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Paul Naure

[Anime Preservation] Movies in 4:3 cropped to 16:9

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Before the mid 2000's anime movies were often drawn in the 4:3 format.

Since then, it seems that a lot of them have been remastered in the 16:9 format simply by cropping the height of the frame, effectively removing 25% of the picture.

In my experience the information online about original aspect ratios is often non-existent or incorrect. Only previous editions (on VHS/LD/DVD) or old illustrations and a bit of detective work may reveal if the frame has been altered or not.

 


Example 1 : Urusei Yatsura Movie 2 Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
The older DVD (on the left) clearly shows a bigger frame in 4:3 than the bluray in 16:9 (on the right).

Y8b4XPo.jpg

 

 

Example 2 : Five Star Monogatari (1989)
A scanned artbook features still shots in 4:3 (on the left) that we can compare to the visibly cropped 16:9 bluray (on the right).

CaNlKkC.jpg

 


Example 3 : Towards the Terra (1980)
An unused bonus scene reveals an original aspect ratio of 4:3 (on the left), while the 16:9 bluray (on the right) exhibits characters' heads awkwardly cut off in many shots.

i6slSrC.jpg

 

 


It should be obvious that a well composed frame in 4:3 usually becomes unbalanced and even incoherent when cropped to 16:9.
Are these movies remastered and cropped for good or do you think the originals are kept untouched by the right owners ?


Animation is an important art form which history ought to be preserved with a higher degree of fidelity, and I can see no legitimate argument for such an act of cultural barbary.

As a comparison, painting restorations would never start by trimming one quarter of the canvas !

Imagine this :

Spoiler

 

11MJZG9.jpg

 

 

 

This should be at least a bit worrying for any enthusiast caring about japanese animation history.
So I'd like to hear from those who don't mind black side bars on their display and genuinely feel concerned by the issue.
What are some anime movies you suspect (or you know) to have been cropped ?
 

 

List of 4:3 movies cropped to widescreen :

 

Five Star Monogatari (1989)

Genma Taisen - Harmagedon (1983)
Robot Carnival (1987)

Roujin Z (1991)
Sirius no Densetsu (1981)

Towards the Terra (1980)

Urusei Yatsura Movie 2 Beautiful Dreamer (1984)

Windaria (1986)
 

From TV Series :

 

Kimagure Orange Road Movie - Ano Hi ni Kaeritai (1988)

Ranma 1/2 Movies (1991 - 1994)

Sailor Moon Movies (R - S - SuperS) (1993-1995)

Saint Seiya Movies (1987-1989)

Edited by Paul Naure
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If I'm not mistaken, Viz Media also did the same with their dub of the Sailor Moon R movie. The old dub release was left as is in fullscreen.

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You may notice that even the 4:3 is cropped. Take a look at your first example, where the 16:9 clearly shows more on the sides despite losing part of the top and bottom. The reason for this is that the original was neither 4:3 or 16:9 but rather something inbetween such as 5:4.

 

What sucks is that in your second comparison, the Blu-ray has lost a ton of detail due to shitty filtering... Which unfortunately is common among "remastered" aka "upscaled" Blu-ray releases.

 

As for cutting off heads, that is just because they took the lazy approach and simply cropped the entire thing as-is. In Dragon Ball Z, for the Blu-ray, they claim to have went scene by scene adjusting frames to ensure heads weren't cut off in the cropping by moving them around. I haven't thoroughly checked to confirm they did a good job or not though.

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On 19/3/2018 at 1:16 AM, ElementalCards said:

If I'm not mistaken, Viz Media also did the same with their dub of the Sailor Moon R movie. The old dub release was left as is in fullscreen.

Thank you, you're right and the other movies Sailor Moon S and SuperS appear to have suffered a similar fate. It would seem that most movies derived from TV series were drawn in 4:3 (not always true though) and many of them have been cropped on Bluray or even DVD. Maybe I'll try to build a list that I'll add to the first post, hopefully with your help.

 

 

 

On 19/3/2018 at 1:35 AM, Koby said:

You may notice that even the 4:3 is cropped. Take a look at your first example, where the 16:9 clearly shows more on the sides despite losing part of the top and bottom. The reason for this is that the original was neither 4:3 or 16:9 but rather something inbetween such as 5:4.

 

You're right, the subject is a bit more complicated than 4:3 versus 16:9 since animation of this era was most likely shot with 35mm film which has a standard aspect ratio of 1.375, a bit wider than 1.33 (4:3). One way to confirm the format would be to look at original layouts that displays the border of the frame unequivocally.
For example Dragon Ball Z does appear to be drawn in 1.375 :

Spoiler

ygqB8bK.jpg

 

 

So, taking the bigger width of Beautiful Dreamer's bluray as a basis to draw a 1.375 film frame we can ‎speculate that even the DVD has been slightly cropped both horizontally and vertically. (also notice the cut off head in the bluray, again) :

Spoiler

o8TXFd5.gif

 

 

 

A similar problem exists for widescreen movies : 35mm film was also commonly used with an anamorphic lens to shoot in 1.85 format which is also a bit wider than 16:9 (1.78). That's why old widescreen movies that are released on bluray should also have a bit of letterboxing, and fortunately most of the great classics do (Ghibli movies, Akira, Venus Wars, and others).
But looking at Tenshi no Tamago (1985) by Mamoru Oshii, which is a widescreen movie (confirmed by storyboard documents), the bluray is fullscreen 1920*1080 with no letterboxing and probably slighly cropped horizontally. But it's hard to say for sure.


So really, the heavy butchering occurs when non-widescreen movies are unashamedly cropped to 16:9 (a real insult to the original animation artists by the way).

 

 

 

On 19/3/2018 at 1:35 AM, Koby said:

What sucks is that in your second comparison, the Blu-ray has lost a ton of detail due to shitty filtering... Which unfortunately is common among "remastered" aka "upscaled" Blu-ray releases.

 

I totally agree about unwelcomed filtering and I originally planned to create two other separate discussions about anime preservation : one about film grain reduction and other 'enhancing' filters, and another one about the state of original production archiving (or lack thereof) due to celluloid and key animation drawings being inconsiderately sold worldwide. Along with the cropping problem, I think these issues are going to induce major facepalming once japanese animation appreciation will achieve academic recognition in the near future.

 

 

To stay on topic, Windaria (1986) is another movie I was suprised to discover was not widescreen (thanks to a series of still shots in an artbook).

There is a widescreen english DVD and also a 4:3 italian DVD (that I almost bought) but sadly that one is also zoomed in and cropped quite severely :

tZJiBFQ.jpg

No Bluray yet though, so there's still some hope

 

 

The next one I will look into is Roujin-Z (1991) since I'm not so sure it's really a widescreen movie.

Would any of you have some info on this one ?

 

Edited by Paul Naure

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In regards to Sailor Moon movies, here are some screenshots for comparison:

Spoiler

Italian DVD 1   vs   Italian DVD 2   vs   Japanese Blu-Ray

Movie_DVD_IT_1.png Movie_DVD_IT_2.png Movie_BD_JP.png

 

I modified them to be in about the same resolution

I did not add Japanese and US DVDs because they have the same aspect ratio as one of the Italian DVDs, but with more compression artifacts.

 

Could also note that the BDs have all the film grain removed, but at least it was done better than in TV series. On the down side, the better results suggests that they had better masters and could possibly have produced reasonable quality video with grain intact.

Edited by Hark0n
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This shit is heart-breaking. The extreme close ups of character's faces for time saving purposes are now even more uncomfortable.

 

Also (generally speaking) why are Italian DVDs so popular/different from other DVDs? I usually read groups preferring Italian sources for animation for one reason or another.

Edited by EmptyBasket

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On 5/16/2018 at 9:36 PM, EmptyBasket said:

This shit is heart-breaking. The extreme close ups of character's faces for time saving purposes are now even more uncomfortable.

I agree, heads are being cut off in closeups, many shots look ridiculously cramped.

We're living crucial times where perishable works of art are being captured into digital format to be preserved for all eternity, but we're not doing a good job at it.

Probably because there is no financial motivation to do so.
And the original copies won't last forever to be re-scanned properly, if they do exist still...
I've seen a short documentary on the remastering of an old Hitchcock movie : they were considering scanning it in 4K but as it would have taken a week to do so, they scanned it in 2K and that took 2 days instead. Nobody cares perhaps but I find this appalling and depressing, really.

 

Anyway, I've started a simple blog in order to list cropped anime movies with comparison screenshots.
So far I've added :

Roujin Z (1991)
Sirius no Densetsu - Sea Prince & The Fire Child (1981)
Robot Carnival (1987)

I'll slowly add those already mentioned here, and unfortunately a lot more...
Once completed, I hope it could be a good reference to help raise awareness of the issue among classic anime enthusiasts.
 

 

 

On 3/25/2018 at 12:35 PM, Hark0n said:

Could also note that the BDs have all the film grain removed, but at least it was done better than in TV series. On the down side, the better results suggests that they had better masters and could possibly have produced reasonable quality video with grain intact.

Thank you for the screenshots. The 2nd italian DVD looks really beautiful, too bad it has been cropped.

The Japanese Bluray seems badly color corrected and, as always with film grain removal, the background (which is usually not made of solid colors) has totally lost its details and its charm.

I've also seen the comparison screenshots of the new Cardcaptor Sakura remaster, the frame is bigger and that's great but the backgrounds are totally smoothed out and without life, again due to film grain removal.

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