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April 23 2003

Joss speaks on why no BtVS S4 DVD (R1) Widescreen. "I am a purist, and this (4 by 3 ratio) is the purest way to watch BUFFY".

So there you go, the man has spoken.

I don't get why they think people will be upset; if the show was shot in 4:3, what good is showing it in 16:9 going to do? You're not going to see more stuff, because everything was already in the 4:3 frame. In fact, I would be mad if the stuff shot in 4:3 was shown in 16:9, because I wouldn't be getting anything more, and it wouldn't be utilizing my whole screen. If something is shot in widescreen, it absolutely should be shown in widescreen; if it's not widescreen to start with though, there's just no point.
I read an article last year by Roger Ebert in which he complained about an outdoor film series that was running classic films (which were shot 4:3) in the 16:9 ratio. Snobby film buffs were convinced 16:9 was the only way to watch movies, so Gene Kelly's head was being lopped off by the wrong ratio just so the audience could feel superior.

Show it the way it was shot; very simple.
I know it is Joss' own words, but I believe "shot in 4:3" is the wrong phrase. It was "framed for 4:3", but the master probably covers more real estate. The directors obviously had to keep a wider image in mind because, as the article states, it is available in anamorphic widescreen in other regions. I'm pretty sure those versions do not crop the 4:3 image, they simply use more of the original master. My DVD player is hooked up to a 16x9 TV, so I am not utilizing my whole screen when it is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio. I can't see how the widescreen versions could be of lesser quality (technically or artistically) since that is what they use for the HDTV feeds.

Having said that, I'm fine with the decision because, as Joss says, they were intended to be shown in 4:3. The filmmaker's intent is much more important than how much picture is available. I'm sure the boom is visible in a lot of the master shots, but I certainly don't need to see that. By that same logic, if OMWF or later seasons of Angel are released in full frame, I will be very upset.
Just so long as it isn't that annoying "Pan and Scan" that they use to convert widescreen aspect to 4:3. That really sucks. I'd rather have a smaller image on my screen and black around it than be missing out on a lot of frame because whoever converted the thing to 4:3 didn't think some stuff was worthwhile to show.
It won't be pan and scan; every scene of the show is designed and framed for a 4:3 screen, so there's no need to pan and scan.
The question still stands, why other regions then get a letterboxed set of Joss prefers they only master in 4:3? Why did Fox ignore him overseas? Odd...and I would have liked "Hush" in 16x9 - the rest no worries.
Scott hit the mark when he said that it was framed for 4:3. And if you check out the excellent digitalbits tutorial, posted by the_zeppo, you'll see that making the switch to 16x9 would be pointless, there would be lots of null space around the action, and possibly seeing elements of the production that should be hidden.
I'm surprised no one's mentioned The Digital Bits' rebuttal to Joss' statement: "...this seems a little disingenuous to us here at The Digital Bits, given that both Dark Angel: S1 and Buffy: S4 are already available on other regions on DVD in full anamorphic widescreen. So our feeling is that there's something else going on here. And the reality is, because the sets are available in 16x9 in other regions, a LOT of fans are going to be pissed. And we think rightly so."
ok guys

i'm in australia, region 4 - and we have been getting widescreen since the season 4 sets

i'll tell you now that it's hard to choose

those that are saying you get no extra detail in the widescreen formart are wrong - plain and simple. Hush is an excellent example, one of the shows of the Gentlemen walking down the street has only the Gentlemen in the 4:3 version, but in the widescreen you are able to see the lackeys bounding down the road beside them - there are many more examples like that which make the widescreen superior

but alas, there are also drawbacks...booms are visible in some shots, there is a truly horrid shot in 'Who Are You?' when the gang pours out of the watchers council truck in front of the church and Willow has a line - in the 4:3 version you would not be able to see her face, but in the widescreen version you can see her on the side, and her mouth is not moving at all as we hear the line

there's also a bad image in 'Goodbye Iowa' when Buffy goes to check out the crime scene of the little boy killed by Adam and Riley arrives. when the camera is on Riley it's alright, when it's on buffy it's alright, when it's the two shot each corner of the screen is round, like the scene was filmed with an iris over it

it's things like that which scream out that it should be in 4:3, but there are many extra things you get to see in widescreen that you miss out on when it's full screen

my choice?

i'd pick 4:3 - i follow whatever joss says

it's up to you - if you want the widescreen, buy the R2 or R4 i'm probably going to sell all my buffy sets and pick up the R1 versions, for the purity of them and the added 'Wild At Heart' commentary...and possbily any more extras in seasons to come
I'm going to try and pick up both, myself. The packaging on the R2 sets is so much nicer than the bland ones we have Stateside. :(
The reason it's widescreen in some regions is probably the same reason widescreen things are pan&scan in the USA. People want to use the whole screen, and a larger percentage have widescreen TVs in other regions.
If they convert it to a different aspect ratio than it was filmed for, either things are going to get chopped off or you'll get an image that's framed incorrectly. That's always going to be the case. I can't understand why you'd want that. I mean, if you really really want to see it the wrong way, don't most DVD players have a zoom function? Just use that and quit bitching about it.

I mean, honestly, you'd think someone who put down a ton of money on a widescreen TV would have some sort of appreciation for film and therefore would have some sense of image composition.
Half the time in 4:3 the faces of people are chopped in half (in yesterday's Angel (in Oz) "Awakening", for example), and while most of the time they've primarily got to be concered with what's in the 4:3 frame, with people having widescreen TVs now and it being filmed that's the way to go. Plus, it's just plain better - more image! More possibilities and more artistic choices. I'll take my widescreen Season 4,5 DVDs over the 4x3 methinks, booms and all.
Isn't Angel shot to be in widescreen?
I see Angel in widescreen letterbox format here in the States - on a normal tv. WannaBlessedBe - Australia is chopping it into 4:3?
He speaks the truth.
here is an old article which favors the widescreen s4 version and has a few jpg samples of comaprison to 4:3

[ edited by milov on 2003-04-25 06:01 ]
From an S4 R2 owner (FWIW):

It's pretty obvious the season was filmed in widescreen but framed for 4:3 conventional TV aspect ratio. You can see it in the jpegs spike26 linked to - unless you think it's a coincidence the 4 gentlemen, the campus crowd and Willow & Buffy neatly fit in the middle of the 4:3 image.

Most of the time you don't really notice the extra image width when you're watching the season; but then why would you? You were never meant to see the "extra" part of the frame so why would Joss & ME waste time & money trying to fill it.

What you DO notice are the boom mikes. The production staff standing in doorways at the edge of the scene, out of the 4:3 fram but just in the edge of the filmed image. And maybe most jarring of all, the vignetting of some shots where you end up with the corners of the widescreen image cropped off by the camera lens. It doesn't happen much but it's like a slap in the face when it does.

The argument against pan-and-scan versions, dubbed versions, edited for TV versions and the like is always that you're not watching the 'real' film but some butchered version the makers had no artistic control over. That's not the case here - you were meant to see a 4:3 image on your TV screen.

As for why this happened and why different regions are getting different versions? Ask Fox. Cost? The perceived advantage of widescreen over old fashioned 4:3 in EVERY situation? Maybe they just sent the masters to the encoding lab and forgot to mention they only needed the middle of the frame...
I had the R1s on pre-order but I've plummed for some R2s now instead. I watched the season in widescreen on the BBC so watching it in 4:3 would be too much of a wierd experience. In addition, in the UK we have a tv standard of 625 lines to your 525 which means on the R2s the picture definition should be sharper. Watching some R1s of late on my new Widescreen tv you can really pick up the difference.

I agree that there must be something else going on here. Perhaps the best way to go would have been a combined 16:9 / 4:3 release (so the viewer actually gets a choice depending on what their DVD player is set to -- it's been done before, see releases such as Summer of Sam or A Perfect Murder) or else seperate releases.

I've noticed that the R1 Angel boxsets are all 4:3 as well so this isn't an isolated incident. impatience meant I bought the VHS Angel boxsets over here which are 4:3 and some of the shots especially in Season 3 are just horrible, with master shots (or two shots) being cropped directly down the middle, so that in some scenes we only know who's talking by the trousers they're wearing, the faces disappearing off frame altogether.

I will say watching Season Six in 16:9 how some of the reasons that a couple of episodes don'r work is a lack of close ups. It sounds odd, but when you've got scene after scene of the characters standing in the middle of the frame from a mid-distance talking some of the intimacy expected in drama is lost. I'd look to 'Double Meat Palace' as an example. There was a scene outside the magic shop which just fell flat.

To be honest, what Joss said feels like a justification after the fact. If Mutant Enemy were adament that there show needs 4:3 to work they could have put their foot down sooner. If every release and tv broadcast of the series had been in that format none of us would have been any the wiser. Might also point out that many of Kubrick's films have been released in full screen at the late director's request imperpetuity.

[If anyone is looking for the R2 boxsets stupidly cheaper than in the shops, cd-wow have currently got seasons two to five for 39.99...)
I'm wondering if Fox thought that releasing 16:9/4:3 boxed sets would've been too confusing for most viewers out there (it also brings up an interesting question of how sales are for DVDs released in letterbox vs. pan-and-scan), so they just opted for the 4:3 versions instead?
BTW, The Digital Bits had more news posted today (4/24): "...we've looked into the whole Dark Angel and Buffy anamorphic widescreen issue a little more. And we're convinced that full frame IS indeed the way the series creators wanted them to be released on DVD. But, the problem we have is, since they're available on DVD in other regions in anamorphic widescreen, some consumers are going to feel like they're getting the short end of the stick. We'll post more on this tomorrow, so be sure to check back for that."
I can just zoom in on mine if I want the 4:3 zoom allows for that, which is very cool :)

And it zooms precisely in to how the show usually looks when it's'm happy.
Maybe Angel is shot to be widescreen, but we don't get it here on a normal TV in Australia - it's cropped to 4x3.
And re: the zoom on the DVD player - exactly, you can just zoom to 4:3 from widescreen. Hence, it's better to get 16x9 so then you have the choice.
If your DVD player has that option; mine has a more indiscriminate zoom.

Personally, I will be very happy to watch the show the way it was designed, framed, and intended - in 4:3. As Joss said, that's the show they made. I don't want any boom mikes, PAs, or whatever jarring me out of this world I want to inhabit for a couple of hours.

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