Admitting Error

Pretty much buried trying to catch up (work, life, and everything else) after the vacation, but I did want to take a moment to make an admission.

I was wrong. Twice.

(As an example to others, I’ll just say, “See, now was that so hard?”)

The first instance I’m sure most of you have noticed: The Iraqi elections. No, they’re not really over yet, but even should violence break out over the results, the election itself was far less chaotic than I’d anticipated. Yes, people died — I don’t want to minimize that — but there was much less in the way of large-scale violence than I had predicted. And as much as I hate to see anything positive with regard to his Imperial majesty, the consequences for the world would probably have been worse had we seen that violence.

As for the final results (and any reaction to them), we’ll just have to stay tuned. But I’ll certainly be a bit more cautious in my prognostications.

The second demonstration of my fallibility (yes, I know that’s hard to accept) came in my recent tirade against MGM for allegedly “cropping” full-frame transfers to create false widescreen discs. The jury’s still out (figuratively speaking), but evidence is surfacing to indicate that the suit may be completely frivolous.

This one requires a bit of explanation (and for a more detailed one, I’ll direct you to DVDFile’s commentary on the suit). A “pan and scan” transfer is often a bit more complex than just cutting off the sides of a 1.85:1 film image to display on a 4:3 (or 1.33:1) television screen. On films shot on 35mm film with normal lenses, the actual picture size is closer to 4:3 (1.66:1 or 5:3, actually). The shot is composed for 1.85:1 display, but there is technically more exposed film available above and below the display area; provided there aren’t any floor markings or boom microphones in the shot (not always a given), the image can be opened up a bit when recomposing for 4:3 (a process in which the director is almost always left out of the decision making). Some image still has to be cropped off of the sides, but not as much as extracting a 4:3 image from the final 1.85:1 print would require (and not nearly as much as would have to be cropped from a 2.35:1 anamorphic-lens picture).

The movies in question at least appear to be those shot (and recomposed) in this fashion. So there’s not a whole lot of difference in horizontal picture length between the widescreen and pan-and-scan transfers; the pan-and-scan version just shows more of the image above and below than the director intended to be seen (unless, as in the case of a picture like Eyes Wide Shut, where the director explicitly wanted to display the full film image). The lawsuit is simply jumping on a technicality on the discs’ labeling, while implying deliberate deception on MGM’s part — an allegation that is looking more and more doubtful.

I’ll keep an eye on the progress of this one, but with less of an alarmist tone. I apologize for jumping on this too quickly, but in the absence of verifiable information at the time, I thought it better to make everyone aware of the issue than to wait too long.

Okay, back to being perfect.


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