Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Ban on Pan-and-Scan

So which part of the chariot race would you rather not see?




Okay, I admit it. I am a complete widescreen snob. Those of you who know me personally, know I absolutely refuse to watch any fullscreen format film that has been butchered by the pan-and-scan process, a method of adjusting widescreen film images, so they can be shown within the proportions of a standard definition 4:3 aspect ratio television screen.

This totally wicked process often crops off the sides of the original widescreen image to focus on the composition's most important aspects, losing almost 50 percent of the director's original vision and intentions. Not only is a good portion of the film hacked off, but the smoothness and continuity of the filming is lost because the pan-and-scan method is constantly jumping around to keep the main person or object in the screen. And did I mention, since it is cut down to fit the size of a TV screen, the image is also stretched vertically, losing much of the crisp clarity of the original film. So, not only are you missing half the movie, you are watching it out of focus, as well. Why would anyone in their right mind want to watch a movie like this?

Have you noticed that most of the movies shown on cable TV premium stations are shown in full screen format? (Not my favorite Turner Classic Movies, however; my dreamy friend Robert Osborne is far too classy to allow it. And most movies made before 1951 were not filmed in widescreen format, anyway.) What in the world are the cable stations thinking? I, for one, am certainly not going to watch any hacked up films.

So, there you have it, in a nutshell, my bloggy friends. I am an ultra stickler on this little subject and now you know why. Here is a video clip further explaining widescreen format vs. pan-and-scan.

38 comments:

  1. There’s a scene in the Cinerama version of How the West Was Was Won ... Richard Widmark sits on his horse, facing the camera, looking out at a valley where railroad construction is going on and he is talking to two other cowboys, one on his extreme left the other on his extreme right.

    In the TV format what is seen is Widmark talking to ... no one. It’s rather silly if you’ve seen the full screen version.

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  2. You and I are total kindred spirits regarding this. I'm such a movie buff, and home theatre nerd. I really appreciated this post on so many different levels.

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  3. It's the travesty of an art form. I too refuse to see a botched up film. It is as if you were allowed entry into the Louvre Museum in Paris only to find that the Mona Lisa has been half covered in a dark clot. I would rather not see a movie if it's shown in fullscreen. I'm a bit passionate about this subject because I love film. Remember when they tried to colorize b&w film? I think it was Turner. A film critic quipped "Now they are going to colorize the first part of The Wizard of Oz." I fully support you on this one, Willow. TPC

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  4. Partly in response to Pink Cowboy... the way I heard it, Ted Turner was all gung ho on colorizing ALL the classic black and whites - Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, etc... Apparently Jane Fonda (then his wife) talked him out of the coloring thing. We owe a big "thank you" to Jane 'cause Ted was hell bent of adding color.

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  5. I'm totally with you on the widescreen thing -- I'm a fellow snob, as a matter of fact. Makes my mom crazy, but now that she has a widescreen television, she just may understand my argument.

    There are beautiful shots in such films as Rob Roy and others with great landscapes and compositions that are lost with the fullscreen formatting. Argh!

    In Love Actually, there's a line of dialogue that is lost (it's almost whispered) in the fullscreen format, because the actress is cut out of the picture, so the viewer can't see her speaking.

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  6. Amen sister! I HATE when they butcher films. My husband introduced me to widescreen years ago (ok, I'm not that old), and I've never been able to go back since.

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  7. OMG, finally someone who understands. My husband and I have been having this argument with in-laws, parents and kids for years. They seem to think that something is cut off the top and bottom!!! ARGH! We refuse to rent or buy anything that is 'reformatted' and not 'widescreen'. And watching a movie on TV with pan & scan is like watching someone videotape on zoom from a great distance...it just gives me a headache.
    Thanks again for posting this!

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  8. I know what you mean and I hate it too! I'm a movie lover and I WANT to see every detail on the screen!

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  9. I'm with ya...when I have time to watch, I want it all...

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  10. I hate pan and scan. In fact, I hate movies interrupted by commercials or altered in any way ("to fit the screen" or "for content" or "to fit into the time allotted.")

    Movies are ART. It's like cutting a painting in half so it will fit in the frame.

    BTW I love your new banner. Very elegant, very intimate. Two thumbs up.

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  11. You and the professor both. There is no viewing of full screen movies in our home if he has anything to do with it.

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  12. Absolutely right! Pan and scan is a cruel hoax. Sometimes I actually try to explain to some novice what they didn't see. It's called the REAL movie.
    I never knew I was a snob!!

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  13. Ok reading about where you lives sounds stunning..We have a ranch that has been our home for years called Windy Hill . Live Oaks Line t he long drive. I love pulling up there!! I never want to leave once i begin that journey. right now we are living in another area temporarily...Does not have the same feeling... I have older boys in their twenty's..And one young one who is 10...I enjoy reading your postings...Have a good day!!

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  14. Ok reading about where you lives sounds stunning..We have a ranch that has been our home for years called Windy Hill . Live Oaks Line t he long drive. I love pulling up there!! I never want to leave once i begin that journey. right now we are living in another area temporarily...Does not have the same feeling... I have older boys in their twenty's..And one young one who is 10...I enjoy reading your postings...Have a good day!!

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  15. Totally agree with your post. Sometimes they screen a film on telly with a format different to what we have at home (normal television set, not widescreen) and I can't see the b... thing because it can't adjust to our pattern. Useless.

    Good post. :-)

    Greetings from London.

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  16. This is all new to me! I am amazed ...

    Thank you for this Willow, I'll be showing the film clip around my friends too!

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  17. I agree. It makes a big difference. I hadn't thought about it lately, but you're right.

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  18. I shall show this clip to all who cannot tell the difference. Thanks for the post.

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  19. Well, Willow, how do you REALLY feel about it? LOL It appears you're "preaching to the choir" here. We're all with you on this one!

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  20. I couldn't agree with you more! I once had a friend that wanted to watch a movie in full screen because "the picture is bigger and easier to see." I asked what difference that makes, when you're only seeing HALF the picture anyway! ~Lori

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  21. HOORAY!!!! Somebody had to say it! Good for you, Willow!
    I will not watch Full Screen if there is Widescreen available.
    Long before the dawn of dvd, we were buying widescreen videos to get the "whole picture".
    On one film (I can't recall which, sorry) Sydney Pollack has a special feature wherein he speaks to both forms and explains them for the audience. Everyone is so averse to the "black bars", but honestly, I don't even see them. I've watched "Lawrence of Arabia" in widescreen on a 19" flat-screen t.v. and still managed to get absorbed in it. (I have seen it on larger screens, don't worry!)

    Brava! Brava, I say!

    Kat

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  22. Interesting to see it played out like that. Thanks

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  23. I am so with you on this one! Enjoyed the clips as well.

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  24. I remember the 1st time I saw a classic Laurel & Hardy, Turnerized and in color ; (

    B/W and yes, no commercials or hacking of any kind ; )

    I'm a coffee snob too ; )

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  25. It is very true--they're awful. I do agree! I actually always prefer seeing movies in the theatre, but I do also love that I can curl up in comfy clothes in my own home to see them...

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  26. I agree with the ones who have commented before me! No question... it is criminal to chop up a beautiful work.

    I suppose in the days when we had no choice but the traditional box TV we felt fortunate to just see any movie in our home. I remember watching "Run Silent, Run Deep" on TV in about 1960 or so. I thought that was so fantastic!

    But, yes, with today's technology there is no excuse to go with pan and scan...

    Take care and I enjoyed this post and the very excellent comments of the people who posted before me!

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  27. Ah--never tarnish the sincerity of a classic piece--it's classic for a reason! Excellent post willow.

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  28. I think that I am living in YOUR heaven...My husband got a HUGE flat screen, surround sound and blue ray for Christmas...It is overwhelming in this small room but the quality is superb. I think that this all should be yours -says the woman who prefers stories on radio.

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  29. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the widescreen thing and I love that you put the video here to help explain it.

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  30. I'm with you on this one Willow. I'd much rather see the movie in Letterbox form. I, too, am a TCM viewer and did happen to see the explanation that you put up from YouTube. Wish the regular cable guys would get the message! Thanks for the reminder.

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  31. I agree with you on this, Willow. We should all protest more loudly at the powers that be for television shows.

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  32. I was watching the full screen colorised version of Dr Stangelove. It was on a double bill with the also colorised Paths of Glory. I tried to turn away, but I realised my head was bolted in place and my eyelids held open with metal tweezers. It was no compensation that a prison guard was squirting saline solution on my naked eyeballs. I tried to yell, but they turned up the volume until my eardrums hurt. When I woke I dreamed that I was on my island, but they had taken away all music, all books and all cinema.

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  33. I always look for a wide-screen or letterboxed version, wilst shopping a film. Some of the silent movies I have are in "windowbox". Three favourites I finally managed to procure: 1.Mr Roberts,2.Cape Fear( the original with Mitchuma and Peck )and 3.The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm( which was a tri-screen film in Panavision )

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)