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Battlestar Galactica

Old 06-11-99, 02:13 PM
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Why, oh why, did they letterbox this?!?


It looks and sounds 10x better than it ever has, but they've cropped out valuable picture information from the top and bottom of the frame. This was made-for-tv (although it was released theatrically a while later). Who's the brain surgeon at Universal who decided to letterbox this? I want names!

Old 06-12-99, 12:08 PM
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Can you give an example of something that is lost? I am a fan of letterboxing in virtually every case and, since this movie was released theatrically, I am inclined to believe it was filmed with the 1.85:1 matting in mind. Otherwise, when it was projected, they could have matted it for the more uncompromising 1.66:1.
Old 06-12-99, 03:04 PM
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I checked the IMDB and it says that this movie was shot in 35mm and it's aspect ratio was 1.33:1.

I like widescreen too, but if it was originally shot in 1.33:1 it should have been put on the dvd at that ratio.

After all, one of the reason's we prefer widescreen is because of what we're missing when they pan & scan it.

Old 06-12-99, 06:27 PM
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If it was filmed with both the small and big screen in mind, the director likely framed his shots with his eye on a soft matting for 1.85:1. This would show more on the TV version, but not necessarily critical visual information. The same thing is an issue with the forthcoming FULL METAL JACKET DVD--it was soft-matted for 1.85:1 in theaters, but will be shown full-frame on home video. This means the people in the theater technically saw less image than will be featured on the DVD, but does that invalidate the theatrical version? Surely not. As I stated earlier, if loss of visual data was an issue, the film could have been projected at 1.66:1. It wasn't, which I think may be a telling decision on the director's part. Additionally, when I check the IMDB, it states that the 125 minute version (the DVD version, in other words) was the one shown in theaters, whereas a 20-minute longer cut featuring an alternate fate for Baltar played on TV, so in point of fact, Universal has chosen to give us the theatrical release version in the aspect ratio it was projected at in theaters It sounds to me like both versions are director approved, in a sense, but it may be easier to think of the DVD as BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE MOVIE, rather than BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: The Pilot Episode.
Old 06-14-99, 09:21 AM
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Also check out the sub track! Yes, they added a sub track to this. It could have been only in mono (like Midway) but they encoded a sub channel. The explosions and engines sound good...

It is good to see that they took the time to add this information to the presentation. I have a question, did this come out in "Sensurround" in the theaters? That would account for the sub track.
Old 06-14-99, 09:30 AM
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Yep. It was in Sensurround in the theaters. I remember being absolutely blown away when I saw it as a kid. I had never heard anything like it before. It was a very small theather and the low bass was actually somewhat painful to listen to, not that I was complaining. I haven't grabbed the DVD yet because its one of those films that I fear won't be able to watch my memories of when I first saw it as a little kid.
Old 06-14-99, 12:04 PM
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You write: "I am a fan of letterboxing in virtually every case and, since this movie was released theatrically, I am inclined to believe it was filmed with the 1.85:1 matting in mind."

I am also a huge fan of letterboxing (or, more accurrately, of presenting films in their proper ratio).

However, this movie was not filmed with a widescreen ratio in mind. This movie was released theatrically ONLY AFTER the pilot for the series came out on TV. They cut about 20 minutes out of the TV version and released it theatrically. The director and creators did not film this in a 1.85:1 ratio -- they filmed it with television in mind. It was never meant to be a theatrical release; that was a decision that Universal made later to try and squeeze more money out of an already expensive project.

In fact, John Dykstra (who did the special effects for this and Star Wars), has always complained about the theatrical release, saying that he designed the FX to look great on TV, but they were never designed to be blown up on a huge theater screen.

Anyway, the 1.85:1 bands aren't the end of the world, but there are many shots in the movie that are cut off or unneccesarily tight. I don't see why Universal didn't at least provide an additional "full-screen" version for those people who would like to watch the movie as it was originally filmed.

I guess I can still hope for the full TV pilot to come out some day...

Lots of details about Battlestar Galactica (including a great FAQ and other stuff) can be found at www.kobol.com .
Old 06-14-99, 12:18 PM
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This sounds similar to Total Recall. If you watch carefully, you'll see that the widescreen actually loses some image.

I've also heard that James Cameron uses a particular film w/ a 1.33 Aspect ratio, and that some of his films end up the same way.
Old 06-14-99, 12:47 PM
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Similar to TOTAL RECALL, yet different.

What you're seeing with TR is called "soft matting" -- it was filmed in the 1.33:1 ratio, with the director keeping the 1.85:1 ratio in mind for theaters. When shown theatrically, they matte off the top and bottom of the screen to create a "widescreen" ratio. For TV/Video, they remove the mattes, giving you "more" information (and more often than not, boom mikes, dolly tracks, and other things that you were never meant to see).

The difference with Battlestar is that it was never intended to be shown in the 1.85:1 ratio (if it had been filmed that way -- like Total Recall -- I would have no problem with the letterboxing). It was filmed for TV viewing, and then later released theatrically by the studio.
Old 06-14-99, 09:17 PM
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bboisvert, very good points. I was just trying to theorize based on the available data, but it's obvious you know a good deal more about the history of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA than do I. Your comment about John Dykstra seems valid considering that his work on STAR WARS was far superior in comparison. However, I do think there is still some validity to my theory. Think of it this way: even if the longer BATTLESTAR GALACTICA pilot was filmed with nothing but the 4:3 television screen in mind, Universal elected to turn it into a 2 hour and 5 minute theatrical motion picture, for better or for worse. They chose to project the film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, whether it was intended by the director that way or not; therefore, we are seeing precisely what audiences saw in the theaters, no more, no less. This is the theatrical edit of the pilot, so it would make sense that it be presented in the originally projected aspect ratio. This reiterates my statement that we must think of this as BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE MOVIE, rather than BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: The Pilot Episode. I do agree that a 4:3 presentation of the full-length pilot on the flip side would have been a welcome addition, but since Universal seems enamored with single-sided discs, and the fact that Universal has never released the pilot version on VHS or LaserDisc, I wouldn't hold my breath for this to be rectified in the future.

(I am still curious--why didn't they project the film in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio? It may have been unique, even unorthodox, in American theaters, but still possible, and it would have gone a long way towards minimizing the cropping of the original image. Oh well, I guess some things will always be a mystery... )
Old 06-14-99, 10:31 PM
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I was pretty young when this came out originally. How did it do in the theaters? It seems really unusual to release something theatrically that had already been shown for free on TV. I just remember watching it on TV many times, along with Buck Rogers (when is THAT coming out on DVD?)

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