Pan & Scan ONLY family releases: the controversy is NOT over yet (Warner & Paramount)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Sep 8, 2001.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    This week's retail insider magazine,
    VIDEO BUSINESS, has a very interesting
    article about studios releasing P&S only titles.
    Apparently, Paramount Home Video has quietly
    released a Pan & Scan only version of
    Charlotte's Web to DVD, even though a
    widescreen version has been available for months.
    The article goes on to state that both WARNER
    and PARAMOUNT are still going to decide on a
    title-by-title basis what films get released in
    WHAT format.
    It's hard to tell from this article exactly
    what Paramount and Warner are up to regarding
    future releases, but I still find it very hard
    to understand why BOTH versions can't be released
    on the SAME disc.
    You have the greatest video format in the world
    which can hold an immense amount of data. Why
    are the studios still bickering over what version
    to put on a disc?
    Doesn't anyone remember when DVD first appeared
    on the scene back in 1997? It was touted as a
    format that could hold different versions of the
    same title. Why are the studios not using DVD
    to its fullest capacity?
    If Paramount wants to release TWO versions
    of its family films instead of putting both
    versions on the same disc, I have no beef. It's
    an expensive alteranative, but at least they
    are catering to all audiances.
    But if Warner and/or Paramount is putting out
    wording like "we will decide on a title-by-title"
    basis, then I have a very uneasy feeling about
    the future of family DVD.
    ------------------
    [​IMG]
    Ronald Epstein (pronounced like the English "Ronald Epstein")
    Circa 2000
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  2. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the report, Ron.
    Don't think we won't give them very public and visible high and holy hell about this. Martin Blythe at Paramount knows what to expect from us-- he also should know better in general about this issue.
     
  3. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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    I don't like that term "title-by-title basis" That really angers me! [​IMG]
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  4. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    I don't think it comes as a surprise to anyone here that the studios are greedy corporations. So, if they think they can save some bucks without losing sales by going pan&scan only, they will cheerfully go with pan&scan only and not care one iota about the enthusiasts who prefer their movies OAR.
    Dual versions or pan&scan only is completely about money, IMHO. Dual version discs cost a little bit more to make, so why not just save money and do pan&scan only?
    I find that sort of thinking despicable (putting out a lower quality product than they can just cause it will save a few bucks and who cares about the consumers!) but I'm sure its a reality anyway.
    ------------------
    /Kimmo
     
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  6. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Ron, I read at either DVDFile, DVDReview, or Digital Bits (I forget which) that a P&S version of Charlotte's Web was on its way...I read it the day after the OAR version of CW was released (and purchased by me).
    I didn't see much about it after that, but I knew it was coming. So this "quiet" release doesn't really bother me. After all, they released the OAR version first, and then a MAR version.
    I agree that it doesn't make sense, in the end, for the studios to release 2 different discs - each with an OAR or MAR edition of the film. It means that they must produce a 2nd SKU, and the retailers must stock it, taking up valuable inventory and shelf space (is it any wonder why the retailers pick one or the other - depending on whether their patrons are more like HTF (Best Buy) or more like J6P (Wal-Mart) - and only majorly stock one of those SKUs?).
    Here's why the studios won't go double-sided though, like they often did in the past: When Disney re-launched their DVD line with the "Limited Edition" series, they made a big deal out of one aspect of the changes. Unlike past efforts like "The Santa Clause" and "Mr. Magoo" and the first "Mary Poppins" pressing, they would no longer have a disc that is confusing to the little kids as to how to insert it into the player. Their marketing said - then and http://disney.go.com/disneyvideos/dvdpopups/html/why.html ).
    Perhaps the best solution is that the studios ought to go ahead and create 2 discs. 1 OAR, and 1 MAR. Each with a full round of supplements. Each with great bit-rate. Then put both of them in 1 double-keepcase, a la Tarzan or Dinosaur Collector's editions (or Abyss or ID4, if you must). Then there's only one SKU to stock, and we'd be happy to pay a bit more for it, right?
    Uh...problem from the studio's point of view: how many of these will be bought by two people and split the discs up? Y'know: "go in half with me; I'll take the P&S version and you can have the silly one with the black bars; I'll even let you have the box if I get the booklet".
    Okay, so they can defeat that: Disc 1 has BOTH versions of the movie, one on each layer (a la Return To Oz). The 2nd disc has all the supplements. Ya still got labels on the discs. Still got a decent bit-rate. Still got 1 SKU.
    How does that sound? Consumers? Studios?
    ------------------
    DAVE/Memphis
    Widescreen is Family Fun!
    [​IMG]
    [Edited last by David Lambert on September 08, 2001 at 06:38 AM]
     
  7. Kyle McKnight

    Kyle McKnight Cinematographer

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    David, your last option sounds like a winner to me. 2 discs, one with both versions of the movie, and one with the supplements.
    You can still fit both versions of a movie, and supplements one one side of the disc, with good video/audio. Check out Cruel Intentions. Sure, the movie is only about 90 minutes long, but most family titles don't run longer than that anyways.
    ------------------
    Kyle³
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    Yahoo Messenger - digitalkyle
     
  8. Gordon Wakim

    Gordon Wakim Stunt Coordinator

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    I have mentioned this before and I will again, if you want to eliminate something you must eliminate it at it's very core. The Pan & Scan issue will only go away once the need for it is eliminated. The need for it exists because the majority of televisions in this country are 4:3. Instead of constantly fighting with the studios, I think pressure needs to be brought to the hardware manufacturers to get more widescreen televisions to the market. Sony for example keeps coming out with new models and just about all of them are 4:3. They just came out with a 40" direct view and it is a 4:3 set. So long as this keeps happening, pan & scan will never go away. I believe Sony has only one widescreen direct view model available and maybe a couple projection models, the rest are 4:3. Of the widescreen models, none are affordable to the general public. When I went to Circuit City I saw two direct view widescreen models available, RCA & Panasonic I think, Best Buy had none. Most people will not buy a 34" widescreen for $3000.00+ when they can get a 32" 4:3 television for $600.00. Until this scenario changes, the battle of Pan & Scan releases will continue.
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    Welcome My Son, Welcome To The Machine
     
  9. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    I guess in this case the low cost TV set thing in the US is actually working against you. Here in Europe, all manufacturers have a slew of widescreen models in several sizes. The vast majority are 32 inch, with 28 inch as well. There are even smaller widescreen sets available than that.
    The widescreen sets are a bit more expensive than a high-end 4:3 but not horribly so.
    Then again, all TV:s are more expensive here than in the US.
    Strange that they can't adapt their European widescreen lines to fit the US market.
    ------------------
    /Kimmo
     
  10. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    DVD has been a fantastic format for both the enthusiast and the casual collector, not only because of the high quality, OAR transfers, but because of its informative and educational features. I have learnt so much from the extra features on DVD. I got onto DVD because I'm a gadget geek, but DVD has turned me into a film enthusiast.
    Nothing is better than DVD in showing why widescreen is better.
    It saddens me that the marketing "geniuses" at AOLTimeWarner etc. still feel the need to target the dumbest, most ignorant people. They should instead try and educate the consumer about OAR (maybe they should educate themselves first).
    Most people can easily understand why OAR is better, and for those that can't include a P&S version in addition to the real movie. Children are often the easiest to educate on this issue, so why they are doing this to "family" films escapes me.
    Of course education takes effort and isn't 100%, but it angers me to have AOLTimeWarner & their ilk lump me in with the 90 IQ crowd, jut because its easier and cheaper for them.
    Remember people HAVE lost money overestimating the stupidity of the American Public (DivX)!
    No OAR = No Sale
    ------------------
    -- Will Work for Five Million Dollars
     
  11. Joseph Bolus

    Joseph Bolus Cinematographer

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    It seems to me that with "Family Titles" (which typically have aspect ratios of 1.66:1 to 1.85:1) the studios could at least try the DVD hardware "Pan-and-Scan on-the-fly" feature.
    Every DVD player ever built has the ability to provide this feature, which was supposed to work by encoding "P&S Control Codes" into an anamorphically-encoded Widescreen transfer.
    The result? The Studios only have to provide one anamorphic Widescreen transfer and the end user, via the DVD player's DISPLAY and/or "TV TYPE" menu, can simply choose the version they would like to view. (With most players, the options that appear on this menu usually allow the end-user to choose between 4:3 LBX, 4:3 P&S, or 16:9 Widescreen options.)
    Now, this process does not work well for 2.35:1 transfers (which would still be rendered with small black bars on a 4:3 set), but for 1.85:1 or below transfers, I see no reason why this technique could not at least be tried by the studios.
    There have been at least two discs that I'm aware of that were produced with this feature enabled. I own one: DVD International's Aquaria disc. I viewed this 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer for a few minutes utilizing the "4:3 P&S" mode on my player and could detect no player-generated artifacts introduced by the process. In fact, the resulting picture appeared cleaner than the same scenes when viewed with the player's 4:3 Letterbox mode (which displayed the usual downconversion artifacts.)
    In short, it would appear that a viable hardware alternative does exist for "Family Films" produced in the 1.66:1 to 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
    Why are the studios not even considering this option?
    ------------------
    Joseph
    ---------------
    "As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy, than to create."
    [Edited last by Joseph Bolus on September 08, 2001 at 09:28 AM]
     
  12. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Just yesterday I picked up The King Of Masks- original Chinese with subtitles, great! But FORMATTED TO FIT MY FREAKIN' TV?????? WHY????
    I didn't notice until I got home and started to unwrap it. I didn't even think to check on a foreign title like that, I just checked the language. [​IMG]
    I'm debating whether to keep it or not now. . .I'm not sure what the chances are of an OAR re-release of this title. . .plus, I bought it used, so I didn't *directly* support the manufacturer. Such a quandary!!!
     
  13. Bill Crosthwait

    Bill Crosthwait Second Unit

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    To all the studios...especially Warner Bros. NO OAR = NO SALE. Instead of releasing Pan & Scan movies, try to educate J6P about the the benefits of OAR. Thanks
    ------------------
    Bill
    My DVD Collection
    [email protected]
    My DVD, Home Theater page
    [Edited last by Bill Crosthwait on September 08, 2001 at 09:55 AM]
     
  14. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Joseph, Before I read your post I was thinking exactly that. When DVD's were first introduced, that option was mentioned. Somehow, I don't think that the people making these DVD's have read their owner's manual for the options that allows that. I'd hate to see the price on that thing - and to think that they are not using it to their full advantage. Oh well.
    Anywho, I had other comments. Regarding the quote - Don't think we won't give them...
    The author did not say -Don't think we won't give him - quite a difference. We know that Mr. Blythe is only another cog in the wheel, but he is listening.
    (These are random thoughts, by the way) As for having the picture on one side of the DVD, this only sounds like a pro P&S scam. Why couldn't the parent say, "Junior, if you put it in and the picture looks funny, just turn it over."
    A simple solution, and sooner or later, some kid is going to say, "Hey, my dad told me that the black bars are cool!" Oh, wouldn't that be a nice way for the word to get around!
    And yes, it is the TV's that are still be cranked out at the wrong aspect ratio. A campaign to write them would be interesting, to say the least.
    I don't know how many noticed, but the OAR of WW is coming out about 3 months from their announcement. Not to brag, but we did help to get them to fix it, and I don't see why we can't do the same for IAMMMMW.
    On a final thought, with our 20k members, you'd think that at least one of us is - or knows somebody in the public eye. At the least, if the right actor were to announce a news conference and express their total disgust at P&S, we might get somewhere.
    Glenn
     
  15. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    Unfortuneately, this will come down to money earned. The studios see that more DVD players are being purchased by former VCR owners. They know that there core of VCR owners prefer the P & S versions of movies and they are going to tap into that market. It is just a shame that the studios are now turning their backs on the first wave of DVD owners that want OAR movies amd who got this format going and kept it alive until J6Pers entered the market.
     
  16. Scott Dill

    Scott Dill Stunt Coordinator

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    While I am sure that their customer surveys do show a preference for "full frame" (P&S) presentations by the target market for these films, what I would really like to know is how many lost sales that corresponds to if they only released widescreen versions.
    Personally, I'll watch P&S films on TV, but I will never purchase a non-OAR disc for my collection. How many P&S fans practice this - i.e. Non P&S => no purchase? I doubt that many do.
     
  17. AaronMK

    AaronMK Supporting Actor

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    I don't buy for a second that SKU's and dual releases are very costly or a big issue to a studio or retailers. Why is it such a big deal to have two SKU's. With the numerous other products retailers have, this should be a non-issue.
    Whether studios decide to release one or two versions, they only have to pay for the supplments to be created once. As far as transfering the film, compression is only one of the many steps needed. If they compress the OAR version, they're most of the way there to compressing the P&S version as well, since compression challenges are more unique to the movie and not the framing.
    The additional costs of dual or two disc releases is not that much considering what they pay for pruduction of supplments. From what I hear replication is a very small portion of the cost.
    It more shows laziness and a complete disrespect for the product on the studios' part. The addtional costs of having both versions available, even if more that a single layer is required to ensure good presantion quality, is not that much. It will also be more than offset by the additional sales from people who will only buy if OAR is an option.
    Consider this:
    The average OAR only buyer puchases more movies in a year than the average movie consumer will buy in there lifetime.
    OAR only buyers are an influencial force that can not be ingored without the bottom line being hurt.
    ------------------
    My DVD's
    If a movie is not available in OAR, than it might as well not be available at all.
    [Edited last by AaronMK on September 08, 2001 at 10:37 AM]
     
  18. CRyan

    CRyan Screenwriter

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    Well, most of us here at the HTF thought that this would be our next battle following DIVX. I have said it before, but this is only the beginning. We have many years before widescreeen sets have the market penetration that DVD currently enjoys.
    If they can release non-oar now without a perceived hit to their bottom line, don't think they will not start releasing P&S only titles now and then reap the financial benefits later when they release the title again in its OAR - when the general public is screaming to have their widescreen set filled up with a widescreen image. Hopefully not cropped to 1.77:1!
    This "new" OAR policy may become very difficult to fight with the advent of rental pricing if it ever occurs. You WILL see P&S releases for rent without a widescreen version available for months or even years! [​IMG]
    C. Ryan
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    http://www.elitestoragedesigns.com/RyanOAR.bmp
     
  19. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Warner and Paramount aren't alone. Fox just released TO WALK WITH LIONS a 2.35:1 PG-13 film in standard format. It also has dialogue altered to remove the word "fuck" and a "Kids First" logo on the cover.
    Single layer too. My review will be up next week.
    ------------------
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  20. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    Thanks, Glenn. That's exactly what I meant. I know Martin isn't the sole decision-maker at Paramount (and he's a heck of a nice guy); though Paramount doesn't have a dedicated "Family Films" department like WB, certainly more people than just him are involved in this type of planning.
     

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