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The New Pan And Scan


Fire Bear
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I have recorded many TCM broadcasts over recent years and have noticed a disappointing trend:  Broadcasts on TCM of movies that have been altered to cut off a huge amount at the top and bottom of the original to fit the current 16:9 aspect ratio of American TVs, what I call Vertical Pan & Scan.  I was inspired to post this after seeing today's broadcast of The Rack as it is a prime example.  I compared an older recording I made (Aug 2014) which had an aspect ration of 4:3 and noticed it was missing a huge amount on the left and right compared to today's broadcast (3 Nov 2016), but today's had just as huge an amount missing from the top and bottom, probably a larger percentage than that missing from the earlier broadcast, since the top and bottom are wider strips!  I wish that TCM could find or create a print to broadcast the whole movie, especially since this was an MGM movie, presumably one that TCM owns and can control it's editing.

 

I have noticed that they no longer broadcast the Scorsese (and others) promo clip speaking about and powerfully demoing the crime of pan and scan, probably because a larger and larger amount TCM broadcasts are guilty of just such practices in showing movies now cut to fit the new TV screens.  It is especially egregious with movies originally made with an aspect ratio of 1.37, such as Thunder Road.  The version shown in recent years cuts at least 1/4 of the original movie out from the top and bottom.  And Thunder Road is not alone, it was just the first one I noticed, and is occurring with more and more movies TCM shows.

 

I have noticed that some showings of 1.37 aspect ratio (4:3) movies have added noticeable additional content in one direction or both, which I applaud, but sometimes with a loss in the other direction, or worse a loss in both directions with the illusion of being slightly wider, although that is occurring more with movies that are larger than 1.78 aspect ratio (16:9) being broadcast to the left and right edges of the screen.  The utilization of the full screen width (being phased in by TCM around end 2014 / beginning 2015) was long overdue, but not at the cost of trimming the picture.

 

A caring fan,

Dave

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I realized that I misspoke regarding Thunder Road.  It is especially egregious (I shudder every time I see it on TCM now) because the print TCM has shown in the last two years is showing little more than half the picture to fill the current TV screens.  It is a vertical pan & scan of a print that was already horizontally pan & scanned.  The original movie AR (aspect ration) is 1.66, so it is cut to 1.33, then has the top and bottom cut off of that (another 25%!

 

Dave

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What gets me is Pay per view on Directv has no widescreen presentation of movies.. Sometimes there are 2 to 4 channels showing the same film with 4:3 format.   Why not have one in widescreen for crying out loud? :angry:

 

Adding insult to injury, they raised the price to $5.99

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The Rack was shot open matte (1.33:1/1.37:1) but intended to be matted down to widescreen. It was probably previously shown in an old open matte transfer that slightly overscanned the image and was replaced by the current version which is correctly matted into widescreen. This has been done with a number of titles and it's not an error.

 

Thunder Road - If what you're saying is correct, it could be the random odd error with TCM's upscaling that occasionally happens on TCMHD where a film is accidentally blown up to widescreen. I've noticed it on a few silent films (Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse usually turns up with this issue on the HD channel but is just fine on the SD channel.) They don't do that on purpose.

 

Here are some screenshots from the Blu-ray - http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Thunder-Road-Blu-ray/119641/#Screenshots. Was it like this or different? In my opinion, this looks pretty spot on and properly composed, even if it's over-matted to 1.85 (that James Mitchum capture would have classic open matte dead space if it wasn't matted down.)

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