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The Big Lebowski Aspect Ratio (6 replies and 3 comments)

DanSmalley
3 months ago
DanSmalley 3 months ago

Hi Mr Deakins et al,

I was recently backing up my copy of The Big Lebowski on DVD and accidentally selected the 4:3 aspect ratio. I corrected my error then decided to do a side-by-side comparison to see how the shots changed from the 16:9 to 4:3 whereupon I discovered that the widescreen version was actually cur from the 4:3 version rather than the other way around. At first I assumed this must be a quirk of this particular DVD release yet every widescreen screenshot that I can find online conforms to the 'cut-down' version on my DVD.

So, which aspect ratio is the correct one? And if it's 16:9, why did the final cut end up with less information than the 4:3 version?

Or am I barking up the wrong tree and there actually is a 16:9 version with the full image from the 4:3 version plus more image to each side?

Thanks,

Dan

Frank
3 months ago
Frank 3 months ago

Is the DVD version you were using letterboxed or anamorphic widescreen? Could you post screen captures from the 4:3 image you ended up with?

DanSmalley
3 months ago

It's not letterboxed.

Here's a shot from, presumably, the Bluray:
http://thescript.thetake.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/the-big-lebowski-bowling-alley.jpg»

Here's that same shot from my DVD:
http://imgur.com/knYCwCc»

Frank
3 months ago
Frank 3 months ago

The Region 1 DVD that I own (copyrighted 2003) has both a 4:3 and a 16:9 version on the disc. The framing of the 4:3 version looks very similar to the screencap you posted (although curiously it has slightly different framing, maybe because of TV safe borders?) and I'd guess that's the one you ripped. The 16:9 version is 1.85, which is the intended aspect ratio.

I'd be curious to know from Roger if The Big  Lebowski was shot open matte and framed for common top and if this is what's being used for the 4:3 version. Most of the extra picture information is in the bottom part of the frame.  

DanSmalley
3 months ago

I've not heard of open matte before, I was under the impression that movies were shot on something approximating 16:9 and the final frame was taken from there whether it be 16:9, 2.39:1 or 4:3. So it seems that they chose to use the originally shot footage for 4:3 rather than taking the proper, 16:9, version and cutting it down further. That's cool. It was quite interesting reading about the history of pan and scan and how it affected the way movies were shown on TV, particularly Ben Hur. Anyway, query solved, I guess. Time to re-encode my backup.

DanSmalley
3 months ago

Thanks for the info, by the way.

Roger Deakins
3 months ago
Roger Deakins 3 months ago

When framing for 1:85 there is additional image area on the top and bottom of the negative. That is if the image is centered. I believe we shot 'Lebowsky' in Super 35mm so that area was a little less but still enough to allow for a TV 'full frame', 4:3, image, which was the norm at that time and a studio directive. Hence the width of the intended frame, which was the 1:85, is not cropped.

Frank
3 months ago
Frank 3 months ago

Mr. Deakins, do you remember what kind of ground glass you used on The Big Lebowski? I've been looking at the 4:3 version and at a glance it seems like around 20% of the bottom of the negative was framed out and 5% at the top. 

dmullenasc
3 months ago
dmullenasc 3 months ago

4-perf 35mm has a 1.33 : 1 (4x3) aspect ratio in Full Aperture and 3-perf 35mm is closer to 1.78 : 1 (16x9). You can shoot either and compose for 1.85 : 1 theatrical projection.

Roger Deakins
3 months ago
Roger Deakins 3 months ago

I would have and a centered ground glass with a 1:85 marking and a 1:66 marking. I used 1:66 as a rough guide to a 4:3 TV version. Usually, the shots in 4:3 will balance better if you use more of the bottom than the top of the 'extra' negative. Think of what would happen to the headroom of a close shot if you were to simply add an equal 15% to the top and bottom.

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