Dark Lord Speaks #1:
The Great Fullscreen Conspiracy



Something has been angering me for some time now. Something that should anger every single decent lover of film and DVD. It is the current trend of DVD companies of using and abusing the term "Fullscreen". They are using the term "Fullscreen" in an incorrect and misleading manner, in an attempt to hoodwink John Q Public - the average citizen of whose naievety makes them oblivious to the very conspiracy that targets them. But the collateral damage of this conspiracy hurts every legitamate user of DVD and lover of film.

Before the invention of Television, Films were shot in the 1.33:1 aspect, mostly on 16mm or 35mm film. Once Television was invented and it's popularity grew, it started eating into the profits of Cinemas. To compete with TV, with it's Black & White image and 4:3 screen, some films were shot in 70mm, with an aspect of 2.20:1, which would now be termed "Widescreen". Several processes were developed during this time, producing aspects ranging from 2.35:1 to 3.00:1. 1953's The Robe was one of the first of such films. Shot in CinemaScope and in color, it gave the viewing public something different.
Often at the Studio's insistence Directors were forced to film in the wider aspect. The great Fritz Lang once remarked that "it was only good for filming funerals and snakes." But over time, many Directors felt that Widescreen gave them a new canvas in which to work. So what was once a commercial gimmick became an art form in it's own right.
With companies like Panavision producing cameras to suit the 2.35:1 aspect, modern movies are now filmed in either the 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 aspect.

When it came to showing the new Movies on Television, the Widescreen aspect became a problem. To overcome this problem, the technique of Pan & Scan was born. Basically, the main action on the screen is focused on by a 4:3 frame. This means that it cuts the sides of a film off so as to create a 1.33:1 aspect. Most people didn't even notice, so used to the Television screens that they were.

Before the days of DVD (Digital Versatile Disc), a few years ago you had a couple of choices when it came to home entertainment. The trusty Video Player (VHS) or Laserdisc.
The Video Player was a workhorse. It was a common household item such as the Microwave or a toaster. Such was it's popularity. If you owned a Television, you also owned a Video Player. This also meant that the VHS tapes were marketed and catered for the lowest common denominator. Films on Video Cassette were, more often than not, in Pan & Scan. That's what everyone was used to, and most people didn't even notice the difference and were oblivious to the cropped image. Some Widescreen videos entered the market, but the limitations of the technology of the Video Tape itself, made it a lot easier to produce them in Pan & Scan.
The Laserdisc player was seen as a luxury. A device and format only used by film buffs and film fanatics. Hence it often catered for the elite market. Providing films in it's original aspect ratio and having features such as Audio Commentaries and Documentaries. Much like the DVDs of today.

These two formats co-existed in the market and all was happy. The Plebians had their Video and the Buffs had their Laserdiscs.

A Brief Overview of Aspect Ratios

Some of the above was taken from Widescreen For Dummies on Michael D's. Another good resource for information about Aspect Ratios is here from The Digital Bits.

The following examples highlight the difference between Pan & Scan and Fullscreen.

The Evil Dead

Fullscreen = Good Matted Widescreen = Bad
See how the top and bottom of the frame is matted out?
You don't even see the Band-Aids in the pool of blood joke!

Halloween

2.35:1 Widescreen = Good Pan & Scan = Bad
Look at how much of the image is cropped from the frame.

Most, if not all, movies that are in the 1.85:1 aspect are shot on a 1.33:1 negative, but are then matted into the 1.85:1 aspect. The Director frames his shots accordingly.
So if a movie that is meant to be in 1.85:1 is shown "Fullscreen" you would probably see boom mics, etc. In this instance Fullscreen is bad, because the intended ratio has been played with.
In the case of some films, such asThe Evil Dead, are was shot on film with an aspect of 1.33:1. The movie is framed for 1.33:1 not 1.85:1, so if you go ahead and Matt the negative to produce the Widescreen aspect, you lose a lot of the shot. Elite Entertainment's DVD of The Evil Dead is in Fullscreen, whereas Anchor Bay's DVD is in Matted 1.85:1 Widescreen. Take a look at the pictures and tell me which is better...

DVD began much like Laserdisc. Seen as the format for film buffs and a select few consumers, but now DVD is as common as the Video Player was. Here is where the problem begins. DVD companies are now catering to the lowest common denominator.
This is having an adverse effect on the entire DVD industry. It's lowering the quality of the product and instills an apathetic attiude into both the studio and the consumer.

I hope now that you have an idea of the difference between Fullscreen and Pan & Scan, because this is the thing that has angered me the most. Pan & Scan is now a dirty word in the DVD industry. Fullscreen is a much nicer term. So to sell Pan & Scan DVDs, the studios are now using the term Fullscreen. It is misleading. It is wrong. It threatens the entire DVD industry. By foisting these inferior DVDs onto the public, powerful chains like Blockbuster and WalMart can lobby studios into killing the Widescreen format altogether by claiming that only the "Fullscreen" DVDs sell.
Why are they doing this? Beats me. Not mine to reason why. I'm just saying it as I see it. All I can say is this;

Don't be fooled by the marketing and the spin-doctoring. What is being termed Fullscreen is not true Fullscreen. It is a scam. It is a ruse. It is Pan & Scan. Do your research, buy films on DVD in their original aspect ratio.




Many thanks go to Dark Lord Ash for the Screen-shots and Dean M for some technical advice.

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"Dark Lord" Paul Lenkic
"Accept the Lord of Darkness as your saviour!" - The Undertaker
2002