Automotive Deals HPCC Amazon Fashion Learn more nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Billy Talent Fire TV Stick Sun Care Handmade school supplies Shop-by-Room Amazon Cash Back Offer angrybirds angrybirds angrybirds  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 All-New Kindle Oasis AutoRip in CDs & Vinyl Segway miniPro STEM
Customer Discussions > Classic Movie forum

Wide Screen (Letterbox) vs. Full Screen

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-25 of 46 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 25, 2009 9:10:56 AM PST
I've heard/read all the justifications on the wonderful superiority of the wide screen view. Why can't the perfectionists of the world understand that there are thousands of us who do not have a large or wide-screen TV and never intend to? For many reasons, primarily space and secondarily money, at 70 years of age I don't feel a need to invest that much in viewing the wonderful movies of the 30's-50's. I have about 2000 of them on video tape and am building a DVD collection, but it is difficult to find full screen versions of the beautiful musicals of the 50's. On a smaller TV (19"-27") you have only a small band in the middle of the screen for many of them (right off-hand, I am thinking of My Fair Lady, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, Music Man, etc.) The channels that broadcast movies are showing more and more of them in the wide screen format--why can't they also show it in full screen? I'd love to purchase DVDs of these movies but don't want the wide-screen versions!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 10:18:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2009 12:22:41 PM PST
Me says:
Actually with the sides of the picture cut off it would be more like 3 or 4 brides for 3 or 4 brothers. Especially during the barn raising dance. But if thats what you like I support you and honestly wish you good luck in finding pictures on DVD in fullscreen. I remember how frustrating it was in the 90's trying to find pictures on VHS in letterbox. Now it seems to be the reverse.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 11:54:10 AM PST
ronzo says:

Many of the beloved 50s musicals were actually originally shot in widescreen formats, and (sadly) with all of the current technology following suit, there is very little incentive for the studios to release fullscreen formats.

There are two versions on the SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS 2-disc Special Edition DVD.
First the 2.55:1 cinemascope version, and the "notorious" flat version, shot side by side with the scope version, and was a studio back-up, in case scope turned out to be a fad. The aspect ratio was 1.85:1, but here its been cropped into 1.78:1 (16x9). At least that is closer to the full-screen ratio you are looking for. But if you do watch this, compare it to the widescreen version, and see all of the image you are missing on each side of your screen. They would have to crop even more off for true full-screen!

Hope this helps.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 12:09:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2009 12:10:53 PM PST
DVD is basically a pleasure for fans of widescreen films. VHS was a happy thing for admirers of fullscreen.

Suggestion to those who prefer fullscreen: Find yourself a DVD player with a remote that has the "Zoom" function. It will answer your prayers instantly. If a DVD is widescreen-only, you can quickly change the view to get rid of the black bars. It will zoom in to the scene a bit.

I prefer widescreen, but if I were a fullscreen fan this function would make my day.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 12:21:19 PM PST
Me says:
Well said Baron. A lot of Widescreen fanatics would've said "Oh just get on board with Widesreen and accept it!" But you came up with a suggestion that respects the fullscreeners out there.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 12:41:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2009 12:41:53 PM PST
ronzo says:
Good idea Baron!

Oh hey, that reminds me. I have that zoom function. Wouldn't live without it. What I use it for is to slightly shrink the image (wide or fullscreen) so that it fits on my screen (which is a full screen tube tv). What I've found is by shrinking it that little bit, I get parts of the picture (on all 4 sides) that I wouldn't normally see. Try it, if you haven't already!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 12:45:11 PM PST
Thanks, Me.

I have had many a vibrant discussion with folks over the issue. It can get pretty tense, LOL. It doesn't have to, though, if there's respect and maturity.
What I can't stand is someone saying "Why on earth won't they release the widescreen version of 'Citizen Kane' and 'How Green Was My Valley'? It's obvious that they don't know that widescreen started in 1953, years after those films.

I totally agree with your post here when you mention that VHS was great for fullscreen people, and then DVD became good for widescreen folks. So true. No happy medium... usually; but, there are some DVD releases that include a fullscreen and also a widescreen version (usually on those double-sided 'flipper' discs that get dirty easily). I have a two-disc version of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", and disc one has both versions, even though the movie was originally released in widescreen.

My biggest peeve with fullscreen versions of films that came out after 1953 is this: you often see two people on screen and hear a third (but cannot see her/him). The widescreen version would show all three characters. But that's my own personal issue.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 12:48:26 PM PST

I used to have a DVD player with a zoom feature on the remote, but it got sick and died. Sometimes I actually miss that function because once in a while you want to see a really good close-up of something. Just don't try it on Ernest Borgnine's face. ;-) LOL!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 12:59:59 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2009 11:56:02 PM PST
Me says:
I have the same peeve Baron. I own "The Greatest Story Ever told" on DVD. As you probably know,the last supper scene shows The Ultra Panavision 70 wide shot of the long table filled with Jesus and all the Apostles from Matthew on the left all the way down to Judas on the right.

I've seen the fullscreen version on VHS and the same scene shows Jesus and 2 Apostles on each side of him. Making it more like... "the last snack". Plus when Judas leaves the room during a very dramatic moment the camera is on Jesus only so all we get is the sound of an anonymous door opening and closing. Do you have a specific example?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 3:27:35 PM PST
mhn92 says:
I prefer widescreen also, but the zoom feature can be different on various players. I have a RCA player which has a zoom feature that allows the user to zoom in as well as out, for whatever reason. On a Sony player, it only zooms in, but even then, the image softens the more you zoom. If the image would remain at the same sharpness level when zoomed in, then it wouldn't pose a possible problem for people who prefer fullscreen. In fact, on the Sony player I have, if a widescreen DVD is being watched, the same letterbox image does not change no matter how far you zoom in. It doesn't fill the TV screen completely. However, the RCA player will fill the TV screen all the way when activating the zoom.

The RCA "zooming out" feature comes in handy when you come across a fullscreen image that is already too soft, or not sharp enough, so zooming "out" will sharpen the image more, but makes it smaller to where there are black bars on all four sides of the image. I wonder why the Sony zoom feature does not allow the user to do the same, if for some reason it should become necessary.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 3:42:14 PM PST
Nick Denife says:
The Zoom feature on your DVD player is only half a solution, I'm afraid. The reason full screen versions of films are called "Pan & Scan" is because when the transfer is made, the telecine converter is scanned across the film (sort of an electronic pan) to reveal information that would normally be cut off when only the center of the widescreen image is shown, or the shot is simply edited to cut from one side of the screen to the other (a good example of this is DESK SET with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, in particular the scene where they're on the roof of the office discussing what the computer will do). The zoom feature is better than nothing, though.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 4:57:40 PM PST

I can't think of specific examples at the moment, but there is much hidden in the fullscreen versions of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Robe, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Gigi, Lady and the Tramp, The Masque of the Red Death, Bad Day at Black Rock, The King and I, Forbidden Planet, Pillow Talk, etc.

Your example of The Greatest Story Ever Told hits the nail on the head. Hearing footsteps and a door closing, without seeing the action, is more than frustrating!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 5:59:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2009 6:00:56 AM PST
Brian says:
I agree with you completely Gail!
Even on a wide-screen TV, the impossibly narrow aspect of 2.35:1 is impractical. I grew up seeing these movies on a conventional TV in full-screen and that's how I want to view them now. I will only consider a 1.85:1 aspect ratio but that's it. I can't tell you how many movies I've picked up in a store or viewed online and rejected them because of this issue. Some people will argue that by cropping the picture to 1.33:1 you don't see half the action, and I would respond, by broadcasting in the ridiculous 2.35:1 aspect you don't see ANY!
It's simple. Issue movies with the 'full-screen' version on one side and the 'wide-screen' version on the other. I have purchased several movies like this including, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Forbidden Planet and Picnic. It's a no-brainer. That way everyone is happy, including the retailers and studios.

Oh and Gail, do what I did, purchase a DVD recorder, (they are relatively inexpensive these days) and transfer your videos to DVD. It's really easy, and by transferring them to DVD, you'll often find that it improves the picture quality.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2009 9:17:57 PM PST
I'm with you.
I prefer full screen and don't worry myself over pan and scan or whatever is beyond my view at the edges. There's never been a movie yet that I didn't fully comprehend in full screen.

And lots of movies are available on VHS in widescreen editions if that's your preference.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2009 1:02:02 PM PST
stevign says:

re: "it would be more like 3 or 4 brides for 3 or 4 brothers"


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2009 1:04:35 PM PST
stevign says:
And you will notice people look more short and stout then.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2009 1:13:10 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2013 9:29:06 AM PST
stevign says:
Siskle & Ebert did a program on the differences once. They showed some old movies where they were "fit" with Pan & Scan. One scene was a frontal shot of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn setting at a table with a flower-in-a-wine-bottle between them. You could see both of them in Widescreen, in Pan & Scan all you saw was the flower in the center and their cheeks and noses on either side.

It also leaves out someone off to the side reacting to what a main character is saying to them. Sometimes that (missed) facial reaction tells you if they are suspicious or something like that.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2009 7:15:34 PM PST
Grant says:
As someone that grew up with a small screen tv, I understand the frustration of watching something in letterbox.

However, I think what you gain with letterbox is invaluable. I think the main thing is pacing and mood.

For example, in "The Big Country" there are several scenes where seeing everything adds to mood and pacing. The breakfast scene for example, when Heston, Baker, Peck and Bickford talk about "hunting Hennasseys". Seeing all their silent looks all at once adds to the intensity of the scene. You definately lose some tension and mood with Pan and Scan.

Also, the scene where Peck is telling Simmons that he has broken up with Baker. Seeing both of them at the same time is extremely important to that moment. The back and forth editing of seeing one and then the other really distracts from that wonderful romantic tension between the two.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2009 9:05:45 AM PST
Thanks for the response--I totally agree with the two-sided DVD idea, not enough of them are like that, however. I have purchased a DVD recorder and have transferred almost all of my Videos (home-recorded from TV), but the ones with copy protection will not copy!! Music Man is one of them; the current movies are almost all like that now. I even have movies I recorded from TV showings 15 years ago that will not copy!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2009 9:54:59 AM PST
Gail - I appreciate your desire for full screen; it is the same frustration I experienced when I was looking high and low for widescreen movies in the days of VHS, and in the early days of DVD. I've always maintained that studios should make both formats available, so that those who like the original way the film looked in the theaters could have widescreen, and so that those who are used to their movies filling the TV from top to bottom could have it as a choice as well.

As Ronzo pointed out, many of the classics we love were made in fullscreen "Academy" ratio until 1953, and with the most notable intruducion, The Robe, many films after that were produced in some form of widescreen. Baron has a great suggestion, the Zoom function on your remote. All the DVD players I've owned have had that funtion, and for people who like fullscreen, if you can't find a movie in fullscreen, this is a nice way to adjust what you see. I hope you find the solution that fits you; loving movies as I do, I know what a pleasure it is to see a film in the way that is best for you.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2009 3:46:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 30, 2009 3:46:18 AM PST
Brian says:
Gail, I also have this problem. I have recently purchased a video capture device which connects my laptop to my VCR, in order to record directly on to my computer's hard-drive, thereby (hopefully) bypassing the copy protection. I'll let you know if it works, and how well it works. It seems pretty straight forward.
Anyway Gail, I think I may have found exactly what you're looking for. A high quality, full-screen version of the Music Man on DVD for US$10.00 and that's including shipping. Try the link I provided below:

The item number on that site is: 80888946, or just type in Music Man.

Posted on Dec 27, 2012 5:54:20 AM PST
When a film was shot at 1.33:1, such as Citizen Kane, I want it in full screen. When it was shot at 1.85:1, such as The Searchers, or 2.35:1, such as Planet Of The Apes, I want it in widescreen. In other words, I want to see it as it was intended to be seen. Mercifully, the days of cropping and panning and scanning widescreen films appears to be history. Sadly, we now have - occasionally - the equally plebeian practice of hard matting fullscreen material, such as the TV series Kung Fu to widescreen. Both are WRONG. Simple really.

Posted on Dec 29, 2012 5:20:31 PM PST
D. Mok says:
Every filmmaker on earth prefers a letterboxed treatment of their films rather than pan and scan, unless the film was originally shot at 1.37:1. Letterboxing means the image is smaller -- which is always a tradeoff for television. Pan and scan means the composition of the film -- and sometimes even the editing -- is compromised.

There is also no such thing as a film originally shot at 1.37:1 being released as widescreen. That simply does not happen. The MPEG-2s used on DVDs are 4:3. Only the most unprofessional DVD authors would ever force a letterbox presentation onto a film that had originally been shot and screened at 1.37:1. If you're watching Citizen Kane or King Kong at 16:9 widescreen, you are warping the image incorrectly. You are supposed to set your widescreen television to show the image with a "pillarbox".

Posted on Jan 7, 2013 2:00:11 AM PST
Not necessarily so. MGM did release a version of "Gone with the Wind" cropped top and bottom to provide a 1.85:1 print. If memory serves, this was the 1967 re-release.

Posted on Jan 7, 2013 4:24:25 AM PST
dustman says:
I personally feel cheated if I can't see every bit of screen image as originally filmed. I also don't like colorized versions of films shot in black & white.
‹ Previous 1 2 Next ›
[Add comment]
Add your own message to the discussion
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Prompts for sign-in

Recent discussions in the Classic Movie forum (349 discussions)

  Discussion Replies Latest Post
The Baronzo Creative Writing Thread (a place for an even more casual conversation) 5188 11 hours ago
"Talk of the Tome": Bookish Conversation Devoted to both Literature and Film 8759 12 hours ago
Roundtable Discussion (Part 3): Screening Films from Hollywood's Golden Age 3258 12 hours ago
The Obituary Thread (to acknowledge and honor entertainment figures and classic movie stars who we've lost recently) 4658 17 hours ago
the restaurant at this end of the universe 5513 18 hours ago
CLASSIC MOVIE CHATLINE ~ Part Six ~ (our place for casual conversation) 9225 1 day ago
Your favorite Kubrick film 82 1 day ago
DISH WASHING forum - a place for venting :?O 1756 6 days ago
Coolest movie lines of all time 2937 7 days ago
The berry tree ? A good movie. 9 8 days ago
When does the "Classic Genre" End? 76 10 days ago
Movie Remakes - yesterday & today 9 12 days ago

This discussion

Discussion in:  Classic Movie forum
Participants:  19
Total posts:  46
Initial post:  Jan 25, 2009
Latest post:  Apr 22, 2013

New! Receive e-mail when new posts are made.
Tracked by 7 customers

Search Customer Discussions