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4:3 and 16:9 in one film - what to do?

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Thomas O'Carroll
4:3 and 16:9 in one film - what to do?
on Feb 23, 2010 at 10:37:44 pm

I am working on a feature length movie that was shot some time ago. Most of it was shot in 4:3 aspect but there is also a scene that was shot on film in 16:9. This 16:9 "big action" scene was filmed this way for effect. The idea at the time was to change the "look" of the feature from a TV style to a film style. This was back in the days when a 4:3 TV was more common!

Currently all the footage is 4:3 aspect - the 16:9 scene has been letter-boxed to 4:3

My dilemma is how to encode the feature for DVD - especially considering how we all have widescreen TVs now.

Option 1:
I create a 16:9 movie with the 4:3 footage pillar-boxed (black pillars left and right) This allows the 16:9 scene to be full screen. There would be a drop in resolution of course for the 16:9 scene due to the conversion from letterbox 4:3.

Option 2:
I create a 4:3 movie and keep the 16:9 scene letter-boxed. My problem with this is that the 16:9 footage will end up both letter-boxed and pillar-boxed on a widescreen TV. It will look small.

There is a strong argument coming from others involved in this project, to make it 4:3. They believe that making the 4:3 footage into a pillar-box for widescreen, will cause anguish with viewers who insist on watching 4:3 programming stretched out, filling their widescreen TV screen.

I welcome opinion on this.
PS I wasn't sure which forum to post this question on !

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Michael Sacci
Re: 4:3 and 16:9 in one film - what to do?
on Feb 24, 2010 at 7:58:50 pm

Even worse, most people will watch your 4:3 either stretched to fill the 16:9 screen or zoomed in, either way it will play havoc with quality. There is no good solution for this. but if you want to force the issue (which IMO needs to be done to keep the creative vision of the 4:3/16:9 assets) you should make the movie 16:9 with the 4:3 pillarboxed and then remove the letterboxing from the 16:9 footage. If you can do this through hardware and if the footage is quality and your have it in a good codec if should be okay. I have done this by playing out the Letterbox footage on my system with a Kona card to my laptop with the IoHD and it does converts the footage back to true 16:9 anamorphic. Comes through much better (and quicker) than if done through compressor.

This will piss some people off but I think it has to be done or else the vision is lost.

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