Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Streaming Cropped Video

Daniel Kreps (via Hacker News):

Seinfeld finally arrived on Netflix Friday, and while all 180 episodes are now available on the streaming service, some jokes didn’t make the cut, literally.

As noted on social media, some of the visual gags from the series have been cropped out due to the series’ now-16:9 aspect ratio that updates the picture for HD televisions, as opposed to its original and boxier 4:3 ratio from when the series first broadcast on TV.


There’s a great blog post by David Simon on the conversion of The Wire from 4:3 to 16:9. It goes into a lot of depth about some of the trade-offs and considerations as well as the lack of communication from HBO. Unfortunately, the video examples don’t seem to work anymore. I can’t help but wonder if HBO sent YouTube a DMCA takedown for David Simon’s clips from the post (or they got taken down automatically). It’s pretty sad if the creator of a show can’t even post short clips from it to illustrate some of the design decisions behind them.


This was the case with Simpsons when it came onto Disney Plus - they took the 4:3 and didn’t just blow it to 14:9, but 16:9 -- throwing away a quarter of the original image.

There’s now an option to show the original aspect ratio, I didn’t discover it for a long time though.

Amazon prime on my phone blows up 16:9 material too, chopping off the top and bottom to fit the wider aspect ratio, unless you’re careful to ‘zoom out’

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Haven’t watched the Simpsons on D+, but that sounds like the way to do it. But why not just always post the original aspect and let us decide what to do with it on our TV’s? Do sets not include that feature anymore?

I really dislike seeing this cropping of 4:3 content. Just show the whole 4:3 image the way it was intended to be viewed in a pillarboxed format. Ironically, they don't mind making new content for streaming services that is letterboxed on current 16:9 TV's. Mindless change for the sake of the lowest common denominator.

It’s amusing (and unfortunate) to see things go this way. I worked in film post-production for a while a decade ago, when HD broadcasting was becoming widespread, and common practice then had foresight: movies made for TV were shot in 16:9, but typically framed so as to be “protected“ such that a 4:3 version could easily be made (centre-cut, or pan-and-scan) for SD broadcast.

In the absence of such an affordance, needlessly cropping the picture is just clumsy and artistically negligent.

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