what is widescreen?

What is Widescreen?

If you are already familliar with the basic concepts of widescreen and pan & scan, you should skip to our Advanced Widescreen/OAR Primer.

For those of you who just want the widescreen basics, keep reading.

Have you ever wondered while watching a film on TV, VHS, or DVD why it begins with this disclaimer:

"This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your screen."

If you've ever pondered what this disclaimer means, I'll interpret for you:

"This film has been reduced in size, and up to 43% of what was shown in the theater has been cut out, just so that the image will fill up your square television screen." - The preceeding statement is only true if you have a regular television. It is not at all accurate if you have a widescreen television set!

This process of "reformatting" a film is called "Pan & Scan." Some also refer to it as "Full Screen". The term "Widescreen", or "Letterbox" simply refers to the original unaltered film as it was shown in the theater. There are several other ways that films are transferred to video, but we will examine the one that is used most often, and that is Pan & Scan.

Let's take a look at the following examples, which are displayed as they would be on your television screen. Each example has two screenshots taken from the same frame of both formats. Look at how much of the original picture is lost due to the "Pan & Scan" process!

the mummy       5th element

Although the Pan & Scan format does appear larger, it is at a great cost! In these examples, 43% of the image is discarded! With "The Mummy", the results are a missing character and a very cramped frame. With "The 5th Element" what comes across as a massively breathtaking stage gets a major reduction in size, and the dynamic feeling is lost. Definitely not what the directors intended, as they carefully composed each scene!

We at Widescreen Advocate believe that this type of alteration is not acceptable, and that's why we would like to see all films that were shot in a widescreen format preserved in their original aspect ratio for their release on DVD.

So is that all there is to know about Widescreen?

Actually no, there is much more. The above explanation is really meant to quickly point out why we are so adamant about our cause. If you're interested in learning all there is to know about Widescreen, you can continue reading our Advanced Widescreen/OAR Primer.

Or, you could visit one or all of these excellent educational sites:

The Letterbox and Widescreen Advocacy Page

Why Widescreen? @ DVDAnswers.com

Intro to Widescreen @ Hong Kong Fanatic


Widescreen vs. Pan & Scan screenshots:

Harry Potter Widescreen vs. Fullscreen Comparison Pages

Comparison screenshots @ widescreen.org

Once you've learned the truth about Widescreen video, please send some of these links to family and friends and spread the word that Wider is Better.


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~ See what you've been missing! See it in Widescreen! ~