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Mi Ki

Aspect ratio of 35mm film

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Can somebody exmpain to me why some TV series with original aspect ratio 4:3 have 16:9 aspect ratio on Blu-ray without any crop? I thought aspect ratio of 35mm is 1.375:1, but TV series like CSI Miami or The Shield have actually wider image on Blu-ray and now I can see their original TV 4:3 versions are cropped on both sides. How is this possible?

 

BTW, The X-Files - the same thing:
http://theomegasector.com/index.php?/topic/19579-x-files-in-native-hd-and-169/

Edited by Mi Ki

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No, it just means they re-scanned the original negative with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio.

Using a telecine is a bit like using a zoom lens, you can fill the field of view with as much or as little of the original image area as you like.

How well this works re-formatting 4:3 footage to 16 :9 depends on how forward-thinking the producers of the programs were.

With Seinfeld for example, it's clear that they framed all the important action towards the vertical centre of the frame, so if the top and bottom are cropped to fit the 16:9 frame, none of the vital information is lost, and it scrubs up really well on HDTV.

A lot of 1960s and 1970s TV shows have been re-scanned for 16 x 9 and while it's incredible how good a colour picture can sometimes be pulled out of 50-year-old negatives, the framing often lets them down, as nobody ever anticipated they would ever been shown on anything other than 4:3 TV.

 

It's ironic that that all the Hip Dudes who embraced the New-Fangled portable composite video recorders and cameras in the late 1970s / early 80s wound up turning out material that is completely useless for 21st century wide screen HDTV, while the hidebound old fools who stuck with the 19th century technology (film) produced programs that will live on well into the future.

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There is very subtle crop. But as you can see 16:9 versions shows more informations on the left and the right sides.

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Just to confuse the issue... I've noticed that some TVs take control of things and 'fill out' a 16:9 screen with 4:3 material. I noticed this when watching TV in a hotel and some oldie goldie TV show came on and it was filled out to 16:9... I then got the TV menu, and noted that it was set to 'always 16:9' mode, rather than letting the program select the appropriate aspect ratio.

 

Since I don't watch Cable/Broadcast TV unless while on travel... I don't usually have this problem, as my TV for playing DVD/BDs is setup correctly... and long ago, I moved to buying tapes and then DVDs that preserved the original film format via letter boxing, or now in the modern age of HD displays, pillboxing as required for 4:3 material.

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But these shows are not cropped in 16:9 version.

 

For example... look at this image from X Files:

http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/e0vljnspyyt5sxhs4nwv.jpg

Also look at these mouse-over comparison of the both version:

http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/58918

None of that has anything to do with the size of the film image, that's just what the video editor decided to show on the screen

The first image you show looks like the so-called "Big TV" format, which is essentially the old "Silent" gate 4:3, that they used up the 1930s, when there was no need to reserve space for the sound track. Big TV simply captures as large an image as is possible in the interests of maximum picture quality.

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Many U.S. TV shows until the 1990's were shot in 4-perf 35mm and composed for 4x3, but by the 1990's there was the belief that eventually 16x9 HDTV broadcast would arrive so TV shows started factoring this into their shooting. Some shows started switching to 3-perf 35mm, which is 1.78 : 1 native, while some continued to shoot 4-perf 35mm, which is 1.33 : 1 full aperture, but either way, the show could have composed for 4x3 primarily while others started composing for 16x9, just depends on the ground glass markings they installed and how the show went through post.

 

With 4-perf 35mm, you could have composed 16x9 with common sides with a taller 4x3 frame, or composed 4x3 within the 16x9 area of the negative, which was somewhat wasteful, but not unusual, especially if a 16x9 post was involved with a 4x3 extraction made from that.

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Thanks for the explanation.

Many of these shows were probably post-produced on SD video, so every episode have to be completely re-edited and post-produced from scratch, right? I heard they did this with Start Trek: Next Generation. That has to be very time consuming and expensive. What surprised me is that the new effects in Star Trek: NG looks exactly same as they did in the SD version, The only difference is that they now have more detail in HD.

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STTNG was apparently re-transferred and re-cut from the OCN. One assumes that the original EDLs were available. Same with the opticals- they look the same because they are the same.

Edited by Mark Dunn

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I thought mid-run QUANTUM LEAP was the only show protecting for 16:9 with their framing, but clearly a lot of shows were doing it by then. LAW & ORDER must have done it, I saw one yesterday that looked seriously well-composed at the wider aspect ratio.

 

The ST-TNG remastered opticals do use the original photographic elements of models (except for a couple times when they subsituted a CG E-D that is glaringly apparent, because they couldn't locate the original elements), but the animation effects are done new, since there's no way to take the cruddy look and make it work at the higher resolution. There aren't any CG ships in TNG until a couple things seventh season, so they aren't having to re-render those elements ... but if they ever do DEEP SPACE 9 there will be a problem, because they switched over to nearly all CG for the last couple of seasons, when the big space battles happen. What kills me on the trek boards is how so many people can't deal with the black bars on the side and would prefer to see distorted TNG episodes in order to get that screen filled up.

 

Read someplace that THE X-FILES is NOT going to go the TNG route, and all the vfx are just going to be upscaled. Might work on the dark scenes, but I think that's going to be a mixed batch.

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Many of these shows were probably post-produced on SD video, so every episode have to be completely re-edited and post-produced from scratch, right? I heard they did this with Start Trek: Next Generation. That has to be very time consuming and expensive. What surprised me is that the new effects in Star Trek: NG looks exactly same as they did in the SD version, The only difference is that they now have more detail in HD.

There's a vast difference between simply copying the editing sequence of the original series, and doing the original editing.

The original Edit Decision List would be a help, but it's not essential. Basically you only have to identify the particular piece of negative involved, and the actual frames that were used. That's a tedious but relatively simple task ("Negative Matching") that was routine in the days when film was still edited by hand.

 

Most of the sweat and tears involved in Post Production isn't the actual physical tasks of doing the editing, it's deciding WHERE to edit, what take is best, what's going to "end up on the cutting room floor" and so on. The editor is often guiltily aware that they might have to discard footage that people have slaved over for days or weeks to capture, because it just doesn't work in the final product.

 

There's also the problem that when you watch the same scenes over and over, you have to strenuously avoid allowing the illusion to build up that the point being made in a particular scene will be immediately obvious to a viewer who has never seen the film before. Which is one reason why with poorly-edited films you sometimes have to watch them two or three times before the plot makes sense. The same thing happens with sound editing; with repeated playings of the same piece of dialogue, you start to clearly hear things that are actually not at all clear to the casual listener.

 

You also have the problem of insecure DOPs shooting huge numbers of takes of the same scene, in the hope of getting a "Perfect" shot, which rarely works in practice, but it makes the editor's job that much harder. This particularly the case when shooting on video. A common response is: "Well, you shot all this damned footage; YOU go and find the takes you think I should use..."

 

However if you're just "conforming" to HD from a show that's already in existence, you don't have any of those problems. The only real problem you may have is an artistic one: Re-framing an image originally composed for 4:3 to 16:9 may not always give the optimum dramatic result

 

CGI originally done in SD is a very good point. If you're very lucky, you will be able to simply "re-render" the scenes in widescreen HD with upgraded software. However, it's entirely possible that even if you have the original data files, you may not be able to find any equipment that can run them. A lot of the early CGI was done with custom equipment owned by companies that may no longer be in business. At the very least, it's unlikely anybody would have ever anticipated this problem .

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Yes, with most of Star Trek TNG, the vfx elements were shot on film and composited electronically in SD, so the new HD masters have gone back to the film elements, scanned them, and recomposited them in HD, but that means any SD animation work has had to be redone. It's costing them a lot of money probably, which is why it has taken so long for TNG to be remastered in HD.

 

I once read that "Law and Order" was composed for 16x9 because the creators felt that the 4x3 center extraction felt more "cinematic" looking somewhat cropped on the sides from a wider image.

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Actually the notion of analog Standard Definition "widescreen" TV had been kicked around since the late 1980s, and a few widescreen CRT TVs were actually manufactured, and ... basically sat on dealers' shelves until the next clearance sale! I can still remember in the SMPTE Journals of the 1980s, the endless debates and articles about what was the most "appropriate" widescreen ratio, but I don't recall much mention of 16:9!

At Sammys/Panavision in the late 1980s I experimented with converting Tube Betacams (perfectly good cameras, but you couldn't give them away once SP Betacam came out) to 1.85:1, as a possible low-budget cinema capture option. I know some of the people at the local TV stations were doing the same thing for 16:9 to get some experience with widescreen formats, so it wasn't like nobody was aware of the concept.

If you look closely at the credits for the original King Kong movie, you'll see that they mention "Television" in the copyright preamble, some years before anybody really knew whether broadcast TV as we know it was even possible!

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