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Doing the Right Thing?

April 2008

I'm going to forgo saying "Happy New Year" because we're way beyond 1 January. In fact, I'm going to forgo the whole “Sorry for not having a commentary in the past few months” because to be frank there hasn't been a whole lot going on with respect to the widescreen/OAR front. I've been trying to restrict widescreen/OAR topics or topics involving the web site to the commentaries, since that's how it's always been, and using the podcast as a “catch all”for everything else.

Of course, as you can see, I finally -- FINALLY -- upgraded the web site to its latest iteration, version 5.0, over the Christmas holiday. Obviously, I've given it a radically different design from previous versions. Even the change from v3 to v4 (lo! Those many years ago!) was more of a graphics change than anything else - the structure was still the same.

This new version is obviously much cleaner, lighter on graphics, and better organized (at least I think so). More importantly, the site is now compatible with widescreen displays. As I said in a previous commentary, the irony of a pro-widescreen site that did not properly support widescreen displays was not lost on me. But more than that, the site was designed for a 1,024 x 768 screen. Most LCD displays nowadays (widescreen or not) support a minimum of 1,280 x 1,024. Restricting the site to a width of 1,024 had become ineffective with respect to a proper presentation of the site. That's all fixed now.

As you might have also noticed, I'm also focusing less on the "Letterbox and Widescreen Advocacy Page" title in favor of just "widescreen.org". Thanks to the dominance of 16:9 TVs in most stores, I think that most people understand what widescreen is, at least at a fundamental level. More importantly, the focus of the site has shifted from widescreen advocacy to OAR advocacy, which of course includes the proper display of Academy aspect ratio movies and shows on widescreen TVs.

The last bit on the new site ... I've gotten a small handful of e-mail about the site not being viewed properly (bad framing or text placement). I haven't seen it in all of my testing using Firefox 2.x, IE 6, or IE 7. If you experience a badly-formatted screen, please send me a screen shot. I obviously don't want the site to have major issues like that, but if I don't see it, I can't fix it.

A Quick Update

To follow up on October's commentary (I know, I know, that was several months ago) I finally bought Bioshock for the PC, although I must confess that I've had it for a few months but have not yet had time to play it even though it's installed and the latest patch has been applied. When I was reading the details about the patch, I noticed a few things of interest with respect to the aspect ratio of the game. Not only is the point-of-view issue for 16:9 monitors resolved, Bioshock now supports the Matrox TripleHead2Go, which gives me an extreme aspect ratio of roughly 3.75:1 across three LCD screens. (If you're a gamer and you can afford it, I highly recommend a TH2G!)

The TH2G indeed does work. Playing Bioshock in a 3.75:1 aspect ratio with surround sound is amazing, but I've only had the time to play a very small bit of it. Hopefully my schedule will allow me to play the damned thing some more soon, but I doubt it.

Why Can't Disney Just Do The Right Thing?

I promised in an older podcast (you have been keeping up with those, haven't you?) to tackle a section of e-mail that I received from long-time reader Matt about movie modification. Matt writes:

Not related to the podcast, but it's in my list here: I may have emailed you before about The Muppet Christmas Carol. The idea was that while it was finally being released in widescreen in 2005 (1.85 actually, not 2.35 as you noted) [Yes, I caught that later but never went back to fix it. -- JLB], there was a section of the movie that was not being handled the best it could. (Near the middle of the movie, in a Christmas past, Belle sings "When Love Is Gone" to young Ebenezer; but shortly before the theatrical run, it was snipped out, apparently because they felt children wouldn't get into it. It was later reinstated on home video.)

What the DVD offers, then, is the theatrical version (85 minutes) in widescreen, and the longer version (89-90) in pan and scan. (Yeesh.) But that's all probably old news. I tracked down a copy of the widescreen laserdisc, and got it this week; it includes the song, and it's all in widescreen.

The reason I did this was just some sort of nagging doubt - despite checking that the rest of the movie was indeed just cut off at the sides in P&S (and not some sort of open matte deal), I'd wondered if maybe an exception was made for that scene. (If you have the DVD, you can check for yourself on any monitor without overscan: many shots within that have a small amount of blank area at the bottom, which seemed a little suspicious.) But no, it's true pan and scan after all, and now I've verified it, and now you know. (Thanks, Disney!)

Interesting. It almost sounds like Disney took that segment from the laserdisc then modified it to a pan-and-scan format for inclusion. But what's really odd is why they even bothered to show both versions (theatrical and extended) but only one is OAR! This makes no sense at all, especially with the seamless branching function that's available in DVD. All that was needed was to include that segment in the stream if the extended version was selected. They could have easily left it in OAR for that.

Of course, this is just more proof that Disney just loves to be inconsistent with their DVD releases, sort of like the "unedited" claim on the back of the very-much-edited DVD release of "Fantasia". Of course, that whole issue is wrapped around political correctness, but it still comes down to historical revisionism. I'm not going to go over that again. That proverbial horse has been dead for a while.

That's all for now. Sorry if this particular commentary seems kind of vapid, but I've actually been putting more time and effort into the family (jeez, kids grow up so quickly...) and into the podcasts. (Believe it or not, it actually takes me about three times as much time to write, edit, reread, edit, reread, format, and post a single commentary than it does for me to make a 60-minute podcast!) If you haven't listened to any of the podcasts yet, please make sure to do so. I cover a lot of information in each show but not at the expense of some fun. And sometimes I even make a complete fool myself -- just because I can.

Until next time...