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Fullscreen Laserdisc / DVD Preservation

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Hello!

 

   I love fullscreen versions of films ( open matte or pan & scanned ). I'm particularly fond of pan & scans of movies that REALLY shouldn't be pan & scanned ( think "The Deer Hunter", "The Fall of the Roman Empire", "The Magnificent 7", "The Great Escape", "Ben-Hur"... ). They're fascinating.

   I own many of those on DVD, and love the restoration job and the fact that I can finally watch them in their original aspect ratio, which is my favorite way of watching them, but I'm really sad to see pan & scan go. They have not only nostalgic value, they are also historically interesting, in the sense that this was the way most people first encountered those movies for the best part of the last 40 years, and also because new releases usually have slightly different cuts / revamped special effects / color timing, and other tweaks. Just like deleted scenes or alternate takes on a DVD, these versions tell you a little more about the film.

   So I was wondering if there are more people out there who feel the way I do. There were a few fullscreen DVDs early in the format ( either stand-alone releases or flippies ( Widescreen on one side, fullscreen on the other ), laserdisc for a few prominent titles, and vhs for the rest. I hear Netflix also makes some movies available in fullscreen.

   I do not have the resources, technical knowledge or money to own, convert or download everything I'm interested in, I have never even touched a laserdisc player, but if I didn't think so strongly about piracy, I'd love it if like-minded people were to post a reply with their thoughts on this or maybe shoot me a pm about fullscreen laserdisc-to-dvd conversions and other such material...

   By the way, I happen to be a member at a number of trackers, under the same username. Isn't that a funny coincidence?

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I really like open matte Full screen Versions.

i.e. I've seen From Dusk till Dawn and Desperado open matte on German VHS first, before seeing them widescreen.

I really would love to have the open matte Versions as DVDs, but afaik they were matted for LDs, and they were only Fullscreen on VHS.

My first DVD of Bad Taste was a bad full frame german release, which I gave away after getting a better quality Widescreen Version. Now I am trying to get that again. Same with Evil Dead. I am glad that at least the US company released Evil Dead as Full Frame Version.

I have a german languaged only DVD of an open Matted "Killing Zoe"

 

Too bad that open Matte Versions seem to die away, because I always loved the way some movies show some more informations, or some faulty of screen things like microphones...

“I kill Gandalf.” - Igor, Dork Tower

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Nice to have some feedback, Mr. Brown.

   I just remembered another movie I'd just love to have the OPEN MATTE fullscreen version of: the 1956 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".

   As it came out during the years of transition to widescreen, it appears to have been shown theatrically in different aspect ratios. The original fullscreen version, however, ONLY HAS SURVIVED as a 16mm...

   The best material available is of the matted widescreen version, and the fullscreen versions floating around are pan & scans of that widescreen version...

http://www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org/2012/07/02/invasion-of-the-aspect-ratios/

   Wouldn't you love to have a look at that 16mm print? Wouldn't it be great if Criterion released this movie? Not only because of this aspect ratio problem, but because the movie invites the kind of discussion that dvd supplements love to deal with, and also because a series of interviews with cast and crew and other related material has been produced through the years, but are scattered along a few of its home video incarnations or gathering dust in some vault. This movie deserves the royal treatment!

 

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"El Mariachi" is another indie that hasn't been digitally released in its original 4x3 aspect ratio (curiously the "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" supplements *do* show clips from the film this way... which is in turn a film that hasn't been on home media in anything *but* unmatted).

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was likely framed for standard 1.85:1 projection (which most films by this point were-- try this with "Plan 9 from Outer Space" and you won't see as many mistakes), which is what I'd love to see a digital release of the film in. I haven't checked too closely as to whether the ubiquitous 2.00:1 SuperScope blow-up crops this framing vertically or adds the 3mm to the left of the image that would have been covered by the soundtrack.

While I do believe many open-matte films were intended for widescreen framing, I do think almost all of Ralph Bakshi's work is better unmatted, Soderbergh's "The Good German" is a fullscreen-only DVD release I don't detest and Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" looks more at home in 4x3.

I have seen "Ben-Hur" in pan-and-scan on the 1988 MGM VHS (released on LD around the same time with presumably the same transfer) and I can see the OP's fascination, if this is to say seeing how well these films hold together in a form they're clearly not intended to be in.

By this point, the then-standard practice of letterboxing the chariot race was implemented with the frame zooming out as the horses entered the arena (I cannot remember if it zoomed back in after it was done or did a straight cut). The reel-change marks indicated this was clearly sourced from a 35mm anamorphic print, and it was no more than 2.35:1 (probably closer than 2.20:1). The American Widescreen Museum loves to gripe about the 2.76:1 negative ratio that all video editions nowadays use, stressing that the film was rarely exhibited in this aspect ratio and was widely seen in 2.50:1 (35mm, slightly letterboxed) or 2.20:1 (standard 70mm).

I will need to look through my Laserdisc collection to see what LDs I own in pan-and-scan/unmatted, mostly the ones I inherited as I'm letterbox-only on everything but VHS. It does include at least a couple 007 movies (The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy and the unofficial Never Say Never Again), 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ghostbusters ("Top Gun" is redundant since its 4x3 version was on the original DVD and the time-compressed "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" because... well, you know).

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At least Ted Turner released the originals.

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I'd be curious to see screencaps from the 007 title sequences, as Maurice Binder did a recomposed "HBO version" for the later Moore films. It's unclear if any of these versions ever made it to home video though. (Or if it was done for Timothy Dalton's two outings.) I had the pan and scan A View to a Kill LD, but the title sequence was letterboxed.

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Where were you in '77?

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one I would like to see is The Robe. there is a Fullscreen version on the BD but only as a PiP track. they shot scenes with a different camera because they didn't know how the cinemascope process would turn out

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The standard version of The Robe would be fantastic.   Why the studio went to the trouble of adding it to the disc as a PiP track without providing the option to watch it is beyond me.  I'd have been content simply to see it, even if it were in 480i.

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   I have a HUGE list of titles I'd like to own in their fullscreen versions ( again, I love BOTH open matte AND pan & scan ). When I watch a movie for the first time, I go for the intended aspect ratio, but from then on, open matte gives you more picture ( which can be fascinating ) and pan & scan is valuable not only for historical reasons ( that's how the movie was first seen by most ), but because it's interesting to see the "artistic" choices of the person doing the transfer, the segment they focused on. Not only that, I prefer grainy, slightly faded and scratched film to the overscrubbed, grain-free, color-tweaked, cartoony-looking product they put out nowadays. It's a joy when I come across some nice looking conversion of older prints, especially to full DVD. Among the titles in my wishlist:

Laserdisc:

  -The Alamo - Uncut Version ( though letterboxed, it's the only way the longer version has been made available )
-The Great Escape ( Fullscreen unsubbed NTSC Laserdisc Available )
-1941 (The 1979 comedy)
-Amadeus
-An American Werewolf in London
-Society (The 1989 horror movie by Brian Yuzna. Unsubbed NTSC Laserdisc Available )
-Schindler (The 1982 documentary)
-Troll (1986) ( Fullscreen unsubbed NTSC Laserdisc Available )
-Hope and Glory
-"Zardoz" and "House of the Long Shadows" ( Fullscreen unsubbed PAL Laserdisc available ) (fullscreen DVD of "...Long Shadows" had terrible picture, dark and orange )
-All of David Lean's Epics: "A Passage to India", "Doctor Zhivago","Ryan's daughter", "Lawrence of Arabia"...
-Friday the 13th and Star Trek movie series...
-The 4 Superman films with Christopher Reeve
-A Room with a View
-Titanic, True Lies and Terminators 1 & 2... Why not?
-The Fearless Vampire Killers ( I want the animated opening made for the American cut, offered as an extra on the ld )
-Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead
-Dr. Phibes 1 & 2 ( Fullscreen unsubbed NTSC Laserdisc Available )
-Remote Control (1988) ( Fullscreen unsubbed NTSC Laserdisc Available )
-The Company of Wolves (1984) ( fullscreen unsubbed NTSC Laserdisc Available )
-The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) ( Fullscreen unsubbed NTSC Laserdisc Available )
-Best Picture Winners like "The Deer Hunter", "Ben Hur", "Tom Jones" and "My Fair Lady" ( for this last one, both pre and post 1994 restoration releases )
-Radio Days
-Miracle in the Wilderness
-Historically interesting material, including very early releases and discs like "Memories of Videodisc" ( an homage and farewell to the CED format ). Notices and logos would be specially interesting on these...

A few titles I KNOW were made available as fullscreen NTSC DVDs:

-The Sound of Music
-Jason and the Argonauts
-West Side Story
-Cat Ballou
-Back to the Future and Star Wars trilogies
-A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise
-The Amityville Horror (1979)
-Jurassic Park (1993)
-Animal House (1978)

   Not to mention the aforementioned "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" open matte 16mm and basically every movie ever made... even the lost ones...


and it goes on, and on, and on...

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I don't mind fullscreen when it's open matte, especially if it's not a very artistic movie (like comedies, etc.), but pan'n'scan stuff always feels cramped to me, especially when it's supposed to be a letterbox aspect.

Off the top of my head, one movie I haven't been able to watch in widescreen yet is G.I. Joe (the original animated one). I know they originally drew most of it with the intention of being matted to widescreen, but I've tried watching the Shout! Factory disc a couple times now, and I always end up switching it back to fullscreen.

BTW, if you really want the "the way I originally saw them" experience, why not just get a good VHS collection going? ;) Thrift stores always have way more than they can get rid of.

Last time I found anything good, I grabbed a copy of Sidekicks...which I doubt will end up on DVD any time soon =(

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The first laserdisc issue of Paul Verhoeven's "Total Recall" was open matte, reportedly at the director's request. The original R1 DVD release contains a full frame version.

I've been trying to track down the standard version of "The Robe" myself for just that reason. Disney enthusiasts would already know "Lady in the Tramp" had a 1.33:1 version shot simultaneously, which came to good use for VHS and LD releases (the DVD only restored the CinemaScope version so its 4x3 version is pan-and-scan).

I do not have "Radio Days" but I did spot it last time I went Laserdisc shopping, but I do have "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (not open matte but most of Woody's 1.85:1 films have composed with a 4x3 safe area) and "Annie Hall" (available unmatted on DVD but this does have the original subtitles). Completely the opposite on the full-frame topic, I have two editions of Allen's letterbox-only "Manhattan", including the original 1984 LD which has the picture slightly squished around 2.00:1.

A particularly fascinating set of films to look at is the original "Indiana Jones" trilogy. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is arguably unintelligible in pan-and-scan, but when you get to "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" the framing was clearly made TV-safe (Doug Pratt's Laserdisc review actually stated a preference for the full-frame version of "Last Crusade"). These are available on DVD with the title sequences letterboxed (the original VHS releases electronically recomposited them onto pan-and-scan).

I'll get a look at the 007 films, which I'm going to guess had the title sequences squeezed.

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At least Ted Turner released the originals.

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Most of Mel Brooks' films seem to be open matte as well. The trailer for High Anxiety is full frame and crew shadows can be seen in one shot. The number of open matte films with things that were never meant to be seen is probably huge. Here are a couple I recall from seeing movies one time too many on HBO back in the day.

The Jerk. Microphone visible on the bed below Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters.

Bachelor Party. As a character dangling from bedsheets falls, two stagehands grab the actor from below!

Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The endless bicycle chain gag is ruined, as you can see it's being fed from underneath.

The Shining. The infamous helicopter shadow during the opening scenes.

IIRC, early video transfers of The Muppet Movie reveal a little too much below the waists of Kermit and the gang. The later films were either zoomed in to prevent this on video, or were shot hard matted.

Manhattan has the distinction of being one of the few films never shown in pan and scan on any video format. (I even saw it once on a UHF station with the gray letterbox bars in the late '80's.) The only other one I know of is Joe Dante's Innerspace.

There are a small handful of films squeezed slightly on older video transfers that can properly fill a 16:9 tv with the proper setting today.

 


Where were you in '77?

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"Innerspace" is among a few of Spielberg's produced films that got early letterboxed releases, along with "The Color Purple" which was always letterbox-only.

widescreen.org's favorite unmatted gaffes to cite were the boom mic in "The Princess Bride" (which they also knew was digitally erased in later video issues) and John Cleese's "nude scene" in "A Fish Called Wanda" which obviously spoiled the gag. The one I'm surprised isn't mentioned nearly as often is "Dr. Strangelove" which, despite Kubrick's approval of the transfer, shows things that clearly weren't intended to be projected like the notorious A-bomb shot (only Kong and the A-bomb were full-frame, while the rear projection was already matted.

("Lolita" on LD reportedly has a similar "multi-aspect" presentation which, unlike "Dr. Strangelove", was not presented this way on DVD. I have the LD of "A Clockwork Orange" which was said to have variable aspect ratios, but it's a straight-up 1.66:1 transfer that simply employs windowboxing for the titles and the newspaper towards the end)

I spotted a VHS of "Manhattan" some years ago with the standard pan-and-scan disclaimer (the printing was somewhere around 1996) but I have no idea if it was a misprint or done with the hope that Woody wouldn't have noticed (he did sue a TV station once for showing it in pan-and-scan). The 1984 LD has the letterboxing disclaimer on the front mentioning "grey bars" but they looked as close to black as grey can get.

Somewhere in the early 90's, possibly influenced by how Super 35 films were transferred, 1.85:1 films would occasionally crop just the close-ups (Robert Altman's "The Player" as a noted example) while transferring the rest open matte.

At least Ted Turner released the originals.

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another one for the list is Predator

goofs galore that were exposed in the open matte version (boom mics, Dillion's third arm etc)

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Checked the opening sequence for "Octopussy" and it appears the titles were recomposited as they fit cleanly into the corners of the 4x3 frame with a clearly undistorted picture. This is my guess anyways as I have no letterbox copy for reference.

At least Ted Turner released the originals.

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Even in flat/Super 35 films, VFX shots would be cropped (at least in the post-Star Wars era). Since they were generally shot in VistaVision, which had a negative ratio of 1.50:1, they would be reduced to 4-perf with hard-matting, at anywhere from 1.66:1 to 1.85:1. For Super 35 films, the VFX would generally be framed with the intent of being vertically cropped to 2.35:1 for the anamorphic release prints. No matter how much additional vertical info might have shown up on the full-screen home video transfers, they would always be missing info on the sides.

(Not sure how much additional vertical info would show up on VFX shots in Super 35 films. Someone would have to compare the full-screen/widescreen versions of something like T2 or Star Trek VI.)

Side note: I've seen one film (or possibly a trailer?) that a letterboxed shot which was hard-matted in the camera, and actually had lens flaring which bled over into the black space! I wish I could remember what that movie was...

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At least in the case of T2, digital VFX were hard-matted at 2.00:1 as a compromise between saving render time and giving room to reframe later. "The Abyss" would be an interesting one to find out because only one sequence contains digital effects (two in the SE) and all but one shot of the Pseudopod sequence was composited optically.

The screener VCD copy of "The Matrix" contains more of the Super 35 area than was clearly intended to be seen (some examples pointed out on its thread) and at least one CG effect of a bullet flying towards the screen was hard-matted all the way but composited over the full-frame. The Wachowskis refused to release a Fullscreen DVD and I recall looking at an examples page years ago that showed the VHS version as completely cropped during numerous scenes.

At least Ted Turner released the originals.

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ETQ06213 said:

Checked the opening sequence for "Octopussy" and it appears the titles were recomposited as they fit cleanly into the corners of the 4x3 frame with a clearly undistorted picture. This is my guess anyways as I have no letterbox copy for reference.

http://youtu.be/Md8uNCYX_Nc

Wish I could still find a split screen comparison someone posted to youtube for A View to a Kill. One side was a videotaped copy clearly recomped for tv, but I can't recall what the original source of that was.

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Where were you in '77?

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bigrob said:

 

another one for the list is Predator

goofs galore that were exposed in the open matte version (boom mics, Dillion's third arm etc)

Would all of this be visible in the old full frame DVD release?


Where were you in '77?

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SilverWook said:

ETQ06213 said:

Checked the opening sequence for "Octopussy" and it appears the titles were recomposited as they fit cleanly into the corners of the 4x3 frame with a clearly undistorted picture. This is my guess anyways as I have no letterbox copy for reference.

http://youtu.be/Md8uNCYX_Nc

Wish I could still find a split screen comparison someone posted to youtube for A View to a Kill. One side was a videotaped copy clearly recomped for tv, but I can't recall what the original source of that was.

I remember seeing a split-screen comparison for "Licence to Kill" (which had the recomposited titles already noted in iMDB's Alternate Versions page).

That pretty much confirms the "Octopussy" titles were redone for pan-and-scan, down to credits being divided over more lines such as:

Titles Designed by
MAURICE BINDER

becomes

Titles
Designed by
MAURICE
BINDER 

I also own "You Only Live Twice" and "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", which were most likely squeezed.

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At least Ted Turner released the originals.

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SilverWook said:

bigrob said:

 

another one for the list is Predator

goofs galore that were exposed in the open matte version (boom mics, Dillion's third arm etc)

Would all of this be visible in the old full frame DVD release?

 Would this be the same with old VHS releases?  I've only ever seen the film in widescreen.

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VHS yes, because i nearly wore my copy out

 

wasn't aware that there was a full frame DVD release

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Does anybody here have the Image LD of Dawn of the Dead or at least the EMI VHS release? I know there's a widespread open matte rip of the Cannes cut floating around from one of the Anchor Bay releases, but I prefer Romero's theatrical/intended cut, and I'm curious about the old transfer.

So, a new book came out and we learned so much, and it is called, "Anguilosaurus, Killer of the Living".

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The Naked Gun movies all were shot open matte. The widescreen framing on the DVD of the first film is slightly off, as you can see a sliver of the bra Priscilla Presley is wearing when she's supposed to be naked.

Ironically, the filmmakers on the commentary track mention how visible the bra was in old fullframe transfers. I guess they couldn't see this on the monitor they were using because of overscan?

No idea if this is fixed for the Blu Ray.


Where were you in '77?

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Hopefully there've been some open matte HDTV versions of The Princess Bride and of course the great Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Why don't the majority of fan preservationists offer downloads for Pan and Scan or Open Matte versions? Vast lot of these would be VHS capture. How degraded would these VHS be of course factoring the rarity and if it's a rental?
Would quality matter or the necessity of the aspect ratio's involved with certain releases? Which films would be beneficial for preservation of this type?

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