Half a Loaf

I like to watch DVDs in widescreen. I can't imagine preferring to watch them in pan-and-scan. In fact, I can't really imagine why any DVD company would release a pan-and-scan version of a wide-screen film. Well, that's not true, I can imagine that money plays a big role in these decisions.

Apparently there are vast numbers of people who won't buy anything other than pan-and-scan, and the DVD conmpanies want to cater to these folks. (I think the reasoning is something like, "Why, half my TV isn't being used with these wide-screen things, and that cheats me out of the value of my TV.")

I can certainly understand catering, especially for a company that wants to make money. Wouldn't it be cheaper though to release just wide-screen versions? I mean, you just point the film at the encoder and you're done. With pan-and-scan, you have to have someone there watching who can adjust the image, to make sure the important stuff is centered on the screen.

I just wonder what the creators say about their films being released in pan-and-scan. Some directors, like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, are very hands-on when pan-and-scan versions of their films are made. I guess they want to make sure the pan-and-scan version is the best film it can be. But why? Wouldn't the full wide-screen be the best the film can be? Isn't that the image they decided on when they finished the film and readied it for the theatre?

I guess there are two possible answers (that I can think of). 1. It doesn't really matter (the wide-screen edges don't have anything important), and 2. it makes no difference (the visuals are the same either way).

"Pan-and-scan? Sure, why not. I don't really care what the image looks like, honestly. I leave that to my DP. How much extra money will I get?"

"Pan-and-scan? Hey, go ahead. And you can change the ending if you want to, too. I heard some people complained about that. Do I get extra money if you do?"

"Pan-and-scan? Well, I don't know what that means, but if I get extra money, go ahead."

Can you imagine the hue-and-cry if books were released in catered formats? Well, I guess very few people read books these days, so perhaps this happens all the time and I, as usual, am just unaware of it.

It's one more step down from art to commodity.

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