TVLine Items: Joss Whedon vs. HD Buffy, Better Call Saul Poster and More

Buffy HD Problems

Four little words made waves in the Whedonverse this weekend: “Widescreen Buffy is nonsense.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon finally came out swinging Saturday against the HD version of his iconic series, now airing on Pivot. Originally shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio, the new 16:9 format is loaded with questionable changes, including awkward cropping, suspect lighting and even occasional appearances by crew members in shots, all of which is carefully detailed in this Facebook post.

A prime example is this shot from the Season 1 episode “Angel,” which — without the original, darker filter — makes it appear as though Buffy and Angel are sleeping in her bedroom in the middle of the day:


Here are Whedon’s thoughts on the matter:

That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

Ready for more of today’s newsy nuggets? Well…

* Some of the biggest names in music will pay tribute to Stevie Wonder during CBS’ Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life special, airing Monday, Feb. 16, at 9/8c.

* Brian Williams has renewed his commitment with NBC News for “years to come,” NBC announced in a statement Monday. Williams will “continue to lead NBC Nightly News and serve as [its] Managing Editor.”

* Patrick Duffy (Dallas) will guest-star on a March episode of The Fosters, according to The Hollywood Reporter, playing the father of Kerr Smith’s Robert. Additionally, Tony Plana (Ugly Betty) and Marlene Forte (Dallas) appear in several episodes as the Fosters’ relatives Victor and Elena.

* AMC has released the official poster for its upcoming Breaking Bad prequel series Better Call Saul, featuring the hottest pay phone since Serial:

Better Call Saul Poster

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  1. Et al says:

    I’m certain Brian Williams’ contract renewal had nothing to do with his daughter’s recent NBC endeavors. The timing isn’t suspicious at all.

  2. alistaircrane says:

    I agree that the original aspect ratio should be maintained. Buffy needs a BluRay release. Recent series like Twin Peaks and Batman ’66 were all remastered in their original aspect ratio–please do the same for Buffy!

  3. Brigid says:

    Joss knows his shows. You don’t mess with perfection. Stop it!

  4. DL says:

    Love Bob Odenkirk, love Vince Gilligan, and that poster just says it all. Can’t wait for some more Jimmy McGill AKA Saul Goodman!

  5. Kvivik says:

    Patrick Duffy is a great choice as Kerr Smith’s dad. Great casting!

  6. RBBrittain says:

    The headline is wrong. The problem is *NOT* “HD Buffy”; it’s *WIDESCREEN* Buffy. Batman ’66 was remastered for Blu-ray & digital in HD *and* original aspect ratio.

    • Lambsilencer says:

      “Buffy” was also shot on 16mm film in its first two seasons, which might be enough to get a HD picture out of it in terms of resolution, but the aspect ratio will always be wrong. This was a bad idea, and I’m sure they didn’t even use the film master for the transfer, but a high quality video source (Betamax). So, no real HD, just smoother picture, but it looks more artificial that way, not sharper.

      • alistaircrane says:

        Buffy in HD still needs to happen. Keep the aspect ratio but convert the picture to HD! I want a BluRay of Buffy.

  7. Olivia says:

    I agree with Joss.

    I hate that everything must be HD, widescreen, 3D and whatnot these days. It can work for some stuff, but some pieces should not be touched – Buffy being one. Like I don’t need an old movie to be colorized to enjoy it… it cheapens it, even. Just like if I want to see Lena Horne singing Stormy Weather I don’t want to put 3D glasses on, ugh.

    Buffy is still awesome and relevant more than a decade after it ended and I personally would NEVER trade its format as well as some grainy images during the first seasons for anything. I want to watch BtVS, not Avatar.

  8. Joey says:

    Oddly enough that image kind of works in a way, like the sun had just come up and Buffy had just woken up while Angel had just fallen asleep. Other than the fact that his face would have burst into flames with the sunlight shining directly on the side of his face…

  9. alistaircrane says:

    I have Friends on BluRay and it’s now in widescreen and it’s pretty awesome. But keep in mind it’s a multicam sitcom, so there aren’t exactly many artistic camera angles. There was only one tiny instance where the new widescreen format revealed a mistake: just before Joey and Chandler race through the apartment, you can see a mat on the floor for them to land on. It’s magically gone when they’re shown on the floor in the next shot.
    For non-multi cam shows, it’s best to adhere to the original aspect ratios.

  10. Drew says:

    This is nothing new. Joss has been saying this same thing about Buffy since the DVDs came out… I think there was even a note from him inside of them, but I could be wrong.
    Buffy wasn’t even shot with HD in mind until season 3. Wouldn’t seasons 1 and 2 still be of lesser quality? I haven’t looked into what changed and what that would mean, but I do know that they changed their process.

  11. Tran says:

    An HD version of Buffy should do just fine just like it did with The Wire (HBO).

  12. Fernanda says:

    I will never forgive Joss to not give us the anamorphic wide screen format for season 4 and beyond on dvd, just like the viewers from Europe. I’m still wait for Buffy on Blu Ray in HD. Right now, Whedon should think in a movie reunion with all the original cast.

  13. Brooke says:

    Surely they could do a HD remaster of Buffy but keep the original ratios? I’ve been enjoying some older things updated to HD – Alien on Blu Ray is breathtaking. The Sopranos season 1 looks very nice although not quite as impressive as Alien.

  14. dman6015 says:

    Everyone who owns a widescreen TV wants to see everything in widescreen format (HD or not, doesn’t matter). No one wants a smaller box in the middle of the screen, so the studios are happy to oblige (they’ll make even more money off the show), regardless of quality. Easiest way to stop it is to not buy the product.

  15. BradScott says:

    Just to inform people who don’t know, it was never shot in HD, it was shot on film which can be scanned at a higher resolution. The first two seasons were shot on 16mm which can also look great in HD if done right. Many 16mm films have been released on Blu-ray and look so much better than they did before. The original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre & Pride and Prejudice mini-series from 1994 are two examples of great 16mm transfers. I absolutely love Joss for giving us Buffy, but I can’t help to love the 16:9 episodes of Buffy. If the first 5, 6 or 7 episodes of season one can be opened up like the rest of the season & season 2, I would love them on Blu-ray in 16:9. The stuff like crew members, mics and lights can be digitally removed or the scene can be carefully re-framed if they spent the time and money to do so. They’ll already have to do that for a 4:3 release because there’s a ton of mistakes in the OAR also. The best way would to do what Universal is doing with Battlestar Galactica The Definitive Collection and release both 4:3 & 16:9 to make everyone happy. But that’s less likely to happen because there’s seven seasons and BSG is 2 or 3. I’ll be happy with either ratio though, if done properly.

  16. Some original team’s members answered to the new video “What’s Wrong With Buffy’s HD?” (available on Youtube). You can find Joss Whedon’s, David Fury’s and Steven DeKnight’s answers in it.

    Mark Metcalf (The Master) on his Facebook Page:
    “I probably should know more about this before I open my big mouth but
    from the little I do know Fox has made a mess of remastering the great
    work of Joss Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar and all the other
    actors, directors and technicians who worked on Buffy the Vampire
    Slayer. The show and the work were important to me at the time and
    there are fans throughout the world that still get inspiration from the
    little girl with the big wooden stake and her struggle for justice and
    a simple dinner date in a nice black dress. This is worth a look.”

    Aaron Miller by private message:
    “I was the post coordinator for Season 5 and we actually made a list
    of 16X9 fixes for every show that would need to be done when the show
    was remastered for HD. [Fox] definitely did not contact me at any

    Aaron Miller: “Here’s a comment from my post supervisor/AP
    that I worked with on Buffy. He was a post PA on Season 1 and moved up
    to AP by Season 6. He and I both went to work on Firefly so we did not
    do Season 7:

    [Brian Wankum:] Thanks for
    asking! I am a little torn. The true purists should only ever watch the
    4:3 standard def original release versions (exception being the “Once
    More With Feeling” which was intended to be shown widescreen). Not only
    is the framing as was originally intended, but i suspect that there
    will be lots of details in sets, props, costumes and makeup that might
    not hold up in HD.

    That’s for the purists. BUT… Right or
    wrong there is a large population of average Joes who just want the
    picture to fill their frame. The same group who 15 years ago would have
    preferred the center cut to the black bars on top and bottom. Would be
    a shame for a whole new generation to miss out just because they (or
    their local TV station which is more likely) got turned off by black
    side bars. I agree that if it must be done there’s a better way to do
    it. Season 1 was 16mm 4X3 so there is no way to make it 16:9 without
    blowing up the image. One of the things that bugs me the most about the
    ones I have seen is that top of show credits appear over peoples
    faces. We always had a rule to keep credits below the chin in closeups.
    Starting with season 2 we shot 35mm composed for 4X3 but protecting
    for 16X9. After we delivered the 4:3 air master I would sit down and
    watch the 16:9 version and take notes and do blowups and repos where
    necessary to avoid crew, equipment and ends of sets in shots. We called
    these the “16X9 safe masters” and archived them with everything else. I
    thought these were pretty cool to watch, the problem is when they went
    back to negative for the HD rexfer in this latest release it looks
    like they did not consult the original for either color timing or
    re-framing reference. I’m sure the stories and characters will hold up
    but it’s too bad more care was not taken. Nobody asked me, but if they
    did I would have loved to have consulted on this. Probably could have
    organized a crowdsourcing effort of comparing the originals to the
    re-transfers. Lots of crew alumni with lots of love for the originals
    would have likely participated. Maybe for the 4K/3D version?”

    He probably meant they started shooting 35mm with season 3. Season 2 was (super) 16mm.

    Note that the video was also shared by Kristine Sutherland (Joyce
    Summers), James C. Leary (Clem), David Fury, Tim Minear (producer,
    writer and director on “Angel” the TV show) and Nancy Holder (writer).