|Posted on May 28, 2010 at 9:47 PM|
At the risk of sounding like someone complaining that his foie gras is too salty, or that his Cristal isn't adequately chilled, or that the DBS logo-stitching in my Aston driver's side is too tickly on my back, I'm going to make a complaint about movies that, admittedly, will only affect those who on a truly high-end home theater. (I know, I have so few problems, that I am going to complain about the trials and tribulations of watching a movie on our mid-five figure system...)
Last night we watched Coco Before Chanel, a French film starring Audry Tautou. (And if you were expecting super cute and fun and quirky Amelie Audrey Tatuou, then lower your sights a shade. Not all the way down to Charlize Theron Monster level of scary or even Salma Hayek Frida-brow but you get the idea.) Now, I didn't know the film was going to be subtitled, but that doesn't really bother me. Maybe it was all the years living in Berekely, but I don't mind foreign films, and I *hate* dubbed. Even if I don't understand what the actor is saying -- Chinese, French, German, that click-clack language, it doesn't matter -- I want to hear the actor's voice not some soundstage dub.
What I hate is how some films handle subtitles when they are transferred to the home market for DVD or Blu-ray release when the movie has a wider than wide (2.35-40:1 aspect, or 70 mm, or Scope, pick your favorite tecno-term).
Now when you're watching a movie in the theater and it has subtitles, the text is printed on the film so you can, you know, see it and read it. But when some movies are transferred for the home release, some jizzle-heads take it upon themselves to move the subtitles off the image of the film and place it into the black (letterboxed) area below the film.
Now, for the vast majority of people, this process works absolutely fine. You have a 16x9 shaped TV, and that black area below the picture is just wasted space anyhow, so why not throw some text in it? (I envy you your simple, uncomplicated theater viewing life...)
But for those of us that have taken our home cinemas to the next level by adding an anamorphic lens system like at a commercial movie theater, this is a real ass bite. Akin to saying, "You know that $10,000 lens system you bought? Can't use it. Sorry. But not really."
For those of you that haven't enjoyed a film at my house, I'll describe the process and the problem. When I'm watching a movie on my projector, and it is in 16x9 (or, more accurately, 1.77-85:1, or Academy Standard, or flat) my screen is "masked" down to show a 92-inch image. There are black curains covering the side, so all you see is super contrasty black borders surrounding the image.
But it's when I pop in a movie that is Scope that the real magic happens. While all of you are now watching an image that is significantly smaller (and complaining, "Whaaa! I hate black bars! Whaaa!") I'm smiling and pressing a button on my remote labeled Cinemascope. The side curtains raise, turning the screen into a 115-inch 2.35:1 aspect. The image is digitally stretched vertically, eliminating the black bars and filling the screen and then a different lens slides in place in front of the main lens to optically stretch the image horizontally to fill the entire screen area. No black bars. All 2 million pixels lit up, each contributing to the on screen magic in their own 1mm way. Big happy smile on my face.
Except when movies like Coco put the subtitles in that black space. Then they are stretched off the screen and placed into no man's land. Making the film unwatchable unless you speak the language.
Now, there is a product that understands high-enders, and that is Kaleidescape. (I'm reviewing their latest system right now; type Kaleidescape into the blog's search window to find the posts on it if you're interested..) In fact, K'scape understands high-enders like Farnsworth Bentley understands umbrella holding and ICP understands Miracles ("Water, fire, air and dirt, f--ing magnets, how do they work?") Their system features a *super* cool feature that uses some kind of powerful necromancy and digital voodoo-ery to relocate the subtitles back into the movie frame. Sadly, it only works (for now?) on DVDs, so Blu-ray viewers are still left to deal with not using their high-end systems to the fullest or learning a new language. And, since we're talking about people that want to sit on the couch and watch movies, likely eating bags of popcorn and drinking cold, cold liquorfied beverages, you pretty much know which side that coin is going to land on.
So, Whaaaa! Coco. Whaaaaaaaa!!!