If you do a Google search for pan & scan, you'll find out that the use of that phrase here shows considerable ignorance. Also, IMDB is hardly a source for competent information, and in this case there is no information provided on how the project was originally filmed. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a reliable source on the subject to be found anywhere, so any statement about how this project was originally shot should be immediately discounted to the level of personal opinion and nothing more.
I only have the original DVD version and the featurettes had no subtitles. Neither did the trailers. I am quite sure this new version is the same because I have other series (e.g The West Wing) and the special features do not have subtitles.
The term Pan-and-scan is being used incorrectly in some of the comments on this topic. It appears that the series was originally shot full frame. I have seen the original edition, and it is full frame, 4:3 aspect ration, or 1.33:1. The new edition is cropped, not pan-and-scanned.
For the signature edition, the top and bottom of the frame is cropped down to a 16:9 or 1.78:1 aspect ratio -- the standard widescreen DVD frame. Yes, you do lose some image at the top and bottom compared to the original release. This is not a huge issue, but it leaves some shots seeming a little cramped, in my opinion. I would have been happier, all in all, if they had kept the original full frame, as it was originally aired on HBO.
On the plus side, the image overall is clearer. The series is spread out on more discs, meaning higher image quality due to higher bitrate.
I don't like the packaging on the new edition, but what can you do? It is what it is.
The DTS sound may be a plus for some. I don't have DTS, so I can't comment on whether it makes a big difference.
Either version is good. The signature edition is a little better, but if you have the original, you'll have to weigh the pluses and minuses of the Signature edition. I would probably be inclined to keep my original edition. I only bought the Signature edition for a gift.
I have both versions. The Signature Series (aka: Special Anniversary Edition - 35th Anniversay of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's Historic Moonwalk), is digitally remastered in Widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio with no black bars vertically or horizontally) and DTS Digital Surround Sound. I believe this 12 hour, Tom Hank's produced HBO miniseries originally retailed for $100 while only in standard TV 4:3 format and in 5.1 channel sound.
Is the new Signature version really any better, and more importantly worth the now heavily discounted price? ABSOLUTELY!!! (But, first read the other subject posted re: quality control problems of this boxed set). Listening on a DTS capable audio system and viewing this movie on a widescreen display, from an upconverting DVD player, is a significant improvement (IMHO) over the original DVD edition. Even video purists will love it at 30 bucks. This is a GREAT VALUE!!!
I deplore the so called 16:9 version of this set. This series was produced in 4:3 aspect ratio. The images were composed for that ratio and cropping them to market a 16:9 edition is just vandalism and ruins the series. For examples of series that DON'T do this and still sell well see 'The Wire' and 'Star-Trek' on Blu-Ray. Happily I have both the original 4:3 set and this travesty. I've played 4 minutes of the latter and many hours of the former.
Technically speaking, "pan and scan" implies that there may be artificial camera moves to show different areas of an original frame that is too large to fit within that of the final aspect ratio. As Steven Spielberg points out in his (laserdisc) discussion of "Close Encounters," this can even involve the creation of artificial "cuts" from one area of a shot to another area of the same shot.
Of course, not every movie is carefully reformatted. I would say that if a movie hasn't been re-framed on a shot-by-shot basis, then it has not been truly panned and scanned. If a central area has been "locked-in" then perhaps we should say that it has simply been cropped. Note, however, that this applies to any cropping (sides or top/bottom) so my initial statement still applies here.
But, in the real world, "pan-and-scan," "reformatted," and "cropped" are all used interchangeably.
IF the original film was shot and edited for 4:3 format television, then there will be a BIG difference in the look and feel a the film that has been reformatted to fit a 16:9 screen. There is only ONE way to make 4:3 FILL a 16:9 screen; you must "zoom" into the 4:3 frame (which is nearly square) to "fill" a 16:9 frame (which is a wide rectangle) from end to end. When you do this you lose a portion of the original 4:3 top and/or bottom of the frame depending on where the "zoomed in" rectangle is placed in the 4:3 frame from top to bottom. No way around this. You can attempt to recover portions of that lost framing by introducing a vertical pan & scan technique or by adding new artificial cuts within the same frame, but this is generally obvious and distracting to the original framing of the movie and can seriously mess with the artistic quality of the movie.
The best solution if the intent is to keep the originally director's vision is to place the entire 4:3 frame in the center of the 16:9 frame and add black bars to the left and the right. While many widescreen television fanatics hate this type of presentation, it actually presents the 4:3 source at its best.
This is all entirely different than fitting a 16:9 (or wider) movie into a 4:3 frame. 16:9 in a 4:3 frame can be accomplished by "zooming out" to show the entire widescreen frame and add black bars to the top and bottom of the "zoomed out" widescreen frame to fill in the 4:3 frame. You can also "zoom in" to the widescreen frame until it fills the full 4:3 frame, and then pan & scan horizontally or add new artificial cuts within the same frame of a scene to attempt to pick up the lost material.