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Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by StephenT, Aug 13, 2001.
It's not specifically about Willy Wonka, but it's something:
Not only is it not the best, but it is not correct. If Ebert is going to publish a movie format as a decimal fraction with three digits of accuracy, he should make it clear that "academy ratio" is not 1:1.33, but 1:1.37 or 1:1.38. If he wanted to go add one more digit, he should say 1:1.375 (8:11). Ebert is carelessly assigning TV set format to movies. I'm sure he knows better, but doesn't think the public will be able to handle the truth.
"If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really very good." Paul O'Neill, Treasury Secretary.
I am glad that Ebert explained it in simple terms. Getting hung up on 1.37 vs. 1.33:1 would be about as helpful in making the point as explaining how a 4:3 transfer of a 2.35:1 (or is that 2.40:1) super 35mm film involves a complex combination of matte openings, panning, & scanning on a shot by shot basis. Should he have also explained how the presence or absence of a sound stripe affected the nominal 1.37:1 ratio so that it varied in actual shape from the late 20s through the early to mid-30s? Should he have mentioned the pre-1950s experiments with widescreen and triptych formats? Should he have explained the pan & scan versus open matte issue. Should he have mentioned that many transfers use a combination of both? Personally, I think he should have offered up a plug for the Widescreen Museum, but otherwise he answered well enough for the purpose of that column.
Livonia, MI USA
I agree with Ken and Ebert. He has to explain it in simple terms to get to "the masses." Ebert's not explaining OAR to you, me, or Robert Harris. He's explaining it to Mr. & Mrs. "What's With Them Black Bars". And yes, there are way too many aspect ratios to deal with in a short amount of space (1.33/1.37/1.38/1.66/1.78/1.85/2.0/2.20/2.35/2.40/2.55 are the ones that spring to mind right away) and let's not even talk about Super35.
I'm glad Ebert's at least taking the time to explain OAR to people, even if it's a simplified "See Spot Run" type of explanation. Better than nothing at all...
I agree that we need to keep it simple.
As I mentioned in another thread, I just totally redesigned my own "AtomBrain Guide to Letterboxing" to create something simple for newbies.
In this case, I think you really do need to "show rather than tell." Any talk of aspect ratios will cause most people's eyes to glaze over.
I have some advertising and public relations experience, and what I know about these fields screams at me: "Keep it simple!!!"
Basically the message comes down to an Orwellian: "Wide screen good, narrow screen bad."
author of Risen and
"The AtomBrain Guide to Letterboxing"
Yeah, when you're in the area of home video, the difference between 1.33 and 1.37 is all lost to overscan anyway, so it's not of any practical significance.
"This movie has warped my fragile little mind."
Funny Thing: Some people don't like the fact that the letterboxed image is smaller. But in some theaters people are watching a smaller film image with the same effect as letterboxing. The screen at my local theater rises to reveal less vertical length when a widescreen film is shown. Yes, the screen appears wider but it actually smaller. Since the theater can't move the walls out they raise the screen. On the other hand, some theaters don't raise the screen but pull the curtain to reveal less on the sides for non 1:2:53 AOR films. The Mann's Chinese did exactly this when they screen "The Wizard of Oz" a few years back and I remember thinking "Boy, this screen is so small".
Before the modern day multiplex, back when stand alone theaters with 1000 + seats were prevalent, most theaters truly had a "widescreen". No matter the aspect ratio - the image was projected so that the height remained constant. So first you would get the snack bar promos and the cartoon, after which the curtain opened wider to project the trailers, after which the curtain opened all the way to reveal the feature. This is one of my more pleasant memories of the movies in my youth.
Now days, all widescreen ratios are projected to maintain the width of the screen, with the height decreasing on wider ratios.
Neighborhood widescreen theaters started to die out in the late 70's/early 80's. I really miss them.
[Edited last by Alex Shk on August 13, 2001 at 03:47 PM]
That's what I love about the Mann National and the Mann Village in Westwood, CA. They use the constant height method, expanding or contracting the sides for a 1.85 or 2.35 movie. Shrek, at the National, was at 1.66 and it looked almost like a huge TV!
Now if only those theaters would carry more movies I liked...
All the theaters in my area keep the height constant and vary the width. In fact, in my 22 years I've never seen a theater that keeps the width constant and varies the height.
I envy you all.
Sean: All of the theaters in my area are multiplexes. 8, 10, 12 screens, all of them "width restricted". Of course, I am not too far from Manhattan, but middle age, kids, mortgage and the job preclude "travelling" for a movie that's playing next door. Used to be that those screens were in every neighborhood, but when the "single" theater became 8, something had to give.
The theater I frequent the most is a multiplex with 20 screens. All of the screens (at least all the screens I've seen there) are fixed height with variable width. Of course, some of the screens are bigger than others so that older films can be rotated to the slightly smaller screens and the new releases shown on the bigger and larger occupancy rooms.
Not ALL movies were shot at 1.37:1 prior to 1954. There were a handful of movies that experimented with anamorphic lenses, large format negatives, and multiple camera techniques. One widescreen film from the early 1930's was a John Wayne movie (one of his first).
I think Ebert needs a little refresher course in film history.
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