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Chopping widescreen movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2009

Steven Soderbergh on the new pan-and-scan: the cropping of 2.40:1 films to fit the HD TV screen.

Television operators, the people who buy and produce things for people to watch on TV, are taking the position that films photographed in the 2.40:1 ratio should be blown up or chopped up to fit a 16:9 (1.78:1) ratio. They are taking the position that the viewers of television do not like watching 2.40 films letterboxed to fit their 16:9 screens, and that a film insisting on this is worth significantly less — or even nothing — to them.

He has particular contempt for AMC and HBO:

[HBO wants] everything pan/scanned. On the Ocean’s films I had to get somebody VERY HIGH UP WITH WAY BETTER SHIT TO DO to call them and make an exception. Their influence means they could make this problem go away single-handedly, but since they won’t, they get to be the poster child for stupidity. Not that they’re uninterested in hypocrisy too; while their PR caters to the most adventurous TV watchers, their actions indicate they think their viewers are very, very afraid of anything actually different.

I watched The Darjeeling Limited on Starz a few months ago. This is a movie where the wider aspect ratio is almost another character and the knuckleheads at Starz chopped the hell out of it. Blech.