doomed.

And I went right out, bought a BD player and ordered HTWWW. Again.[/i]
Good for you, John. Congratulations on your purchase. This was for me truly the first release to completely and utterly justify my investment. God, now I'm hungry for more.

#209 of 209 Billy Batson

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Posted October 04 2008 - 06:53 AM

I can't afford, at this time, to upgrade to Blu-ray, as it would mean buying a new TV. I have a 32" CRT which I'm very happy with, & have no plans to buy a plasma for the next few years (I remain very unimpressed with LCD). As I'd like the smilebox version, I won't be buying this title. Warner can get stuffed, I won't be railroaded.

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