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December 13 2014

Joss Whedon says widescreen 'Buffy' is 'nonsense'. The HD version of Buffy shown on Pivot has garnered bouquets and brickbats from fans.

We all know Buffy was meant for 4:3, but it's all about 16:9 these days. I don't like it, but I'm ready to accept the show in widescreen if that's the only way to see it in HD. It would be an alternate version. But it has to be done right! What Fox did with the first 2 seasons is a huge mess. What I don't get is that they're doing a fantastic job with The X-Files.

Of course, the best thing would be to get HD masters in both formats.

Another show meant for 4:3 only is "The Wire", and it's coming out in 16:9 Blu-Ray next year. The difference is that David Simon, the show creator, is working with HBO to make the transfer to 16:9 as good as possible. He calls it a compromise, but at least he's given the chance to work on it. I really wished Fox could do the same for Joss, they owe him.

David Simon talks about The Wire in 16:9 here:
"I really wished Fox could do the same for Joss, they owe him."

It sounds like Joss isn't interested in a 16:9 version PERIOD (even with his supervision).
Understandable. It's a finished piece of art, no need to meddle.
I prefer the brighter new images, but the aspect rate should remains the same, as Joss intended. However, Im a little biased, since I grew up with the old tvs.
I honestly don't get how this is even a conversation. Creator says "This is how it is, anything else is nonsense". Where's the argument here?
"It sounds like Joss isn't interested in a 16:9 version PERIOD (even with his supervision)."

I know. But maybe he'll be willing to work with Fox if they're making new masters in both 4:3 and 16:9? like Universal is doing for the original Battlestar. It's unlikely I know. But I think it's okay for a 16:9 HD version to be made for reruns and Netflix, as long as the definitive 4:3 version is available on Blu-Ray.
Joss could make sure the widescreen version doesn't look too horrible, while making sure the 4:3 HD is also being released. That has to be better than letting Fox butcher the show completely, and not doing anything about it! but I know Joss will probably refuse to compromise.
I remember the Toronto Star publishing an article about this way back when. In it Joss says that Angel should be widescreen because it is an epic - Buffy is a soap. Also, there were things cut out of the widescreen on purpose (like Xander's butt crack.) I should read the article and see if it says the same things. ;)
Because Joss has so much time on his hands currently? I agree, Fox appears to be messing up (and that's news?) but I'm happy with my DVDs until such time as Joss feels ready to show them how it's done. Or,you know, create new awesomeness.
How half-arsed does it make the show look if the shots are off balance, include crew members, lose needed night filters etc. No wonder Joss isn't pleased. I would love to have a HD version but not like this, I'd rather stick with it as is.
I'll stick with my dvds which sadly still are not the definitive version of Buffy. (all the previously on's are cut out).
What is so utterly sacred about the 16:9 aspect ratio suddenly? It's like people's heads will explode if they have to watch something in 4:3.

As far as I'm concerned there are two options: a) the way the creator intended it to be, and b) wrong.

I'll stick with my lowly standard def DVD's. I don't really have any great desire to explore Buffy's pores and hair follicles anyway.
My only wish was that the whole series of Buffy was in the same aspect ratio either 4:3 or 16:9. Which ever Joss intended.

At the moment the DVDs (Region 2) are mixed (Same for AtS) which for various personal reasons is a pain in the butt.
I'm entirely ok with Buffy being available in widescreen too, but the recomposing needs to be done with care by a talented company such as Illuminate Hollywood. The company Fox hired to do Buffy is some third-rate hack team (judging by what they've done so far), and their work must be redone. Shots like this are a travesty:

This is not simply about Fox's decision to reframe Buffy in widescreen, it is about the reframing being done very poorly.

[ edited by will.bueche on 2014-12-13 20:10 ]
Guessing - it's age but I'm okay with the original. And Fox is screwing around with a Joss product to get more money against his wishes. That is not cool.
I wish they weren't doing this but to be fair, they own Buffy. Joss doesn't. No one has to like that or buy the product but the show does belong to 20th.
Joss is being a purist about this, and I both understand his viewpoint and agree with it.
Gah. We have already been through that with Star Trek:TNG, haven't we? Maybe Joss should get someone to make a video like this:
I want 4:3 in HD, with original filters and shots. Joss has to make that happen.
Star Trek, Stark Trek: The New Generation, The Prisoner, Space 1999, The Persuaders, Robin Of Sherwood, Battlestar Galactica.

Just some of the show remastered and released in hi-def on blu ray in the original ration of 4:3 that it was shot in and intended for the audience by the makers.
It's important to understand that this isn't just Joss being a prima donna about his work. As the article explains, bad things happen when Buffy is presented in widescreen: visible crew and equipment, broken filters, etc. It makes the show look amateurish and silly, and frankly defames Joss and his directors. All for the trivial issue of having it be in 16:9 aspect ratio with no pillarboxing. Amazing.
From memory on the UK DVDs for Angel some of the episodes are in widescreen before the show was shot in widescreen - I seem to recall there's an episode where's a dude randomly in the hotel lobby with a sandwich at the corner of the screen (a crew member?).

It's kinda frustrating. The thing here is I hope Fox pay attention and release the HD versions on Blu-Ray in both aspect ratios. I don't know if Joss has any veto on home video products, but personally that would be my compromise if I had the option.

That said, although some of the conversion work going on (which Fox are paying for, so you gotta guess it's ultimately for home release) is dodgy - you get shots which cut out key frame elements - the other HD elements actually largely look good. For example, it's so details you can see split ends in Sarah's hair. Okay, maybe not a great example - but it certainly looks more detailed. The colouring can be all over the place though - the gamma ratio makes things look too bright for a show about demons really.

Ultimately those gals and guys spent much effort trying to make a visually great show, and when you've got night shots looking like day and crew members stood in the library during a private conversation... Something isn't right.
I tried checking on Wikipedia about Angel and the ratio aspects, Gossi, and it was a bit vague. The UK DVD releases were in widescreen from season 2 onwards. Season 3 onwards was definitely shot in widescreen; can anybody clarify hoe season 2 was shot?

Buffy was shot on widescreen from season 4 onwards, and was aired on TV and released on DVD in that way in the UK. As joss preferred it as 4:3, it stayed that way for it's entire run in the US on both TV and DVD.
I would settle for them having an option that superimposed two appropriately sized black bars on each side of the screen. Don't know if there's an easy way of them to do that without including twice the information on the disc, but if there is, they totally should do it.
As an owner of the UK Buffy DVDs, I just wanted to add a quick note if this ever does come to pass. The last time I did a full re-watch of Buffy, I just cropped the image. I did this by watching them through VLC on my computer and I'm sure many other media players can do the same. As long as they don't screw around with season 4-7, which was already shot in widescreen, then it shouldn't be a problem. No need for two different versions, one with black bars and one without, to be included on the discs (as long as you are alright watching them on a computer - I think most DVD/Blu Ray players just shrink or stretch the image to fit the aspect you select, rather than actually cropping it.)

Looks as if season 1-3 might be a mess no matter what though, if they start playing around with the framing.
Actually, Buffy Season 2 and 3 were shot in widescreen along with Seasons 4-7. Some of the "Previously on Buffy..." segments in later seasons prove this by flashing back to scenes in widescreen from Season 2 and 3. However, Season 2 and 3 have never been released in widescreen.

[ edited by libradude on 2014-12-14 02:45 ]
The only good thing about the widescreen versions is that we get to see a full-length shot of Anya in her pink bikini in the opening scene of "Buffy vs. Dracula."
@Vandelay: The problem with black bars is that a good widescreen version would need to zoom-in at least a few shots in each episode to fix 'goofs' and shots that shouldn't be wide (see The Wire's HD master). So adding black bars would only make those shots look worse, and not in true 4:3.

But maybe the discs could include the information twice when it comes to shots that need to be re-framed in 16:9: once in the original 4:3, and once in the re-framed 16:9 (approved by the original filmmakers, or someone they trust, like David Simon, who chose the editor who works on 'The Wire' in 16:9).

Surely that must be possible with seamless branching, like when they offer the theatrical and the extended version of a film on a single disc.

That would be the ideal solution. Fans of both formats would be happy, and Fox would only need to release one Blu-Ray set, without needing to produce each disc twice, and would make more money, with more happy fans buying the show in HD.

[ edited by Nico-Angel on 2014-12-14 07:05 ]
@Nico-Angel - True. However, the UK DVDs just use the original widescreen that it was filmed in for season 4 and onwards. You do occasionally see crew and equipment (although I'm hopeless at spotting such things, so can't give many examples - I do recall a bit in Angel in which they are in a gym and the shot is of the big mirror, you can really clearly see Angel hiding what should be out of frame, ready to pop out when the camera swings around to the group.)

It depends whether they do zoom it in for these releases or not. As they are playing around with some of the earlier seasons, even those were filmed but not released on widescreen, it doesn't bode well.
Count me in for the "rescan the film and present in HD in 4:3" camp.
I love my DVD set as-is. It's on more-or-less permanent rotation in my DVD player.

If the reason justifying the new HD format is that the original version is too dark and murky, well, I adjusted my TV settings to fix that. I raised the backlight, brightness, contrast and color settings to make the picture much more bright and clear, without making it look plastic and artificial. It looks wonderful this way.

[ edited by Amrita on 2014-12-14 18:34 ]
Sorry Joss, I want my Buffy HD 16:9.
Does this mean the correct versions of the DVD's are going to be taken off the market?

[ edited by AndrewCrossett on 2014-12-15 19:52 ]
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, either do it the way Star Trek the Next Generation was done, or don't bother. Do it right. Do it properly. TNG on Blu showed that an HD remaster in the original aspect ratio, and done without upscaling, can work like gangbusters.

Go big, or go home.
Here's a good roundup of the bad things that this is doing to Buffy.

As far as I'm concerned, these versions of the episodes are not canon.
For the most complete list of the issues in HD you should here:

It's lengthy but it's the best article on the subject I've seen so far.
Unfortunately, Fox has a history of this level of "care" when they deal with older shows.

This version is an abomination against God and man and must be killed with cleansing fire.

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