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Movies with significant content in the outer frame


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#1 of 44 OFFLINE   Al.Anderson

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Posted December 10 2008 - 11:04 PM

My son and I were debating the merits of getting a Roku box. When I mentioned that they provide many of the movies on modified full screen format he replied that he doesn’t care all that much.
(I promptly cancelled his allowance and confiscated his Christmas loot. He then reminded me that he watches black & white movies with me, so I reinstated his Christmas gift. Had already spent the other.)
Anyway, he then asked what mainstream movies make use of the outside of the frame and I didn’t have an answer. Can you guys help, what movies have necessary or even interesting information in the portion of the frame that is removed with modified aspect ratio?

#2 of 44 ONLINE   Radioman970

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Posted December 10 2008 - 11:07 PM

First filmmaker I thought of when I read your title was Japanese animator Hayao Miyazak (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away). Full screen should never be an option with one of his creations.
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#3 of 44 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted December 11 2008 - 01:19 AM

I can tell you that most filmmakers today shoot their widescreen films with future cropping in mind and usually frame their shots near the center of the frame.

But if you look at the first decade of Cinemascope films, you'll find that those directors placed their actors across the wide expanse, and any cropping will lop off actors who are placed on the edges, often the ones doing the talking.

I'll never forget seeing I think it was AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER in cropped 4:3, and Grant and Kerr are talking to one another across a table, but all you could see was a vase of flowers in the center of the table because the telecine operator just framed the center of the screen and cropped the sides thus eliminating the actors entirely.

You'll find lots of examples in early Cinemascope films like THE ROBE, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, and A STAR IS BORN.

#4 of 44 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted December 11 2008 - 01:55 AM

I agree with MattH that it seems that nearly all films are really only composed for 16:9 these days. Some may protect for cropping, whereas others protect for opening the matte from 2.4:1, to the looser ratio.

If your son is interested in Westerns, get the Budd Boetticher boxed set! Comanche Station and Ride Lonesome are two of the most beautifully photographed widescreen films ever made. By the late 1950s the novelty of widescreen was starting to wear off, but those two films - made in 1960 and 1959 respectively look like they were shot 5 years earlier, right when CinemaScope was still novel. They feature a lot of loose compositions, especially long shots, and rarely feature proper close-ups. This creates the impression of a huge expanse of land surrounding the main characters.

The three other films are 1.85:1, but still rely very heavily on lateral compositions and medium shots. They are all a great films, no western fan should be without that box.

Other than Boetticher, I recommend any widescreen film by Nicholas Ray, Vincente Minnelli, Otto Preminger or Anthony Mann. Preminger in particular adopted essentially the same style for his widescreen films from 1954 - 1967, whereas most directors had started to cut them fast, and shoot more tighter compositions.

Other really nice classic widescreen films, in terms of the compositional choices include:

King of the Khyber Rifles
Beneath the 12-Mile Reef
River of No Return
Kismet
Garden of Evil
Track of the Cat
A Star is Born
Desiree
Bad Day at Black Rock
The Violent Men
White Feather
East of Eden
Land of the Pharaohs
Pete Kelly's Blues
House of Bamboo
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
The Man from Laramie
Blood Alley
Rebel Without A Cause
Picnic
The Last Frontier
The Indian Fighter
Hot Blood
The Man Who Never Was
Jubal
The Swan
The Proud Ones
Trapeze
The Eddy Duchin Story
The Great Locomotive Chase
Bigger Than Life
Bus Stop
Lust for Life
The Last Wagon
Between Heaven and Hell
Love Me Tender
The Girl Can't Help It
Forty Guns
The River's Edge
Designing Woman
Fire Down Below
The Sun Also Rises
Bitter Victory
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Enemy Below
Bonjour Tristesse
The Law and Jake Wade
The Hunters
The Barbarian & The Geisha
Man of the West
Some Came Running
No Name on the Bullet
Ride Lonesome
The Diary of Anne Frank
Warlock
The Gunfight at Dodge City
These Thousand Hills
Wild River
Flaming Star

I am of the opinion that the best widescreen films were made in the 1950s. You just have to remember when you watch the film what it would've been like to see it on a screen 60 feet wide.

#5 of 44 OFFLINE   WillG

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Posted December 11 2008 - 01:58 AM

Quote:
I can tell you that most filmmakers today shoot their widescreen films with future cropping in mind and usually frame their shots near the center of the frame.

Which is something I just can't stand. I can see the logic for that before DVD when widescreen versions of films were not always readilly available, but now they are and filmmakers shoud go back to using the wide frame more. People who insist on P&S don't care about details in the entire frame anyway.

This may not be necessairly be an example of stuff going on in the outer frame, but to demonstrate, show your kid the Star Wars opening crawls in P&S where you can't even read them until they are nearly 2/3 up the screen.

I would also recommend John Carpenter films (especially Halloween and The Thing) he has always been good about using the whole 2.35:1 frame
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#6 of 44 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted December 11 2008 - 02:24 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by WillG
Which is something I just can't stand. I can see the logic for that before DVD when widescreen versions of films were not always readilly available, but now they are and filmmakers shoud go back to using the wide frame more. People who insist on P&S don't care about details in the entire frame anyway.
It kind of makes sense though for a lot of reasons:
- Most people watch films on relatively small TVs, not at a cinema
- People tend to watch films in bright environments, which makes it easier to become distracted
- Most contemporary films are edited fast

Wide-angle compositions with details spread all over the frame are harder to 'read' (I hate that term) than tight compositions. Hence - with a few exceptions - filmmakers shoot a lot more close-ups now than they did 40 or 50 years ago. Constantly photographing close-ups can be seen as a waste of widescreen.

Hopefully as bigger LCDs, plasmas and projectors become cheaper, filmmakers will reconsider the 1950s widescreen style, which was designed to differentiate films from TV.


Interestingly enough, in Ride Lonesome there is a scene when the ranch comes under attack by Indians where Boetticher continues to photograph in wide-angle long shots. He starts cutting quickly between such shots which becomes disorientating (I imagine it would've been even more so on a 60 foot screen).

Now generally it isn't good if the audience is disorientated, however, it is the middle of a dangerous attack by the Indians, so it is possible that Boetticher thought it was an apt effect for the scene.

#7 of 44 OFFLINE   cb1

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Posted December 11 2008 - 03:42 AM

The Empire Strikes Back has a lot of outer frame stuff going on. When I first got ESB in widescreen on VHS I first thought... hey! I don't remember that in the scene.
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#8 of 44 OFFLINE   Martin Teller

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Posted December 11 2008 - 04:00 AM

The best example I can think of is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Cropping that film is inconceivable.

#9 of 44 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted December 11 2008 - 04:44 AM

I can't believe this question. Seriously. I'm sitting here mildly stunned.

In the 1950s and 1960s, movies filmed in 2.55:1, or 2:35:1, or 2.2:1 -- if you have any eye at all, you'll see literally thousands of examples of what difference it makes to hack off almost half the image!

And I could give thousands of examples. But I won't.

But here's one I like. In "The Apartment" (Oscar winner for Best Picture, 1960), at the beginning, you see Jack Lemmon working late in his office.

Panned and scanned, you see a guy sitting at a desk.

With the full Panavision image, you see a guy sitting in a room with maybe a hundred desks, all the rest of them unoccupied.

This tells us: he's basically nothing in his company (just one of nameless hundreds); but he's ambitious, because he's the only one working late -- both of which are important things to know for the story that's about to unfold.

And both of them are missed if you just watch it panned and scanned.

As I said, there are literally thousands of other examples like this.

#10 of 44 OFFLINE   Robin9

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Posted December 11 2008 - 05:00 AM

A scene which uses the entire width constructively comes in The Tall Men. Clark Gable and Jane Russell are in a shack and have a falling-out over their different ambitions and hoped-for life styles. They turn their backs on each other and go to different sides of the shack, refusing to acknowledge the other's presence. The camera shows them at opposite sides of the frame with a huge space between them. Very expressive!

#11 of 44 OFFLINE   Paul Bond

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Posted December 11 2008 - 05:01 AM

I recall AMC was pushing wide-screen many years ago and had a 'Making Of' showing several movies in original aspect and P&S. One of the movies was Desk Set where they showed a conversation in the hallway with Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Gig Young, but in P&S they could only show any two at one time (Tracy and Hepburn, or Hepburn and Young), so that you lost the reactions of the third person.

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#12 of 44 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted December 11 2008 - 05:03 AM

Regardless of whether or not the filmmakers "protect" a larger area so that the content won't be destroyed by changes, the fact is the shots are composed a certain way for purely aesthetic reasons. The sun setting in the left-hand corner of the frame might not be "data" vital to the plot of a film, but it is "important" if the director decided "That's pretty and it balances the shot." Movies are about more than the stories they tell. So any change in the framing does violence to the effect the filmmakers intended each shot to have.

Worse than that, they often totally screw up a shot. All of Me, the grossly underrated Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin comedy (which to this day has never had a widescreen DVD release) completely loses a joke because in the "open matte" framing we're not focused where director Carl Reiner wants us focused when Steve Martin delivers a line.

Perhaps the worst offender in recent memory is Field of Dreams. There is a kitchen scene where Amy Madigan and Kevin Costner are preparing dinner & arguing. Each is on one end of a long table and they're passing ingredients and barbs back and forth. It is a very fast-paced scene with overlapping dialogue, absolutely impossible to "pan and scan" without giving the audience whiplash. The only options in a scene like this are to put the camera on one character and leave the other a disembodied, faceless voice, or lock the 4:3 window in the middle of the frame and have both characters off screen for much of the scene.

I happened to run across the movie on basic cable one day, so I know they chose the latter. The scene was unintentionally hilarious, because for most of it all you saw or Hunter or Costner were their arms and noses as they happened to enter the artificial 4:3 frame. Most of the performances simply vanished, since so much depended on their facial expressions, reaction and body language.

Another priceless moment of comedy (all the more important because it comes in the middle of a heavy drama) is from All the President's Men. Woodward and Bernstein are seated at opposite ends of a sofa trying to get yet another reluctant Nixon staffer, who is sitting in a chair near Woodward, to talk. In the P&S version when the Nixon guy says, "First of all, you have to understand I'm a Republican" Woodward says, "So am I" to reassure him. OK, nice moment. But in the widescreen version you see Bernstein's reaction to what Woodward said, which is priceless.

Regards,

Joe

#13 of 44 OFFLINE   Charles Ellis

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Posted December 11 2008 - 05:54 AM

One genre that isn't served by P&S in home video is the musical. Have you tried to see the likes of West Side Story or My Fair Lady in a cropped ('crapped' is more like it!) 4:3 TV screen? Yechh!

By bizarre coincidence, a coworker and I were debating this issue today. He intends to get The Dark Knight in fullscreen, since he claims that he wants his entire screen filled. Of course I told him of the evils of P&S and reinterpreting the director's intent, but it fell on deaf ears. I still don't understand the need for so-called 'fullscreen' DVDs. If a movie was shot in a widescreen format, leave it that way on DVD!
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#14 of 44 OFFLINE   MikeEn

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Posted December 11 2008 - 07:57 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph DeMartino
Perhaps the worst offender in recent memory is Field of Dreams. There is a kitchen scene where Holly Hunter and Kevin Costner are preparing dinner & arguing. Each is on one end of a long table and they're passing ingredients and barbs back and forth. It is a very fast-paced scene with overlapping dialogue, absolutely impossible to "pan and scan" without giving the audience whiplash. The only options in a scene like this are to put the camera on one character and leave the other a disembodied, faceless voice, or lock the 4:3 window in the middle of the frame and have both characters off screen for much of the scene.

I happened to run across the movie on basic cable one day, so I know they chose the latter. The scene was unintentionally hilarious, because for most of it all you saw or Hunter or Costner were their arms and noses as they happened to enter the artificial 4:3 frame. Most of the performances simply vanished, since so much depended on their facial expressions, reaction and body language.

You've made your point better than you know -- that was Amy Madigan, not Holly Hunter. Perhaps their noses look the same.

ME

#15 of 44 OFFLINE   Bob McLaughlin

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Posted December 11 2008 - 08:06 AM

I don't think this is the sort of thing that can be (or should be) quantified. I just don't feel like I've really seen the movie unless I've seen it in the OAR. It's like listening to all your music on a clock radio as opposed to a nice component sound system.
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#16 of 44 OFFLINE   Lord Dalek

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Posted December 11 2008 - 08:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by WillG
This may not be necessairly be an example of stuff going on in the outer frame, but to demonstrate, show your kid the Star Wars opening crawls in P&S where you can't even read them until they are nearly 2/3 up the screen.
Either that or they're going at the wrong angle as seen in the first VHS releases.

#17 of 44 OFFLINE   Ira Siegel

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Posted December 11 2008 - 10:20 AM

Cropping sometilmes occurs merely in transferring an image to a home video medium. There is the famous example of many home versions of CASABLANCA having the year cut off of a check Rick is signing at the beginning of the movie which tells us right then and there that the story we are getting into takes place just before the USA entered World War II. (Of course, anyone familiar with that war would know that the year had to be either '40 or '41, and more likely '41.)

#18 of 44 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted December 11 2008 - 12:11 PM

Quote:
Regardless of whether or not the filmmakers "protect" a larger area so that the content won't be destroyed by changes, the fact is the shots are composed a certain way for purely aesthetic reasons. The sun setting in the left-hand corner of the frame might not be "data" vital to the plot of a film, but it is "important" if the director decided "That's pretty and it balances the shot." Movies are about more than the stories they tell. So any change in the framing does violence to the effect the filmmakers intended each shot to have.

That's my feeling as well. It's not necessarily that your missing details (although sometimes you are), it's that the image can feel "off" when cropped (or opened up, as the case may be).

And as with Joe's Apartment example, sometimes the shot becomes about something different. Another example is the duel between Spartacus and Draba in Spartacus. There's a wide shot of the fight from the POV of Crassus, etc. looking down at it. In the full widescreen image, the Romans are in the foreground talking politics, with the fight kind of in the background. This suggests the casual attitude they're taking to these two guys fighting for their lives beneath them. Panned-and-scanned, the shot becomes mainly about the fight, and even though you still hear the Romans talking, you lose the visual reinforcement of the idea.

I can't really think of any recent examples off the top of my head, as I honestly haven't seen too many recent theatrical movies panned-and-scanned. Posted Image
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#19 of 44 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted December 11 2008 - 12:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeEn
You've made your point better than you know -- that was Amy Madigan, not Holly Hunter. Perhaps their noses look the same.

ME

Of course, Amy Madigan. That's what I said, Amy Madigan. Go on. Look at my post again. Posted Image

Regards,

Joe

#20 of 44 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted December 11 2008 - 12:27 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ira Siegel
Cropping sometilmes occurs merely in transferring an image to a home video medium.

True, but this is usually by a fairly tiny amount. Similarly overscan can change what might be a "perfect" 1.85:1 transfer into something that looks like it was zoomed or cropped to 1.77:1. For that matter films in theaters are often misframed and badly matted.

But the kind of changes covered in this thread are an order of magnitude worse than slipping a bit in transferring a 1.37:1 Academy Ratio film to 1.33:1 home video.

Regards,

Joe


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