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Old October 21st, 2010, 10:21 AM   #1
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Want the Truth - Are Prime-Time Dramas messing with aspect ratios?

My wife and I notice it now on these shows as of THIS year (fall season): Castle, CSI (any version), The Mentalist, Law and Order SVU, Criminal Minds.

All of these shows now are appearing to be using some sort of change in aspect ratio (or concaving effect) to make actors and actresses faces and bodies look thinner. We noticed this about 2 years ago with CSI Miami first. Now it seems EVERYONE is 'faking' skinnier/taller actors and actresses by doing something to the video in post: 16x10? 15x9? No idea.

HAS ANYONE ELSE NOTICED THIS? I have searched and searched for evidence of this on the net and I cannot prove it and IT'S DRIVNG ME INSANE!! I know we're seeing this change incorporated now into almost everything!

Can anyone verify this nonsense for me?

Our TV is a 3 year old SONY Bravia 16x9 1080i display. Nothin' fancy now by today's standards, but a nice TV anyhow!

Please confirm before I lose my mind - there is a conspiracy afoot!

Martin & Nancy
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Old October 21st, 2010, 10:27 AM   #2
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Have you tried different display settings on your TV set? Zoom, etc?
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Old October 21st, 2010, 10:44 AM   #3
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Yes - have tried all that

Hi Bryan.

This is a provable event/alteration: if by any chance there is a syndicated version of any of these above-noted shows running (save for Miami-CSI) along side the fall releases from this year, you'll note the changes.

I fiddled with every setting on my TV when I first noticed this silliness with CSI-Miami about 2 years ago.

I am aware there is software called, "Movie ReShape" now 'officially' on the market (or soon to be public-released) but I think this stretching technique is simply a XxY alteration and crop.

Another TV show doing this is 'FRINGE'. For any Canadians out there, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" is also doing this now.

Take care, Prime-Time fans...

Martin & Nancy
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Old October 21st, 2010, 02:36 PM   #4
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Was "last season" shot in 4:3? 4:3 shown on a widescreen without pillarbars adds the proverbial "10 pounds", and probably quite lot more!

With the official HD changeover, they probably just are shooting in the "proper" 16:9, which of course would "skinny up" everything...
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Old October 21st, 2010, 03:30 PM   #5
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Will Prove This Somehow

I have set the DVR to record 2008 versions of SVU. I will do a stop film and capture on things that validate my (obviously nutty to some) theory that they are indeed vertically stretching.

CSI has been filmed in HD for ages, along with all the other Prime-Time's.

Nathon Fillion being interviewed on say, Jimmy Kimmel, is not the same 'skinny-faced' (or at best, skinnier-faced) guy you'll see on Castle.

I appreciated the theories, though! Thanks! Looking for evidence still. If the TV industry secret agents know I'm trying to expose their fraud, will I have men in black at my door? (If I do, I bet they'll be chubbier in real-life!).

Martin
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Old October 21st, 2010, 04:49 PM   #6
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I don't think your theory is nutty at all! I just don't watch any of those shows, so I have no basis for comparison.

I'd love to see screen captures, though. I do find this train of thought interesting, and would like to see where it takes you.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 11:10 PM   #7
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If they were doing this wouldn't you notice that the tires on cars aren't round?
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Old October 22nd, 2010, 04:31 AM   #8
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That's true. . .goes for any perfectly round object. I've used this to point out to other cameramen on live shoots with IMAGs that our cameras are set wrong when they otherwise dismiss my claim.


Anyway, a couple of things no one's mentioned, and I'm not saying you're wrong about your premise, BUT

-lens characteristics --- the telephoto end of a zoom lens or a longer focal length prime can have a flattening effect, while wide lenses exaggerate depth, which can make faces bulge out and look bigger

-lighting can be cleverly made to skinny up people by putting shadows in the right places

(these may be "stretching" it a bit, but I had to bring them up)

There is also a way to set your TV to do this weird thing where it stretches a 4:3 signal to fit a 16:9 screen, but no in the usual way. . .the middle stays correctly proportional while only the sides are stretched. It looks really stupid and I don't understand why anyone would do it deliberately, but it fits with your "concave" description of this phenomenon. Maybe stuff is being broadcast like this?

And I must say, Fillion's head looks pretty gargantuan to me on Castle.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 01:56 AM   #9
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I have proof!

Matthew & Josh: You are on to something and now we're in the processes of amassing irrefutable proof that the Prime-Time drama lineup of 2010 is messing with the X by Y stretch for HD TV.

Watching BLUE BLOODS last night and an image of Yankee Stadium was broadcast on the screen. We knew we had to check what the Yankee Stadium facade looked like in a real - non-wide-angle lens shot and see the results below: on the left - the image taken by my Sony F-707 straight on from the paused TV clip. on the right - a real shot of the same facade (or common facade features). What do you notice? The real photo shows a noticeably shorter window length for the 3 main windows of the facade. The letters "YANKEE STADIUM" are noticeably fatter (stouter) in the real photo taken at the site.

Side by Side - HD TV & Real | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

More to follow from what we watched tonight. Circles aren't really circles - a paused clip of a common lens flare will show .... plus

Door sizes are relatively common from house to house. The X by Y of the door should not be way out of line on the TV image...we have proof that the Height of the doors on Prime Time are exceedingly out-of-whack with the width - NO house doors display/measure like this...images to follow and calc's based on the images will prove the percentage of adjustment on the stretch-image being implemented.

Martin
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 02:35 AM   #10
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Hmmm.

I must say, these differences are minimal in the photo you posted.

Also, notice that the TV shot is taken from a slight angle while the stock photo is dead center. That slight angle (notice how you can see more of the sides of the letters on top, and the right side of that sticky-outy part with the three windows) can account for the slight "thinning"/forshortening of the windows and the circular thingies bookending "yankee stadium" directly above the windows in the stone.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 07:20 PM   #11
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I have been working in a studio where there was only a 16:10 preview screen for the 16:9 picture, and all the women were totally loving it. So I could really imagine that actresses on tv shows would insist on using a slightly off aspect ratio to make them look thinner... never believe anything they show on tv, it's all fake... ;)
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 08:00 PM   #12
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OT? Unattainable body images

If this distortion is taking place deliberately, it may seem harmless; but it's not necessarily so.

A friend of a friend completed a documentary a couple years ago, "America the Beautiful". In which, he explored the relationship between the body-image represented in these super-slimmed and heavily retouched advertising photos and the reality of the human body. What is sometimes being promoted as "beautiful" is not possible for anyone, even the models. See this google search for the most famous example.

The point of the doc: young women try to achieve this model of beauty, some get sick, some die for the trying. This documentary has been embraced by people affected by eating disorders, its analysis and message seem to ring true to medical professionals, patients, and their families.

I'm not really anti advertising or marketing; I've done a fair amount of such media production. I'm not really involved in the eating-disorder-awareness movement (there is one).

It seems to me, however, that everyone, especially those of us working in the creation of images of people, should be aware of potential connections between these portrayals and how they create unrealistic expectations, especially in girls and young women, of what someone "beautiful" looks like.

The director is still touring the doc around the country, it's worth seeing.
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Old October 23rd, 2010, 08:56 PM   #13
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I can't remember the link, but someone at an Israeli university had a program that would "beautify" a photo of a face automatically. Thinks like making the face symmetric, etc (Most people's eyes are not exactly at the same height etc)
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Old October 27th, 2010, 01:03 AM   #14
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CONSPIRACY PROVEN!...to be false - problem solved!

So I see a depressed horse and ask him, "Why the long face?"...

Turns out that BELL Satellite only broadcasts HD in 720p maximum, at this time. When we got set up - nobody told me this. I seriously thought that we were getting a 1080i broadcast. The satellite box allows me to switch to 1080i - which we did right away, thinking we'd be getting the best service/image/resolution.

Then the very wise 'outsourced' fellow told me the truth - 720p max. Once I switched the Satellite box back to 720p (instead of 1080i) suddenly the prime time shows looked normal again - no more semi-anamorphic stretching or whatever you call it. The actors now look like what they're supposed to. It's REAL subtle though - if you aren't highly observant, you might not catch the disparity between the two settings and the ensuing results.

Now does this have anything to do with my Sony Bravia not being able to display progressively? (4 year old beast - 1080i..NOT 1080p). Maybe, maybe not.

All I know is I haven't lost my mind and we don't have to consider a new TV any time soon.

I will be contacting Bell Canada (Satellite) to gently cuff them upside the head for not mentioning any of this to us in pamphlet re the box we're renting from them. The install guy should have known that we shouldn't opt for the 1080i setting if it can't be translated due to broadcast limitations as well.

Thank you all for your thoughts on the matter. It's been an interesting ride for us!

PS: CSI-Miami still frigs with the actors via a vertical stretch - we'd noticed this before we went with Satellite - of that we're still pretty sure.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 01:19 AM   #15
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Ok, I was convinced that you were going to give me an allergic reaction. . .cause you're NUTS!

But, watching CSI miami the other day, with a witness, I said. . ."hey does it look like the picture is squished wrong?" And she was all "yeah."

So, I give you that one. Didn't look like every shot though.. . hard to say. Definitely some shots.

So congrats, you have found another way that the TV is spreading its evil lies to us.

PS I don't even have cable, just regular networks. I got the HD more for my Xbox (hard to make the heads explode of that which you can't see clearly).
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