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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"You get the Watcher. You get the mom. You get the little Scooby gang. What do I get? Jack squat."
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December 07 2005

DVDWorldUSA shipping Serenity now. It's nice to know studio release dates are important. A great many people report orders being dispatched within 24 hours of ordering the region 1 DVD. It is, however, much more expensive than elsewhere. Edit: Apparently they have mistaken December 20 with December 2 for release date.

If it's being mailed out before the release date you can bet that when Universal gets wind of it, DVDWorldUSA will be fined and possibly denied access to future DVDs from them until after release dates.
Happened to a store here in Rochester a few years back that had released the last Harry Potter movie dvd set 2 days early. WB was none too happy about it.
Well, it's being sold in stores in New York already, WTB. It's definitely being mailed out early by this store - I know somebody who's got a copy from them.
Do presales like this hurt dvd chart positions?
Uhm, that's a good question Grounded. I'm not even sure if they count towards the figures at all - I presume Universal would only start tracking December 20th (but presumptions are the mother of all f' ups).
Actually playUSA is packing too (and my credit card has been charged today). Still that might be only for international shipping (so that it can get here in Europe by December 20).
My PlayUSA order is packing too, fantastic, means it should get here Monday (very possibly Saturday). I know what I'm going to be doing as soon as I get home next Thursday.
Axelmusic already sent my copy on Monday. Axelmusic is based in Denmark, so I'm hoping I'll get it delivered here (in Finland) on Friday.
I'm still going to pick it up at a store on the 20th. Cheapest price I've found so far in Canada is $25.99 at Future Shop. Any one find anything better?
I always thought the actual Serenity release date was horrible. I think in order to seriously be affected by Christmas sales, it needed to be out by at least the 13th. Obviously all of the fans will be getting it, but I think the 20th is too late for most people who will want to have all their presents already purchased by then. And there are also people who might worry that if they have ordered it online and with the postal delays, they won't get it in time for Christmas, and order something else instead.
Yeah, I agree the release of the DVD is a terrible date also, as it's just missing the christmas rush.
On the DVDWorldUSA site that's linked to it says the release date is Dec 2nd. Did they just make up that date?
It's supposed to be December 20th. They've probably missed the 0 and are shipping them early.
forgive my ignorance, but what IS the difference between "full-screen" and "wide-screen"?
How convenient for them ... until they are fined by Universal.
On an off topic note, I just checked, Serenity will still be on the screen for a third week in a large multiplex theatre near here (GER) and at least in one other. (Those websites never get updated in advance!) So I'll be able to see it again on a big screen, yay!
Wide-screen (also known as letterbox) contains the full image you see at the movies. On a standard TV you will see a black bar at the top and bottom of the screen with a "wide" image in between.
Full-screen has the sides of the image chopped off so the image fills the TV screen. Someone (or some software) has to decide what to chop off. If a film maker uses the full width of the image, watching it in Full Screen means that you can miss important visuals.
Our New England Browncoats are also reporting a number of places selling early. I haven't seen it yet, but I also haven't done my shopping yet.
Thank you redfern!! So what would be your choice for the Serenity DVD? I dislike those black bars but surely don't want to miss anything.....
I've gotten quite a few items from and other online stores before the proper release dates. Unless it's a huge item like the new Harry Potter book a lot of these online stores seem to ship things out as soon as they get it in stock. I don't think they do this purposely, more likely that people in the warehouse just move the stock without any knowledge of release dates.
Widescreen only in my house, even though my TV isn't very big. I just sit closer.
I always complain about the black bars on WS beforehand, but then when I'm into a movie, I don't notice them...
I never buy 'full screen' -- pan and scan means you get less of the image, which is double plus ungood. Even before I had a wide aspect display, I bought widescreen. The 'pan' part of pan and scan is always disruptive to my enjoyment and immersion. I notice it and it bugs me.
Equalitynow, go widescreen all the way. If you go full, you miss reaction facial expressions, as the camera sometimes does something called 'pan & scan' where it shifts from one actor's face to another, totally destroying the flow and pace of the film.

Widescreen is how the director originally meant for you to experience his or her vision. You are buying a lesser version dvd if you go full screen.

eta* zeitgeist, you and I were posting at the same time. We also said pretty much the same thing. Heh. There you go, Equalitynow, two for the price of one!

[ edited by Willowy on 2005-12-07 20:35 ]
Original aspect ratio only for me -- which, of course, means widescreen 90% of the time.
Willowy -- great minds :) By the by, some interesting example shots.
Bloody hell, didn't realize fullscreen editions were that bad, glad I never buy them.

Year or so ago I ordered the widescreen off PlayUSA and received fullscreen, I was a little annoyed but did nothing, if they do that with Serenity, I'll definitely be sending it back (hate to think how much thatll cost).
Thank you so much everyone! I am now informed and will thus be able to ensure I get the BEST version of Serenity (as well as any other films I decide to buy)! You are all great for being so helpful!!!
Thanks zeitgeist - a picture is worth a 1000 words...
Equality now - you are welcome - hope you checked out zeitgeist 's link
Out of interest, is America still behind the times mostly when it comes to Widescreen TVs? As I understand it, a lot of TV programmes are still broadcast in 4:3 (fullscreen) there, whereas in the UK most things are broadcast in widescreen now as most people are migrating to widescreen (with digital receptional and such).

I remember when the BBC decided to start broadcasting Buffy Season 3 in Widescreen - but it hadn't been shot for widescreen, so occasionally you could see things framed at the sides of the screen which weren't intended :)

ETA - equalitynow, you are far greater for working for Equality Now.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-12-07 21:11 ]
Aren't typos fun!
gossi, what kind of stuff are you talking about when you say that there was unintended stuff appearing? Like the crewmembers at the side of the frame? How does that work? If it was originally filmed in fullscreen, wouldn't changing it to widescreen just sort of squash the picture? Of course I am just guessing so I could be completely wrong.

I just prefer widescreen films, and I always have, for some reason. I didn't actually know how much of the stuff gets cut out as illustrated in the Harry Potter link, but I'm glad I've been getting widescreen versions. It always just seems more cinematic.
At some point it started being framed with enough overhang to allow it to be shown in wide, I forget when they changed stock and the way they framed and all of that. Its a weird balancing act, framing for fullscreen but trying to avoid things getting weird if it gets shown in wide (as with the UK showings of Buffy). I believe that the original film stock for later seasons was shot in an aspect that wasn't natively 1.33:1. So things weren't squished, its just most of the action took place in the 1.33:1 area of the picture with extra background where you might see tape for blocking or something accidentally.
I have looked and not found Serenity selling early anywhere in my city. I'm planning on purchasing my copy on the 20th, and I am praying that Amazon gets the ones for family and friends to their doors by the 24th. But I must say, I almost did not order it, because of the late release date and the fear that it would not arrive. (Also, I'm still embarrassed for all involved by the cover -- I'm planning on calling everyone on the 25th to tell them to play it despite the cover.)

And thanks, zeitgeist, for the link re: widescreen v. full. I'd seen a similar example before, but it's always instructive to see how much people miss with the full screen. I always go with widescreen, myself.
Roger Ebert has, somewhere, a wonderful explanation of why widescreen is the only way to go- and he often bemoans the fact that a lot of people seem to want the full screen versions and get upset when they see the black bars- but this is due to access ratios for the films. The only way to go is widescreen, for that is the only way you get to see the film that the director made. Full screen is for TV ratios, not film.
redfern - I just did and WOW, a huge, massive and incredible difference. Now I am REALLY informed. Thanks for the reminder and to you zeitgeist for the link.
Equalitynow (no space) - As an example, I bought a copy of the French film "8 Women". They didn't even do pan and scan - they just chopped off a piece at each side. Parts of the film just don't make sense at all - and I saw it in the theatre.
And thank you, too, gossi, for your kind words.
Sky One managed to show the last few seasons of Angel in the UK in full screen, without pan and scan - so half the time the actors faces were half hanging off the screen and such. Was a little annoying.

I've always been confused by the concept of TV is for full screen anyway - every single person I know owns a wide screen TV, I think, and nearly all UK TV now is filmed in wide screen.
Gossi, Buffy was filmed in full screen, and therefore I prefer it that way. I do agree with you. Filming in widescreen is so much better.
The US is still mostly conventionally broadcast. Not that much widescreen here. My guess is because there are soooo many TV's in the US, and so much television production, switching over is an expensive proposition.
You see, I'm pretty sure the UK DVDs are widescreen. Certainly, Buffy seasons 3 to 7 were shown widescreen in the UK. I've no idea why we ended up being the exception to the rule there, I think the BBC just messed it up at first.

Buffy in wide screen, by the way, looks amazing.
I vastly prefer widescreen when that is how the director originally shot a movie or tv series. When widescreen was not originally intended, then I'm with Dark Shape - it's the original aspect ratio that matters. For BtVS, at least according to Joss, that means fullscreen. From an insert written by Joss and included with the Season Four BtVS DVDs (US version):

"The Buffys that I (and others) shot were framed for traditional TVs. Adding space to the sides simply for the sake of trying to look more cinematic would betray the very exact mise-en-scene I was trying to create. I am a purist, and this is the purest way to watch Buffy. I have resisted the effort to letterbox Buffy from the start and always will, because that is not the show we shot."

(Letterbox = widescreen.)

The UK DVDs are in widescreen and that may be great but it apparently was not how Joss and others originally framed the show. Of course, if as zeitgeist points out, sometime in the course of the show it was framed to allow for widescreen showage without embarrassing stuff poking in from the sides, then, well, maybe BtVS became a dual aspect kind of show. (Whatever I mean by that.) There are fans of both versions of BtVS out there. Diversity is good, I suppose.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2005-12-07 22:24 ]
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've seen a comment from Joss somewhere during the passage of time along the lines of 'They are showing Buffy in widescreen? Those crazy Brits'. Except I totally made the actual quote up, but I think he said something like that.

In fairness, I only remember seeing the odd strange thing. 99% of it was framed fine, and I have to disagree with Joss slightly on this one: Hush, for example, looks bloody cool in widescreen - you can see The Gentlemen drift into frame more and such.
You see, I'm pretty sure the UK DVDs are widescreen. Certainly, Buffy seasons 3 to 7 were shown widescreen in the UK. I've no idea why we ended up being the exception to the rule there, I think the BBC just messed it up at first.

Buffy in wide screen, by the way, looks amazing.

Yeah, but I've heard tell of being able to see boom mikes in the corner of the frame and such. Joss prefers Buffy on full screen so I'm with him.
Hehe, you can see mics sometimes, and also Spike's 'sock', and the airco vents on the set of his crypt! Sometimes things just aren't meant to be widescreen. But it is a hoot...
I had always heaard that making BTVS widescreen when it was not filmed that way was done without Joss's consent or approval. He has expressed displeasure at it because that was not how it was meant to be seen, just like fullscreen is not how movies were meant to be seen. It still would be interesting to see how they did it and what it looks like.

Note: Took a long time writing this (interruptions) so everybody said everything already...

[ edited by newcj on 2005-12-07 22:40 ]
Yeah, I found this interesting linkage just now. It appears a few people online report seeing more than a few boom sticks and production crew members (I'd spotted them!) on the widescreen DVDs, which amuses me.
The funny thing about wide vs. fullscreen is that problems also arise the other way around. My parents bought a widescreen tv (i.e. 16:9), and it contains many settings which allow for stretching a 4:3 image to the entire screen (so everyone becomes really fat) or cutting of the top and bottom of the image just to fill the (wider) screen. To me those things are horrible crimes against the integrity of a broadcast, but I guess some people want them (and the integrity of a broadcast is not often respected by the networks anyway).

Note that even when watching a film on a 16:9 TV you should still see black bands at the top and bottom of the screen as the aspect ratio for a film (2.35:1) is even wider than that. Also many shots in Serenity really use the entire width of the screen (as I saw again last night) so do not settle for fullscreen.

PS My british Buffy DVD's are widescreen only season 4-7, of course, my DVD-player can pan & scan those images itself if I want it to.
imagine watching a Martin Scorcesse film in Full Screen. That would be horrible, because Scorcesse really really uses all the space he can get from widescreen aspect ratio. Just look at Gangs of New York and the Aviator.
I'm with the "original ratio" crowd, be it wide or full. One of Joss' favorite shots, in The Body where the paramedic completely crowds Buffy into the side of the frame, is messed up in widescreen (claustrophobia, now with 40% more room!). Someone had screenshots somewhere, I can't find 'em now...

BTW, for those who asked. Some TV shows in the US are always presented in widescreen (ER, The West Wing). Some are broadcast in widescreen for HDTV, but fullscreen for regular TV (Lost, Veronica Mars). And then some are still only shot/shown in fullscreen, even on HDTV (e.g. most reality shows).

[ edited by jam2 on 2005-12-07 22:54 ]
Celebithil - My widescreen tv has a 4:3 mode where it just places it in the center, it also offers you panorama, zoom1, and zoom2 modes to cause the 4:3 to fill the 16:9. I, of course, watch the 4:3 stuff, at centered 4:3, so there is no abuse of image integrity there.

P.S. - the masters were given over to the UK by the studio to do the transfer and they chose to do it wide, which Joss was against.
The worst example of the badness of showing Buffy in widescreen is when Faith and Buffy are fighting at the end of This Years Girl. As they fall down the stairs you can see a cameraman at the left following them down.

The vast majority of TVs sold in the UK are widescreen but millions of people still have old 4:3 sets so broadcasts are still frequently in that format even if all new productions are shot in, and framed for, widescreen.

The examples of Harry Potter linked to above are terrible!
The worst example of the badness of showing Buffy in widescreen is when Faith and Buffy are fighting at the end of This Years Girl. As they fall down the stairs you can see a cameraman at the left following them down.

I know it shouldn't, but this made me chortle.
By the way, I saw a mock up of the UK DVD cover today.
Gossi, isn't 11th brilliant?
She's fantastic, Tamara. I loves me some 11thhour artwork.
Jesus, is that the actual UK cover art?

EDIT: Oh crap, didn't see the llama. Guess it was too good to be true.

[ edited by pjalne on 2005-12-08 00:38 ]
Is it worrying that a fan-made spoof mock-up featuring a Llama actually looks better than the official, real, cover?
I'm in tears, gossi - that was hi-larious! (But still much better than the US cover!
As someone who was in the Video Biz for wayyy to long, I can tell you that pre-sales DEFINITELY count towards reported sales in terms of chart position. Traditionally, it's the reverse of theatrical release in terms of benefits to retailers: stores get the best discounts on their initial orders, while theaters get better percentages in weeks after opening date. This is done to spread as many units out in the world as possible, creating the shiniest chart position possible. So endeth the lesson....;)
VerseRoamer - excellent, cheers for clarifing that. Whilst you are here *laughs* - is there any way for us morals to try reported chart positions?
Couldn't get to the llama-fied cover, apparently we are having a Slashdot Effect(tm) on
I have no idea is this is true in "Buffy" but, occasionally, 1:33 Hollywood classics have been turned into widescreen films, with the result being that the top and bottom of frame of the characters get chopped off just to make things look less "like TV." (This happened, hilariously, at a screening hosted by Roger Ebert. My film geek hero Rog definitely gave 'em what for!)

Every bit as bad as panning and scanning, IMO. Unless you like people with the tops of their heads cut off.

[ edited by bobster on 2005-12-08 01:14 ]
bobster - it would certainly cheer up George Bush Jnr's scenes in Fahrenheit 911.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-12-08 01:17 ]
I trust that it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Let's not veer into a political flamefest, now.
Ugh. The worst is that Fox Home Video totally screwed up Angel Season 2 by releasing it widescreen in Region 1. Angel wasn't intended to be widescreen until S3.
Yes, otherwise my head will end up being cut off the top of the screen, and that would be.. well, quite good for the audience actually.
Region 2 Angel season 2 is, I think, widescreen as well. I was never quite sure why. I always thought Angel, stylistically, belonged in wide screen. For the alleys, man. could try, but it requires special lubricants, only available at

[ edited by VerseRoamer on 2005-12-08 01:31 ]
zz9, she also did one without the llamas (her first one in fact). She added the llamas after hysterical posts (someone pretending to be a Universal exec bent on the llamafication of the entertainment industry) over on the OB.
Anyone have the image so I can mirror it?
I suspect many people will print that cover on a good inkjet with shiny paper and use it instead of the original cover.

This could start a whole new trend of pirated DVDs. The disc is genuine but we've faked the cover...

I've copied the image to ImageShack here.

[ edited by zz9 on 2005-12-08 01:48 ]
Well, R2 is widescreen crazy as evidenced by the Buffy releases, so yeah, they're widescreen as well. They simply didn't start framing Angel for widescreen until S3. For example, you can see a tech guy eating a sandwich or something on during the scene with zapping the demon in "Are You Now..." and there's also an early episode where you see Cordelia at the side of the screen not saying anything while you hear her voice.
KernelM, are you sure about season 2 not being meant to be widescreen? I always thought it was.
Tim posted about it here.

I'll have to try watching it in 4:3. Thanks, man.
AOL should bring back Usenet access just so Tim can post in and again. I'm writing to congress right now.
Region four has Angel season two in 4:3. Score!
So if all of Buffy except Once More With Feeling and Angel season one and two were intended to be in "fullscreen", and Once More With Feeling, Angel seasons three to five and Firefly "widescreen", can anyone confirm how all of these have been released in the UK Region 2 DVDs? Have all of them been presented as widescreen?

Whilst I prefer widescreen generally, I agree that the originally intended format is the best option, and I think that's reflected in what you see on screen, and how it is laid out and such.

My parents are so weird, they hate widescreen so much because of the black box, and insist upon me changing the view to fullscreen, apparently the squashing or panning/scanning doesn't bother them. Now that I've heard more about this is detail, I think I'd like to actually compare the two whilst I'm watching them.

Perhaps the best alternative would be to start releasing discs with both formats so the viewer can switch between them at their own disgression, and they don't have to produce two seperate DVDs of the same film?
Original DVDs, Razor, had two flip sides (double sided) - one side in Widescreen, one side in fullscreen. Nobody liked them apparently, and they got changed back to one sided.

In the UK, from what I can establish Seasons 4 to 7 of Buffy are all widescreen, and seasons 2 to 5 of Angel are all widescreen. Ideally seasons 4 to 7 of Buffy should be watched in 4:3, and season 2 of Angel in 4:3.

My parents hated widescreen before they got a widescreen TV, and now they hate full screen. The problem is people don't like to see bits of the TV screen unused, as they think they are missing bits of the picture. So they swap it to scaling up or down, which then means - ironically - they loose bits of the picture.
The worst example of the badness of showing Buffy in widescreen is when Faith and Buffy are fighting at the end of This Years Girl. As they fall down the stairs you can see a cameraman at the left following them down.

I know it shouldn't, but this made me chortle.

I'm surprised I've never heard of that goof before. I don't know how anyone can watch that. That would totally take me out of the moment and remind me that I'm only watching a TV show. When I watch Buffy I want to feel like it's really happening. Of course, a camera man or boom mic in the buffyverse is fanwankable...if I think hard enough.
In one hard to understand graphy thing:

        R1  R2  R4
B1 4:3 4:3 4:3
B2 4:3 4:3 4:3
B3 4:3 4:3 4:3
B4 4:3 16:9 16:9
B5 4:3 16:9 16:9
B6 4:3 16:9 16:9
B7 4:3 16:9 16:9
A1 4:3 4:3 4:3
A2 16:9 16:9 4:3
A3 16:9 16:9 16:9
A4 16:9 16:9 16:9
A5 16:9 16:9 16:9
Back to thread topic (or darned close): I got an e-mail from MovieTyme today saying they have Serenity in stock and shipping now, so that's another. I've frequently had things sent out by Play or PlayUSA a little early, so that they arrived with me on official release day (or the Saturday before), but never noticed a film being released this early before (of course, I may not have been looking for it).

And back to the Buffy/Angel-fullscreen/widescreen thing. I seem to remember (although I could always be wrong) that Joss always thought of Buffy in fullscreen (apart from Once More With Feeling ) and Angel in widescreen. But on R2 they've both been widescreen since Angel S2/Buffy S4 (on DVD: I can't remember when the BBC switched to showing Buffy widescreen - and I agree, Sky committed horrendous crimes against widescreen in Angel, completely ruining some scenes & gags).

Oh - and on the general widescreen/fullscreen question, there's an interesting/entertaining/hilarious (depending on your standpoint) featurette on the Die Hard DVD explaining why widescreen is so far superior (for films shot in widescreen, obviously).
R2 stuff from Play almost always arrives the Saturday before release, most of the R1 stuff I've preordered has come over a week before release, great service for somewhere that doesn't charge postage.
I remember reading a story about how a law was made in England(or BBC? I'm not sure) that if wide-screen masters exist for something, then its supposed to be broadcast in that ratio. So then when Buffy was coming out on DVD, fans protested and that led to Buffy Season 4-7 being 16:9 on DVD.
So if I buy the eventual Angel complete series collection (Region 1), then I'll be getting the messed up version of Angel Season 2, all widescreen-as-not-intended, complete with crew member standing around in the frame? Or will they correct it?

Has the complete Angel been released in the UK yet? Did they/will they fix it for that region's release?
Region 2 (which includes UK) used widescreen for everything possible.
You want it as the director intended. Whether that be full screen on widescreen. Otherwise it destroys the composition. Simple really.
I have one question about the Angel & Buffy DVD's released in widescreen: Is the fullscreen image just the widescreen image with equal parts cut off on both sides? If so my DVD-player can easily revert a widescreen image back to full-screen. If they sometimes used the left (or right) part of the wide-screen footage, that cannot be easily done automatically.
I never got the whole thing about why people hate the black bars. It's just unused space, no distraction. Why the biggie?

My DVD player automatically adjusts the signal it puts out, 4:3 for 4:3 releases, fullscreen for 16:9, and 2.35:1 for wide movies (with black bars again). My widescreen TV, though, if you adjust for 4:3 presentation (as I have to do for VCR tapes), fills the "black bars" with gray. Now those gray bars, I hate with a passion!
Just as an example, here is a frame from This Years Girl. You can see the camera on the left, and since he's moving it's even more noticable when watching even if it is only for a fraction of a second.
Well, zz9, that's suitably jaring!
Celebithil, from what I can tell from Gossi's link to the Season 4 DVD comparisons and this comparison shot of The Body, it appears its the left and right sides of the frame.
I have one question about the Angel & Buffy DVD's released in widescreen: Is the fullscreen image just the widescreen image with equal parts cut off on both sides? If so my DVD-player can easily revert a widescreen image back to full-screen. If they sometimes used the left (or right) part of the wide-screen footage, that cannot be easily done automatically.

From the link KernelM posted, it seems the former is the case. Viewfinders on film cameras usually display the 4:3 safe area to help the cameraman frame the shot. Since the show was meant to be edited and broadcast in this format, it's only logical that everything was shot within this safe zone. Of course, there is a possibility that certain takes weren't exactly on frame and that the 4:3 edits of episodes salvaged these takes by panning the shot back into balance.

Those of you who can't find the 4:3 zoom on your DVD players: This is NOT the zoom function you'll find in the overlay menu where you can set subtitles, languages, etc. More often than not, this function is found in the DVD setup menu, where you can tell the player what kind of television you have. The three most common choices are 16:9 widescreen, 4:3 widescreen and 4:3 pan & scan. If you set this to 4:3 pan and scan, the player will chop off the sides and display only the center portion. If you have a widescreen television, the "unauthorized" bits will be replaced by black bars.
I saw the horse trainers hand on the right hand of the screen in Lost last week, and that was intended to be aired in widescreen, so it isn' always just sloppy work by the people making the DVD.

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