The Wire

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Roger Ryan
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Re: The Wire

#126 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:49 pm

Drucker wrote:Is it crazy for me to ask why this wasn't a big deal for the Sopranos?
EDIT: My understanding was the first season of THE SOPRANOS was 4:3 with the rest being 16:9. Still, any revisionism didn't affect the entire series.

It's quite possible that they stopped "protecting" for 16:9 on THE WIRE sometime after the first season, but if they had to resort to "painting out" c-stands and PA's at the edges of the frame then they were still shooting the show in widescreen with the understanding the image would be cropped in editing. When I first heard about the 16:9 revisionism, I imagined lots of cropped heads on close-ups and legs cropped at the knees in wide shots. As it turns out, it looks like there will be more visual information on all sides of the frame given the rescan of the original negative. I don't agree with changing the aspect ratio, but this situation could have been a lot worse.

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Gregory
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Re: The Wire

#127 Post by Gregory » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:55 pm

The Sopranos was among the first successful TV series to be composed for widescreen, along with many of the seasons of The West Wing and ER. ER was shot in widescreen from the beginning but didn't air that way until season 7. The DVDs of all the seasons are widescreen as far as I know, as I know as it was composed that way all along, so not the same situation as what they're doing to The Wire.
I believe the first American series to air in widescreen was Feds (1997), created by Dick Wolf (who'd produced shows such as Miami Vice and Law & Order). CBS got angry letters of the "fill up my screen" variety and for whatever combination of reasons cancelled the show after just a few weeks.
I can certainly understand why some people would be confused and concerned about "black bars" back in '97, but people these days have no such excuse. They simply don't know how their equipment is supposed to function to present series and films in a variety of formats and they refuse to listen when it's explained that the black bars are normal, so the industry caters to them. And HBO apparently cannot even be honest about what they're doing, claiming that they're carefully preserving the original look and "feel" of The Wire.

There's also the common assumption by many people that if they're watching something in 1.78:1 it's HD, and if it's in 1.33:1 it's SD. Instead of trying to help inform viewers about these misconceptions, some studios prefer to recreate content to conform to the misconceptions (e,g., TNT broadcasts the early seasons of ER in widescreen on TNT HD but in 1.33:1 on the regular TNT network).

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swo17
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Re: The Wire

#128 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:59 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:When I first heard about the 16:9 revisionism, I imagined lots of cropped heads on close-ups and legs cropped at the knees in wide shots. As it turns out, it looks like there will be more visual information on all sides of the frame given the rescan of the original negative.
Not entirely. Simon's blog post details one example of a scene ("burgers and chicken") where they wanted to preserve the original frame width and so they did in fact crop the 4:3 image. Presumably this is not the only case like this throughout the entire series. If it were only as you say I wouldn't mind so much, as my projector has the ability to mask the sides of the image.

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MichaelB
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Re: The Wire

#129 Post by MichaelB » Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:17 pm

Yes, what's unusual about The Wire is that the entire thing was framed for 4:3 despite production of season one starting well into the 16:9 era.

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swo17
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Re: The Wire

#130 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:22 pm

domino harvey wrote:If you can't get into the Wire because the screen is squarish, I suspect your problems will not end once it becomes more rectangular
Maybe there were always lots of white people standing around just outside the frame?

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EddieLarkin
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Re: The Wire

#131 Post by EddieLarkin » Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:38 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:It's quite possible that they stopped "protecting" for 16:9 on THE WIRE sometime after the first season, but if they had to resort to "painting out" c-stands and PA's at the edges of the frame then they were still shooting the show in widescreen with the understanding the image would be cropped in editing. When I first heard about the 16:9 revisionism, I imagined lots of cropped heads on close-ups and legs cropped at the knees in wide shots. As it turns out, it looks like there will be more visual information on all sides of the frame given the rescan of the original negative. I don't agree with changing the aspect ratio, but this situation could have been a lot worse.
It certainly would be worse if this was a case of straight cropping like what happened to The World at War on Blu-ray, but by no means does that mitigate the situation. What they've done here is in effect to release the show "open matte", for the same reasons that widescreen films were released open matte in the 4:3 era, to fill all available TV space. Though as swo says, it'll be worse than that as some shots are being deliberately re-framed to look best in 16:9, meaning that we cannot mask the left and right in the same way we can mask the top and bottom of an open matte film presentation. So we're potentially going to be stuck with a HD version that features a lot of empty "side room", but one that we can't alter ourselves to watch properly. The precise same thing is happening right now with the remastering of The X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which are currently re-airing in HD.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: The Wire

#132 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:19 pm

swo17 wrote:
Roger Ryan wrote:When I first heard about the 16:9 revisionism, I imagined lots of cropped heads on close-ups and legs cropped at the knees in wide shots. As it turns out, it looks like there will be more visual information on all sides of the frame given the rescan of the original negative.
Not entirely. Simon's blog post details one example of a scene ("burgers and chicken") where they wanted to preserve the original frame width and so they did in fact crop the 4:3 image. Presumably this is not the only case like this throughout the entire series. If it were only as you say I wouldn't mind so much, as my projector has the ability to mask the sides of the image.
Yes, I can see that would be problematic. I should have stated that apart from those shots that are being "recomposed", there will generally be more information in the frame than when the series originally ran. The lesser of two evils, I guess; although, to be clear, I would prefer the series remain in 4:3.

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Wire

#133 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:38 pm

I'd prefer it in 4:3 too, but I don't think it'll have the same problem The Shield has with their "future-proofed" versions of the show. In that 4:3 space, it was much tighter and things felt more tense which helped the drama and gave the action a bit more realism, like it was an episode of Cops.

AnamorphicWidescreen
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Re: The Wire

#134 Post by AnamorphicWidescreen » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:01 pm

Gregory wrote:I can certainly understand why some people would be confused and concerned about "black bars" back in '97, but people these days have no such excuse. They simply don't know how their equipment is supposed to function to present series and films in a variety of formats and they refuse to listen when it's explained that the black bars are normal, so the industry caters to them. And HBO apparently cannot even be honest about what they're doing, claiming that they're carefully preserving the original look and "feel" of The Wire.
Yes, most people even these days are clueless when it comes to aspect ratios. I've been aware of widescreen & the black bars since the early '90's. Even before TV's were able to present movies in the Anamorphic aspect ratio I knew that when watching LD's in cropped Widescreen, they were non-anamorphic - i.e., some of the picture was still cut off at the sides.

The problem these days with watching full-screen (i.e., 4:3) TV shows is that few people have the old CRT square TV/monitor (my last one died several years back). Most everyone these days only have the widesceen TV sets. So, if you're watching a series like The Wire on the older DVD sets - on these newer widescreen TV's - the picture is in the middle of the screen, but there are still those black bars on the left and right of the screen. Conversely, if The Wire is presented in the widescreen format, it will fill up more of the screen & be more "cinematic" (even though there may be bars on the top & bottom of the screen). I don't know about anyone else here, but aesthetically, I would rather see a widescreen presentation than a full-screen (4:3) presentation on my widescreen set.

I think the '90's & early 200X's were a transitional time period for TV shows & full-screen/widescreen sets. As was mentioned, ER may have been filmed in 4:3 for at least some seasons (don't know, since I never saw the show on broadcast TV), but all of the DVD sets (which is what I saw) were all widescreen.

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EddieLarkin
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Re: The Wire

#135 Post by EddieLarkin » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:05 pm

AnamorphicWidescreen wrote:I don't know about anyone else here, but aesthetically, I would rather see a widescreen presentation than a full-screen (4:3) presentation on my widescreen set.
If watching in a proper viewing environment (i.e. a very dark room), what difference does it make?

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warren oates
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Re: The Wire

#136 Post by warren oates » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:18 pm

AnamorphicWidescreen wrote:I don't know about anyone else here, but aesthetically, I would rather see a widescreen presentation than a full-screen (4:3) presentation on my widescreen set.
Well, it's not like your username is AcademyRatio.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Wire

#137 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:37 pm

Before I got a widescreen TV I was worried that I might never get used to the black boxes moving from the top and bottom to the sides, so I stuck with a CRT TV for a long time. Once I got a widescreen TV, it took me I think one minute to get used to watching Academy ratio films. Boo hoo

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swo17
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Re: The Wire

#138 Post by swo17 » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:21 pm

I'm just the opposite. I get really uncomfortable when people enter my house and fill up too much of the door frame. Which is why I recently installed some of those invisibly thin blades from the movie Cube a foot away from each edge. Now everyone looks the same. Now everyone looks the same. Now everyone looks the same...

Perkins Cobb
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Re: The Wire

#139 Post by Perkins Cobb » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:12 pm

What do we make of Simon's subsequent remarks in response to reader comments, especially
Why do you presume that the highest possible technical quality is the framework and construct by which all narrative must be displayed? The Wire was executed in SD and 4:3. The manner in which we framed the shots, but also established depth of field, background and executed a level of detail on everything from wall graffiti to the makeup work on gunshot wounds and such, was posited on SD. Are you asserting for the highest possible quality as a greater value than the filmmaker’s intent and execution at the point of filming? Why? Other than you like looking at it that way, I mean.

I have a couple works of folk art at home that I treasure. One is painted on the side of a picket fence, and the other on the back of a washboard. If they were painted on carefully stretched canvas then certainly the images would be more distinct and pristine, and more in keeping with the advantages of the highest quality for visual art.

The filmmakers saw what they saw, with knowledge of the present technology, when they filmed The Wire in SD. Now, offered a more precise and perfected technology, you don’t value that eye over the technology when it comes to depth of field. But you value it with regard to the width and length of the shot. Understood. And perhaps you are right. Or perhaps not.

Regardless, you are not consistent.
and
You are speaking singularly of the technology. The Wire was shot on 35mm. It is amenable to HD transfer and to 16:9 without bottom-top, pan-scan cropping except in cases in which unacceptable content can’t be painted from the margins. But you are mistaking what I am saying for a technological choice. It is not technological, it is aesthetic.

I am speaking of the filmmaker’s intention: We composed our shots for broadcast in 4:3 and in SD. We arranged our content for length, width, depth with that format in mind. We optimized our shots based on what would be seen in 4:3 aspect ratio and with a depth of field and background detail that suited SD, not HD. Now, for this new version, we are using the same film in a new construct. Sometimes, as I have indicated, there is a benefit. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter much. Sometimes, the shot composition is worse. This is true for the quality of the definition as for the size of the frame.
I find this uncharacteristically difficult to parse, but one takeaway -- which isn't all that obvious in his original post -- is that Simon may be skeptical of HD'ing The Wire, period (i.e., along the lines that the added visual clarity would reveal flaws more than enhance detail). Which would explain why the aspect ratio doesn't seem like a life-or-death question for him.

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aox
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Re: The Wire

#140 Post by aox » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:56 pm

If it was meant to be seen in SD and SD only (assuming 480p), why spend the money and shoot with 35mm film?

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (this was probably due to budget) and 28 Days Later were shot in SD.
Last edited by aox on Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Perkins Cobb
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Re: The Wire

#141 Post by Perkins Cobb » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:59 pm

Good point.

onedimension
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Re: The Wire

#142 Post by onedimension » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:59 pm

I almost mentioned the HD/SD thing in my earlier comment, but figured it wouldn't go over well here. SD to HD as improvement is an article of faith in these parts, like the camera is given newer glasses, and seeing more "reality", more clearly, is always an improvement. And that's what we always desire as consumers. But not all filmmakers share that preference, or that capitulation to industry standards, and work with different kinds of film, different kinds of cameras etc.

If you're a purist about 4:3 it's logically consistent to be a purist about SD. That's the original work. But the assumption is that every filmmaker would have been in HD if he could have been, that SD was a technical compromise. This was generally the case, because film to SD was always a downgrade. Film to HD is closer to the cinematic image in some ways, but not all. HBO is making the assumption that The Wire would've been in 16:9 if it could've been, that 4:3 was a technical compromise. And they're trying to adjust for it now.

The best solution is to have both aspect ratios on blu ray. But maybe 16:9 Wire makes the money that pays for the 4:3 HD blu ray of The Wire.

I know giving ground on this might end up resulting in clumsy 16:9 stretch-and-retch butcherings of all sorts of things. We just don't know yet whether that will happen- this, and what FXNOW does with The Simpsons, are big test cases. (It does sound like Buffy is being screwed up in its pseudo-restoration).

At least have good arguments when you object, and engage Simon's/HBO's points, instead of just falling back on indignation.

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MichaelB
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Re: The Wire

#143 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:18 pm

onedimension wrote:HBO is making the assumption that The Wire would've been in 16:9 if it could've been, that 4:3 was a technical compromise. And they're trying to adjust for it now.
But it wasn't a technical compromise. The Wire was made between 2002 and 2008, well after 16:9 had become established as not merely a viable aspect ratio for TV but one that was far more future-proofed than 4:3 would have been at that time.

In other words, it was a conscious decision to shoot in 4:3 - so how is this any kind of compromise? Surely the exact opposite is true?

Perkins Cobb
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Re: The Wire

#144 Post by Perkins Cobb » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:22 pm

In his blog post, Simon claims it was a budgetary compromise, although that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Was shooting on 35mm really cheaper than shooting in HD in 2002?

EDIT: Specifically, Simon writes that "filming in letter-box was more expensive at the time," but I don't understand from that phrasing what choices were on the table that led to 35mm framed in 4:3 as the cheapest option.

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EddieLarkin
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Re: The Wire

#145 Post by EddieLarkin » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:36 pm

To quote Simon's piece:
In fact, Bob had asked before filming The Wire pilot in late 2001 for a widescreen aspect ratio. He correctly saw television screens growing wider and 16:9 ratio becoming industry standard, and coming from the feature world, it was his inclination to be as filmic as possible. But, to be honest, The Wire was at its inception a bit of shoestring affair and expectations for the drama at HBO were certainly modest. Filming in letter-box was more expensive at the time, and we were told, despite Bob’s earnest appeals, that we should shoot the pilot and the ensuing season in 4:3.

At which point, Bob set about to work with 4:3 as the given.
So not only was it a conscious decision to shoot 4:3 over 16:9, it was one mandated by HBO! Now that HBO see The Wire as more of a money maker, they want to go back and correct their "mistake", despite the fact the creators were completely on board with 4:3 once that decision was made.

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swo17
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Re: The Wire

#146 Post by swo17 » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:45 pm

Even if you shoot in 35mm, if you know it's going to air in SD, that will change how carefully you render certain effects in postproduction (which are now being redone to look better in HD). In that sense, I actually like Simon's argument insofar as it suggests that I already have the definitive director's vision of this show in the DVD set.

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EddieLarkin
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Re: The Wire

#147 Post by EddieLarkin » Thu Dec 04, 2014 6:52 pm

But presumably that vision is only truly brought to life in the way the director intended if you're watching on an SD monitor. Once the image is upscaled to 1080p on your TV and every single pixel around the four sides is revealed, you're seeing something different. On my R2 sets, there's even some weird SD type magnetic interference on the top of the image that requires overscanning.

For proper presentation on a HD screen, I feel HD resolution is necessary in a way 16x9 absolutely is not. I don't see why we can't have the former (whilst acknowledging that it isn't a precise representation of the original vision, in the same way a SD upscaled to 1080p presentation isn't either) without having to have the latter (which is a drastically different representation of the original vision).

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Roger Ryan
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Re: The Wire

#148 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:26 am

...Filming in letter-box was more expensive at the time...
This doesn't make sense if you're only talking about the filming process. What Simon must be getting at is that it was determined the show would be edited and aired in standard definition. I suppose transferring the 35mm footage to SD files and editing using an SD digital platform probably was cheaper than taking the HD route, but it seems really short-sighted for HBO circa 2002.

Going for lesser definition can certainly be an aesthetic choice, but filmmakers who have done it (Maddin, Lynch, Anderson, etc.) have chosen to shoot those projects in 8mm, 16mm or video (or even in Fisher-Price PixelVision!). Shooting in 35mm or higher just kind of implies you want a high-end look and I don't understand why a HD transfer of that 35mm footage would be seen as an aesthetic compromise.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Wire

#149 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Dec 05, 2014 9:55 am

swo17 wrote:Even if you shoot in 35mm, if you know it's going to air in SD, that will change how carefully you render certain effects in postproduction (which are now being redone to look better in HD).
I was surprised to hear this. Except for Shout! which went the distance for Pee-Wee's Playhouse, I didn't think any studio would put up the money for this sort of thing (or have the elements to make that possible, unless they were willing to re-create them).

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EddieLarkin
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Re: The Wire

#150 Post by EddieLarkin » Fri Dec 05, 2014 10:25 am

That's the exact problem CBS had with remastering Star Trek: TNG. All of the hundreds of visual effects (originally created in SD) have been recreated in HD for the Blu-ray releases.

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