This from DVDFile.com ....
An interview with the Kubrick Collection restoration supervisor...
DF: Well, now on to the question of aspect ratio.
This is by far the most contentious area of debate
among our readers. Many are confused between
the aspect ratio Kubrick shot his films in, how
they were exhibited theatrically, and how they are
shown on home video...
LV: Very often, well, if you go back to Dr.
Strangelove, for example, he shot that in the camera
basically "full frame,." (Roughly 1.37:1) But you will
see if you look at the film that very often, there will be
mattes (Editor: Black bars on the top and bottom
masking off a portion of the image to achieve a
wider aspect ratio) in one shot, then in the next shot
there will be no mattes. Then the next shot there will
be, then the next shot there won't. With A Clockwork
Orange, it is basically 1.66:1, and that is how he shot it
in the camera, but from time to time you'll see that
there is a slight shift in his aperture (thus slightly
affecting the aspect ratio.) And that is just how he shot
it, and what Stanley had always wanted was a video
version of his film as he shot it in the camera, not
necessarily how it was projected. That was very
important to him. And he did not particularly like
DF: Well, to take The Shining as an example
again, many are distracted in the opening
sequence by the infamous "helicopter blades."
Because the video is not matted, you can see the
helicopter blades at the top of the shot. Some
have taken this to be "evidence" that Kubrick's
preferred compositions were not be transferred
properly to home video. To be honest, I, too have
often wondered about this and am distracted by
those helicopter blades! (laughs)
LV: That's just how he wanted it. And the helicopter
blades, for him, well...for him, they were totally
inconsequential. If I can just say to you, that for
Stanley each shot, each scene, stood for itself as a
composition. And if he liked something in that shot, he
would use it regardless of aspect ratio. I could
probably catalogue for you plenty of things like the
"helicopter blades syndrome" which are in his films.
But if he liked the acting, or let's say there was a
particular sound that he liked, if there was some kind
of extraneous noise and it was just there and there
wasn't anything you could do about it but he liked the
actual take, he would use that anyway. And that is
how he approached his work.
With A Clockwork Orange, now in multiplexes - and I
think it is terrible - you can only really project it in
1.85:1 or 2.35:1. If you project A Clockwork Orange
in 1.85:1, it kills it, it really does. It was composed for
1.66:1 and that is how it should look.
DF: I think some confusion is due to the fact that
films like The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut were
shown theatrically in 1.85:1...but not on video.
LV: That is because at the time (of The Shining)
1.85:1 was becoming an industry norm in the United
States, so what he did was, he shot his original
negative, then he made the interpositive, then for
theatrical release he would mask the interpositive,
which meant he still had the original negative in full
frame. (Editor: This is sometimes referred to as
"soft matting," where you only mask prints or
matte a full frame film via the projector, instead of
"hard matting" the original negative.) This was
also very important to Stanley. He was very conscious
of the fact that you lose I think 27% of your picture
when it is matted to 1.85:1. He hated it, he didn't find it
satisfactory. He liked height. (laughs)
DF: Since we are on the topic of contentious
debates, another issue for fans has been the lack
of anamorphic enhancement of the 1.66:1 titles.
Since it is possible to "windowbox" a 1.66:1 title
and anamorphically encode it on DVD, and it
would render slightly improved resolution (on
16x9 monitors) versus a straight 1.66:1
non-anamorphic letterbox transfer, why not do it?
LV: 2001 is the only title that is "16x9 enhanced."
With the 1.66:1 titles, it is simply because it
(anamorphically encoding them) alters perception.
DF: How so, exactly? I think this might be a hard
concept for some to grasp...
LV: How can I explain this? Well, here's an analogy.
Very early on - and you'll see this in the documentary
(A Life In Pictures) - on one of the very first features
Kubrick made, Killer's Kiss, he had an argument with
his director of photography on the film, Lucien Ballard.
Stanley had set up a tracking shot with a 25mm lens
and told him what he wanted. Then he later he came
back and the tracks had been moved back, quite a
ways from where he set them up, and he asked Lucien
what he was doing. Lucien said he was "giving him
exactly the same coverage you wanted, but with a
50mm lens which makes my job quicker and faster."
But Stanley said, "What about this change in
perspective?" And Lucien's reply was that t it doesn't
matter that much. Which is wrong. Maybe perspective
doesn't m after much to someone who is just watching
a movie for fun, but for Stanley, that slight alteration,
that change, means everything. It is the same as those
who get angry because The Shining or Clockwork
Orange aren't being displayed in 1.85:1. Well, he
didn't want that, he wanted 1.66:1, or full frame. End
of story. (laughs)
And originally (when video transfers were done) there
was no windowboxing or anamorphic, so it would
have been speculation on my part if I had done that,
anamorphically encoded the 1.66:1 titles. I stuck to
everything Stanley wanted according to his exact
specifications all the way through our working
DF: So what you're saying is that, in a way,
windowboxing a 1.66:1 image thus forces the
image to occupy a different space within the video
frame, thereby altering a viewer's relationship to
LV: 2001 is another example. In the cinema, by
keeping the original aspect ratio of 2001: A Space
Odyssey at 2.20:1, it gives you the height you wouldn't
have had at 2.35:1. And we wanted to keep that
original height just the way Stanley shot it, even if it
may seem so minor to some people. Better that than
squeeze it down to 2.35:1. These are choices Stanley
was quite clear about, so there was no question at all
about them in my mind.
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