I came close to replying to Jan's email to the reflector (of 28th July), but opted to take the conversation to the forum instead.
Speaking from (just one) exhibitor's perspective, I'd like to make the following observations:
- In DCI Spec v1.2 Section 188.8.131.52. (Screen Characteristics) which was later moved to a SMPTE standard, masking is required to "tightly frame" the projected image and "is required to minimally include 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 image formats. Masking for other formats is optional." I'll confess that I haven't investigated the final SMPTE standard owing to the paywall, however the intention of the studios (in entering into VPFs underpinned by the creationof the DCI spec) was to recognise and preserve the existing and universal ratios, such that they could be assured of correct playback of content that was delivered to cinemas in those formats.
- The DCI Spec has provided two ratios (Flat and Scope), as being the two options for film distribution. I'm open to discussion, but full Container should only be used as a means to deliver content that can be played in either Flat or Scope. Naturally due attention needs to be paid to relevant 'safe zones' (just as 16:9 video production erred on the side of caution for 4:3). Obviously, which sides will get cropped depends on which presentation ratio is used.
- If studios (and the creative teams that they empower) wish to release feature films with bespoke aspect ratios, then they need remain aware of the down-stream implications when their content is exhibited in Flat (or Scope). The resulting letter- or pillar-boxing, and audiences' aversion to black bars, should to be part of the overall creative decision making process.
In an interview with IGN
, Jurassic World's director Colin Trevorrow spoke of the merits of the 2:1 aspect ratio. Certainly one of the downsides of the format is that the film only takes up 72% of a Scope screen's potential projected image area, when taking into account the screen area lost to the side masking and letterboxing;the dinosaurs are only three-quarters as big as they could have been. However, that's a decision that was made by the Director, and thus a decision that the exhibitor needs to respect.
Perhaps I'm being petulant, but I don't believe that Studios have a mandate to create and distribute films in differing aspect ratios without taking into consideration how their work will be presented to, and perceived by, cinema goers. Certainly they're welcome to use Flat or Scope containers as they wish, and I look forward to ensuring that my team and I present it to audiences as best we can, within the guidelines laid down in DCI.
I should of course conclude by saying that these opinions are merely my own, and not necessarily reflective of those of my colleagues or employer's group of companies.
In any case, I look forward to further robust discussion.