Steven Soderbergh Takes HBO and AMC to Task About Ruined Aspect Ratios

     August 12, 2009


If you don’t know or don’t care about cinematic aspect ratios, you should.  There’s a reason everyone’s selling widescreen TVs now and a large part of it has to do with aspect ratios.  You know those black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when you’re watching shows like “Mad Men” or “Entourage”?  That’s because it’s what the director intended (also, on television it provides a more cinematic quality) and aspect ratio is considered by every director.  Almost every movie and most dramatic television shows have moved to this ratio and it’s not because it’s necessarily better as much as that’s the way the filmmaker thought it worked best.  When a movie gets butchered for distribution on television, especially cable television, that’s a travesty for a director.

Director Steven Soderbergh has had enough, and now he’s speaking out about it.  Hit the jump to read what he has to say.

steven_soderbergh__2_.jpgIn a recent article in DGA Quarterly*, Soderbergh rated how various networks were handling the aspect ratios of films.  MGM HD, IFC HD, Sundance HD and HDNet Movies all passed with flying colors while Showtime had a solid B+.

But HBO and AMC just got worked over by one of the major directors working today.  In the article, Soderbergh rips the two networks apart for showing television programs in widescreen but airing pan-and-scan broadcasts of widescreen films.  AMC gets it the worst since they air ads saying movies will be broadcast in letterbox (i.e., widescreen) and then showing the movies fullscreen.

He ends with a call to arms to his fellow filmmakers.  He says they should make sure their contracts stipulates that they will not air the movie on any network unless it’s in widescreen.  And he’s right.  He’s 100% right because, as he says at the end of his article, “shape matters”.

*Cached while the official site is down, so click here and scroll down to the bottom to read the article.

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