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Author Topic: Pan and Scan vs Letterboxed  (Read 942 times)
Cobra!
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« on: February 13, 2022, 07:25:38 pm »

I had a recent debate on the Yesterweb Discord about this that inspired me to make this topic.

For those who were around back in the VHS days, I'm sure you'll be aware of the concept of Pan and Scan, where the image is zoomed in and it pans to show you the relevant parts of the shot. I've seen very polarising opinions on this, and I find the conversation fascinating.

I've seen videos of people being very vocal about their hatred of their practice, and honest, I never saw the big deal. VHS video quality was terrible as it was, I don't want a third of the lines being wasted on black bars for a letterboxed film. If I wanted a closer experience to the cinema back in the day, I'd have invested in Laserdisc :P.

I actually find the practice fascinating, and I think about how a modern film or online video could be Pan and Scanned a lot now.

Though watching some of the last VHS releases, it was clear they were (understandably) getting lazier with it, and seeing characters cut off often.

There's also the thing with tilt and scan (or open matte), which I see a lot on Blu-Ray releases of older films, and I see nobody cry about, despite most of the points against Pan and Scan can also be applied to that. :^P

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Were you fine with Pan and Scan or go out of your way to get a widescreen version? Why?
« Last Edit: February 13, 2022, 07:30:10 pm by Cobra! » Logged


Kutan
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2022, 11:05:33 pm »

Quote
I actually find the practice fascinating, and I think about how a modern film or online video could be Pan and Scanned a lot now.

Oh man! So I actually have a neat little anecdote about this-- this guy I used to talk to actually made a pan & scan version of Zootopia, and put together a bunch of VHS copies with proper packaging and inserts and stuff. But he said the edits were an enormous undertaking-- like, over a thousand individual edits-- and it was something he would never, ever do again. When he was showing off some of the more complex scenes, it really made me appreciate the work that used to go into these!

https://youtu.be/wJjO5_Jkc4Y?t=1101
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Cobra!
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2022, 10:02:45 pm »

That is amazing! I can definitely appreciate the effort and time they spent on that!

So far I've only converted Heavy is Dead into Pan and Scan for a VHS mixtape. Figured I might as well upload it online as well.

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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2022, 12:25:36 am »

Quote from: Cobra!
Heavy is Dead
Heavy is dead?!

That's cool that you did a pan and scan of your own! I'm just curious, what kind of mixtape project was it a part of? I have a lot of fun watching the ones forgotten_vcr puts together, so if there's others out there, I'd love to know about them.

But yeah, not to stray too far off the original topic: I was thinking back to when widescreen started becoming available in the home, with big chonky widescreen projection TVs and stuff, and how they had a button to pillarbox the display if you were watching stuff in 4:3. Which was cool that you could switch back and forth, but you had to buy the movie in the aspect ratio you wanted-- which was really frustrating when you were, like, getting gifts or something. There was regular 4:3, there was 16:9 letterboxed (for 4:3 displays), and then 16:9 anamorphic (for widescreen displays). And the packaging always made it really confusing which one you were getting, too; you usually had to find something that said "enhanced for widescreen televisions" or similar; if you bought regular widescreen and played it on a widescreen display, you'd end up with black borders around the top AND sides. Ack!! That whole transitional period was a mess. It only got resolved when dual-sided DVDs came out with a different aspect ratio on each side, and nowadays everything's standardized, thank goodness.

But I think the most offensive practice of all as far as ruining a movie's integrity? People that watched 4:3 stretched.



I used to hang out with people that insisted on watching movies this way, and aaaaargh, I couldn't stand it! Pan and scan is, like, totally tame compared to this abomination of a viewing experience.  ::)
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Cobra!
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2022, 12:47:03 pm »

That's cool that you did a pan and scan of your own! I'm just curious, what kind of mixtape project was it a part of?
It's a compilation of my favourite GMod videos.

I have a lot of fun watching the ones forgotten_vcr puts together, so if there's others out there, I'd love to know about them.
I've heard of them, and love what they do, but they stream at like 3am where I live. Not very European friendly at all.

But yeah, not to stray too far off the original topic: I was thinking back to when widescreen started becoming available in the home, with big chonky widescreen projection TVs and stuff, and how they had a button to pillarbox the display if you were watching stuff in 4:3. Which was cool that you could switch back and forth, but you had to buy the movie in the aspect ratio you wanted-- which was really frustrating when you were, like, getting gifts or something. There was regular 4:3, there was 16:9 letterboxed (for 4:3 displays), and then 16:9 anamorphic (for widescreen displays). And the packaging always made it really confusing which one you were getting, too; you usually had to find something that said "enhanced for widescreen televisions" or similar; if you bought regular widescreen and played it on a widescreen display, you'd end up with black borders around the top AND sides. Ack!! That whole transitional period was a mess. It only got resolved when dual-sided DVDs came out with a different aspect ratio on each side, and nowadays everything's standardized, thank goodness.

But I think the most offensive practice of all as far as ruining a movie's integrity? People that watched 4:3 stretched.



I used to hang out with people that insisted on watching movies this way, and aaaaargh, I couldn't stand it! Pan and scan is, like, totally tame compared to this abomination of a viewing experience.  ::)
I was guilty of this. When we got our first widescreen TV, I was so eagar to use it that I would stretch 4:3 images just to pretend to watch something in widescreen.

In retrospect, I was a bit of an idiot... ^^"
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« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2022, 12:09:01 am »

But I think the most offensive practice of all as far as ruining a movie's integrity? People that watched 4:3 stretched.



I used to hang out with people that insisted on watching movies this way, and aaaaargh, I couldn't stand it! Pan and scan is, like, totally tame compared to this abomination of a viewing experience.  ::)

Oh god, please, no.... this is one of my pet peeves.

In middle school I had to work with someone to make a PowerPoint, and she was stretching the images across the slides like that for some reason. I found it so annoying but I was, like, 12 and bad with words and didn't know how to explain why, so when she walked away, I fixed the pics back to their original ratio.

When she came back, she was like, "Huh, that's weird," and stretched them back. LOL ;D ;D ;D

I'm better at using my big girl words now I promise

Anyway, this whole pan and scan debate is reminding me of the recent "outrage" over the Netflix release of Seinfeld. For some reason they put Seinfeld in widescreen, which is mostly harmless, but there are some scenes where gags have been cropped out.

I... personally don't understand why they did that. I think the original ratio is fine?  :-\  I mean, it's a sitcom, not high art cinema.

As for the original question -- VHS is a bit before my time, but as you mentioned "VHS video quality was terrible as it was, I don't want a third of the lines being wasted on black bars for a letterboxed film." I'm inclined to agree, and it is rather interesting thinking of how a modern film could be fit into that medium.
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Cobra!
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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2022, 03:23:44 pm »

So I decided to watch the VHS tapes I had that are widescreen, an the films I have (The Fifth Element and The Matrix) were both letterboxed. So I figured that I'd watch them both on my TV zoomed in so they would fit the screen just to see how it would look. I guess I overestimated how much the quality was reduced. Sure, it does take a hit, but it's still pretty watchable.

After watching those, it started feeling wrong watching any of the 4:3 pan and scan tapes I had. They made sense at the time they were made, but nowadays when everyone has access to a widescreen HDTV, it's hard to justify it.

So I've been on the lookout for widescreen tapes more, and actually happened to find Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me in widescreen when I was out yesterday, so I decided to watch that, and it turns out that it's not letterboxed (any more than DVDs and Blu-Rays today are, anyway), you're supposed to stretch the screen to 16:9 to view it properly. It looks fine, honestly.

So that suggests to me that the reason VHS tapes were usually letterboxed for widescreen was simply for compatibility reasons, like wanting it to look alright on any TV, including 4:3 ones. Would make sense given widescreen TVs were hardly common in the 80s or most of the 90s.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2022, 03:31:38 pm by Cobra! » Logged


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