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February 20 2015

Why aspect ratios matter. At last Buffy and the Mona Lisa get mentioned in the same article.

Sorry - I'm one of the heathens that love when old 4:3 shows are refitted to fit my widescreen tv. I rebought Angel Season 1 from iTunes because it was in widescreen. (Then I found it was widescreen on US Netflix and I was even happier).

When 'Friends' came on US Netflix in widescreen I was delighted - it fills up the screen of my iPhone 6 beautifully:-)

No to black bars! :-)
Nope. No way. I'd never handle seeing camera men, equipment and losing the original intended image (too many heads were lost in widescreen cropping). Not to mention the filtering mess. I'm happy with my current DVD thanks.
I can't conceive of why people would prefer to watch distorted, cropped, ruined TV shows than watching it the way it's supposed to be, with the bars on the side?

Nobody has ever successfully explained to me why those bars are so terrible that it's worth missing one-third of the picture or watching the show like it's in a funhouse mirror.

I absolutely refuse to watch anything, EVER that's not presented in its correct aspect ratio, with the full picture. If I can't do that, I'd rather not watch at all.
This article was incredibly well constructed; it was both instructive and funny (“... making Mona looking like she's starring in a Spaghetti Western”). Panning and scanning is evil; adding information on the sides, less so. But still, as the writer of the article states, it’s too much trouble just to avoid black bars that take absolutely nothing away from the picture as intended by the artist.
@faith in Angel

Good luck with the spot the cameraman game then! =P
Buffy was shot 4x3 cuz TVs were shaped that way. Widescreen Buffy is nonsense.
@Ricardo L.

I can turn it into a drinking game:-)
Sorry - I'm one of the heathens that love when old 4:3 shows are refitted to fit my widescreen tv.

But why? And what happens when that "widescreen" tv that you currently cherish gets supplanted by the true aspect ratio that the technology developers know we all subconsciously crave?
I agree that Buffy in widescreen seems like a bad idea, mostly because Joss Whedonn says so. I am, however, currently watching the wire in widescreen, which was originally delivered in full screen, and no shot has ever struck me as unnatural or inappropriate. perhaps the original creator's involvement in the HD conversion is responsible for that. I'd love for whedon to supervise remasters of Buffy and angel for blu-ray. In 4:3, of course.
@brinderwalt

Gather round and hear the tale of faith in Angel's story of the screen of the the wide!:-)

Back in the good old days when Buffy and Angel were on the air, Angel was the 1st of the shows to air in widescreen (starting with Season 3). I still lived at home in those days and my father had a widescreen telly, so I was very excited to see the new season of Angel in widescreen glory on the big telly. Alas the evil Sky network failed in this most basic of tasks, and instead showed it in 4:3, so all the widescreen goodness was lost. People at the side of the screen were cut off, and little details were missed.

By the time the DVDS had come out, I had moved out of home and now I only had a crappy 20 inch square telly to watch my beloved Angel DVDs on, with the letterbox black boxes at the top and bottom of the screen.

"WHYYYYYY???????!!!!", I wailed! When could this miserable state of affairs end?

Fast forward to 6 years later, when my student days had come to an end, and I could finally afford a large widescreen telly of my own....no longer reliant on bringing my DVDs to my parents house to see Angel in its widescreen beauty.

I wept joyful tears that day my friends. No longer would I have to suffer the ignominy of black boxes on my television screen. I could fill the whole screen with Angely goodness. But the one hold out was Season 1. All the other seasons were glorious in their widescreeniness. But Season 1 still mocked me and tormented me with those black boxes of doom...no longer at the top and bottom of my screen....oh no!...now they were at the side!

"WHYYYYYYYY???!!!!", I wailed once more.

So I begin a quest....to find Season 1 of Angel in widescreen. It took me down some dark paths. I cannot lie to you my friends...I even sought black market evil ways to fulfil my desires. I am ashamed I almost resorted to torrents....but lo! After much googling of "Angel Season 1 widescreen" I find the country of Engerland had what I sought,,,on their iTunes. So setting up a U.K. Itunes account (more subterfuge!) I finally had what I sought. My quest had come to an end. And I danced the dance of joy!

And then 2 months later I get the US netflix and they had it in widescreen the whole bloody time.

So yeah....it's been going on a while:-)
I won't buy a non 4:3 Buffy Blu Ray, I'm sorry.
I have the Italian DVDs and they are in widescreen, at least from season 4 to 7. Thankfully they're not zoomed in, but opening up the frames has its problems as well, of course.

I'd buy a 4:3 version of Buffy in Blu Ray in a heartbeat.

Star Trek The Next Generation is glorious in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. I love watching it on my projector screen.
I hope one day I can enjoy Buffy the same way :)

[ edited by Cronin on 2015-02-20 20:24 ]
But Season 1 still mocked me and tormented me with those black boxes of doom[...]

But why would you still consider them to be black boxes of doom in the cases of Buffy or Angel Season 1 since - unlike your later experiences with Sky - they aren't tampering with your perceptions of the source material?
Do those black boxes cause cancer or something?
@bribderwalt I have a widescreen fetish:-)

@AndrewCrossett Puppet Cancer.
I don't understand why black bars on the sides of the screen bother people. The black plastic around the edge of the TV screen doesn't do anyone any harm. Neither does the TV stand or the remote control in front of you or whatever else you have in the room. You're looking at a little rectangle in the middle of your vision and how much do you remember of the space around it? That's the whole point of watching something. If the black boxes were in the middle of the screen, then I'd understand.
I preffer the aspects keep their original forms, bt I wont make a big fuss, unless its cropped. The new brighter versions of Buffy, however, apeal to me, since it brings more details to the images.
Simon, are you listening to this? Talking about getting your under rouge misstated......how do you do it?
About fifteen years ago there was an article about this in the Toronto Star. It said that, according to Joss, Angel was in widescreen because Angel is an epic. Buffy is a soap. One of those quotes that stick with you.
@redeem147 Makes sense to me. And of course, we already knew that Once More, with Feeling was epic, and hence 16:9. ;) But honestly, I'll take any quality rerelease of Buffy, whatever the aspect ratio. Unfortunately, it seems Fox would rather play with the aspect ratio than improve the quality. (No surprises there.)
DISCLAIMER: In real life I am a New York-based freelance artist and technical assistant with more than ten years of professional working experience in the visual print arts (as a portrait painter's assistant and as the Digital Tech/First-Assistant to a particularly prominent NY-based portrait, fashion and high art photographer) as well as the performing arts (as a stage actor, dancer, and opera singer with extensive international performance experience) so when it comes to stuff like this it's... admittedly hard to shut me up. ;)


The new brighter versions of Buffy, however, apeal to me, since it brings more details to the images.


Can't fault you there. Variables like overall brightness, color tint and color balance are things which - despite what some purists might tell you - are inherently subjective since a) modern technology is notoriously bad at reproducing them effectively (hence all those tweaking controls in every single tv/computer screen) and b) human perceptions of color and brightness differ to such a wide degree between individuals. In fact, they are what you could call a director's soft artistic limits since - while color and brightness differences can be utilized to achieve a certain level of artistic effect - there is simply too much potential variability between how each person perceives differences in color and brightness for a director to rely upon it as a strong artistic tool.

In contrast, framing (discussed here in the context of aspect ratios and crop points) is the exact opposite. It is a hard artistic limit since its effect on the perceptions of all viewers is universal (with the possible exception of Clark Kent.) As any stage actor or director can tell you in reference to the proscenium, framing is one of the most potent artistic tools visual artists/directors have available to them since it allows you to literally shape your audiences' perceptions, and to tamper with that tool without the director's consent is simply inexcusable.

As far as the Mona Lisa example goes, re-framing a film sequence to include purposefully cropped material is no different from someone taking a finished painting and filling out the edges by adding in additional material. Yes, a film camera may have inadvertently captured material outside the intended frame of a scene. But just because that extra bit of screen real estate was captured in the same detail as the rest of the scene doesn't mean it is the least-bit representative of how the director would have wanted that area to look if it had been meant to be included.

I'm sure that the model or models for the Mona Lisa had more than just a head and torso. But since da Vinci didn't include it in his painting we have no idea how he would have rendered it, and any efforts to add in what amounts to original content after the fact is an example of someone else creating something new based on an original work. Likewise we may have screen-accurate footage of what things looked like in real life just outside of a scene's framing box. But unless the original director adapts the look of those previously cropped portions to how he or she would've wanted them to look with the rest of the scene, adding them back in also amounts to adding in original content after the fact, and therefore also another example of someone else creating something new based on an original work (e.g. Buffy.)

To jump to a writing example: re-framing the visuals of a scene is just as significant an artistic change as taking a book or a screenplay and rewriting everything in it except for the actual character dialog... an obvious no-go.


ETA:

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that there is something inherently wrong with liking an alternate or derivative version of something - especially if that version is the one to which you were first blindly conditioned (as it seems was the case for e.g. many UK viewers of Buffy.) However I think that it is worth keeping in mind that what you may be a fan of (e.g. Sky's version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer versus Joss Whedon's version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are different things, and since this is whedonesque and not Skyesque... well, yeah.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2015-02-21 18:35 ]
The aspect ratio is far from being the worst issue with Buffy's HD. I know Joss seemed to focus on that, but I'm even more shocked by the color/brightness issues, the missing filters, use of wrong takes, poorly re-rendered CGI... All that is much more detrimental to the series than the aspect ratio. It's all in this article, and it's pretty sad:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/buffy-the-vampire-slayer-hd-blu-ray/whats-wrong-with-buffys-hd/590282824407343
Give me Buffy in the original aspect ratio with the original colors. If I want to screw with it, my TV has the magical ability to change aspect ratio and zoom at the press of a button! I can adjust brightness, contrast, backlight, tints and color temperatures to make it just the way I like it. With a little bit of fiddling, I made the murkiness go away, made it easier to see little details without turning night into day, without making everyone look like pink plastic Barbie dolls.

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