So, the story of Netflix right now seems to be that of a rental company that has grown into a behemoth media provider, mailing out discs and becoming the premiere streaming service not only in the United States, but in countries around the world. They continue to break new ground as they head into original programming, dropping new shows that circumvent the network and cable model of one sampling per week, by allowing users to watch all the episodes whenever they want. And yet, it seems that maintaining the integrity of the image of the many, many movies in their streaming catalog is proving to be a problem.
Starting to make the rounds this week is the Tumblr page What Netflix Does, and it’s a rather surprising collection of movies that have been severely cropped from their theatrical aspect ration to fit 16:9 TV screens. Not to get too nerdtacular, but anything presented in Scope (generally 2.39:1—think "There Will Be Blood" which you can check out below) gets unceremoniously chopped to 1.78:1 which is the ratio of TVs across the land. Or basically here’s another way to put it: you know when you watch a movie with black bars on the top and bottom? Netflix drops those out and chops the edges so it fills up your whole screen.
You could think everyone would have moved on from the Pan And Scan VHS days and gotten used to all this when studios (finally) decided to preserve theatrical aspect ratios on home video. (In the early days of DVD, when most people still had square box set TVs, movies were still rejiggered to fit those 4:3 dimensions). Either way, it might behoove Netflix to take a look at what they’re doing to some of these movies, because while some cuts are less noticeable, others are pretty egregious, removing big chunks of the frame.
Check out the Tumblr page above, but you can see two examples below of Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino‘s movies getting sliced and diced. (Side note: those examples do not affect U.S. streams, but international ones, but there also are plenty of stateside movies getting destroyed). Thoughts? Does this make or break Netflix for you or do you even care? (But really, if you give a shit about movies, you should be fighting to see them the way the director intended).
As for the company, they say that sometimes the "wrong version" of a movie gets uploaded to the service and that "we do not crop" and that they offer "the best picture and provide the original aspect ratio of any title." They continue, "When we discover this error, we work to replace that title as soon as possible." Maybe they need to hire some quality control to catch it the first time instead of waiting for customers to complain? [Flavorwire/The Verge]