Friday, March 9, 2012

Brad & Me: Our MI:4 Aspect Ratio Debate

This scene was stunning in IMAX.  Too bad people seeing it for the first time on BluRay are going to be missing roughly 40% of the image.

I’ve recently been in a little bit of a back-and-forth with director Brad Bird concerning the BluRay release of his film “Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”  For those who haven’t read my review, it can be found here.  For those who don’t have time to read it (or simply don’t want to) I’ll let you know that it’s a positive review and I love Brad’s films (does having a Twitter conversation put us on a first name basis?).  He hasn’t made a bad film yet and like all directors I don’t wish him to ever start.  However, I find his choice to release “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” only in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio on BluRay.  No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for a full screen release.

The practice of cropping films for TV is a relic of the past and has no place with todays educated movie lovers.  That said, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” had some scenes shot with IMAX cameras, which is a 1.44:1 aspect ratio.  Obviously if those scenes were to be retained it would look rather…strange, on a TV, because the aspect ratios contrast each other heavily.  So Brad has decided to just keep the whole film in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The problem is that this is going to result in 40% of the picture for these scenes missing.  And it doesn’t need to be this way.  Christopher Nolan shot several scenes of “The Dark Knight” with IMAX cameras and faced the same problem when that film came to BluRay.

His answer was to keep the IMAX scenes, but to crop them SLIGHTLY to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  This would keep most of the image as well as the intensity of those scenes.  The same thing was done with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (at least on the Wal-Mart BluRay) and “TRONL Legacy.”  I think this is an ideal compromise because when a director shoots a scene with an IMAX camera as opposed with a regular camera, there’s usually an effect they’re trying to achieve.  For “TRON: Legacy” the change in aspect ratio (combined with shift to 3D) represented being transformed to another reality.  For “The Dark Knight” it was to emphasize the scope of danger involved in the scenes.

For “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”…alright, I don’t know what the point of that was, but that movie was pretty much noise to me anyway.  For “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” the change in the aspect ratio represented a heightened sense of danger.  Without the ratio change I think some of that sense is going to be lost.  Now, Brad explained this to me:
Brad Bird
@KevinTRod What I'm saying is that the effect is NOT like seeing it in an IMAX theater, which forces you to sit forward. So I chose 2.40:1
Now, maybe he’s right.  I mean, he’s the director, it’s his film, and he has spent more time with it than anyone else besides possibly Tom Cruise.  I don’t want to undermine him with this post because chances are he knows how his film should look.  That said I’m a lover of film.  I own over 4,000 movies on DVD, BluRay, and BluRay 3D combined.  I can say confidently enough that I think keeping the aspect ratio change does more for the film than keeping it to just 2.40:1.  Sure, it won’t be like watching it in an IMAX theater.  But then, when are watching movies on your TV the same as the theater at all?

The aspect ratio change creates a certain effect for those screens whether they are on an IMAX screen of a 47 inch LG 3D TV (for example).  For years George Lucas keeps tinkering with his Star Wars films and insists that the changes represent the way he envisions the film to be.  I would like to argue that by releasing the “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” BluRay this way, Brad is doing an alteration to the film.  And while both these men may be in their right to make these choices, I just have to say I disagree.  I prefer watching movies as close to how they were originally shot as possible.  I think most people do.  And for that reason, I’m not sure I can buy the BluRay release of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”


Because I like being fair, Brad did say this to me after I published the above article:

BTW, , I'm not opposed to a part IMAX Blu ray, it's just not the way I chose to have it seen @ home. If enough ask, it may happen.

So, there you have it.  If enough people ask it may happen.  So I end this article saying that I respect his point of view, thank him for conversing with me on this issue, and politely say that I think I prefer to wait for that release.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I have the exact same thoughts as you and have tried communicating with Brad on Twitter myself but to no avail.

As a member of the forums I started a poll, in hopes to drum up enough interest that Brad will change his mind or include the IMAX scenes in a future release.

Go here and vote if you would like! Thanks for your efforts :)