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Worst pan-n-scan disaster

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  • Worst pan-n-scan disaster

    Now that everyone has widescreen TV sets at home, it is possible to watch your favourite cinema releases in the aspect ratio that they were intended to be seen (notwithstanding our fascinating discussions on the older forum about what ratios were shown in cinemas - apparently UK screens showed one ratio, Europe another and US another, regardless of how the studio or directer might have been working). So nowadays, when we can go out and buy the DVD or stream the best digital version, it is becoming hard to imagine just what an awful presentation used to be shown on TV. The aspect ratio of the TV screen was used against it by the studios when they were finding it hard to compete with the TV revolution in the 60s. Cinemas introduced wide screens and ultra wide screens partly as a weapon against TV. The movies would never fit comfortably on a TV screen and the audiences would have to see them in the cinema.

    So when films from that era were shown on TV, they needed to be cropped or shown with borders at the top and bottom of the screen (like watching through a letterbox). Apparently the TV broadcasters believed that the audiences hated the borders so most of the time they used cropped images. "Pan and scan" is the name used to describe the technique where part of the film image is selected and the selected part sometimes moves across the scene to include an idea of the whole image. This can lead to scenes of dialogue where someone on the left of screen says a line, then the image slides across to the right in time to see the other character responding. It looks horrible and can be a real mess.

    What were your worst cropped image disasters? I always remember the cameo appearance from "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" when the three airport firefighters race to the rescue and turn out to be the Three Stooges, Curly, Moe and Larry... only in the TV cropped version it is "ly, Moe and La"... which makes a short visual gag totally incomprehensible. It would only have been mildly funny at best, but with cropping it makes no sense at all and confused me a lot when I first saw it. This is a squeezed version of that short scene. The full image is there, but in this case the people all look tall and thin.

  • #2
    http://www.the007dossier.com/007doss...-vs-Fullscreen

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    • #3
      Ah, now that's a better explanation! And with some great examples too. Mind you, mine was off the top of my head and probably would have been better if I'd planned to make a webpage out of it. But I'm too lazy for all that.

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      • #4
        The 007dossier author is bit off in claiming that 75% of the image would be lost from Ben-Hur and Lawrence of Arabia. Ben-Hur was filmed in MGM Camera 65 which had a potential ratio of 2.76:1 (but was actually projected at around 2.5:1 on its premiere run), but Lawrence is a standard 70mm film with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1, so less would be lost than a standard 35mm 'scope film.
        Pan and scan was only used for transmission of 'Scope format films, most non 'Scope films were shot open matte and the aspect ratio was created in the theatre. On TV the film would either be shown full frame or zoomed in to eliminate the unwanted top and bottom areas, losing image at the side as a result (sometimes resulting in parts of the credits being lost). Sadly some of these zoomed prints have been used for DVD releases.

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        • #5
          And this page on the Bond Dossier site also explains what is meant by "open matte", with an example from a Bond trailer. It does repeat quite a bit from the previous page as well, so don't say I didn't warn you.
          http://www.the007dossier.com/007doss...e-35mm-Trailer

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          • #6
            Originally posted by StoneAgeMan View Post

            What were your worst cropped image disasters?
            It always amused me seeing the film logos at the beginning where all you could read was "OLUMBI" instead of Columbia, or 20th Century Fox presents a "NEMASCO" picture rather than Cinemascope. Eventually the opening titles were shown in their correct ratio, but unfortunately reverted back to pan-and-scan once the credits finished.

            There were plenty of examples like this back in the 80's, but can't necessarily remember all the film titles they occured in. I do remember BBC1 showing Blind Date (Bruce Willis) for the first time back in, I'd say, late 80's/early 90's, and the image was zooming in and out constantly throughout the opening titles. There would be a few seconds where there were no credits, therefore the image would zoom in to fill the screen. Once the next credit appeared, it zoomed back out again to fit the name on the screen before once again zooming in until the next credit came up. It was unbelievable. You'd think it would have been easier to just leave the film alone until all the credits were over.

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            • #7
              The pan and scan version of THE MIRACLE, shown on Granada and ATV in 1969 and 1971 and on Channel 5 in 2000 and 2001, was a real mess. The film was shot in Technirama (2.35:1 aspect ratio, the same as CinemaScope) and there was one scene where Roger Moore is sitting up in bed with his face, neck and chest on the left of the original image, talking with Carroll Baker standing at the foot of the bed on the right of the original image. But all we could see was the middle of the scene with the bed on it. In pan and scan, you can show either the left of the image, or the centre, or the right, but not all at once. A great pity that, due to technical difficulties with the original Technirama negative, the full widescreen version of the film will most probably never be seen again.

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              • #8
                I loved watching a nose on screen left talking to an ear on screen right, with an empty wall between them.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by StoneAgeMan View Post
                  I loved watching a nose on screen left talking to an ear on screen right, with an empty wall between them.
                  That was pretty common before they actually started the "pan 'n scan" process. Initially, they'd simply print whatever happened to be in the center of the frame. I remember the television prints of John Ford's MISTER ROBERTS were so bad that when Henry Fonda and Jack Lemon had a scene in their cabin all you saw was the door in the back wall and maybe a glimpse of one of their noses occasionally.

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                  • #10
                    And let's not get onto the subject of ITV in the 60s & 70s who would regularly trim a film to fit an allotted time slot (making sure enough adverts were shown!).

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by agutterfan View Post
                      And let's not get onto the subject of ITV in the 60s & 70s who would regularly trim a film to fit an allotted time slot (making sure enough adverts were shown!).
                      Oh indeed, I remember that all too well even in the 80s. They used to allocate a 90 minute slot to show a film which often had a running time of about 85 minutes - Carry On films being an example. Then of course there would be at least 3 commercial breaks, so the film would get chopped up to accommodate those all-important adverts.

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                      • #12
                        The really sad thing is that a fair number of viewers probably didn't notice that pan and scan was so awful, and certainly a lot of people still get very confused by aspect ratios (trust me, I still have to explain to customers), and possibly dont even notice if its wrong ( I still get people who say that SD looks the same as HD). As far as they are concerned, the black bars are a pain, and if everyone looks like they've got no necks, thats fine, because it fills the screen!

                        ITV did at least eventually try to show some films at their proper length, but News at Ten suffered in order to do so. Apparently its time slot started to wander depending on the length of the film plus ad breaks, so it became known as 'News at When?'



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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bonekicker View Post
                          ...and certainly a lot of people still get very confused by aspect ratios (trust me, I still have to explain to customers)
                          I used to get that all the time when I was in the photographic trade. Some customers couldn't understand why a 35mm negative couldn't be printed on a 10 x 8 sheet of paper without cropping. It was explained that you either had to decrease the size of the image so that the full width of the negative could be accommodated (resulting in a white border top and bottom), or use a wider paper such as a 12 x 9.

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                          • #14
                            It's not so much a problem with modern TVs, but I used to be amazed in the early days of widescreen sets to see the number of people who seemed perfectly happy to watch 4:3 transmissions stretched to 16:9.

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