Aspect Ratios-what's correct?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by ScottR, Aug 15, 2006.

  1. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    How do we know whether or not a film has been transferred correctly? For example, look at the comparison shots of The Silence of the Lambs on dvdbeaver.com. The MGM release crops some of the left side of the screen (a noticeble chunk.) So, is this correct or is the Criterion? If the Director of Photography supervised both transfers...and I don't want to get into a debate about color correction issues, this is strictly aspect ratio. And now the new Texas Chainsaw crops a bit differently from the last version. I guess I'm not understanding why it is so hard to transfer the entire image to dvd. Why do various versions of films differ so much? I mean, how hard is it to transfer a 1.85:1 film correctly without losing information? And how much cropping is considered ok?
     
  2. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I'm sure someone with a vastly better knowledge of the subject can (and will) correct me but the 'whole image' is larger than 1.85 so it's not about the whole image, it's about what is the correct part of the image to be seen. You're gonna get different cropping in every transfer, it's the nature of the beast.

    Once again, that's my less than scientific understanding.
     
  3. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    I picked up the Karate Kid on dvd, and while I watched it I noticed that although it was anamorphic widescreen, it didn't look any different than my vhs copy, so I did a little investigative work.

    Cued both copies up on 2 tvs, and played them side by side.

    The result: This is gonna sound like one of those old ladies arguing about how widescreen movies "cut off" the top and bottom of the movie, but in this case, that is exactly what happened. The dvd had no extra on screen image on the left or right sides. It was the exact same image as the vhs, except it was missing about 20% of the picture on the top, and bottom.

    I have always been a widescreen purist, all the way back to my Laserdisc days, but after this I am really skeptical about 1:85 anamorphic widescreen.
     
  4. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    The 1.85 image is what was shown in theaters and what is intended to be seen. The extra information on the top and bottom isn't meant to be seen.
     
  5. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Regular 1.85:1 films are usually matted widescreen. The "lost" image is junk.
     
  6. WadeM

    WadeM Supporting Actor

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    Boy, people tend to get kind of touchy with words here, so I'll shorten my post. Of course it's about composition, but there's also "junk" info that directors don't care about in the film, like microphones, etc. and there's "good" info that can get lost in Pan & Scan, like people/objects out of view (many directors include specific things in the picture to non-verbally tell the audience something, which is something I would call "info".)
    You can check out the Widescreen Museum and go to the very bottom of this page and you'll see how a movie can be cropped differently even on non-matted widescreen.: http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/spec...eat_emptor.htm

    Thanks!
     
  7. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    I understand the top/bottom cropping, but in the cast of Willy Wonka the first widescreen dvd is closer to what I projected at the theatre when I worked there. In the first scene with Veruca Salt, you could plainly see the sign "Salt's Peanuts" behind her. You could also see it on the first dvd release. On the remastered version it is cut off by overscan.
     
  8. WadeM

    WadeM Supporting Actor

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    Interesting. I don't understand the deal with Silence of the Lambs if the Director of Photography supervised both DVDs, but I guess my response was more towards Bryan's post with Karate Kid.
     
  9. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Producer

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    What always interests me about these types of discussions is that different people have different ideas about what the "proper" OAR is for any given film. Two different DVDs may present the same movie at 2.35:1 yet some details are missing in one 2.35 transfer but not the other - and then, which details were meant to be seen or not to be seen?

    Maybe one projectionist showed it one way in 1970, and perhaps another showed it a little differently on a theatrical screen which wasn't quite as large as another... so how do we arrive at ONE definitive and indisputable ratio? It can't be merely how it was projected in any single theater, since it may have been projected improperly. I'd say it's the director's call.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    There is no way for the average consumer to know that an image is correct.

    RAH
     
  11. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    Yes, the only way to see a correct image is by going back to a 35mm print. A full frame transfer SHOULD be 1.37, and SMPTE makes test loops exactly for this sort of thing, but most transfer houses simply don't use them when they're doing telecine.

    That's not to say you won't get over or undercropping in an average theater setting. That's its own can of worms, though.
     
  12. Thomas T

    Thomas T Producer

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    Unfortunately, too often films with 2.35 aspect ratios aren't properly exhibited in their proper ratios in theatres either. When I saw the 1995 Richard III with Ian McKellan, the on screen title read Richard II, I kid you not. I also recall some of the opening credits being cut off when I saw L.A. Confidential in theatres.
     
  13. Mark B

    Mark B Supporting Actor

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    TRUE! I've seen 2.35:1 films projected on 1.85:1 screens (the recent Romeo + Juliet), and 1.85:1 open matte films projected with all of the high end of the frame exposed and the bottom cut off.....making microphones visible throughout and cutting people off at the chin (THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES). I also had the extreme displeasure of seeing CABARET projected full frame, center of a 1.85:1 screen with no matting at all.
     
  14. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    ScottR, referring to your original post which was about identical aspect ratios sometimes containing slightly different portions of the image depending on what company or person was in charge of the transfer:

    I always prefer when they don't zoom in too much on the frame. But I'd guess that one reason why some companies zoom in too much (like on the upcoming edition of Goldeneye, where even the artistic opening montage is ruined) is because they're overcautious about accidentally scanning in the edge of the image (where the image ends, and unexposed film begins - just before the sprocket holes) and having to run the reel again. Not exactly lazy, just being overly economical. Just a layman's guess.
     
  15. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    Thanks Will...that's a good point, and more along the lines of the intentions of this thread.
     
  16. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Of course it looked different, significantly different. There is no way a 1.85:1 image and a 1.37:1 can look the same. It is physically impossible.

    As Robert Harris points out, there is no way to know what is "right", plus any creative process will have more than one "right" presentation. It's an intrinsic aspect of creativity. Even if the original director or DP oversees the transfer, he or she may approach it a bit differently from how they originally did. It isn't etched in stone. Besides, the issue of overscan pretty much eliminates the possibility of precisely controlling framing for everyone. Eliminating it on your system isn't the perfect solution either, since it may have been taken into account in the original transfer.
     
  17. Ira Siegel

    Ira Siegel Stunt Coordinator

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    John is correct.
    Personally, I prefer movies composed for Academy or 4:3 aspect ratios.
    Actors act with more of their bodies than just the part from the middle of their foreheads to the bottom of their necks. So, many movies displayed at 1.85:1 in theaters are more fun to watch as open-matte transfers at home. The vast majority do not include extraneous matter; they do include more of each actor (and more background).
    Raging Bull, The Big Lebowski and The Caine Mutiny are some examples. (dvdbeaver.com used to show screen shots comparing the widescreen vs. open-matte transfers, but no more.)
     
  18. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Absolutely. The Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin comedy All of Me has only (as far as I know) had a full-screen DVD release, like many other comedy and "family" films. There is one joke that is completely lost in the full-screen version, because it depends on the director's ability to direct the viewer's eye where he wants it to go - in this case a particular part of a woman's anatomy. [​IMG] In full screen you just have a shot of a man and a woman talking to one another, and the dialogue has not particular amusement value. But at 1.85:1 it is a funny moment.

    An even more egregious example comes in A Fish Called Wanda when John Cleese's underwear is clearly visible in the full frame version of a scene where he's supposed to be naked. Obviously he wore boxers on set the day they shot the scene, secure in the knowledge that when projected properly no one would know he wasn't actually "el buffo". [​IMG]

    The simple fact is that 1.85:1 films are shot open matte in order to make it cheaper and easier to crank out airplane, TV and home movie versions. Since directors and DPs concentrate on theatrical presentation, they don't always adequately "protect" the top and bottom of the frame, so things like boom mikes and electrical cables (or footprints and tire tracks) show up on home video versions of films. (Many IMDB "goofs" and entire books full of "film mistakes" are based on things like this, which were never seen by a theatrical audience. No, the costume department didn't put the actor in sneakers instead of dress shoes in that shot. His feet weren't supposed to be visible, so the director let him wear something comfortable.)

    "Information" means nothing. Composition is everything. "More" isn't always better. (Because if that were the case every film would be done in master shots and there would be no two shots and close-ups. [​IMG])

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  19. Brian Sharp

    Brian Sharp Second Unit

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    If I remeber correctly when "The Great Escape " first came out on dvd it had an aspect ratio of about 2.55:1. Yes, I think we got all of the information from he original negative but, occasionally, you could see a crewmember or equipment on the extreme edge of the picture. . Later versions had a ratio of about 2.30:1 and none of the crew or equipment were visible. Apparently, John Sturges filmed this way so that, if necessary, he could reframe in post production.
    In my humble opinion, as Joe implies above, more isn't everything: composition is what matters. If it looks right and feels right then it is ok by me regardless of the aspect ratio.
    Pan & scan rarely looks right or feels right.
     
  20. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    Several movies originally framed at 1.85:1 have been opened up on DVD to fill the 16:9 space (opened up to 1.78:1). This is just a tiny little bit, but I think it makes a lot of sense -- I wish more movies did this. Movies which are in 1.85:1 AR on my widescreen television have a small black area at top or bottom.
     

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