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May 2000, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 11 May 2000 19:12:57 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (80 lines)
See p. 58 of the current issue of Video Watchdog, for an excellent example
of the importance of letterboxing, with _Fright Night_.

I loathe pan and scan. I'll watch non-anamorphic films in pan and scan,
but not anamorphic ones, unless they have not been released any other way
(and I'm still holding out on films like _Nashville_ and _GATTACA_, which
I understand are destroyed by pan and scan.

BTW, _The Searchers_ looks incredibly distorted in pan and scan.


Scott Andrew Hutchins
Cracks in the Fourth Wall Filmworks/Oz, Monsters, Kamillions, and More!
(with special musical guest Leila Josefowicz)

"Who's John Adams?" --Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., at Monticello,
after failing to recognize busts of other founding fathers.

On Wed, 10 May 2000, Leo Enticknap wrote:

> Mike Frank asks what the 'standard anti-letterboxing argument' would be.
> As I understand it, it holds that if a film is photographed in order to be
> shown in a certain ratio, thern showing it in any other ratio (i.e.
> carrying out the technical change necessary to achieve this) fundamentally
> changes the visual qualities of the image from those which were intended by
> the film-maker, and thus is not advisable. To this, however, I would add
> these caveats:
> 1. Hollywood now generally adopts a 'shoot-and-protect' policy for films
> in spherical ratios. Basically, the US, the UK, certain parts of Western
> Europe and Japan uses 1:1.85 as the industry standard spherical ratio, and
> therefore most Hollywood productions which are not in 'scope are designed
> to look their best in 1:1.85. However, France, India, Australia and most
> of South America use 1:1.66 as their standard, whilst Russia and China
> still have 1:1.33 as their primary film format. Added to this, films are
> increasingly having to be compatible with the widescreen TV standard of
> 16:9, which translates roughly as 1:1.76. Therefore, Hollywood films still
> have to be showable in these systems, which is why the prints do not
> generally have hard mattes. You could, if you wished, show MANIAC COP 4 in
> the Academy ratio - but a large swathe of the frame would contain no
> action. Ironically, this is exactly the opposite of letterboxing, i.e.
> showing more of the original frame and magnifying it less.
> 2. Like subtitling, the quality of panning and scanning varies widely. If
> the printer is constantly scanning an Academy-sized box in the middle of a
> 'scope frame, the result is guaranteed to look abysmal; but if it tracks
> the essential action without moving too suddenly or often, then the film
> can look surprisingly acceptable. Added to which, a television is not the
> same as a cinema screen and therefore it could be argued that letterboxing
> is essential in order to give a production an equal chance when transposed
> to a different medium. It's not an argument I would personally accept, but
> it's the only one I can think of in favour of letterboxing. After all, do
> people regularly complain that films were originally released with
> multi-channel soundtracks are regularly broadcast (or sold on retail video)
> with mono sound?
> L
> ------------------------------------
> Leo Enticknap
> Technical Manager
> City Screen Cinemas (York) Ltd..
> Coney St., York YO1 9QL.
> United Kingdom
> Telephone: 01904 612940 (work); 01904 673207 (home); 0410 417383 (mobile)
> e-mail: [log in to unmask]
> ----
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