The Monster Channel thinks you're an idiot.

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Al Stuart, Jan 9, 2004.

  1. Al Stuart

    Al Stuart Stunt Coordinator

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    For those who weren't aware, there is a new high definition channel that shows horror movies 24/7 in 1080I, uncut. In NY, and apparently elsewhere, the only way to get it, is through the satellite service VOOM, which offers many channels in HD (39 by next month), including the Monster Channel, and 10 other movie channels. A few nights ago, I spent a long time on the phone talking to a VOOM rep, trying to find out specifics, and from what I was able to understand, on all their HD channels, the programming is in the ratio of 1.78. This is fine on newer programming or movies that were shot in 1.85. But they are doing it on older programming, like a movie made before 1954, or a television program made before the last few years, and therefore cropping off many heads, as well as with 2.35 movies, and cropping the sides about 30%.

    A few hours ago, I was at the Chiller/Fangoria convention in New Jersey, and lo and behold, there was a representative from the Monster Channel, several, in fact, including the head programmer in charge of decisions as to what airs and how it airs. I asked if they show all their movies, even older ones, in 1.78. He told me they did, and that a real horror fan would not care that it was slightly cropped either way, because the image would be so sharp. He insisted I was not a real horror fan, beacuse I was a "purist" who wanted things the way they were shown in a theater, and that I should stick with DVDs. I pointed out that since very few people had heard of VOOM (and that seems to be the only way to see the Monster Channel at the moment), it was probably a bit foolish to deliberately alienate people, and that there were a lot more, like me, who objected to deliberate and knowing cropping of the image. He said I was the first to make such a complaint and that, really, no one who really likes horror movies (I did not mention any film I was a pro or con on) will care that it's in the wrong ratio. He then said I had no right to complain, because I may have an HDTV, but it's a 4X3 HDTV, and only people with widescreen TV's really understood HD. This is, of course, utter crap, since my resolution goes up just as high as 16X9 TV's, and I have a 16X9 mode. The only difference is how thick the letterboxing is on my TV.

    Anyway, I asked him, since the VOOM receiver offers squeezing and zooming options for those who want to adjust letterboxing and have the image fill up their screen, why is he not letting the customer make up their mind on how they would like to see the film, and not making the decision for them? Then he claimed that this is the version that the studio was sending him (cropped 35MM film prints? Ha!!!!), that they were then turning into 1080I for broadcast on their HD channel. He insisted that he had personally screened all of the movies, and these 1.78 versions were what he preferred. At that point, I realized that there was nothing I could say to him that would either make sense in his world, nor make him sound any more foolish than he already was.

    Why tell this story if not much can be done about it, if the guy is this hard headed and believes that no one else will care? Anyone going to Chiller/Fangoria this weekend (for Joe Bob, Ving Rhames, Selma Blair, a Friday the 13th reunion, Bill Lustig, Ron Perlman*, etc.) can go to this booth and express what he seems to believe no one thinks, that horror fans do care about proper OAR presentation, and that chopping off heads is only cool if it's done within the movie, not because some idiot wanted to fill up his 16X9 TV. His booth was in the right corner of the dealer's room (of which there is only one this year).

    P.S. Fangoria editor and "host" of the Weekend of Horrors, Tony Timpone, sucks more than House of the Dead, and anyone who gets a chance, should kick him in the shins. Although, honestly just from looking at him, you'll want to do that without my suggestion.




    *Guilermo Del Toro has gastrointestinal problems, and is in the hospital and will not be showing up at the convention.
     
  2. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Ha ha ha!!!
     
  3. Dave Schofield

    Dave Schofield Second Unit

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    While I'm in complete agreement with the need to educate regarding OAR, what exactly did your shouting match on the convention hall floor with a marketing guy accomplish? Did you expect him to slap his forehead and run off to the control booth and fix the problem immediately? There are plenty of ways to educate both the public and the broadcasters without resorting to telling them they are stupid. Perhaps I am mis-reading your account of the conversation, but I can't imagine he would say that you weren't a "real horror fan" if you didn't press him pretty hard beforehand.
     
  4. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    Well at least he was able to meet the guy responsible and get into his face about it. That has to have more impact than a letter, phone call, or e-mail.
     
  5. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

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    I'm excited about The Horror Channel, but I'm not expecting it to be OAR. I hope it's going to be, but I have serious doubts about that happening....I figure they are going to be basically another in the ilk of Sci-Fi, AMC, USA, TBS etc. The only good thing is that the two founders are genuine horror buffs, so the programming will hopefully be solid.
     
  6. Dave Schofield

    Dave Schofield Second Unit

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    But the question remains: Is that really effective?
     
  7. Al Stuart

    Al Stuart Stunt Coordinator

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    The answer is yes. More on that after Curb Your Enthusiasm.
     
  8. Steve Phillips

    Steve Phillips Screenwriter

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    This is one reason why I wouldn't subscribe to VOOM, and I do have a 16X9 TV. I'm also a huge horror fan, and I DO care when things are tilt and scanned, cropped, or otherwise altered.

    VOOM is never going to make it anyway. They'll either go belly up or be bought out by DIRECTV.
     
  9. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    I hate to say it, but he's right. There is no way a network is going to broadcast movies in OAR because the number of people who would complain about their widescreen set not being filled up due to 2.35 or 1.33 movies would far outweigh the number that strictly adhere to OAR. Yelling at the network guy won't change that sentiment.
     
  10. Al Stuart

    Al Stuart Stunt Coordinator

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    I have more on The Monster Channel issue, including yet another confrontation (I'm good at those) with the head of programming, but this time there was a positive result. He actually approached me in the lobby as I was about to leave because I had caused such a scene earlier in the day when he wasn't there, and while it began as a heated argument, it ended on amiable terms, with him giving me an idea of what he would need to take to his boss in order to present a cogent argument for offering multiple formats (which was what I was pushing for at minimum) to viewers. He has asked me to write an email to run by him, and he will let me know what he would want adjusted. He also said a petition would be most helpful in getting across how widespread this issue is with possible subscribers. I have already posted this thread at the HorrorDVDs, DVDManiacs, AVS, and Satelliteguys (that's the official VOOM message board), but anyone who wants to spread the word to other boards, please do, and I can get more support for the issue. I'll post the final version of the email/petition later in the week when it's finished.
     
  11. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    Even the major networks are doing OAR, for example the last time ABC showed Forrest Gump it was 2.35:1 on the HD feed. You'd expect the major networks to be the first ones to give the foolscreen whiners what they want. It's a sad day when the free networks do OAR on HD and a significant amount of letterboxing on NTSC, while the pay networks crop everything.
     

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