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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Wider is better 

Turner Classic Movies once again justifies the existence of television, this time with a great little interstitial documentary. The topic? Widescreen movie presentation versus pan and scan. The documentary is a gloriously visual thing, using clever graphics and comparisons to show exactly what is lost in the cropped versions of classic widescreen films (the touchstone example is Ben-Hur), but the punchline comes near the end of the show, when they show a pan and scan treatment of Da Vinci's The Last Supper, featuring six visible apostles.

By the way, the Wikipedia entry on pan and scan seems a little off: this article points out that some recent movies are filmed such that both the full-frame and widescreen versions of the same film are crops of the original, larger image. I believe from what little I know of cinematography that almost all modern cameras and on-set monitors show both aspect ratios with framing marks, and thus the director can shoot with both formats in mind should they desire.

How far Turner has come: once the demonic colorizer, now the purveyor of a purist, no-commercial, uncut, original-aspect-ratio-preferred channel devoted to old movies.

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