This weekend I was flipping through my satellite guide looking for stuff to watch. It a pastime I quite enjoy. Sometimes I enjoy it more than actually watching anything. I search through the week to find interesting shows and documentaries and movies for my DVR to record. Of course, I record so much stuff that I barely watch half of it, but sometimes I make some great discoveries. Take, for example, the best movie I ever watched on my DVR: Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. It played on The Movie Network HD, and actually looked pretty decent, but better still it instantly become one of my very favourite films of all time. We’re talking Top 5 here.
Anyway, that was a couple of years ago, and since then I’d deleted the film to make room for unwatched episodes of Fringe. But this weekend, while flipping through my guide I saw that The Apartment was set to play on MGM-HD, so I instantly set it to record. The next day I sat down to watch the film, and I was actually pretty excited. Except, this is what I saw:
Compare that shot to the one above it. In case you can’t tell the difference, I’ll help you out. The version of the film I was watching had the sides of the frame chopped off in order to fit on a 16×9 HDTV without any black bars.
It’s a fucking travesty.
I’m sorry, have I accidentally time-travelled back to 2001? Are people still confused about the “black bars”? It’s absolutely ridiculous. Part of the beauty of having a 16×9 TV is that 2.35:1 ratio films like The Apartment can be displayed bigger, even with the thin black bars at the top and bottom. I thought people were already educated about this. The idea that we are still cropping movies, and in effect completely ruining their careful framing and composition, for no other reason that to appease morons is, itself, fucking moronic.
Why should we pay good money to get channels like TMN-HD or MGM-HD only to have the promise of great looking movies dashed by cropped and blown up atrocities like the one above? And trust me, it’s not just this one instance. I’ve seen brand new movies air on TMN-HD with the sides chopped off. Visually stunning films. Films that make amazing use of the 2.35:1 frame. Films like Star Trek (2009), Inception, and Inglourious Basterds. It makes me sick to think that somebody at some point actually took the time to make cropped versions of these films.
And then there are the even dumber instances, like in-flight movies on Air Canada. Oh, sure, Air Canada has these nice touch screen on-demand monitors at every seat on every flight. They’re reasonably quality, and they’re 16×9 widescreen. Except that all videos play in a 4×3 box with pillarbox bars on the sides. Many movies, particularly indie films, are shown in their original aspect ratios, with black bars on the top and bottom within that 4×3 box, which means you’re watching the movie in a tiny strip of image with black bars on all sides.
Even worse than that, though, is the sad fact that most big Hollywood movies are actually cropped down to 4×3 for these flights. Hell, I didn’t even realize studios still made 4×3 crops. On one Air Canada flight I decided to pop on Inception, only to be greeted with the old “this film has been modified from its original version to fit your TV screen.” Remember that message? I had almost forgotten it. Inception cropped to 4×3? I think Chris Nolan and Wally Pfister would shit their pants if they saw such a thing.
Come on, people! Wake the fuck up! It’s 2012, you don’t need to do this anymore. People are used to the black bars, and most people are aware that it actually means they are getting more of the intended image. All you’re doing is turning off the viewers who do care about the quality of product they’re getting. You’re also destroying the visual beauty of many of these films. So please…
Stop cropping my movies!