If you’re at all familiar with this site you know I hold HBO’s The Wire in the highest regard. I believe that anyone who has failed to see even one of the 60 episodes broadcast between ’00 and ’08 has to answer for that. I also feel that anyone who fails to express sufficient enthusiasm for the series has an enzyme deficiency of some kind. But I’m honestly confused about the remastered-aspect-ratio brouhaha that erupted a couple of days ago. An HBO marathon of all 60 Wire episodes in a remastered high-def formt begins on Thursday, September 4th, but some are alarmed about the remastering process. It is feared in some quarters that the Wire‘s original aspect ratio (i.e., the show was originally broadcast in a standard boxy 4:3) has been cleavered on the tops and bottoms to render a 16 x 9 high-def version. Others believe that the show was originally shot at 1.85 and that the sides were cleavered in order to present the show at 4:3 between ’00 and ’08. I honestly don’t know the answer.
Here are conflicting comments from an HBO Watch thread:
Comment #1: “Actually the pilot is available in widescreen version too. You can find it on torrent sites. The Wire was shot on 3-perf 35mm film in 1.85:1 but cut in post to 1.33:1. I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t do a new version from the original negatives.”
Comment #2: “This is 100% wrong. The show was intentionally shot in 4 x 3 as a stylistic choice. Some shows that were originally released in 4×3 like Seinfeld and The X-Files were shot on film and had elements that could be later manipulated to re-frame to 16 x 9. Shows that were shot on tape like most sitcoms from the ’80s and ’90s cannot be. Some shows that only exist in 4 x 3 (like Kung Fu, season 1) were released on DVD in widescreen. This is terrible because the DVD producers just cut information from the top and the bottom of the frame off to make it appear widescreen. If this is what happens to The Wire, this is going to be bad news.”
Comment #3: “The Wire started in 2002, when there CERTAINLY WAS ‘technology’ for 16×9. DVDs had been released enhanced for 16×9 for years prior to this. The Wire was intentionally shot in 4 x 3 — this is stated in several interviews and commentary tracks.”
Comment #4: “Yep, but it was shot on 35mm film in 1.85:1 ratio, so they could retrieve the original negatives to create a widescreen version. While technically it would be possible to do so, practically it might be impossible depending what was outside the broadcast frame when they shot the episodes. Releasing a WS version might reveal C-stands, a second camera, kinoflows, etc. See for example: 24, season 1.”
Comment #5: “Like I’ve said in a previous (and not published for some reason) comment, Amazon Prime actually had the first four seasons of the show in 16:9 until a few days ago. As far as I know from those who watched it, no C-Stands or cameras were reported. The show was broadcasted in 4:3, but was PROTECTED for 16:9. So it’s doubtful really those kind of mistakes will be present.”