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May 2000, Week 2


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Darryl Wiggers <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 12 May 2000 14:50:18 -0500
text/plain (44 lines)
>You would be surprised at how many people really hate letterboxing and will
>not buy the video if they see the term. They feel that instead of getting
>more visual information, that they are getting less due to the black bands.
>There was even a letter complaining about this to the Bergen Record in New
>Jersey this past month. When we get phone calls like this, we explain
>letterboxing to them and sometimes it works but many times they are

I know your pain. I have often tried to carefully explain the letter-
box/widescreen system to people -- and usually to those who are patient and
anxious to understand (i.e. viewer relations people who are fielding
complaints) -- yet, all-too-often, the look on their faces tell the whole
story: They just don't "get it." And what further complicates the issue are
the contemporary films (majority of Hollywood and others in North America)
that often rely on the 1.85.1 soft-matte process and mostly create
the "illusion" of widescreen -- they do, in fact, show you less (a little
width is added but nowhere near as much anamorphic 2.35:1). That's what's
so odd about the MoviePix promo that's currently running on this pay-tv
service in Canada. It starts by doing a good job of showing the benefits of
this format by comparing pan-and-scan clips of Lawrence of Arabia with
exact same shots in "letter-box" but then shows some contemporary examples
that reveal virtually no change -- except for those damn black bars people
complain about. Plus, they program the "letterbox" of Beetlejuice (soft-
matted at 1.85:1 but also compatible for 1.33:1 TV projection) alongside
the pan-and-scan of South Pacific (intended for projection in a 2.35:1
ratio only)

This mess has also confused supposedly hard-core film enthusiasts who kick
up dust over titles that were made for TV, and never intended
for "widescreen" presentation, even at 1.66:1 (i.e my earlier Eyes Wide
Shut example, which was intended for a 1.37:1 ratio, much like our 1.33:1
TVs). Try explaining soft-matting to film purists who insist that ALL
directors (especially a "genius" like Kubrick) always have a "vision" --
and it's always in widescreen.

And is it true that the future standard for digital TV is going to be
1.78:1 widescreen (assuming most of us can afford it)? Good grief, this IS
going to be a mess.

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