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I guess I just like liking things

Few things rankle me as much as movies being panned and scanned.  I don’t remember when it was that I came to understand what exactly it was , but I do know I signed up immediately for the “Widescreen is the way it was meant to be seen!” camp and haven’t ever left.

This video (found over at 22 Words) explains it in just about the best way I’ve ever seen, so if you’ve still got someone in your life who is wrong about this topic, show them this:

Back in the days of VHS, there weren’t a lot of options for widescreen. It was rare that a movie would be released on VHS in that format. Usually it was limited to big epics or scifi (or big epic scifi), because even then the studios had their audience figured out and knew that the most obsessive fans would be the most willing to pay for new/different versions, especially if it professed to be “the whole movie!”

Even when I knew that widescreen was the best way to watch a movie, I didn’t really understand the “pan & scan” nature of a film cut down for TV screens. I mean, sure, I knew they were cutting stuff, but it never occurred to me that the cutting process created artificial camera movements the director never intended.  Makes sense now (especially after seeing this video) but I didn’t know enough back then, I guess.

Oddly enough, it was seeing Ghostbusters for the first time in widescreen that helped me see the importance of widescreen, and it was just in two little scenes that didn’t even make that much difference. The first scene was after the boys bust the hotel ghost (Onionhead, but you know him as “Slimer”) and are talking to the hotel guy. Venkman is telling him the costs of their services and the joke is that the hotel guy won’t pay it because it’s too much so the guys are going to release the ghost back into the ballroom, which of course makes the hotel guy willing to pay. In the pan & scan version of this scene, you see hotel guy, Venkman, and Stantz, and it works pretty well as described. However, in the actual version of the screen, you also see Spengler, and as Venkman is talking, he glances over at Spengler who is holding up fingers to indicate costs which Venkman then works into his spiel. It adds a whole ‘nother dimension (no pun intended) to the scene, as it continues the “making it up as they go along” nature of this new business the guys are starting. Plus, it’s just funnier.

The second scene is a two-second thing that is even less of a deal than the first one. Dana has shown up at the Ghostbusters office not knowing where else to turn. She’s talking to Janine when (in the pan & scan version) you hear someone running and all of a sudden Venkman is vaulting over a gate to come talk to her.  Right before that, though, in the actual version, way off in the background of Janine and Dana’s conversation you see Venkman pop his head up like a prairie dog, ever so briefly. It’s as if his Pretty Lady Radar has gone ff, and the prairie dogging confirmation sets his feet to running. As I said, it’s this tiny little detail that wouldn’t mean much to anyone, but seeing it for the first time after having seen Ghostbusters so many times on the pan & scan VHS just tickled me.

So I hope this video has turned you from someone who didn’t care or give it much thought before into someone who won’t be able to stand watching a pan & scan version ever again. If that has happened, this site will have not been for naught.

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