Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ban Pan & Scan!!!

CinemaScope was introduced into the cinema as draw card to get people back into theatre and away from their televisions. Yet the high demand for programming for TV has seen films that were presented in CinemaScope theatrically, under go a modification to "fill your TV".

It is not until you get to see a side by side comparison of two versions of a film that you realize just how much gets chopped off the edges. The process is called Panning and Scanning. One method is to use a frame with the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and move it over the original frame to only capture what is considered the essential story telling information. The fact remains that it cuts off parts of the film the director actually wanted you to see.

The Running Man
In the first example [The Running Man] you can see that part of the security guard is missing in the P&S version of the film, yet both frames are captured from images that are the same height. In this case, the 1.33:1 frame is simply shifted to the left. This was done because the actor on the left is speaking on the phone and is therefore considered more important in this scene.

In this special DVD edition of the film, two versions have been issued - original wide screen and a Pan and Scan version called "full frame". As you can see, it is far from full frame on my CIH set up.

A Bug's Life
CinemaScope - the way it was meant to be seen

It gets even worse for films originally presented in CinemaScope. Note how much side information is lost in the Scan and Pan process. My copy of A Bug's Life features both a Wide Screen and Pan & Scan version on the one disc.

A Bug's Life

Sometimes during production, the original frame contains information that is cropped off the top and bottom for the Wide Screen release. Even though A Bug's Life was originally presented in CinemaScope, it seems that parts of the original computer animation were made for another AR - perhaps 1.78:1, then cropped for Scope. In this case, you can see the 1.33:1 image has more vertical information than the Scope version in this scene, where the 1.33:1 shot above is a classic example of side cropping as a result of the Panning and Scanning process.

With the high demand for Original Aspect Ratio of film coming to home video formats, hopefully we will less and less of this artistic butchering and I why I say Ban Pan And Scan...


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