Earlier this year, Fox decided to remaster Buffy the Vampire Slayer in high definition.
They’ve been getting excellent quality out of the original film elements. But there have been problems.
Remastering tv shows that had been shot on film but edited on videotape in standard definition is a laborious and expensive process that requires finding the original high-quality film elements, scanning them in high-definition, and then editing the shots together in exactly the same way as they’d been edited years before. The result is the show as it was, except now in high-definition. Sometimes studios will opt to recompose the show in widescreen while they are at it.
This process was perfected a couple years ago by Les Dittert’s company Illuminate; their iConform software pours through countless reels of original camera negatives until it finds every strip of film that is needed to rebuild the show. Illuminate was hired to rebuild The X-Files and 24, and they’ve proven themselves to be exceptionally talented at what they do. And when they are asked to reframe a show into widescreen they make careful decisions about how to reframe each and every shot.
But for Buffy, Fox hired some other company. No one knows who exactly; all that is known is that they have no experience. It might have been outsourced to India.
Regretfully, the team doing Buffy – or some amateur on the team – doesn’t like wide and medium shots, and has been turning them into close-ups.
Naturally, the top and bottom of the image must be shorn in order to make the image widescreen, but the left and right sides are also being cut off for no reason at all!
Here is an example from an episode directed by James Whitmore Jr.:
The shots they’ve turned into close-ups can sometimes be seen as medium or wide shots in the “Previously on Buffy…” segments, so we know that it is purely a fetish on the part of someone on the team to discard the full width of the shots – there is no technical reason why the sides of the image are being discarded!
Some samples: On the left, the original show so you can see how much image exists on the sides – area that should have been used in the remastered version. On the right, the remastered version in which the sides have been needlessly cut off. These are the same moment, or within a split-second:
Other frequent errors include the team not noticing when scenes are meant to appear as if they are occurring at night. This scene in Buffy’s bedroom is set at night, but the remastering team didn’t notice and left the color temp and levels at daylight settings:
And sometimes they’re just making bad decisions about framing. Here, they weren’t paying attention to the action, and as a result all the comedy of the moment is gone. They gave Darla too much headroom, and as a result they cut out her playful lifting of her skirt:
Hundreds more examples of the amateur work are being catalogued on BuffyHD on Facebook. There is no question that Fox needs to start again, with a new remastering team – an experienced team, not the unnamed newbies who have been remastering Buffy.
Fans are hoping that some of the various directors and cinematographers who worked on Buffy will contact Fox and ask to be brought in as consultants.
Some pundits are saying that the pilfering of photos of female celebrities from their iCloud accounts “all emerge from a culture that endorses the idea that women’s bodies exist for public consumption.” Possibly. But there is another layer, I think, and that layer is the natural attraction people have toward one another, coupled with (or in opposition with) new technology in which one can feel as if they are in a relationship with someone who they have never met. The new technology I speak of is of course films and television (and even stage theatre), which while not “new” to any of us, is very new in terms of our species evolution – a blip.
As we view actors on a screen, we are moved by their performances, and we experience a simulation of the kind of emotional intensity that we presumably only once had with actual familiars. An emotionally intense relationship with someone may lead to sexual intimacy; this is, I believe, what has kept our species alive. This natural possibility of sexual intimacy with familiars is a possibility that is not, under any likely circumstances, going to happen with any of the actors with whom we have experienced emotions. Nor should it, since we are not really “with” the actors. But the simulation is effective, indeed, if it were not there would be no theatre, at least none with the emotional intensity of which we are accustomed, and there would be little interest in the publicity-related appearances of actors either, where we get to notice how multi-faceted the actors are. The simulation of being familiar with these actors is compelling.
Most people have the sense to realize it isn’t real; we are being given a performance, even when an actor appears for publicity-related activities such as talk shows.
It may be that the effort to get intimate photos of actors is done by people who cannot reconcile the emotional intensity they have had “with” these actors with the fact that their “relationship” cannot ever advance to sexual intimacy as it may have if their emotional experiences had occurred in real life with people who they really knew. The absence of the natural possibility may seem strange and unnatural – because it _is_ strange and unnatural – it’s art.
So, some people try to find a way around the impasse, hacking their way into elements that our culture equates with sexual intimacy – nudity.
Logic surely informs them of their error – they know full-well that they are committing a crime by stealing private nude photos, and that their feelings do not a relationship make. Intellect outweighs emotion in our species. It outweighs any natural desires. There is no justifying the crime; no amount of self-delusion could possibly excuse the hacking in anyone except the mentally ill.
But as pundits weigh in on how the motives of the hackers must surely be “vile”, I’d suggest that we not overlook how much natural, indeed “good” emotions may also be a motivation, albeit a motivation that should be undercut by any rational mind on examination of the facts.
Perhaps all of that is obvious, and that is why it hasn’t been discussed much. But in case it wasn’t, I thought I’d jot that down.