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Discussion in 'DVD' started by Charlie O., Sep 17, 2003.
Can some explain to me what the point of window boxing is and how it preserves an aspect ratio?
The idea is to prevent overscan.
Many silent films are transferred with a tiny bit of windowboxing, just to make sure all or nearly all of the frame is seen. A lot of other films have credits windowboxed, too.
FYI, David Shepard was the first pioneer of windowboxing when he started to use it in the 1980's for Blackhawk Films videos.
And when Shepard asked Crest National to make those first windowboxed videos, they made him sign a release that he wouldn't sue them when people complained about the windowboxing! Some things never change...
Windowboxing/Pillarboxing also preserves the 1.33:1 and 1.66:1 aspecr ratios for 1.78:1/1.85:1/2.35:1/2.40:1 presentations.
If you watch HBO HD, you will notice that despite the fact that Carnivale and The Sopranos are 1.78:1 and fill a widescreen set...Sex and The City is 1.33:1. So you get mattes on the sides. This is so that it does not have to be tilt and scanned for widescreen presentation.
The same occurs with 1.66:1 films like Lilo and Stitch & Army of Darkness. You get thin black mattes on the sides that are usually hidden by overscan.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment windowboxed The Sorcerer's Apprentice for Fantasia 2000. The new segments were 1.85:1 but the classic segment was 1.33:1.
Dreamworks Home Entertainment windowboxed the opening sequence for Galaxy Quest at 1.33:1 while the rest of the film is 2.35:1.
You could present the 1.33:1 or 1.66:1 film/portion in 4x3 but that would require folks with 16x9 sets to change the TV settings.
You could also til and scan the image. But unless the director approves this process, it is akin to pan & scan.
For clarification, here are the most commonly used terms and what they are generally assumed to mean:
letterboxing: An image that has horiztonal black-bars above/below the image area to preserve the aspect ratio of the image content when the shape of the frame is narrower than the image itself (like putting a 2.35:1 image into a 16x9 1.78:1 frame).
pillarboxing: An image that has vertical black-bars on the left/right of the image to preserve the aspect ratio of the image content when the shape of the frame is *wider* than the image itself (like putting a 1.66:1 image into a 16x9 1.78:1 frame).
windowboxing: An image that has black-bars all the way around on all 4 sides. They are usually mild/small and the usual purpose is to minimize the amount of image content that would be lost to overscan on consumer displays.
The beginning of "Galaxy Quest" was 1.85, not 1.33. I haven't seen it on DVD, but I heard they presented those scenes at 2.35 like the rest of the movie, which doesn't make much sense (yes, I heard the reason why, but what about theatres that have top-down masking for scope movies?)
Galaxy Quest had three ARs for the theatrical presentation.
The "vintage" clip was presented 1.33:1.
All scenes on Earth were presented 1.85:1.
The rest of the film was 2.35:1.
For DVD, it was decided to make it easier and just keep the 1.33:1 AR for the "vintage" clip and the rest of the film would be 2.35:1.
To elaborate on the utility of windowboxing: today, films (and, particularly, their title sequences) are shot to be "TV safe." That is, essential picture information is often kept away from the extreme edges of the frame so that, when played back on a normal TV set with overscan, that essential information will not go missing. Before the advent of television, obviously, no filmmakers shot their films or made title sequences to be TV safe. Therefore, many old films have scenes and title sequences that aren't quite understandable when watched on TV, due to the missing image covered by overscan. Windowboxing the image prevents this loss of picture so that the viewer can see (and, in the case of titles, read) all of the film that is meant to be seen.
Also worth noting is that overscan becomes less of an issue with a well-calibrated display (where it can be adjusted to a minimum level). Many "normal" conumer 4x3 TVs don't even let you adjust it so you're stuck with what factory did...but most higher-end HDTVs etc. make the overscan feature available to the user (or at least through a service code) to modify.
Also, most front-projection systems can be set up to produce minumum overscan as well.
Point is that as your system evolves and your display gets better and better, you can take action to minimize the overscan to the bare minumum so you can see more of the picture on that disc.
If you're curious whether your TV has overscan adjustment...check the manaual. If it doesn't say, look at the back of the set...some TVs have screw-adjustable horizontal/vertical raster dials on the back you can adjust with a screwdriver. If your set as a zillion other picture-calibration features but you can't find anything for "overscan" or vertical/horiztonal "ratster" and you still want to mess with it, then download a service manual for a technician--chances are you're just a few remote-button-clicks away.
I think it's a stupid idea really. I have a 10-year old Sony which I've calibrated to virtually eliminate overscan, and when I view any DVDs on my PC I obviously do not lose anything to overscan either. I don't mean to sound like a whiny clueless J6P, but really it's just useless reduction of real estate. Look at the first short on Disney Treasures, Mickey Mouse in B&W, for example.
The worst example of windowboxing is the Blade Runner Director's Cut DVD. My TV has 3% overscan on all sides, and the windowboxing is still very noticeable.
A lot of Warner's widescreen laserdiscs were windowboxed. My crappy old TV showed some black space on the left side, and my current TV I have adjusted for zero overscan so there's always space on the sides. Somehow I like seeing things I'm not supposed to see
Warner also pillarboxed 1.33:1 trailers on some early DVD releases. My The Man Who Would Be King flipper (what were they thinking?)has pillarboxed trailers for The Maltese Falcon and Treasure of the Sierra Madre.