widescreen.org - The Letterbox and Widescreen Advocacy page Defending the visions and intentions of filmmakers

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October 2006

As I was sitting at my PC thoroughly enjoying the latest (and legally imported) CD from Finnish rock group Poets of the Fall, my e-mail program reported that new e-mail had arrived. Behold what awaited me.

I just wanted to offer my personal comments regarding your website. First, I did find the information very informative. Secondly, I disagree with a portion of what you said regarding consumer's rights to view a movie the way they want. However, I also understand the rights of the film makers as well to present a movie the way they originally intended. In my opinion, all movies on the market should come with the option to view the film in "Widescreen" or "Full Screen" format. I have a DVD titled "Fun With Dick And Jane" starring Jim Carey and there is an option to choose which viewing method you want. Why can't the film makers just meet the consumers half way? I think it would be a fair compromise if all DVD movies had the option to choose how the movie is to be viewed. The film makers wouldn't necessarily lose out and neither would the consumers who prefer the "Full Screen" format. Everyone would win in the end. I wish with all my heart there was a way to get through to the film makers and the companies that produce DVDs and let them know how beneficial this compromise would be. Unfortunately, it seems as though the consumers lose and the choice of how we want to see a movie is left to those who make the films. You said: "I ask you to put yourself in the film makers' shoes". Well, perhaps the film makers should also put themselves in the consumer's shoes for a moment and consider how WE feel. Shouldn't we be allowed to choose how we want to see a movie? I understand the so-called benefits of seeing a film in "Widescreen" format but at the same time, I personally prefer to see a film on my entire TV screen without the empty gaps. I guess it's just a matter of taste. Anyway, I thank you for your time and for the opportunity to voice my comments.

These people never cease to amaze me. I have been running this site for ten years, yet some people still think after all of this time that they can provide to me an argument that will make me accept their position. Of course, their position is that we as customers have some legal right to see a movie or any piece of entertainment in a self-gratifying way that is not the way that we're supposed to see it. They also think that they have an argument that will make me take pity on them and consider their delicate feelings when it comes to movies.

Although this will be completely redundant, I might as well express this again.

No, the viewers are not the ones who have the choice of how to view movies. At least, that's the way that it should be. I honestly don't care to “consider how WE feel” because the feelings of the selfish MAR crowd are of no concern to me. I will “consider how WE feel” once they decide to show fairness and a sense of balance by also demanding to the major TV networks that all movies are broadcast in both widescreen and MAR.

How typically hypocritical that the anti-widescreen crowd only makes demands for fairness when such fairness will give them what they want. Yet if we demand fairness we are somehow being elitist and need to stick to our DVDs and laserdiscs.

We as viewers are not the ones who spends thousands - if not tens of thousands - of man-hours to put a movie together. We are not the ones who sometimes create works of visual art in inhospitable locations to make sure that the scene is just right. We are not the ones who spend millions of dollars in logistics to make sure that equipment is in place, actors and crew are fed, lighting is as it should be, and so forth. We're not the ones who go through months or years of storyboards, scriptwriting, set location, set building, filming, set destruction, cleanup, post-production, editing, and so on.

Film makers continually complain about how the insistence of pan-and-scan is an insult to what they do, and they're completely correct. Just because we do the easy part and plunk down $20 for a DVD does not give us the right to supersede the creative talents, demanding schedules, and physical and mental stresses that the film makers endure just so we don't have to complain about black bars.

I'm part of a small, independent studio based in Philadelphia. I know what it's like to spend eight hours on a scene that lasts 20 seconds, shooting the same scene 20 times with different lighting and different angles. We shoot the scene the way we as the creative team feel it should be filmed because that's how we envision the scene to be. If someone then came up to us and said, “You filmed that scene all wrong and I know because I paid $20 for your movie”, we'd be insulted and rightfully so.

Every time someone demands pan-and-scan, they're doing the same thing. What's sad is that they don't care. As long as they get what they want, they hide it under the term “fair”. It's always “fair” if they get to see a movie in a MAR format. So, why is it not “fair” when the film makers are not given a choice?

For example, only this year will “Muppet Treasure Island” finally get a widescreen DVD release. Is that now suddenly “fair” to Brian Henson and the rest of the Henson creative team? Was it unfair up until this point? I would argue that it was, but chances are the reader above doesn't really care. After all, he's had his MAR version while we were denied an OAR version.

He once again shows the hypocrisy and paradox of the typical anti-widescreen position. He demands a MAR version of a movie yet somehow still respects the makers of that film? Sorry, but that's not possible as far as I'm concerned. As soon as you demand a MAR version of a movie, you immediately disrespect what that team has done. The only thing that's “fair” is to have the movie seen in the way that its creators intended. If that means that it's a widescreen-only release, so be it. Similarly, if that means that it's a 1.33:1-only release, so be it as well.


One of the great things about DVDs and CDs is that they're portable. Whether you have a portable player, like a video iPod or a portable CD/DVD player, you can bring your entertainment with you. Whereas I would not necessarily consider this site to be “entertainment”, I know that there are many of you who come here on a regular basis looking for new content. Whenever I have a lull in my commentaries, I almost always get an e-mail asking when the next commentary will come out, which is a great feeling for me but it also proves that you have an expectation that I sometimes don't (or can't) fulfill for one reason or another.

Unfortunately, one problem with the way things are currently going in my life is that a lot of times when I think of a topic to discuss, so many different things come up, personally and professionally, that by the time I get a chance to sit down and write about that topic it's old news. I actually am not very prolific when it comes to writing. I find it easier to put my feelings into audio than into a 2D typeset.

Another problem is that it's difficult to come up with commentary after commentary that somehow has a focus on widescreen and the historical and artistic preservation of visual entertainment. Sometimes I get lucky with some story about Disney or Wal-Mart that warrants your attention, but a lot of times I struggle to come up with something that is completely relevant.

Recently, thanks to my hardware connections for Bityard Magazine and the reviews that I write there, I have gotten very interested in podcasting. For those not in the know, “podcasting” is nothing more than an audio show that you can download. We're all familiar with streaming media, whether it's through Real or Media Player. This is nothing more than streaming media that you can take with you.

One of the drawbacks to the commentary is trying to keep it focused on widescreen and preservation but at least with a new topic, which is not necessarily an easy thing to do. For a few months I've been considering adding a more generalized podcast to augment widescreen.org one that can include other things such as DVD releases and reviews, movie information, independent studio news, policies that impact our rights as consumers, interviews with independent film makers, and the technologies that allow us to be entertained. The possibilities for a movie and entertainment podcast are numerous.

The largest misconception about podcasting is that you need an Apple iPod to listen to podcasts. The truth is that in most cases you don't need iTunes, an iPod, or any kind of portable media device. I currently listen to podcasts through my Mobiblu B153 MP3 player using myPodder software, which lets me select from what seems like thousands of podcasts. The software then goes out, looks for new podcasts to which I've subscribed, and downloads them directly to my hard drive no DRM, no restrictions. Audio podcasts are always MP3 and video podcasts are either in Quicktime or MP4/M4V format. I can then copy the MP3s to my B153 and listen to them wherever and whenever I want.

Because of the soon-to-be arrival of our third child, I'm now getting kicked out of my current computer room so that it can be turned into either a bedroom or a nursery, depending on the gender of the upcoming urchin. Down to the basement I have to go. (Actually, that's not too bad because the new computer room will have over four times the square footage of my current room.) However, I have to finish the basement before I do that, so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity and make it into the audio/video studio that I've wanted for a long time. If I'm going to make my new basement room into a studio, I might as well utilize it afterwards. So, why not a podcast?

Are there other movie and entertainment-related podcasts out there? I'm certain of it. However, I have not looked for any and I'm not going to look. I don't want to be affected by other podcasts. If I do decide to go ahead and create one, I want it to be my own. This is no different than how many actors and actresses refuse to watch the original version of a movie when they've been cast in a remake. They want to make the role their own; and if I make a podcast I want it to be my own as well.

I understand if you are thinking, “If you can't find time for a commentary, what makes you think you'll have time for regular podcasts?” Honestly, I spend many, many hours on each commentary writing, reading, refining, re-reading, refining, re-reading and still there are some out there that have spelling or grammatical errors. Writing isn't easy. Talking is, comparatively speaking. (The fact that some of my commentaries are the length of mini-novels doesn't help either.) I can also record audio bits during my 2.5 hours per day in the car going to and from work. I'm not about to pull out a laptop and start typing at 65 miles per hour. Besides, my ancestry is predominantly Irish and the city where I grew up is loaded with Irish, Polish, and Italian descendants. We love to talk. (That's a joke, folks sort of.)

Maybe I'll put up a demo before the end of the year to let me get a feel for it and to let you sample what it might be like. Maybe I'll just start at full speed. Maybe I'll scrub the idea as some unattainable delusion of grandeur. We'll see.

Until next time..!