Thursday, December 29, 2011

Right back where we started...

I've noticed something about "new" widescreen TVs.  (Just try and find a "new" TV with 4:3 aspect ratio.)

Once upon a time when all people had was 4:3 TV screens and movies were broadcast or shown on VHS, the films were cropped. The left and right extremes of the picture would be lopped off.  Later as more care was taken (which inevitably happened more and more as time went on and afficionados took more interest in preserving the intention of the film makers, and eventually this became the domain of the film makers - or their designates - efforts were made to use the most important portion of the image, not just the centre.  This would even mean shifting the portion of the screen that was used.  This could be anywhere from extreme left to extreme right, anywhere in between, or could even move (once technology allowed) within an edit.  This technique was known as pan and scan, and was what you got when you purchased a DVD or VHS that was labelled as "Full Screen."
Somewhere along the line snobs (Like myself, though I wasn't at all vocal about it and had no effect on the shift.) began to complain about the fact that they weren't getting the full picture, and the cry was heard.  I recall watching my widescreen VHS of Star Wars (a film I was intimately familiar with from a truly absurd number of repeated viewings) for the first time and seeing to both edges of Lucas's intended frame for the first time in years and seeing details (stormtroopers and other back ground extras mostly) I had forgotten had existed.  I was immediately sold on Widescreen.  I didn't throw any Full Screen formats I had out, but I never bought another new one.
I have little doubt that the popularity of Widescreen presentation (with those letter-boxing bands at the top and bottom of the picture) directly impacted upon the shift to 16:9 screens as HD came into the mix for regular consumers.  I expect it likely would have happened anyway, but the fact that over the course of a decade (or so?) that widescreen sales became the preference for the majority of movie purchasers (Even the rubes who initially complained about "those black bars" and how they were getting "ripped off 'cause the whole screen wasn't being used" eventually saw the percieved benefit of the fashionably vogue opportunity to see the entire picture that you would see in the theatres.) influenced the shift to widescreen hardware.
Well, guess what is happening now?  You may have noticed this yourself.
Old TV shows, presented in 4:3 originally are now being cropped (losing a portion of the top and/or bottom) to fill the entirety of a 16:9 screen.  BAH!  Would it be so bad if we just pillar-boxed them and (god forbid) GAVE US THE WHOLE PICTURE AS IT WAS INTENDED TO BE SHOWN?!!!?