Steven Soderbergh on Aspect Ratio Offenders

Posted Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 08:00 AM PDT by Mike Attebery

Everyone's favorite cue-ball-headed auteur steps up to the plate (sorry to rub salt in those 'Moneyball' wounds) and call out aspect ratio offenders.

As a videophile, it can sometimes feel as if you’re alone in a sea of people who just don’t get it. From trying to explain to viewers that full screen pan and scan transfers of movies actually show less of the movie, to boggling at those in decision making positions at cable companies who have the power to broadcast a good picture but for some reason choose not to. No need to feel alone any longer, Steven Soderbergh is in your corner.

The acclaimed director’s opinion column in DGA Quarterly, the craft journal of the Director’s Guild of America, takes aim at premium television channels who fail to show movies the way they are intended to be. “Television operators, the people who buy and produce things for people to watch on TV,” writes Soderbergh, “are taking the position that the viewers of television do not like watching 2.40 films letterboxed to fit their 16:9 screens, and that a film insisting on this is worth significantly less—or even nothing—to them. The end result is we have a better chance of seeing a 2.40 film from 1959 in its proper format than a movie from 2009.”

Having a great deal of respect for the original artist’s vision of the film, and the viewer’s desire to watch the film in the original aspect ratio, Soderbergh states “It’s [expletive] lame to watch Jaws—a film that uses the 2.40 ratio as well as any ever produced—in the wrong format on HBO.” He then calls for action, stating “As directors, we can decide to fix this, quickly, or let it continue down its gangrenous path until there is no longer any distinction on TV between movies and television.”

He even calls out HBO as trying to force the Ocean’s movies into a pan and scan 16:9 aspect ratio rather than in the original theatrical ratio. “…they could make this whole problem go away single handedly, but since they won’t, they’re the poster child for stupidity.”

Visit DGA Quarterly to read the full article.

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Tags: Aspect Ratio, HBO, HDTV Broadcast (all tags)