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Explain the widescreen issue to me

I know that B5 was filmed with the intention of ultimately being shown in widescreen (which is the version now shown on the SFC). But I also remember reading that both the widesreen *and* non-widescreen versions are cropped (top and bottom in the former case, left and right in the latter). Is this true? If so, why do they bother showing widescreen in these proportions? Why not just show it in the same proportions that it was filmed in?
B5 was filmed in Widescreen. Nothing is cropped. (though the full screen version is a cropped version of the widescreen)

However, there was a muck-up with the transfers to widescreen the first time sci-fi aired season 2, 3, 4 (in the widescreen edition, i believe season 1 and 5 were right from the start). They actually ended up showing cropped version of the full screen version......but that was just a muck-up...all fixed now..back to proper widescreen
B5 was filmed with the intention of eventually being shown in wide screen. However, extra money was not allocated to render CGI and roto work in wide screen when it would immediately be cropped again for the broadcasts.

The good news is that the CGI were generally designed with this in mind so that when they are cropped at the top and bottom they actually look better artistically (IMHO). The aspect ratio of the station itself contributes to this improvement.

Scenes where live action film was composited with CGI or roto work also got cropped like the pure CGI scenes. Most of these are also just fine that way. The bad news is that there are a few of these combination scenes scattered through the series where this cropping actually cuts out something that you would really want to see. The ending scene of Soul Hunter where Delenn is releasing the souls from their glass globes is one that comes to mind. There aren't too many of these, but there are a few.

In an ideal world, someone would come up with money to re-render just those few scenes where JMS thought it made a difference (before the anticipated DVD release /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif).
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Why not just show it in the same proportions that it was filmed in?<hr></blockquote>

It can't be shown in the same proportions it was filmed in, anymore than any other project filmed in Super35 (like Titanic, Apollo 13 or Terminator 2) can be. The Super35 frame format does not match the standard television aspect ratio (1.33:1), the hi-def television ratio (1.77:1) or any of the common theatrical aspect ratios (1.66.1, 1.85:1 or 2.35:1)

Standard 35 mm film exposes a 1.37:1 ("Academy") frame. This is the width of the film, less an area reserved for the optical soundtrack the will be added to release prints. Even in this day of synchronized multi-channel soundtracks on disc, many film prints including optical soundtracks so that they can be projected in theaters with less sophisticated equipment.

Super35 uses the area normally reserved for the optical soundtrack for picture area. I've forgotten the actual aspect ratio this produces. I think it is somewhere around 1.68:1, in any event, it is wider than the TV standard. Feature film directors use Super35 because their films need to be less mangled for airline and television play, yet they can still exhibit them at 2.35:1 in theaters. (If you think B5 is "cropped" going from 1.33:1 or the original 1.68:1 to 1.77:1, try to imagine Titanic. /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif) TV producers use it so that they can simultaneous frame for 1.77:1 (HDTV ratio) and 1.33:1 (NTSC/PAL) This is insurance to keep their shows viable in syndication into the era of HDTV, when most new programming will originate as 1.77:1. (And hordes of people with start bitching about the "black bars" on the sides of their TV screens, when they watch pre-1980s reruns. /ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif) Appropriate frames for the widescreen and TV ratios are then extracted from this odd-sized Super35 frame.

It is true that JMS ideally would have liked to recompose and re-render the CGI for the widescreen version. (Some of the CGI was specially created at 1.85:1 for use in the opening credits, and there is a rumor that some kind of DVD test version of "Severed Dream" was produced back in 1997 that may have included re-rendered CGI.) But he was also enough of a realist to know that Warner Bros. might refuse to spend the money, so he had the FX shots designed with "dead space" that could be trimmed from the top and bottom without doing violence to the images. I am one of those who thinks that the reframed shots from In the Beginning look markedly better than the "full screen" version, in terms of focus and composition - especially on a widescreen TV. (Where they also allow you to see more detail, thanks to the increased size and anamorphic DVD processing used on the disc.) For that matter, so does the CGI in the episodes.


yes, the cgi shots from In The Begining do look a lot better in widescreen, i'd say /ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif

jms, always thinking ahead
Thanks to everyone for your responses, although I'm still a little confused. LightNZ says "nothing was cropped" in the widescreen versions, but Joe seems to suggest that there was a little that was cropped on the top and bottom to go from 1.68 to 1.77. Whereas the 1.33:1 is cropped on the sides, but not top and bottom. Which is correct?
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Which is correct?<hr></blockquote>

I am. /ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

I don't think Light_NZ is familiar with all the technical details, or the intricacies of Super35, and therefore assumed the show was shot "wide", since JMS has always spoken of shooting for widescreen.

Back when the widescreen VHS tapes were released in the U.K. Bart Barenberg put together a very useful here. Go to section 4.4 for a look at an original Super35 T2 frame marked with the extraction frames for 1.33:1 and 2.35:1.