Tideland – cropped!



Dreams: Visual Analysis of Tideland DVDs

…edited by Phil Stubbs


The release of the Tideland DVD has brought howls of complaint from many fans of the film. This is because the image on the tv screen is different from that projected onto movie screens. The article below examines the differences between the DVD releases, the cinema release and the original image captured by DoP Nicola Pecorini.

Read the latest comments on this story at the Dreams Messageboard

 was no box office success, and it offended a large number of critics. Yet the film gathered a core group of admirers, a hefty proportion of which would be guaranteed to purchase the DVD release. Further, the picture’s limited run would mean that the first time many of Terry Gilliam’s admirers would see this film would be on DVD.

It was expected that the DVD distributors would ensure that their release of Tideland would be presented with the full image that was released in the cinema. This was expected because it made most commercial sense for them to maximise disc sales by appealing to the film’s core fans who desire a release that shows the entire frame as projected in the cinema.

Sadly, many fans were disappointed. The four images below show the differences:

  • A still from the US/Canadian DVDs at 16:9. It loses information from left and right that was in the cinema release, but actually contains extra information from the top and bottom that was not intended for the cinema release.
  • A still from the UK DVD at 2.10:1. Again, this loses information from both sides, and there is slightly more information at the top than the cinema release.
  • The same still from Tideland that was released in cinemas at 2.35:1, displaying how much was cut off both the UK and US DVDs.
  • The Original Open Gate Image, upon which Gilliam applied masks to create the 2.35:1 cinema release.

Talking to Dreams in 2006, Gilliam spoke about the importance of the ratios in his films. He said, “We wanted to show the wide open spaces in Tideland, and we chose the wide screen. That was also true in Fear and Loathing – desert and space. Doing something in a city where things are much more vertical, I go for a less wide format. Brothers Grimm was 1.85 instead of 2.35 simply because we wanted to show the height of the trees.”

Soon after the disc’s release, comments came through to the Dreams Messageboard complaining about the disc’s ratio. Isaac started a conversation complaining that he was “highly disappointed that it has been cropped from its original 2:35:1 format to fit the standard widescreen ratio”

After several days of confusion and misleading stories, it became apparent that the UK DVD has been cropped left and right to a ratio of about 2.10:1 and the US/Canada version has had similar information cropped from the left and the right, yet more information has been provided at the top and bottom of the image to make a 16:9 image.

Dreams put these concerns to Terry Gilliam. The director’s initial reaction seemed to suggest that he had no idea about the problems of the North American releases. He said:

I mastered the DVD and decided that opening it up a bit vertically from the strict 2:35 looked better on the small screen. It’s probably about 2:25. It is the choice of the director. Tell the fans to relax. I prefer it this way.

But clearly there were problems as more fans complained. The US distributor Thinkfilm initially said the following:

That was what was delivered to us by Terry’s peeps. We are working with them on getting us a useable 2.35:1 master and we will plan another release then.

Thanks for your enquiry.

Marc Hirshberg
Senior Vice President

This was hastily followed up with the following:

A colleague passed the below email on to me. I handle all of the DVD Production at THINKFilm. I hope I can lend some help to your questions. You are correct that a 2.35:1 version is the most desired. We had in fact requested one early on in the DVD creation process; however, one was not created. Eventually, a faux 2.35 was created by the UK distributor, which ended up being closer to a 2.25 – a quick, but not complete solution. We are only in position to put out what materials are delivered to us, and although we all knew that the 1.78:1 was not ideal, nor true to the film, we had to proceed. We are currently working on getting a 2.35:1 master to work from and will plan a re-release when it is made available.

We apologize for the disappointment with the 1.78 version. Again, we will release a proper 2:35 as soon as it becomes available.

Dave Hudakoc

Then the following came:

The version in Canada and US is the same one. Think and the Canadian distributor collaborated on the project together and have the exact same thing save for logos. The American version is renting brilliantly out of the gate and has sold thousands in its first week out. This is a jam packed 2 disc fantastic DVD with tons of extras made especially for the Terry fan. YOU WILL LOVE IT but I am not going to force you to buy it.

We know about this faux 2.35 look that you refer to below. This was suggested to us about a week before we started shipping orders – obviously too late. What you are not aware of is that this was a PAL version that was going to be a simple standard convert and not from the HD so the quality to a fan like you would have been utterly disgusting and you would have been able to slam Think worse than you are right now for not using it. We employ phenomenal people here at Think that only accept the highest quality masters for use with our DVD’s so the experience for the consumer like yourself is the best it can be. You simply would not have accepted this shitty quality version even though it would have been a faux 2.35 version.

…go out and buy this phenomenal DVD and watch it. Then go and get the word out about the truth! If we ever do get a top quality NTSC 2.35 or faux 2.35 that passes the QC here at Think we will get it out on DVD.

Marc Hirshberg

Many thanks to theshadowalker for gaining these quotes from Thinkfilm and posting them to the Dreams Messageboard.

Responding to what Thinkfilm said, Gilliam responded:

The “faux 2.35” (2.25) was the correct version. It was the “complete solution”. There was absolutely no excuse for them to proceed with a 1.78:1 version. I think we have to get the word out NOT TO BUY the American version of the DVD. Just to be absolutely clear I mastered the UK version the way I wanted it… and the way Thinkfilm were told to match.

But just to clarify here, the director-approved UK version is at 2.10:1 and not at 2.25:1 as reported in these emails above. Having had time to examine the different releases, Gilliam later updated Dreams with the following:

The US/Canada DVDs are 16:9, also known as 1.78:1. They were supposed to be cropped to match the UK version which, for reasons I won’t go into at the moment, is 2.10:1 but, for reasons known only to ThinkFilm the instructions from the UK were ignored. From what they have written they seem to have a lack of understanding of how a 2.35:1 is created from a 16:9 at the digital stage or even from the original filmed material.

When I shoot I leave an open gate in the camera to capture as much image as possible above and below the intended final framing which, in the case of Tideland, was 2.35:1. It’s useful because I can adjust shots later. Sometimes, due to the speed of shooting, the frame is not as good as it should be. Having extra image top and bottom, I can raise or lower it bringing it into the 2.35:1 area. When we reach the release print stage I put a hard mask on the film to exclude everything outside the desired proportion. Same goes for the digital stage. It’s a very simple, straightforward procedure. Usually. Unfortunately things have gone arse over tit this time. Some of the keener eyes have spotted the fact that the sides have been cropped on all the DVDs. They have been sharper than I have been, And they are right. And we are in the thick of sorting it out.

So Gilliam’s last remark suggests that further work is underway to get a 2.35 (or thereabouts) version out in the shops in all countries. Sadly this is too late for those who have already been disappointed with their discs.

The German DVD release was presented in the correct ratio. A contributor to the Dreams Messageboard called defaude writes, “The bonus features of the German DVD have all English audio.”

Further, in April 2008, Nicola Pecorini contacted Dreams to say that the Italian DVD release has the correct ratio also. “The extras are really rich and probably the most comprehensive so far, with also a whole chapter on La Bottega Italiana di Gilliam, Gilliam’s Italian Workshop, with interviews with Gabriella Pescucci, Dante Ferretti, Peppino Rotunno and me.”

There is an Italian website for Tideland.

I have tried to present the information as accurately as possible. Please report any errors to phil@smart.co.uk

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Time Bandits