question for anamorphic viewers

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Josh Steinberg, Jul 27, 2003.

  1. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Lead Actor
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    I don't have a 16x9 TV, but I have seen them and I do understand the importance of anamorphic transfers and the added resolution. My question is this:

    I often read comments here where people say "[Film XYZ] is a great movie that I love, but it's not anamorphic so I'm not buying it." I don't mean this to be insulting or antagonistic, but I am curious: what happens when a DVD comes out of a movie you love, but it's not an anamorphic transfer? Do you choose not to enjoy a film that you love because of that?

    Again, I don't have a widescreen TV so I guess I can't relate; the closest example I could use is that there are films I love with bad transfers, or made from lesser quality elements, like the Marx Brothers movies on DVD from Image. The quality isn't all that great, but I love those movies and they're worth having. I'd gladly go out and buy better editions if they ever came out, but I watch them enough that it's not worth waiting for me. I'd rather watch lesser quality transfers of Marx Brothers movies than not watch them at all.

    I'm sure this is probably a touchy subject for a few people, and I honestly do not mean to be insulting or cause any fights; I just don't understand how whether or not a transfer is anamorphic can be the only selling point.
     
  2. Brian Harnish

    Brian Harnish Screenwriter

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    Josh Steinberg wrote:

     
  3. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    It's definitely subjective. I think that it boils down to how you categorize titles that you would consider buying. For me, there's "Definitely," "If the price is right," and "No way!" If I put the film in my Definitely category...I'll buy it, regardless of the transfer/audio quality. An example of this would be Office Space. It's one of my favorites, so anamorphic or not...I'd buy it. On the other hand, films that go into my If...Right category, that is where I'm more flexible. If I'm not hell-bent on buying something, and it isn't anamorphic or is marred by other problems...then I won't pick it up.

    But then again, I also watch a lot of laserdiscs, so I've never been that hung up on anamorphic transfers. But...excluding a few great non-anamorphic/LD transfers, anamorphic transfers are usually leaps and bounds ahead, and on a widescreen HDTV they look invariably more film-like.
     
  4. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    You're absolutely right, Josh -- this is a touchy issue. It always has been, because we come to DVD with varying priorities -- for some, it's the pleasure of a theatrical experience, or rather a "near" theatrical experience, at home (those with projection equipment can really say this), and for others it's strictly the content of the films they collect, rather than the presentation, that determines their interest. For most, I'd dare say, it's a combination of both film quality and presentation quality, and for such film collectors (everyone else rents [​IMG]) it becomes a balancing scale -- how poor can the presentation be before it ruins the enjoyment of the film, or how poor can the film be before the quality of the presentation, no matter how stellar, simply cannot make it watchable?

    There are no "answers," only opinions, but as such, here's mine: while I've made and continue to make exceptions for certain (great) 1.66:1 films (which should be anamorphic), I try to make precious few exceptions for anything wider. If it's wide and it isn't anamorphic, I won't buy it. The reasons are twofold: 1) if it's a feature film, chances are good that a better, anamorphic edition will be released sometime in the future; 2) non-anamorphic films simply do not look as film-like on my set as anamorphic films. And losing myself in the picture demands something at least approaching a film-like experience -- otherwise, I'd just watch the picture on cable. I'm one of those "fringe" home theater owners -- my set has a dedicated anamorphic mode and fully displays anamorphic material without downconversion, but it is a CRT set, rather than rear projection, LCD, plasma, front projection, etc.. As a CRT, is has a visible line structure (scan lines), and these are drastically minimized by anamorphic encoding. In addition to the resolution gain, I also enjoy an image that has an increased "smoothness" reminiscent of film, rather than the pixelated, lined image I associate with video.

    Academy Ratio films still look great, don't misunderstand, and I wouldn't have them any other way, but the old saying "ignorance is bliss" applies: I know the line structure is unavoidable on these films, so I can look past it to the digital precision and transfer quality of the image itself, and enjoy it thoroughly. There are Academy films that look better than many anamorphic widescreen pictures (Scaramouche and the SE of Singin' in the Rain are among my absolute favorites for presentation quality at the moment). The care of the transfer, the precision of the encoding, the quality of the film elements used in the first place ... many things come together to spell "film-like" or "unfilm-like."

    This gets to a generalization of some note, however: many widescreen films which have not been anamorphically encoded (in fact, most, I'd say) are old D2 (composite) video masters from the days of VHS and laserdisc. As such, they do not even look as film-like, as good, as a new, carefully and precisely mastered, but still non-anamorphic, transfer. Thus these "old" transfers have two big video marks against them: the fact that they are old means they haven't the benefit of newer transfer technologies (D1 component transfers, for instance) and knowledge, and the fact that they're non-anamorphic means they haven't the benefit of the additional resolution (both color and luminance resolution) that comes with anamorphically encoding a downconverted high definition transfer (I'm a bit fuzzy on just how and when low definition film-to-tape would be used, and if anamorphic encoding does much for such a transfer, but a good transfer made to high definition tape and then downconverted and anamorphically encoded on DVD can really make a compatible NTSC or PAL display device sing; someone who knows more than my few crumbs about the film-to-tape process might elaborate further).

    So ... it all comes down to effort. I was very happy with the best of laserdisc, back in the early and mid-90's, because the best of laserdisc represented the best the studios could offer on North American home video, and I knew it. But that's not the case any longer. Having seen a technology which can best (in most cases; I'd still say that Academy B&W has been made to look phenomenal on the best of laser) the older analogue technologies by leaps and bounds, I expect that standard now, not the old one. Many of my favorite films are Academy Ratio, but a brand new, downconverted high definition D1 transfer of an Academy film, with the digital precision of DVD, can easily best a D2 analogue transfer on laser, which itself easily bested (particularly for color fidelity, definition, and saturation) VHS. Widescreen films take it still a step further. While a new D1 transfer can easily best an old D2, anamorphically encoding a brand new high definition D1 yields still further improvements, as mentioned earlier.

    As I said: effort. What effort has the studio expended on this release? Is that an effort I'll reward with my money, or is that money better invested in another film, another DVD, a better DVD? I had many discussions with friends about laser over VHS back in the day. Frankly, most of the folks with whom I spoke just didn't see anything wrong with tape (I have a friend to this day who still swears by VHS, and this guy has blown five figures on audio equipment! He does own a DVD player, though, I'm happy to say). But if everyone were perfectly happy with "good enough," believe me, content providers would never go to the expense of providing the best. It's only when we push for the best and reward the best over the cheaper and easier routes that the best becomes commonplace.

    And that's where I stand. I'll only buy a select few 1.66:1 films when they're non-anamorphic. While I was once much more willing to buy non-anamorphic, though I knew that anamorphic "future proofed me," since buying my anamorphic set in 2000, the number of films wider than 1.66:1 but non-anamorphic that I've purchased on DVD would scarcely fill a shoebox (only the greatest films ever made have generally warranted purchase in such a state). I was thrilled with non-anamorphic widescreen OAR transfers on laser, but that was because the market had not yet offered anything better. Once it did, and once I could enjoy that improvement, there was no reason to go on supporting yesterday's standard with my purchasing dollar. Criterion pushed the way to OAR in the first place: studios were generally of the opinion, throughout much of VHS' early and mid history, that home consumers wanted their television sets filled. End of story. Criterion made a very big push both to educate consumers to what they were missing and demonstrate, for studios, that consumers who saw the difference often cared very much (they had to, to pay Criterion's hefty prices!). Over time, the success of widescreen on laser, and consumer demand for widescreen to the major studios, brought about policy change.

    Would OAR be the standard on DVD today if not for an unwillingness to settle for less, an unwillingness in the home video market that really began to grow fifteen years ago?

    I want to encourage the best, so in general I try only to buy the best (i.e. discs that present films to the minimum standard of DVD, and for widescreen films I consider anamorphic encoding part of the minimum standard, even though the DVD Forum does not [​IMG]; non-anamorphic very often means "D2 analogue master from years ago," and when it doesn't, why the heck hasn't anamorphic encoding been utilized?): in a free market, the dollar is your voting card.

    The standard as I see it -- 1.66:1 and wider: new video masters, anamorphic, with the care in transfer and encoding we've come to expect. Academy (or otherwise "non-wide") films: new video masters as well, D1 component masters (are component masters used for B&W films? It occures to me this might be an issue, but in addressing color films, component is obviously the standard) that take full advantage of the DVD spec for full screen video.

    None of this touches on the audio improvements of DVD (and laser before it) over the crackling audio we all enjoyed on VHS, but for picture quality, when the best is attainable and, indeed, a standard to which many content providers, studio and independent alike, hold themselves ... why invest buying dollars in something less? Again, I'll watch the film on cable, maybe tape it if I really love it, and wait to buy the thing until a proper home video edition is released (one which, frankly, respects my purchasing dollar, and the available elements for the film, the resources of the company, and other factors all weigh into what qualifies as a "respectable effort").

    "End of song, beginning of story,"* or something like that. [​IMG]

    *High Society
     
  5. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Lead Actor
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    Brian,
    I know it's a subjective term, but what would you consider to be "completely unwatchable"? Or rather, how would you define unwatchable?

    I'm trying to think of any films in my collection (including VHS) that fit that description, and for me, I don't think there are any. But I guess what I forget from time to time is that a lot of times I watch films more because I'm a film student than because I'm a home theater enthusiast - so if I can get what I need to get out of a film with a bad transfer, then it's not a nightmare for me. Then again, I do find that with the quality of DVD improving each day, I am starting to get pickier. But when I think of the worst video quality I have on a DVD - and that honor would go to the Peter Gabriel "Secret World Live" DVD - I'd still rather watch that show with a horrendous transfer (apparent even on my smallest TV, a 15") than not at all. I also don't seem to make as many whim purchases as some other people do - if I'm buying something, it's usually because I feel that I need to have it.
     
  6. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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  7. Well, I'll fess-up to being an anamorphic snob, but for good reason:

    Even on my pitiful 27" direct-view, the difference is like night and day (with a few exceptions).

    Since everyone hopes to have a bigger TV in the future, the problem can only get worse.

    Of the movies in print now, there's about 30 that I'm specifically waiting on for a better transfer.

    If you caught any of the flack over on the Abyss thread, you can see how serious people are about getting the most resolution possible.

    I do own about 8 movies that are encoded 4:3, but several of these were flukes (some were mislabeled like 2010).

    On a few occasions (like The Apostle), I'll buy strictly on the fact that its a great movie that's been clearanced and most likely won't be reissued.

    I didn't jump onto DVD till 2001 and in some ways this fortunate.

    I knew what to look for and what to avoid (to this day I have yet to double-dip despite having around 500 flicks).

    ...Although the Unforgiven reissue is calling to me...
     
  8. Dmitry

    Dmitry Supporting Actor

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  9. rin

    rin Stunt Coordinator

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    The fact that a dvd is non-anamorphic would not necessarily stop me from purchasing it. There are many good 4:3 LB transfers out there. My main dvd player does 4:3 to 16:9 scaling so sometimes I don't even notice that a disc isn't enhanced until after I've watched it. Office Space was one of these. About the only deal breaker for me is if a disc is non-OAR.
     
  10. Geoff_D

    Geoff_D Supporting Actor

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    Being a laserdisc fan (and not owning some gargantuan rptv/projector set-up) I've always been able to live with something being non-anamorphic as long as the transfer itself is up to scratch. Most of the time, if something's non-anamorphic on dvd then that sets alarm bells ringing as to the quality of the transfer. But there are always exceptions; look at the gorgeous transfers that the non-anamorphic Kubrick dvds have. These are dvds that some people won't even buy because they are so dedicated to anamorphic video. I own them, of course. [​IMG] In fact, I've even replaced (early) anamorphic dvds with their LD equivalents because I found the LD transfers more pleasing. I've also recently swapped an anamorphic NTSC dvd for it's non-anamorphic PAL equivalent (and vice versa) after comparing the transfers.

    But bad transfers are always a no-no and I tend to do as much research as I can on a title before buying (especially if it's R1 as they're harder to return for me!). I got my fingers burned on the new Robin Hood[​IMG]rince of Thieves dvd because the anamorphic picture is truly diabolical IMO, and I actually feel bad because I own such a terrible transfer of one of my all-time favourites.
     
  11. mark alan

    mark alan Supporting Actor

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    If you owned a front projection system, this would not be a topic of conversation. Non anamorphic dvds are practically unwatchable on a 6-8 foot wide screen.

    Even a lot of anamorphic dvds (usually older, like Batman) are pretty darn bad on a big projection screen. High definition dvd can't get here soon enough for me.
     
  12. Paul_Stachniak

    Paul_Stachniak Screenwriter

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    I buy it regardless.
     
  13. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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