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· Godfather
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm trying to understand the aspect ratios of films shown on Universal HD.

I just got a pair of 722s, and last week Universal HD showed Casino, but zoomed to 16:9, so I thought they, like HBO HD, just always showed everything zoomed to 16:9.

Yet earlier today they showed Alien Nation (the film) properly letterboxed to its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

So does Universal HD have a policy as to the aspect ratio of films they show (e.g. HBO HD's is to always present films with an OAR wider than 16:9 at 16:9 unless the only HD master is letterboxed or the filmmakers have the wider aspect ratio in their contracts - Lucas, Spielberg and Soderbergh are some that do), or is it just sort of a guessing game as to whether films they show will be shown in their original aspect ratio or not?

You would think that as one of the studio's higher profile films they would have letterboxed Casino, especially as a letterboxed HD master was created for the HD DVD release…
 

· Hall Of Fame
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Most of the networks prefer to show things at 16x9, because they get a lot of complaints from (let's just call them "uneducated") customers who think something is broken, or that they're getting "cheated", because their entire screen isn't filled.

As you know, some studios/directors contractually prohibit that, and some movies only have an OAR transfer, so some movies are shown OAR.

Bottom line is that most things will probably *eventually* migrate to OAR, but like everything else with the HD transition, it's going to take a while.
 

· Superfly
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I bet they show the aspect ratio of whatever they receive. They get a movie from the studio in 16:9, it's shown that way. They get it in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, they show it letterboxed that way. If they received something in 4:3, I bet they'd show it that way, too, window-boxed.
 

· Godfather
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
brant said:
HBO HD doesn't show everything @ 16x9.
HBO HD's official policy is to show everything in 16:9 unless contracts don't allow it or their HD master is an OAR master created before they adopted their 16:9 policy and it's for the reasons cited above - supposedly their customers "prefer" not to have black letterbox bars on their screens.
 

· Godfather
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Carl Spock said:
I bet they show the aspect ratio of whatever they receive. They get a movie from the studio in 16:9, it's shown that way. They get it in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, they show it letterboxed that way. If they received something in 4:3, I bet they'd show it that way, too, window-boxed.
Unfortunately that doesn't really fly for a film like Casino as they are the studio.

Given that Universal Home Video prepared a letterboxed HD master for the HD DVD release, it would just be a matter of giving them an inter-company phone call.
 

· Superfly
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I was thinking more along the lines of easy of broadcast with my comments. To re-scan something into a different aspect ratio costs time and money. Why spend either? Just show it as it was delivered to the broadcast studio. That's cheaper.

I've got an idea. Why don't you ask them your question?
 

· Godfather
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Carl Spock said:
I was thinking more along the lines of easy of broadcast with my comments. To re-scan something into a different aspect ratio costs time and money. Why spend either? Just show it as it was delivered to the broadcast studio. That's cheaper.

I've got an idea. Why don't you ask them your question?
I wanted to find out what their usual mode of operation was; I don't need to be ticked off at an ignorant "our customers prefer it that way" form letter like I got from HBO…
 

· Legend
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HBO definitely shows any movie framed at 16:9 if they can get away with it. Movies originally composed for 2.39:1 are very rarely shown in OAR on HBO.

In the case of Casino, that movie was filmed in the spherical Super35 process. Countless numbers of movies have used Super35 in the last 20 years. There is no need to pan and scan that movie. They just do a video transfer of the full 35mm frame and crop down to the aspect ratio they need. Sometimes they'll crop tighter in the case of closeups. Certain visual effects shots may be panned and scanned since they're usually shot on 65mm or VistaVision format. Same goes for a lot of CGI stuff. Still, Super35 is home video safe widescreen.
 

· Icon
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Speaking of "HD ratios"... what' up with SciFi-HD? They seem to have the aspect correct, but all shows I've seen have black bars on 4 sides. One of the reasons I switched to Dish was to get SciFi in HD... now I have to zoom just like I did with TWC. Think they'll be going true HD anytime soon? USA-HD seems to be doing it right (Monk-Psych).
 

· Kwisatz Haderach of Cordcuttery
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tcatdbs said:
Speaking of "HD ratios"... what' up with SciFi-HD? They seem to have the aspect correct, but all shows I've seen have black bars on 4 sides. One of the reasons I switched to Dish was to get SciFi in HD... now I have to zoom just like I did with TWC. Think they'll be going true HD anytime soon? USA-HD seems to be doing it right (Monk-Psych).
Don't forget Burn Notice! :jumpingja

Sci-Fi does their firstruns in HD, when it's available. BSG was HD. I didn't pay much attention to anything else.
 

· Godfather
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
tcatdbs said:
Speaking of "HD ratios"... what' up with SciFi-HD? They seem to have the aspect correct, but all shows I've seen have black bars on 4 sides. One of the reasons I switched to Dish was to get SciFi in HD... now I have to zoom just like I did with TWC. Think they'll be going true HD anytime soon? USA-HD seems to be doing it right (Monk-Psych).
HD does not mean 16:9, and 16:9 does not mean HD.

So for example, when a show is in letterboxed SD like Doctor Who, SciFi shows the program in 4:3 letterbox on their HD feed, resulting in the black side pillars and the black letterbox bars.

In theory, SciFi could zoom such content to 16:9 for the HD feed, but I prefer that they leave it alone and leave it to people's receivers or TVs to zoom, as there's no way to unzoom it for those who want the picture presented as-is.

One other possible reason for this is that the broadcast networks are preparing to shut off their SD feeds, requiring stations broadcasting a 4:3 signal to "center cut" their 16:9 HD signal. It could be that Sci-Fi has long term plans to do that as well (meaning DISH would "generate" SciFi SD by taking the center portion of the SciFi HD feed, downconverting it to 480i, and sending it out as the SD SciFi channel.)

What's more confusing is there are programs out there in 4:3 HD (the best example is CBS' annual presentation of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer - it was originally shot in 4:3 so the HD version would be 4:3 as well) as well as shows shot in SD widescreen 16:9 (PBS' Motorweek is an example of a program that is widescreen but not HD.)
 

· Hall Of Fame
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I think the problem is who you want to cater to. Unfortunately for every viewer that knows that on their 42" TV is being displayed a picture missing 6.3 inches of the picture, there are 500 viewers who think they're being cheated when they see those black bars. Hence the phenomena of the various "stretches" built into widescreen TV's. I know people who prefer stretch-o-vision to 4:3 with sidebars. It drives me bonkers, but what do I know?

I don't know why the don't show everything at the original aspect and tell people to zoom if they don't want to see the whole picture.
 

· Superfly
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The only good thing is that we are heading towards only showing stuff in its original aspect ratio. It will take years, and there will still be 4:3 programs stretched to 16:9, or for situations like kucharsk is reporting here, but at least we are trending towards showing stuff with aspect ratio integrity. Fifteen years ago, you almost never saw a widescreen movie on live 4:3 TV. Now you do all the time.

Patience, kucharsk. You are on the side of the angels. Eventually you'll get your wish on all stations, not just Universal HD.

I know you rejected asking Universal HD why they do what they do with the link I posted up thread, but why don't you at least write them, complaining? While you are certainly welcome to gripe here, we can't do anything about it. They can.
 
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