I had a look at the old and new versions of ANATOMY OF A DEWBACK and THE BEGINNING. The former is on the 2011 box set and the latter is on the 2001 TPM DVD.
ANATOMY OF A DEWBACK:
Aspect ratios are both wrong, 4:3 with silly wee widescreen box in the middle, though the 2011 one has the frame more squished horizontally than the 2020 one does. The two encodes have different scanline arrangements (2011 is interlaced, 2020 uses interleaved fields); I’m wondering if that’s something to do with why 2020 one has significant interlacing artefacts, but 2011 doesn’t. They both have artefacts, I mean, but the 2020 one is much worse in places. There’s a bit around the 12 second mark where a rope is swinging about, bobbing up and down, and in the 2011 it seems VLC can de-interlaced it reasonably acceptably but the 2020 one just seems not to improve regardless of interlacing being on or off, which makes me think it’s the interleaved rather than interlaced video causing the issue to at least some extent.
Right, so… THE BEGINNING is perfectly fine on the old DVD version of THE PHANTOM MENACE. That’s something, although it’s incredibly frustrating that we couldn’t just get that encode ported over to the Blu-ray box set (and got an aliased abomination instead). ANATOMY OF A DEWBACK, however, is another matter.
This featurette was released in 1997, I think around the time they were shooting THE PHANTOM MENACE in England. The original 1997 web video (which was encoded to stream over the internet on a 56k modem, using RealPlayer) is long since deleted, but I kept a recorded copy of the files and recently dug them out to have a look. The video appears to be 320 x 240 pixels (4:3) but this includes black letterboxing; without the letterboxing it’s more like 320 x 192 px, which is a somewhat unusual aspect ratio of 5:3. Although this is the native aspect ratio of 16 mm film, this featurette seems to have been shot on video so it’s probably more significant to note that 5:3 was used in some countries as an early “widescreen” format for a while, presumably as a compromise between theatrical 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 (a.k.a. 4:3) home video. This original version looks something like this, if you crop off the letterboxing from the top and bottom:
On the 2011 Blu-ray, the featurette was for some reason encoded to display as (almost) 5:3 “widescreen” on a 4:3 television screen. The trouble is, even in 2011, those were a dying breed, and definitely aren’t anywhere near as prevalent in 2020. The result of this is that the vast majority of people will watch this on a 16:9 screen, but the “widescreen” image will not even come close to filling the display on account of being restricted by the 4:3 box. The actual image is a very rough looking 700 x 430 or so pixels, inside a 720 x 540 pixel 4:3 frame. It’s “open matte” to some degree as it hasn’t been framed correctly for this release, but it’s also skewed toward one side, with the left side not cropped enough and the right side slightly over-cropped compared to the old web video. It also appears to have been slightly squashed horizontally. That one looks like this:
The 2020 Blu-ray is different again, with the image being about 720 x 440 but this time it’s been cropped much more noticeably on the right-hand side than the 2011 transfer was. As a result, it can’t be restored back to an accurate representation of the original framing, and to be honest, it looks like crap overall when compared to the 2011 version. It’s also noticeably stretched horizontally, from less than 700 px (I’m guessing 640 px) to 720 px:
Since the least cropped (and least aliased) reasonably modern source seems to be the 2011 disc, I cropped and upscaled that (without sharpening the hell out of it) to fill a 16:9 screen, in order to ditch the letterboxing and attempt to fix (as far as possible) the slightly deformed aspect ratio. Since a bit had been cut off the right hand side, I also cropped a little bit off the left to recentre the image, adding equal borders on the left and right to fill a 16:9 screen and upscaling to 720p. Since the source was interlaced, standard definition NTSC, I deinterlaced it with QTGMC. Do not expect this to look like HD footage, because it’s not, and it shows… but it’s a heck of a lot better than the 56k web streaming version and is framed better than either of the official Blu-ray Disc versions as well.
Here’s the 1997 web version with the letterboxing removed, then the remaining frame upscaled to fill a 5:3 frame inside a full-screen 16:9 display, to show what the ideal framing would look like:
Then the same thing but cropped in slightly on all sides to better match the available picture information in the 2011 Blu-ray version (since the 2011 BD version is slightly cropped on the right as well, I cropped in on all sides to restore the original 5:3 aspect ratio):
This was used to work out the most accurate crop and size adjustments for the 2011 video.
The end result is a precisely 5:3 frame with black bars at the sides to fill a 16:9 screen at 720p, instead of a tiny 5:3 frame inside a 4:3 box in the middle (which would have been great when we all used 4:3 TVs but is extremely inconvenient nowadays).