Saturday, August 11, 2007
As far as the aspect ratios go, there are several different ways to deal with that with older TV shows. The most obvious is to do the same thing that editors do in order to make 16:9 frames fit onto a 4:3 screen- lop off part of the picture. In the case of the conversion from 16:9 aspect ratio to 4:3 aspect ratio, one or both of the sides are cropped to form the more nearly square shape of a 4:3 screen. In the case of a conversion in the other direction, the top and or the bottom of the frame would be lopped off. If anything though, this is even less desirable than having the sides of the picture lopped off. After all, there are a lot of closeup shots of people's faces, and if the top and or bottom of those shots were loped off, there would be the possibility of losing a lot of detail. For example, when Star Trek inevitably gets remastered into HDTV format, it may be impossible to tell that Mr. Spock is a Vulcan if his pointed ears don't show up in the picture. On a similar vein, Carmen Miranda films would be utterly pointless if we could no longer see the fruit basket on her head.
Another possibility for converting 4:3 pictures into 16:9 would be keeping the picture whole, but digitally stretching it into a more rectangular shape. While this certainly technologically very feasible, it's really far from desirable. After all, everyone and everything in a picture like this would just look fatter, and if actors and actresses complain that the camera adds ten pounds now, widespread use of this technique would make many of the refuse to act. (Of course, this may not be a problem for the rest of us.)
Fortunately there is a much better solution to the issue of aspect ratio available in the film vaults of most Hollywood studios. That's because all of those old TV reruns were originally shot in 16:9 format and then cropped in the process of making them ready for TV broadcast. Therefore, simply remastering those old recordings solves the problem.
As for the difference in resolution. Many of those originals celluloids in the archives also have much higher resolution pictures than what we saw on TV, so the original copies can solve the problem as well. In the case of the original footage of both movies and TV shows that doesn't have the high resolution that the HDTV format demands, it's possible to electronically add more pixels to each picture.
With all of these resources available to anyone who wants to remaster older video into HDTV format, it's a wonder more studios aren't doing it.