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Aspect Ratio Documentation


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#2681 of 4856 Mark B

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Posted June 03 2013 - 07:04 AM

On the BUGS BUNNY disc from the Super Stars dvd watch BEDEVILED RABBIT. You will see a (tilt and scan) pan upward during the sequence in which the wild animals are running screen left to right.



#2682 of 4856 ThadK

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Posted June 03 2013 - 07:25 PM

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I've done a lot of research on this topic (you can ask Jerry Beck, Michael Barrier, Mark Kausler, David Gerstein, or a number of other animation researchers about my credentials), and based on that, I can say Eddie Larkin's comments are right on the money. A couple of things though:

 

 - The January 1954 date is when the studio resumed its normal operations. It had been on a six-month hiatus so that WB could use up some of its very extensive backlog, going back anywhere from 18 to 24 months. Therefore, all of the cartoons released through the end of 1955 (and including even some 1956 entries) were NOT created with widescreen in mind and should be presented open-matte. I have tons of documentation proving when they were in production.

 

 - Once the studio resumed normal operations, the artists really didn't follow this widescreen mandate as a rule. Take a look at the Daffy Duck "Super Stars" disc. In DUCKING THE DEVIL (released in 1957), there is a pan shot of Daffy calling out to the Tasmanian Devil in the distance. When matted, Taz is completely cut off. In PEOPLE ARE BUNNY (1959), Bugs's ears and feet and Daffy's feet that are animated and not on holds are routinely chopped off by the matting. You just don't plan a scene in animation this way.

 

 - This problem is less frequent once you get further chronologically. Chuck Jones always drew his character layouts in Academy ratio. It was up to guys like Maurice Noble and Bob Givens (wonderful background layout artists) to reconfigure them to fit widescreen. They got more successful later on.

 - There was also an infamous incident in Hollywood (I forget at which theater) where they had two nights of Warner cartoons with Friz Freleng in attendance. They matted the later ones the first night, and Friz had an absolute shitfit. When told that's how they were instructed to present them, Friz screamed, "I worked at that [...] studio for thirty years, we didn't make them to look like that! We only did it that way on the Pink Panthers!" The second night all of the titles were presented in Academy ratio.

 

 - For the sake of argument, there should at least be an option for the cartoons, of both 1.33 and 1.75, because it's pretty clear the filmmakers were wildly inconsistent with following these technicalities.

 

 - MisterLime is being utterly disrespectful to Bob Furmanek. Nobody's perfect and nobody has all the answers. Maybe this guy isn't an official representative of Olive Films, but he's par for the course for a small outfit that's actively refusing free advice from learned historians.

 

Thad Komorowski


Edited by ThadK, June 03 2013 - 10:04 PM.

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#2683 of 4856 Yorkshire

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Posted June 04 2013 - 02:25 AM

Thad, thanks for the excellent, knowledgeable and detailed summary.

 

Whilst it's nice to have it confirmed, it comes as absolutely no surprise at all that every film maker didn't just jump at the snap of the fingers, and that techniques took time to bed in, with some adapting faster than others.  We are, after all, talking about human beings, not machines.

 

Is there any reason at all to believe that live action film makers are any less human than the animators you've discussed?

 

Steve W


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#2684 of 4856 ThadK

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Posted June 04 2013 - 07:28 AM

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Thad, thanks for the excellent, knowledgeable and detailed summary.

 

Whilst it's nice to have it confirmed, it comes as absolutely no surprise at all that every film maker didn't just jump at the snap of the fingers, and that techniques took time to bed in, with some adapting faster than others.  We are, after all, talking about human beings, not machines.

 

Is there any reason at all to believe that live action film makers are any less human than the animators you've discussed?

 

Steve W

 

Steve W.,

 

Theatrical animation artists worked largely in a formulaic vacuum. That's not knocking those guys, it's just true, and a lot of cinematic art was created at the Warner, MGM, and Disney studios in spite of it. A layout artist or animator could be working on different scenes from about 2-3 different cartoons any given week. We're also talking about a medium in which a filmmaker's work might not be seen by the public for YEARS after it is done. For the entire studio era, those outfits only existed because everyone else had a cartoon studio, and in the wake of the demise of block-booking, the cartoons might not even be carried at all with those widescreen features. They'd more likely be dumped as cartoon festivals for kiddie matinees, and by the 1960s some of those cartoons were showing up on TV mere months after their theatrical run. Therefore, I'd have to say that composing a cartoon for widescreen (save for the ones made in Cinemascope) was one of the last things on their minds.

 

So yes, the live-action filmmakers are also human, but they were playing with the real money. If the studios told them to adapt to a new format, they'd sure as hell better. It has been weird seeing movies from 1954 like DIAL "M" FOR MURDER, JOHNNY GUITAR, SUSAN SLEPT HERE, and PHFFFT! (how's that for an eclectic selection?) matted for widescreen, but that's only because I had seen them in Academy ratio forever. To my eyes, a lot of information wasn't getting cut off and looks as though the filmmakers may have been shooting the films to work both ways from day one, anticipating that they'd be shown in theaters however they wanted; then they quickly began inching towards making the films exclusively for widescreen. This is merely observation, of course, as I'm sure Bob has more to say that's based on fact and research. The bottom-line though is that if Bob has studio records that actually SAY "such and such movie was filmed in widescreen" then, yeah, that's the way it should be presented.

 

Therefore, it's two completely different paradigms. They cared about how the movies looked, but they might not even show the cartoons at all.


Edited by ThadK, June 04 2013 - 07:37 AM.

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#2685 of 4856 EddieLarkin

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Posted June 04 2013 - 08:54 AM

Is there any reason at all to believe that live action film makers are any less human than the animators you've discussed?

No, but the work speaks for itself. The shorts look far better at full frame, and this is in line with Thad's explanations. The films on the otherhand, IMO, always look better wide, in line with Bob's research. I've yet to see a post 53/54 American studio produced film that actually looks better full frame, in the same way the shorts do.


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#2686 of 4856 Bob Furmanek

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Posted June 04 2013 - 09:05 AM

Thad Komorowski is a knowledgeable expert on all things animation. His excellent work speaks for itself:http://www.whatabout...oop-oop-a-dont/

 

Thank you for explaining the situation, Thad!


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As there has been some colorful debate about the meaning of "Director-approved" transfers and how it relates to how widespread 1.66 was in the UK, I will make the following point. The dominant aspect ratio at British Studios between 1955-1970 WAS 1.75. This is based on research going through trade listings of hundreds of British films, as well as studio archives and other primary sources. 1.85 was the second most listed aspect ratio, with 1.65/1.66 a distant third.

 

Tom Crossplot - July 2013

 

 


#2687 of 4856 ThadK

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Posted June 04 2013 - 11:16 AM

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Some more cartoon info:

 

As everyone knows, MGM routinely did genuine Cinemascope cartoons. But that 1.75 rule implemented April 8, 1953 barely affected any cartoons until the 1955 releases. Tex Avery was fired in June 1953, so NONE of the cartoons bearing his name (save the two remakes of his they did in Cinemascope) should be matted. Of the 1954-55 releases, PET PEEVE, TOUCHÈ PUSSYCAT!, SOUTHBOUND DUCKLING, and PUP ON A PICNIC (I've seen the complete set of layouts for this one) were filmed in both Cinemascope and Academy ratio. TOM AND CHÈRIE and SOUTHBOUND DUCKLING were produced solely in Scope. From 1956 on, all of the MGM cartoons were made solely in Scope.

 

Famous Studios/Paramount cartoons were indeed designed for 1.66. But, keep in mind, they had a similar backlog to Warners. For example, according to Al Eugster's self-kept ledger, he began directing the Herman & Katnip cartoon MOUSEUM in April 1953 - and that cartoon did not come out until February 1956! So, the cartoons that genuinely implemented the process didn't start coming out until approximately mid-'56. I have seen pencil tests of John Gentilella's animation done after the May 29, 1953 date Bob cites, and there is indeed indication there of keeping the characters within the 1.66 ratio. The only two cartoons released before this date that were made for widescreen are the 3-D ones they did (POPEYE THE ACE OF SPACE and BOO MOON).

 

Only the titles of the Walter Lantz cartoons were designed for widescreen. The actual cartoons were NOT. Try putting the apertures on them, either while projecting them or on your computer. They do NOT work - it's like putting the TV cartoons of the era (of which the Lantz cartunes are about one or two steps removed) in widescreen.


Edited by ThadK, June 04 2013 - 11:17 AM.

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#2688 of 4856 Yorkshire

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Posted June 04 2013 - 11:17 AM

 To my eyes, a lot of information wasn't getting cut off and looks as though the filmmakers may have been shooting the films to work both ways from day one, anticipating that they'd be shown in theaters however they wanted; then they quickly began inching towards making the films exclusively for widescreen.

 

Thad, I think that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter, too.  An initial hedging of bets, which inched during the mid-'50s to exclusive widescreen.

 

Comparing shooting styles, as you and Eddie have done, I've found that lots of mid-'50s films looked almost identical to pre-widescreen films, only without the 3 or 4 shots in every film which wouldn't work.  I think there was a gradual process (an inching) that went:

 

1 - Shooting for 1.37:1

2 - Shooting in the same way as 1, only ensuring there were no shots where someone's face was cut in half by the crop

3 - Shooting for the crop with lots of dead space at the top and bottom

 

But it wasn't 3 distinct steps, at was more of a shuffle.

 

Steve W


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#2689 of 4856 Bob Furmanek

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Posted June 04 2013 - 12:43 PM

I posted this document last year and it's worth sharing again.

 

Many of the deluxe presentation houses kept the shorts and newsreels in 1.37:1 during this period for presentation purposes, creating a truly dramatic effect to highlight the transition to widescreen for the feature film.

 

This could explain why the studio policies were a bit lax when it came to the animation department.

 

HellsIslandPB.jpg

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Bob Furmanek

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As there has been some colorful debate about the meaning of "Director-approved" transfers and how it relates to how widespread 1.66 was in the UK, I will make the following point. The dominant aspect ratio at British Studios between 1955-1970 WAS 1.75. This is based on research going through trade listings of hundreds of British films, as well as studio archives and other primary sources. 1.85 was the second most listed aspect ratio, with 1.65/1.66 a distant third.

 

Tom Crossplot - July 2013

 

 


#2690 of 4856 John Hodson

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Posted June 04 2013 - 12:53 PM

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So yes, the live-action filmmakers are also human, but they were playing with the real money. If the studios told them to adapt to a new format, they'd sure as hell better.


Which is the core of Bob's research. The majority of studios made their decision to go wide within a very short space of time (on both sides of the Atlantic) and - notwithstanding protecting for screens that hadn't converted and/or for potential TV sales - as the principal format, Academy was largely consigned to history. From the moment the starting gun was fired it became, to all intents and purposes, a widescreen world. Any inching, I'm sure you'll agree, didn't take years; it took months.
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#2691 of 4856 ThadK

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Posted June 04 2013 - 02:56 PM

Which is the core of Bob's research. The majority of studios made their decision to go wide within a very short space of time (on both sides of the Atlantic) and - notwithstanding protecting for screens that hadn't converted and/or for potential TV sales - as the principal format, Academy was largely consigned to history. From the moment the starting gun was fired it became, to all intents and purposes, a widescreen world. Any inching, I'm sure you'll agree, didn't take years; it took months.

I'm glad you've reiterated this point since it seems to get easily lost. Just a note, though, that I take no issue with Bob's findings or assessments on the live-action movies. He is 100% accurate.

 

I'm also glad Bob reposted that document, because it makes perfect sense now why so many of the cartoons (Warners' in particular) don't really work in widescreen.

 

BTW, here is a layout drawn by Bob McKimson for his cartoon FAST BUCK DUCK (released in 1963). This is a scene that cuts to a close-up of Daffy's angry face (he's drawn all of Daffy just to save himself and the animator some work), and he and Bob Gribbroek (his background layout artist) clearly want it to work for widescreen. But this was VERY late in the Warner releases, and it's another case that shows they wanted it to work both open-matte (for TV) and widescreen (theaters).

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Edited by ThadK, June 04 2013 - 03:43 PM.

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#2692 of 4856 Doctorossi

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Posted June 04 2013 - 03:19 PM

post-288194-0-94571500-1370378539.jpg


 

Any projectionist that holds the house lights through the opening credits at my screening is gonna hear from me!


Edited by Doctorossi, June 04 2013 - 03:21 PM.

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#2693 of 4856 Bob Furmanek

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Posted June 04 2013 - 04:26 PM

I'm glad you've reiterated this point since it seems to get easily lost. Just a note, though, that I take no issue with Bob's findings or assessments on the live-action movies. He is 100% accurate.

 

I'm also glad Bob reposted that document, because it makes perfect sense now why so many of the cartoons (Warners' in particular) don't really work in widescreen.

 

Thank you, Thad.

 

It's good to have your input here!


Bob Furmanek

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As there has been some colorful debate about the meaning of "Director-approved" transfers and how it relates to how widespread 1.66 was in the UK, I will make the following point. The dominant aspect ratio at British Studios between 1955-1970 WAS 1.75. This is based on research going through trade listings of hundreds of British films, as well as studio archives and other primary sources. 1.85 was the second most listed aspect ratio, with 1.65/1.66 a distant third.

 

Tom Crossplot - July 2013

 

 


#2694 of 4856 Yorkshire

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Posted June 05 2013 - 01:18 AM

post-288194-0-94571500-1370378539.jpg


 

Any projectionist that holds the house lights through the opening credits at my screening is gonna hear from me!

 

It's a poor sort of 'showmanship' that tries to make something look better simply by trying to make something else look worse.

 

Steve W


Correct a fool and he will hate you, correct a wise man and he will thank you.

#2695 of 4856 Doctorossi

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Posted June 05 2013 - 05:28 AM

It's a poor sort of 'showmanship' that tries to make something look better simply by trying to make something else look worse.

 

Especially when the showman is presenting both and they both reflect upon the showman's showmanship.



#2696 of 4856 Stephen_J_H

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Posted June 05 2013 - 01:15 PM

Given that so much of projection is automated these days (in my days as a projectionist, it was as well, but there were flags on the opening reels for dimming of house lights), anyone who doesn't dim lights by the start of the feature deserves to be shot.


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#2697 of 4856 Bob Furmanek

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Posted June 05 2013 - 01:27 PM

It was a different time. Don't forget, this is when shows ran continuous all day and people would come and go throughout the movie.

 

"This is where we came in."


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Bob Furmanek

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As there has been some colorful debate about the meaning of "Director-approved" transfers and how it relates to how widespread 1.66 was in the UK, I will make the following point. The dominant aspect ratio at British Studios between 1955-1970 WAS 1.75. This is based on research going through trade listings of hundreds of British films, as well as studio archives and other primary sources. 1.85 was the second most listed aspect ratio, with 1.65/1.66 a distant third.

 

Tom Crossplot - July 2013

 

 


#2698 of 4856 JSul

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Posted June 06 2013 - 11:56 AM

How many if you sit through a movie until the final credit?
Personally, I wait until the very end, to when the screen goes blank....maybe I am weird, but in addition to seeing the movie itself, I wanted to know the name of everyone involved, not just the cast but everyone.
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#2699 of 4856 Brandon Conway

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Posted June 06 2013 - 12:13 PM

I often use the credits as time to reflect on the film I just saw, but if I didn't particularly like the film I'll leave mid-credits.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#2700 of 4856 FoxyMulder

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Posted June 06 2013 - 12:13 PM

How many if you sit through a movie until the final credit?
Personally, I wait until the very end, to when the screen goes blank....maybe I am weird, but in addition to seeing the movie itself, I wanted to know the name of everyone involved, not just the cast but everyone.

 

I enjoy film music scores and always sit to the very end, i always got annoyed that cinemas i attended would have ushers switching the lights on before the credits had finished so they could sweep up litter before the next show, thank god for blu ray, i now no longer visit the cinema and wait for the blu ray release, the only thing which would get me to the cinema these days is a screening of an old classic and only then if i know the presentation will be great.


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