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Customer Review

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confused, 19 April 2012
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This review is from: A Midnight Clear: 20th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] [1992] (Blu-ray)
Having owned the region 1 dvd of this movie in 4.3 I was looking forward to seeing the new widescreen dvd. On putting both dvds on side by side im a little confused. While both dvds have the same width of picture if you like, the top and bottom have been cropped off the new widescreen version (no not black bars). So in effect my reg 1 dvd has more picture than the widescreen version. My tv and dvd player are set up correct etc. What i did was pause both dvds at the same place and compared them. The screen i used was the opening credit saying Beacon Films. On the reg 1 you can see more of the top and bottom of the statues head where as the new widescreen version is cropped. Width wise they are the same? Any ideas?? By the way the film is GREAT
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Apr 2012 17:21:29 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Apr 2012 20:25:06 BDT
K. Gordon says:
The review 'confused' raises an interesting (and slightly technical) question that could easily confuse others as well.

Technically the reviewer is absolutely right. On the new transfer of the film he is indeed seeing the same width of image on the sides and less information on the top and bottom than in the old 'open matte' 4:3 release. But in fact the whole problem was, that was information the viewer was never supposed to see! The film was composed assuming it would never be projected 'open matte' (meaning almost the entire negative was shown). We composed it in 1:85 where only the central part of the negative is used.

Watching an 'open mate' transfer, you're seeing 'all' of an image that, in theatrical projection, would have been 'cropped' by the projector's gate to 1:85.

To put it another way, When I put my eye to the viewfinder on the camera, there's a taller 'full screen' image which is everything passed through the lens onto the film, and a shorter, high-lit area that represents 1:85. That high lit area is what we composed for. The rest was never intended to be part of the film. As a film maker it's just as awful when too much image is there as too little. This new transfer represents the original framing of the film, and my intentions. If you want to see every bit of image that was recorded, yep, an open matte 4:3 transfer will technically give you more. But for almost any feature film made since the late 1950s, when 'widescreen' movies became the norm; that extra was never supposed to be there for the viewer!

(On that note - almost all pre mid-1950s films were composed and projected in theaters in the more square, 4:3 aspect ratio, which is why older classics have black space on the sides when seen on a modern 16:9 TV. When TV caught on, Hollywood decided it didn't want it's films looking like the same thing people could get at home on their televisions, so quickly 'widescreen' or 1:85 not 1:33 (aka 4:3) became the new standard. Now, ironically, TVs have caught up with that change, and almost all TVs now are "widescreen" too - actually 1:77, not 1:85. A very slight, although annoying difference)

For a good example where there really was controversy look at the early DVD releases of the Stanley Kubrick films. Those were also 4:3 open matte transfers, but in that rare case, Kubrick said he had specifically and consciously always composed for open-matte 4:3 as well as 1:66 or 1:85 depending on the film. He wanted the films to be seen that way on television, (meaning they would look quite different from the theatrical release) because he grew up in an age of 4:3 television, and he hated the idea of black bars on the picture on an already small screen, so he ordered all his films released in 4:3 open matte. (Except 2001, which was in a whole, even wider aspect ratio, so needs yet a different discussion about 'pan-and-scan'')

Later, after many fans expressed frustration that the films looked very different than the theatrical versions, WB replaced the original open matte DVD releases with versions cropped to match what you saw in the theater. There is still heated debate among Kubrick fans about which versions are 'better' or 'right'.

As for 'A Midnight Clear' The only way to make the old region 1 release match our intentional framing would be to carefully measure the 1:85 frame on your screen, and tape up cardboard to cut off the top and bottom of the screen. That's what we had to do when editing the film back in the day! :-)

Technically you can hard matte a film in the camera so that only the image area you want is recorded, but that was rarely allowed by financiers, for exactly the reasons "A Midnight Clear' has always been out 'wrong'. Distributors wanted the option to sell a full frame version for TV back in the days when most TVs were 4:3, and many customers and stores didn't want black bars on their screen

I believe a few powerful film-makers were contractually able to 'hard matte' the film in camera, so it could never be shown 'wrong' but that was a rare situation.

Anyway, I hope this explanation is useful, and helps assure anyone considering the new version of the film that what you are now (finally!) getting, is the correct image we framed in the camera.

Keith Gordon

Posted on 20 Apr 2012 04:25:45 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Apr 2012 20:25:52 BDT
K. Gordon says:

Thank you for amending your review from an negative accusation to a positive question. I deeply appreciate it.

I'm glad you like the film, and I hope what I've explained is clear enough to know that what you are seeing is the film in it's correct form, but I'm happy to try to go into more detail if it will be helpful.

All my best,


In reply to an earlier post on 20 Apr 2012 06:37:39 BDT
Hi Keith, hey no probs. After waiting so long to see the full version regarding aspect ratio i was confused when i popped this new one on. thanks for explaining it all. I did mention to the dvd company that they should have gpt you to sign some of the dvds covers. IS there any way i can get one signed?

best, Shaun

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Apr 2012 10:12:58 BDT
K. Gordon says:
Hi Shaun,

I'll see what I can do. I'll contact the DVD company and see if they can send some covers here to the U.S. to sign and I can send them back (I have yet to physically get any copies myself, I've just seen a test pressing). If I can make it work, I'll let you know here, or you can leave an email.



In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2014 15:12:21 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Jul 2014 15:13:17 BDT
YoungRider says:
A Midnight Clear : 20th Anniversary Edition [DVD] [1992]
Hi Mr. Gordon,

Are there any chances to release a soundtrack CD of this film ? I really like the song 'It came upon a midnight clear' by Sam Phillips.
Best regards,

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