The Great Pan-and-Scan Debate

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Friday August 28, 2009.

I read this post on widescreen vs. pan-and-scan a few weeks ago and couldn’t believe it. Why is this still even a debate?

I remember once, when I worked in television, hearing that the reason letterboxing was unpopular was because people who bought big TVs thought that they paid to have those TV screens be filled with picture. I laughed, as even before I learned anything about shot composition and framing, I understood that things were the way they were for a reason. That reason: the artistic vision of the person who makes the movie!

A lot of you know me as someone who puts together goofy movies that seem to have no point and you might think they’re a joke. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they’re not. But every time there is a lot of thought that goes into making them. The camera has to go here and has to be pointed in this direction. I have to shoot some test footage to make sure it looks exactly how I want it to look (I’m always looking for assistants to make this go faster, by the way). I have to check to make sure there aren’t things in the shot that I don’t like. Etc., etc., etc. I can’t imagine what it would be like if after all of that, including what is done in the editing process, someone decided to change up what I had worked on to “re-format” it to fit your television screen.

This video has some premier directors explaining why pan-and-scan is bad for the viewing experience. I think it’s a brilliant couple of minutes if you have ever thought to yourself, “who cares?” They care, and as a person who appreciates the work they do, you should care, too.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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