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Aspect Ratio for The Shining Theatrical/Special Edition DVD


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#1 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 10:20 AM

Ok, so while doing some post Christmas shopping I ran across a new DVD release of the Shining which boasts a Widescreen Enhanced tag at the bottom of the jacket. (If this has been discussed ad nauseum I apologize) This really confuses me to no end because I searched high and low years ago to find WS versions of The Shining, which there werent any. The old Kubrick Collection in the whiter boxes had no WS at all, not for Clockwork, or any of them except Eyes Wide Shut and 2001 (if I recall correctly).

Apparently, according to the book "The Complete Kubrick" by David Hughes, which I read years later The Shinning was framed specifically for 1:33 because Kubrick knew it would be eventually ported to broadcast TV. Older versions of the film, you can see in the opening the chase helicopter's shadow on the ground/trees which was supposed to be masked by the gate in theatrical prints.The book later says the film was shot in 1:85 when referencing Terry Rawlings's use of the extra footage from the helicopter sequences for the closing shots in Blade Runner.

So, that said..how did Kubrick intend for this film to be viewed? Cropped on the top, or cropped on the sides? Or does it matter at all?
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#2 Chance Shirley

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 11:08 AM

There is a good discussion about the home video versions of Kubrick's later films (including The Shining) here:

http://www.cinematog...showtopic=12692
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 12:04 PM

It's a bit confusing as a topic, but first of all, Kubrick did not primarily compose "The Shining" for 4x3 TV broadcast first and the matted widescreen theatrical release second.

Second, whenever there is a possibility of two different aspect ratios, you generally compose for the more cropped ratio and protect for the less-cropped ratio because if you composed for the less-cropped ratio, then important information can be left out of the more cropped ratio.

Third, whenever "The Shining" was shown at film festivals, Kubrick specifically ask that it be projected with a matte (usually 1.66) and not 1.37 Academy, which was a possibility in those venues.

Fourth, the movie, as does "Full Metal Jacket", clearly frames with the widescreen matting in consideration, which I defacto say means that it was composed for that ratio. You can see the excess headroom in the 4x3 versions of these two movies that is typical of an unmatted widescreen "flat" movie:

Unmatted:
Posted Image

Cropped to widescreen:
Posted Image

A movie specifically composed for 1.37 Academy looks a little different and often cannot be matted successfully to widescreen.

Fifth, I've spoken to a couple of people who worked on those two movies and they all tell me that cameras and editing machines were all marked to show the widescreen cropping for theatrical and that the movie was composed for theatrical, though some differ on whether it was 1.66 or 1.85 they were composing for.

So what's up with the whole 4x3 thing?

It's not clear, but clearly Kubrick did not like electronic letterboxing for his 35mm flat movie shown on 4x3 television -- however, since he died just as 16x9 TV and monitors were becoming more popular, we have no idea what his views would be should all of his movies end up being shown mostly on 16x9 monitors. In the case of "Clockwork Orange" and "Dr. Strangelove", he preferred that the movies be transferred unmatted but that any camera mattes become visible, hence why the aspect ratio varies in both movies. In the case of "Barry Lyndon", you'll see a consistent widescreen camera hard matte throughout.

In the case of "The Shining", "Full Metal Jacket", and "Eyes Wide Shut", you have an unmatted camera negative that Kubrick did not want electronically matted for 4x3 TV. Why?

Well, one reason was that he did not object to the way that it looked because he liked old 1.37 Academy movies and 4x3 TV was one way of seeing those movies in a format that resembled Academy.

However, that does not mean that the movies were composed to be viewed that way only. But you could argue that they were composed to make it possible to show them both in widescreen in theaters and 4x3 full-frame on TV. Also, knowing back then that most TV stations would show it 4x3 full-frame anyway, he perhaps preferred to have it work for that ratio rather than look zoomed into.

But I would argue that the movies were composed for cropping to widescreen and protected for full-frame viewing, which is not anything new in moviemaking, it's just that Kubrick preferred that the earlier transfers for home video, including the laserdisc market, show the full camera negative image.

There was a big release of his movies on DVD as a boxed set just around the time of his death. He was working on the editing of "Eyes Wide Shut" at the time and I suspect, rather than spend all the time (which he didn't have) as he did supervising the earlier transfer for the laserdisc versions, he told Warners to just use those earlier transfers instead, which they did.

"Eyes Wide Shut" is an interesting case though because he was not around to see that transferred for home video. Unlike "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket", the 4x3 version does not seem to suffer from excessive headroom in close-ups and medium shots and looks more "composed" for 4x3. I suspect that, because he wasn't around to object or to supervise, the people in charge did the more typical thing of reframing the 4x3 version to look more correct, headroom-wise, than simply transferring it unmatted, which is probably how Kubrick would have insisted they do it.

I think Kubrick probably viewed the fact of a 4x3 TV version as an opportunity and not a burden, hence him shooting his later movies with this version in mind. But I think they were always intended first as theatrical experiences and second as television ones.
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#4 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:32 PM

From the book, "The Complete Kubrick":

"Purists wondering at the absence of a widescreen edition of "The Shining" should note that the film was shot at the 4:3 ratio of television screens, and 'matted' for cinema screenings at a ratio of 1:85:1. For all home-video versions, therefore, the 'matting' was simply removed, leaving the perfect full-screen image that Kubrick himself approved."

So that said, was Kubrick being safe and shooting for both TV and theatrical? Should I go buy the re-release and view it as intended?

David, when you shoot a project, is there and understood mindset that the film will possibly shown full frame at 4:3 and does that affect you framing while shooting? I ran into this problem a few years ago on a project called the Insatiable, where we shot it anamorphic using the Canon ACV235 adapter. I framed it for 2:35, and it looks (well, looked) fantastic. When the film was sold to THinkFilm and distributed, they released it as 1:78! Which makes me look like an idiot when actors faces are cut in half on opposite sides of the screen. Has this happened to you, and if so, do you just roll with it?
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#5 Dan Goulder

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:09 PM

From the book, "The Complete Kubrick":

"Purists wondering at the absence of a widescreen edition of "The Shining" should note that the film was shot at the 4:3 ratio of television screens, and 'matted' for cinema screenings at a ratio of 1:85:1. For all home-video versions, therefore, the 'matting' was simply removed, leaving the perfect full-screen image that Kubrick himself approved."

So that said, was Kubrick being safe and shooting for both TV and theatrical? Should I go buy the re-release and view it as intended?

David, when you shoot a project, is there and understood mindset that the film will possibly shown full frame at 4:3 and does that affect you framing while shooting? I ran into this problem a few years ago on a project called the Insatiable, where we shot it anamorphic using the Canon ACV235 adapter. I framed it for 2:35, and it looks (well, looked) fantastic. When the film was sold to THinkFilm and distributed, they released it as 1:78! Which makes me look like an idiot when actors faces are cut in half on opposite sides of the screen. Has this happened to you, and if so, do you just roll with it?

If you get a chance to see the Kubrick films in their original theatrical aspect ratio, you can see that the movies were really framed for this, and this is how they look best. I think it gives these movies a whole different look and feel. The full 4x3 frame was "protected" for broadcast TV. (This is less of a concern nowadays, as 4x3 is being phased out.)

Regarding the movie you shot, "The Insatiable", did you merely frame for 2.35/1, or did you also matte it for that aspect ratio? If you don't want anyone messing with the aspect ratio, it's best to turn in a hard-matted master. (That in itself is no guarantee that they can't still blow it up to cover a full hi-def screen, but it should help.) Do you know for sure that the aspect ratio was intentionally altered (which would have to be in the case of a hard-matted master), or is it possible that whoever assembled the master was given full HD ratio footage, without explicit instructions to matte for 2.35/1?
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#6 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:28 PM

If you get a chance to see the Kubrick films in their original theatrical aspect ratio, you can see that the movies were really framed for this, and this is how they look best. I think it gives these movies a whole different look and feel. The full 4x3 frame was "protected" for broadcast TV. (This is less of a concern nowadays, as 4x3 is being phased out.)

Regarding the movie you shot, "The Insatiable", did you merely frame for 2.35/1, or did you also matte it for that aspect ratio? If you don't want anyone messing with the aspect ratio, it's best to turn in a hard-matted master. (That in itself is no guarantee that they can't still blow it up to cover a full hi-def screen, but it should help.) Do you know for sure that the aspect ratio was intentionally altered (which would have to be in the case of a hard-matted master), or is it possible that whoever assembled the master was given full HD ratio footage, without explicit instructions to matte for 2.35/1?



It was framed for 2:35 and shot in 2:35 Cinemascope using the Canon ACV235 adapter It squeezed the image to fit the 2:35 ratio and then was un-sqeezed in post. So there was never any room to move the image around in the post process and hence no matte. The aspect ratio for distro was intentionally altered, although I have no idea why. I was far removed from this point in the game and had no say in color correction or anything else for that matter. They have simply enlarged the image to fit the 1:78 ratio and lost the balance that I originally shot. I am totally perplexed why they would do this, as it was the first film to use the ACV235 adapter, there were only 2 on the planet at that time (which we had one), and Canon graciously donated the adapter and a set of 5 primes for nothing. The master was in 2:35, but at some point in the process, some marketing genius probably made the claim that 1:78 would be better for broadcast, which is where it ended up at on the SciFi Network and at retailers as a DVD.

Edited by Mike Washlesky, 05 January 2009 - 02:31 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:47 PM

If you shoot a movie that gets a theatrical release, generally you should be assured of having the DVD release be properly letterboxed to the theatrical ratio -- I haven't had a problem with that on any of my features that went theatrical.

On the other hand, making 4x3 and 16x9 full-frame versions, even if it involves panning & scanning, is inevitable for TV broadcast, cable, etc. It's part of the standard list of deliverables for most distributors.

I don't really have a trick around this - obviously the four features I shot in 35mm anamorphic are best seen in the properly letterboxed versions. But there are various 4x3 and 16x9 versions too.

My feeling is that if I'm shooting for theatrical release, that's where my creative energy has to go -- the later home video release is a secondary concern. Generally if something looks great on a big theatrical screen, it will probably look great on a smaller TV screen.

So the main issue is making these alternative versions in terms of composition.

If I'm shooting on a format like 2.40 anamorphic, basically there's only one format being captured and all others will involve extracting it from inside the theatrical frame, i.e. cropping on the sides, panning & scanning.

But when I shoot any other format, it's easier to do things that will make the home video versions easier to make. Lately I've either been shooting 16x9 HD or 3-perf 35mm, which is also 16x9 native (1.78) so even if I am framing for cropping to 2.40 for theatrical, I protect the whole 16x9 original so it can be used for the 16x9 full-frame version. Ideally, I compose semi-common top where the top of 2.40 lines up with the 10% overscan Title Safe area of the 16x9 broadcast version. This way the headroom is similar and I just have to protect more excess space below 2.40. This also tends to make the sound people happier because more often than not, they are mic booming from above, not below.

So having a good 16x9 full-frame master makes it easier to make both a 4x3 full-frame version with a little side cropping and a 2.40 version with a little top & bottom cropping.

On the other hand, I honestly believe that there will be only one good composition -- usually the theatrical one -- and the rest will be weaker versions of that composition.

Now in the case of a movie that only goes to cable TV, like to the Sci-Fi Channel, I'd probably avoid 2.40 and just shoot for 1.85 / 16x9 to be safe.

A long time ago, I did a string of straight to cable movies, pre-HDTV days, and in that case, because they had a small theatrical release in some foreign country, I had to compose for 1.85 even though it would more likely be shown in 4x3. All the transfers were to 4x3 as well but it had to be framed to allow a 1.85 version somewhere in the world. So basically I just composed with 1.85 being as tight as possible so it looked acceptable as a 4x3 composition.
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#8 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 03:09 PM

Now in the case of a movie that only goes to cable TV, like to the Sci-Fi Channel, I'd probably avoid 2.40 and just shoot for 1.85 / 16x9 to be safe.

A long time ago, I did a string of straight to cable movies, pre-HDTV days, and in that case, because they had a small theatrical release in some foreign country, I had to compose for 1.85 even though it would more likely be shown in 4x3. All the transfers were to 4x3 as well but it had to be framed to allow a 1.85 version somewhere in the world. So basically I just composed with 1.85 being as tight as possible so it looked acceptable as a 4x3 composition.



Yes, in hindsight 2:35 was overboard for Cable, but then again, we were expecting a theatrical release which ultimately didnt happen. But, it is possible to broadcast 2:35, so why not show that version of the film? I guess thats kind of the core of tyhis whole discussion about Kubrick and multiple ratios..why exactly isnt there the one theatrical version that gets ported to broadcast,DVD, etc. Is it a matter of a perception of public taste? I used to hate when friends would refuse to watch letterboxed films with me because they hated the black bars, obviously not understanding that 4:3 was not the intended format for viewing. But now with the popularity of HD TVs and 16x9, the public is primed for this. So why not show the whole image 2:40 or otherwise?
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