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74

Widescreen vs Full-Frame
Topic by: dwhudson
Posted: May 20, 2002 - 3:56 AM PDT
Last Reply: July 23, 2004 - 2:53 PM PDT

page  1  2  3      prev | next
author topic: Widescreen vs Full-Frame
dwhudson
post #1  on May 20, 2002 - 3:56 AM PDT  
Ray has done an incredible and entertaining job of laying out the issues in the widescreen vs full-frame debate. We all know we're the kind of people who like to watch. The question here is: How do you like to watch?
SRhodes
post #2  on May 21, 2002 - 8:52 AM PDT  

Ray's article is definately a good overview of the debate.

The Digital Bits has an that was part of their campaign to education DVD buyers and producers early on to issue anamorphic DVDs.

Even when I was watching a 13" tv, I still would see letter box versions of films over pan and scan.

danger
post #3  on June 3, 2002 - 7:20 PM PDT  
kudos to you ray.
reading the article is one thing...
i was lucky enough to get a demo of this on ray's nice widescreen HD TV.

DANger
AMicone
post #4  on September 5, 2002 - 9:21 PM PDT  
Although I'll take pan-and-scan over letterbox when I'm watching my little 8" desktop TV. The screen is too small to accommodate a letterbox film, and it cuts into the enjoyment of the film. Anything larger and its letterbox all the way. I imagine that this would be an issue with small portable DVD players as well. Hopefully, they have a feature like my little 8" that cuts off the top and bottom of the letter box and some of the left and right corners to keep the film proportional on the screen. Trust me, on films like the remake of "Rollerball" and "Super Troopers" it makes no difference whatsoever. -- Andy
yulek
post #5  on September 6, 2002 - 1:09 AM PDT  
excellent article but i want to know more more more!!!!

like for example, what the heck does anamorphic mean anyway? it sounds great "new anamorphic 2.35:1 release"...

(the dictionary definition: "Relating to, having, or producing different optical imaging effects along mutually perpendicular radii: an anamorphic lens.", doesn't quite explain how this applies to film ratios...)

anyone? bueller?

---

also, there's one technique for transfer to 1.33:1 format that ray forgot to mention: SQUEEEEZE (well i don't know what the official name for it is). it's where you squeeze the wider frame into 1.33:1. makes people look tall and skinny.

most of the time the squeeze technique is used in pan & scan features during credit sequences ('cause you can't pan & scan those effectively).

in fact, a lot of time you know a movie is about to end on TV when suddenly the picture gets squeezed 'cause the credits are about to roll on top of the current scene :)
dwhudson
post #6  on September 7, 2002 - 4:20 AM PDT  
yulek wrote:

> what the heck does anamorphic mean anyway? it sounds great "new anamorphic 2.35:1 release"...

I'm no 'xpert on all this, but my understanding is that it means that the film was shot through a lens that squeezes wideframe information onto a standard-size frame of film (usually 35mm, of course). Then, when it's projected, it's unsqueezed out horizontally again. What's "great" about it is that it uses the full frame of film, hence the resolution should be better than using just about half or two thirds of the frame when it's matted instead.

Make sense? Also, theater owners prefered anamorphic over other fancy widescreen tricks back in the day when they were experimenting with ways to compete with TV because all they needed was a lens to unsqueeze the image; they didn't need whole new projection systems, etc.

> also, there's one technique for transfer to 1.33:1 format that ray forgot to mention: SQUEEEEZE (well i don't know what the official name for it is). it's where you squeeze the wider frame into 1.33:1. makes people look tall and skinny.

That's true. But I think that's used very, very rarely these days. Pretty amusing when you see it, though, you're right!

yulek
post #7  on September 8, 2002 - 1:07 PM PDT  
ty dwh, that makes sense.
oldkingcole
post #8  on September 8, 2002 - 11:47 PM PDT  
> On September 7, 2002 - 4:20 AM PST dwhudson wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> yulek wrote:
>
> > what the heck does anamorphic mean anyway? it sounds great "new anamorphic 2.35:1 release"...

David is basically right. Anamorphic traditionally meant that an anamorphic lens was used during the shooting of the film, and that a complimentary lens had to be used during playback.

Today's 16x9 HDTV screens all provide a "stretch" mode (often called something else -- "full" on my Toshiba HDTV for example). This performs the function of the playback lens -- it "stretches" the image, which would look "squeezed" without it. Imagine a normal, non-anamorphic widescreen DVD image, viewed on a normal 4:3 standard-definition TV. There will be black bars above and below the image. Now imagine you re-code the data on the DVD so that each frame uses the full 4:3 area of the standard-definition TV screen. To do this, you'll have to distort the geometry of the frame by squeezing the edges of the widescreen frame toward each other until they fit within the 4:3 frame.

The advantage of performing this anamorphic encoding is that, whereas before some of the 480 TV lines were wasted on black bars, now all 480 lines can be used to encode actual picture information. This can be a significant increase in vertical resolution over a non-anamorphic disc. When blown up on a big 55"+ 16x9 screen, this added resolution really makes a huge qualitative difference. And since the 16x9 TV screens all have an appropriate "stretch" mode, the geometry is restored back to what it should be. So on a 16x9 TV, you gain this extra vertical resolution and you don't have to watch everyone be really skinny.

But what happens if you *don't* have a 16x9 TV. There's no "stretch" mode on standard definition TVs, so what do those of us without widescreen TVs do? Well, it turns out that all DVD players have a feature called "anamorphic downconversion". This is a method whereby the DVD player itself takes the anamorphic image from the DVD and internally digitally downconverts it to a lower vertical resolution (about what it would have been if it hadn't been anamorphically enhanced, i.e., if it had been just a plain letterboxed disc) and restores the geometry back to normal while digitally adding the black bars back to the top and bottom of the image. It then displays properly, with black bars, on a normal 4x3 TV screen. This is why, in the setup menu of your DVD player, there is a setting for indicating whether the player is connected to a 4x3 TV or a 16x9 TV. That's how the player knows whether it needs to do anamorphic downconversion or not.

In fact, the quality of the downconversion algorithm is one of the differences between entry level and more expensive DVD players.

>
> > also, there's one technique for transfer to 1.33:1 format that ray forgot to mention: SQUEEEEZE (well i don't know what the official name for it is). it's where you squeeze the wider frame into 1.33:1. makes people look tall and skinny.
>
> That's true. But I think that's used very, very rarely these days. Pretty amusing when you see it, though, you're right!

The "squeeze" is pretty much the same process as the anamorphic enhancement, except without the complimentary "unsqeeze". You used to see it when network TV stations would broadcast widescreen films. Inevitably, those films would be broadcast as pan-and-scan. But then, when the end-credits rolled, the text wouldn't fit within the cropped frame. So the networks would resort to a geometric distortion so that the end-credits (and sometimes the opening credits) could fit across the TV screen. Nowadays I more often see the opening and end credits sequences just be letterboxed. Then, as soon as the credits are over, the film returns to pan-and-scan/full-frame.

By the way, I'm glad to see there's some interest in the technical aspects of home theater! I have some ideas for a couple more of these tech-related articles, so keep watching the GreenCine home page!

Oh, yeah, and as for the specifics of the full-frame DVD release of The Abyss, the powers-that-be at Fox made that disc useless to me because they didn't include the original theatrical cut! Argh!
jaquestati
post #9  on January 23, 2003 - 9:42 PM PST  
all i know is the picture on an anamorphic dvd via a progressive scan player and hdtv is pretty unbelievable..... once you've seen it you hope and pray every dvd you get is anamorphic...... and your heart sorta sinks if it isn't :(

i've got 3 different dvd players hooked up to my tv so i can ab the same movies sometimes just for fun..... and the difference is pretty mindboggling......
oldkingcole
post #10  on March 22, 2003 - 11:50 PM PST  
Back in May of last year, I wrote:

With a public primed by years of cropped, pan & scan VHS tapes and TV broadcasts, and a video rental industry that conservatively prefers to give its customers whatever they're already used to getting, we could see widescreen versions of DVDs become rarities at video rental stores.

Well, tonight I tasted a little of that nightmare. My mom went down to Blockbuster to rent a few DVDs (alas, she's not a GreenCine member). One was The Bourne Identity (the 2002 movie, not the 1998 TV version). I was frustrated to find, upon viewing it, that although the menu was anamorphically enhanced, the movie itself was a full-frame pan-and-scan hack. It's not marked anywhere on the outside of the Blockbuster packaging as far as I could tell (Blockbuster repackages DVDs in their own cases, so you can't see the original packaging/artwork).

Personally, I'd take the DVD back and tell them in no uncertain terms that unless they start indicating that a movie has been "reformated to fit my screen", I will never rent from them again. Of course, my mom doesn't know or care whether the movie is pan-and-scan or not. She'll rent from them again because, well, they're close and convenient, and she only rents movies maybe once every couple of months so a threat of "I'll take my business elsewhere" wouldn't have much impact anyway.

Is this a generational thing? Is it a problem of education or lack thereof? How is it that Blockbuster and other mainstream outlets can rent pan-and-scan discs an not have so many peeved customers that it starts to negatively impact their business? Do consumers at large really not care one way or the other?

All I know is, I'm sure glad I'm a GreenCine member, where I can rent movies that don't have the sides cut off.
dpowers
post #11  on March 23, 2003 - 10:11 AM PST  
the DVD of me, you, them (brazil, 2000) that i rented from a store last year had a widescreen transfer on one side and pan-scan on the other.

i watched the widescreen version and loved the movie, with one reservation. i couldn't see what expression was on the heroine's face in the last scene as she reentered the house, her face was so small!

it seemed important so after the movie was over, i flipped over the disc and watched the end again pan-scan and it was unbelievable. i was shocked at how different the scene played, how much more potent the characters were.

anyway i thought about it a little... this is a 19" monitor, 4:3, on a computer, better resolution than a television, better color probably too, but i'm getting pretty much the same view as a person with a big square TV in their living room...

i think it's just about closeups. widescreen closeups on most people's equipment are just dead. they're 4x smaller, and they don't really work, the breathtaking feeling isn't there, which wrecks the emotional balance of the movie and makes it colder, less inviting, less pleasant for a viewer who's looking for a social experience, you know, to connect with the people in the movie.

more to the point, for most moviegoers, it's about the beautiful feeling, not the interplay of elements in the composition, so the larger the face, the better.

i'm pretty sure that skybrian's recent review of kuch kuch hota hai (india, 1998) reflects this. if i hadn't seen it in the theater but had seen it widescreen, i might not have been very moved by the aesthetic of lost young energy established in the first half, it would have been too small, and the glow of nostalgia would have been diminished to overplayed lighting and bad acting.
oldkingcole
post #12  on March 23, 2003 - 12:38 PM PST  
> On March 23, 2003 - 10:11 AM PST dpowers wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> anyway i thought about it a little... this is a 19" monitor, 4:3, on a computer, better resolution than a television, better color probably too, but i'm getting pretty much the same view as a person with a big square TV in their living room...
>
> i think it's just about closeups. widescreen closeups on most people's equipment are just dead. they're 4x smaller, and they don't really work, the breathtaking feeling isn't there, which wrecks the emotional balance of the movie and makes it colder, less inviting, less pleasant for a viewer who's looking for a social experience, you know, to connect with the people in the movie.

I think you are right about this, unfortunately. The 19" TVs which seemed to be fine for watching bad 70s TV shows and broad, unsubtle sit-coms, are quite inadequate for communicating the full range of emotions present in subtler movies. The one time I found myself prefering the pan-and-scan to the widescreen transfer was in Tony Scott's True Romance, and it was for precisely the reason you outline -- closeups on faces were more potent in the pan-and-scan because they were more clearly visible.

But that was back when my biggest TV was 27" (and I still watched a lot on an older thirteen-incher).

I no longer have either of those TVs, having replaced them with a 65" widescreen HDTV and a progressive-scan DVD player. This screen is *huge* and is much, much more like watching a film in the theater than like watching a 19" TV, no matter how close you sit to the nineteen-incher. Unless, of course, the DVD image has had its sides lopped off!

>
> more to the point, for most moviegoers, it's about the beautiful feeling, not the interplay of elements in the composition, so the larger the face, the better.

But isn't the interplay of elements in the composition part of what communicates that beautiful feeling? It may be a more subtle communicator than facial expressions, but isn't it still an important part of the overall texture of the scene?

Having a pan-and-scan version of the film that emphasizes facial close-ups at the expense of frame-composition seems to me analogous to buying a cheap boombox, then turning up the bass to compensate for the crummy built-in speakers. That's fine, I suppose on a budget-friendly boom-box, but cranking up the bass like that on a good system just sounds bad.

So are we making DVDs pre-equalized to compensate for the fact that people will watch them on crummy systems, or should we make DVDs that duplicate the film experience as closely as possible, and accept that people with crummy systems will have crummier experiences? Who bears the resposibility for dealing with crummy playback systems: the owner of the system, or the producer of the DVDs? My vote is for the former. But most people still have relatively crummy systems, so from a practical standpoint, I guess a case could be made for the latter.

I think, at the very least, the packaging should be clearly marked, so that if you have a good system, you don't have to rent the version designed for crummy systems.
dpowers
post #13  on March 23, 2003 - 2:23 PM PST  
> I think you are right about this, unfortunately. The 19" TVs which seemed to be fine for watching bad 70s TV shows and broad, unsubtle sit-coms, are quite inadequate for communicating the full range of emotions present in subtler movies. <

i have seen the same detail problem in letterboxed presentations on very large 4:3 TVs. it's not really the size, it's all those great dots on the screen that are busy faithfully reproducing empty space. most people have 4:3 sets and they sit on the other side of the room. letterboxed 'scope isn't engaging.

> But isn't the interplay of elements in the composition part of what communicates that beautiful feeling? <

people don't watch videos for the same reason they go to the movies. visual subtlety is not as big a deal for a crowd that's sitting at home, ready to get up and use the toilet or get a phone call. the DVD rental place, unless like greencine it can tap into a picky audience, is competing with cable shows, cable movies, i think. they're an intermediate step between an actual theater and "what's on TV" and maybe they're being cautious to avoid alienating people who only want a little more control, to set aside time for themselves without leaving the controlled comfort of their own space or violating the trust they have in their TV.

that's a really sick read.

> It may be a more subtle communicator than facial expressions, but isn't it still an important part of the overall texture of the scene? <

artistic judgment: i'm always pissed off, and i can always always tell, when a movie has been fit to my TV. i don't tend to watch movies where the aspect ratio was an afterthought or bigger-better-more. you know i'm a big fan of studio ghibli, and for a long time they wouldn't allow distribute their movies on video, they wanted to ensure that all the detail and all the frame would be visible to every viewer.

social judgment: yeah sure. you know. if it's got a good story and cute people, it'll do well on video.

> cranking up the bass like that on a good system just sounds bad. <

yeah right there with you on that.

> So are we making DVDs pre-equalized to compensate for the fact that people will watch them on crummy systems, or should we make DVDs that duplicate the film experience as closely as possible, and accept that people with crummy systems will have crummier experiences? Who bears the resposibility for dealing with crummy playback systems: the owner of the system, or the producer of the DVDs? <

holding the owner of the system responsible is a little stupid. what are you going to do, refuse to let them rent your movie because you think they don't have good enough equipment? if the audience doesn't expect an artsy treatment, then you're probably either deciding based on your own personal bias (care; don't care) or on which version will engage viewers better, make them want to see it again, make them recommend it.

if it's using the frame in a way that outdoes television then you're golden. but if the film is using the frame that is different from television but is not as interesting when shrunk, will that sell, will it continue to sell?

> I think, at the very least, the packaging should be clearly marked <

yes...
chester
post #14  on April 24, 2003 - 6:41 AM PDT  
> On March 23, 2003 - 10:11 AM PST dpowers wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> the DVD of me, you, them (brazil, 2000) that i rented from a store last year had a widescreen transfer on one side and pan-scan on the other.
>
> i watched the widescreen version and loved the movie, with one reservation. i couldn't see what expression was on the heroine's face in the last scene as she reentered the house, her face was so small!
>

That's something I had not thought about, previously - being a widescreen advocate ever since I've known the difference. I'll have to mull that over for while :)

Anyway, in my experience (and I have had friends say this), many people rent the fullscreen because they "don't want the top and bottom cut off" of their movie!!
WSherman
post #15  on January 10, 2004 - 9:34 PM PST  
> On March 22, 2003 - 11:50 PM PST oldkingcole wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> All I know is, I'm sure glad I'm a GreenCine member, where I can rent movies that don't have the sides cut off.
> ---------------------------------

I'm a brand-new GreenCine member, and the very first DVD I got from GreenCine was cropped. The film was _the Night of the Hunter_ starring Robert Mitchum.

I ejected the DVD immediately when I saw the "this film has been formatted for your screen" disclaimer at the beginning. Most disappointing.
dpowers
post #16  on January 10, 2004 - 10:32 PM PST  
have you sent it back? don't send it back. the original was television-sized - 1.37:1. they cropped it a very tiny bit on each side to make it fit, betcha couldn't tell the difference. imdb always has info like that for most movies, if you have a doubt whether what you're seeing is the right size, it's a good place to look.
hamano
post #17  on January 11, 2004 - 1:03 PM PST  
So much of this has got to do with "If I'd known any better..." In retrospect, I enjoyed many interesting films on late-night or Sunday/Saturday afternoon television broadcasts when I was a kid, all were cropped or pan and scanned to fit the TV (on one occassion I sat through a samurai film that was anamorphically compressed sideways but not uncompressed....all the characters were like stick figures until they died...horizontally, they were short and stocky). Add to that all the stuff that must have been edited out to make room for commercials! But not knowing any better, I enjoyed them for what they were, and they added to my knowledge of cinematic history and aesthetics.

Today, filmmakers KNOW that their movies will end up on DVD a few months after theatrical release, and I'm sure this affects their filmmaking decisions. Look at Peter Jackson... he's making heaps of money by releasing a bunch of versions of the Lord of the Rings films. Look at the way Pixar added MORE digital picture content to the theatrical version of A Bug's Life to produce a TV frame version of the film that is "richer" than the original.

Which do you think is more important to you, the process of seeing a film, or the memory of seeing the film? I guess both are important, but I'd put more weight on the latter. I mean, the movies that I really really love are the ones that stay with me and I think about and I reproject in the back of my head over and over. Since I don't have photographic memory, this "artifact" is not identical to the film created by the filmmaker. There's probably quite a lot of missing data, things may be out of sequence, some stuff I just don't remember, maybe some images I made up myself and added! But to me this "artifact" is the "original", the version of the film that I carry around with me through my own personal history.

I just rented the Director's Cut version of the original video series Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal which makes a single long "movie" out of a 4 part mini-series. I was prepared to dislike the new version because in the process of stitching the four pieces together, the producers also "letterboxed" the frame for a more "movie" look, essentially masking some of the original picture across the top and bottom. Indeed I did notice one awkward vertical pan-and-scan effect that was made necessary by the cropping, early on in the film. However, by the end I didn't feel that this version was an inferior version of the original. I enjoyed being able to watch the whole thing through at once, as one uninterrupted piece. They also fixed some annoying audio mixing problems that detracted from my enjoyment of the original DVDs. Now, for me, there are three versions of this film. The original 4 part series, the new director's cut, and a hamano's cut, in my head, my memory of the best aspects of both versions melded together in my mind. hamano's cut doesn't exist anywhere else, but that's of little importance.

We have a huge reproduction of Boticelli's Birth of Venus hanging on a wall in our house. I hung it a bit tongue-in-cheek over our double size bathtub in the master bathroom...this painting has fascinated me since I was an early teen, probably because it's a picture of a big naked woman. But it's a great painting... I never get tired to looking at it. The contemporary fabrics, the unlikely thickness of Venus' hair, the demigods apparently much more concerned about V's nakedness than V herself, the little landscape snaking up the right side of the painting with the lumpy little trees far far away, the shower of flowers frozen perfectly still in midair... This image is so ubiquitous now, reproduced on the boxes of hundreds of health and beauty products, in magazine ads, on the walls of Greek tavernas, on postcards at the campus bookstore...Uma Thurman in Baron Munchhausen! I've seen just the head, just the Venus, a "Warhol"-ized head, etc. etc. I also saw the original, for about an hour, on a student trip to Italy, along with a whole slew of other masterpieces. So which is the "Venus" that everyone should see? I guess the simple answer is "the original, in the Uffizi, in Florence, in Italy". Of course, a no brainer. However, the most important Venus for me is hamano's Venus, a complex memory, an artifact, from seeing the original as well as the poster in my bathroom, Uma in Munchhausen, etc. etc. This is the Venus that will inform the rest of my life. This is the Venus that I'll have with me when I die.

So my feeling is, if you get the chance to see a great film, see it, no matter what version it is. We always get into a discussion of trying to see what the director wanted us to see, the way politicians discuss the intent of the framers of the constitution. By that definition, any film made before 1960 was probably meant to be seen in a rather noisy theater filled with tobacco smoke, so a purist would have to find an old moviehouse in some third-world city to get an authentic screening of a film like Casablanca.

Some films ARE re-edited to the extent of aptly being described as "butchered". But I submit that most instances of re-editing, reformatting, or colorizing do not SIGNIFICANTLY change the experience of a great film. In fact, I believe that being aware of as well as actually watching multiple versions will enhance a viewer's appreciation of a great film, since it exposes interesting details of cinematography or editing. You could now own the definitive Criterion edition of Seven Samurai on DVD, but does that obliterate the mind blowing experience of seeing that for the first time, in a little college cinema, probably a oft-repaired 16 mm print with hard-to-read subtitles? The time when you swaggered around like Mifune for a week grunting at everyone? Of course not.

In the end what really matters is the memory you create of that film to carry with you for the rest of your life. And unless you have perfect visual memory, your version of the film won't be the same as the "director's cut". But this is the version you'll have with you when you die. You're much better off if you've seen East of Eden once, even if it's only the always despised pan and scan version!
larbeck
post #18  on January 11, 2004 - 8:24 PM PST  
If you really what to appreciate an anamorphic widescreen release - compare it to The End of Envangelion movie - which is NOT dammit. Putting a work like this in a 4:3 frame then letterboxing it so that soo much of the resolution make me want to vandalize someone's office! But that been done before and I don't know whether to swim to Houston or Tokyo to do it, so forget it.

I love the hi rez on my 19" computer monitor in my dark, dark apartment. Otaku heaven until I can afford that widescreen 24" Sony computer monitor. I may never buy a big screen TV unless it can do at least 1920x1024 and interface to my computer. I have never see a plamsa screen that I liked.
Brockton
post #19  on January 12, 2004 - 7:24 AM PST  
Over the holidays, I got to listen to relatives gripe about what they perceive is the encroaching tide of WideScreen DVDs. I hope they are right, but having made the investment in a widescreen TV and a progressive-can DVD player, I'm biased.

On the other hand, being a fan of old B&W films as well, I find that the widescreen TV is a pain in the but. I have the choice of obtrusively bright grey vertical sidebars (which the manufacture recommends against using frequently, stretched out to 16:9 (which is O.K. most of the time, except it makes the characters all seem a little fat), or a stretched mode that makes the characters look right but creates a hallucinogenic when ever the camera pans.

On another note, I bought my wife a copy of The Shining down at the used CD store, and then took it back because it was 1.33:1. After looking for a WS version, I discovered that "the film is presented in a standard-screen, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, said to be the full-frame photography from which the theatrical widescreen version was later matted. Warner Bros. state on the box that the film is 'in the full aspect ratio of the original camera negative, as Stanley Kubrick intended.'" [DVDtown.com] Kind of an odd twist on the old full-screen vs wide-screen debate.
larbeck
post #20  on January 12, 2004 - 12:19 PM PST  
> On January 12, 2004 - 7:24 AM PST Brockton wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Kind of an odd twist on the old full-screen vs wide-screen debate.
>
And then there is "Brainstorm" by Douglas Trumbull. The film was mostly made in regular 35mm but then scene where people who experiencing virtual reality through the technology that the McGuffin of the film, it would explode into a panoramic slightly fish-eye 70 mm. The soundtrack was mostly a tight stereo mix, almost mono but go wide at the critical moments.

And it is ALLL screwed up on the DVD on my computer monitor. Instead of letterboxing the 35mm to allow the expansion of the 70mm panoramic, it switches from a regular 16:9 to widescreen 2.35:1 in such a way that the picture gets SMALLER - just the OPPOSITE of the effect that the director intended.

BAKAS!!!!!!!



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