Essay: Why Buffy may never be Blu.

An extensive look at why Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a difficult path to Blu-ray ahead, and what needs to change for the transfer to become a successful reality.

Why Buffy may never be Blu.
by John Pavlich

In episode 47 of the always entertaining and informative internet series HD Nation, co-host Patrick Norton listed some of his personal choices for DVDs in desperate need of a High Definition upgrade. His final selection on that list? Joss Whedon’s epic, Horror-Drama series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This reminded me of the numerous times I’ve made that very same request into my Magic 8 Ball, and the consistent reply that would always return, “Don’t count on it.” With that, I decided to take a deeper look at just why we may never see Buffy get the Blu-ray treatment.

Hardcore fans may be quick to point out that the first two seasons were shot using 16 millimeter film, later upgrading to standard 35 for the remainder of Buffy’s seven-season run on TV. While this is true, it has no real effect on the Blu-ray dream becoming a reality. Such a format could conceivably be transferred to 1080p HD resolution. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974 being one example.

Aspect ratio could be a deciding factor, but is more of a simple judgment call at this point. Currently, Buffy can be viewed in Widescreen via both iTunes and the Netflix streaming video service, Watch Instantly. Not to mention, the Region 2 and Region 4 DVDs (Europe and Australia, respectively) are presented this way. One could argue for any of those options to be used as source material, but it would be a big mistake. With the exception of the famous musical episode “Once More with Feeling”, Buffy was shot for broadcast television during the late nineties and early two-thousands, the traditional framing format at the time being a more squared, 4 by 3. This is not simply a matter of purity.

When the complete series was re-released and re-packaged on DVD as The Chosen Collection, show creator Joss Whedon included a special note to consumers, explaining that Buffy was framed for the “full frame” TV format, and was always meant to be viewed accordingly, meaning you were never intended to see beyond the borders of this industry standard.

Before you go crying “foul” and feeling ripped-off, I’d like you to take a look at something. Though Buffy was produced using normal, wide picture film cameras, these devices have preset borders within the viewfinders and display monitors. They’re used to keep the director of photography from “coloring outside the lines”, making for a more centered and TV-friendly picture. Below, I’ve included two different examples of the same image. They’re from the Season Four finale, “Restless” (my personal favorite episode of the entire series).

The first screen capture is from the standard definition DVD, which itself was taken from the original, broadcast version, the way it was meant to be seen.

The second screen capture is the “widescreen” version, pulled from video streaming via Netflix.

In the first shot, the image stops at the trash bin to the left, and Xander’s shirt collar to the right. In the second shot, we now see a random row of chairs set off to the side in the background. That’s not the big problem. The big problem is the now present, huge stage light sticking out from a hole in the ceiling. Equally as distracting, is what appears to be a C-Stand just sitting off to the left side of frame, next to the bin.

Need something more? How about these pics of a frame from later in the same episode? In this scene, Buffy is making a case for her friends being a crucial element to her success as a Slayer. The camera then cuts to the image you see before you, of The First Slayer declaring “No friends! We are alone!” After those words are spoken, The Cheese Man steps into frame, breaking the tension.

Now, because of the widescreen enhancement, we can see him waiting off to the side, while The First Slayer is talking. Not only is this distracting, but it basically ruins the moment.

If that’s not enough to convince you that Buffy in widescreen is an ill-advised atrocity, I finally offer up the shots of this frame from episode eleven of season six, “Gone” (not a big fan of that episode, but I digress). In a few wacky steps, Buffy has become invisible. She uses this ability to manipulate Dawn’s file in a Social Worker’s computer, undetected. We’re given Buffy’s point of view, as her phantom fingers magically peck at the keyboard.

Once again, thanks to the misguided expansion of the frame, the effect is totally blown, revealing a mass of wires running out from under one side of the keyboard.

These complaints are fairly irrelevant though, since there is no written rule stating a Blu-ray release must implement the widescreen format. The real roadblocks crop up when considering how much time, money and man power a video distribution company is willing to spend. Buffy the Vampire Slayer may have been shot on film, but the post-production process was done using footage transferred to video tape. Editing, animation and optical effects were all applied after the image had been downgraded, so as to assist in a faster, more cost effective post-production period. This was ultimately the footage used for broadcast television. Coupled with massive compression techniques (squeezing four episodes of the show, special features and overly-flashy menus onto a single disc), this is why the eventual DVDs mostly look so, let’s face it, terrible. Too often, the episodes look like VHS tape quality, because they are VHS tape quality. Somehow, season four looks comparatively nicer, but that’s a mystery for another time.

By now, you’re probably reminding me of Paramount’s extensive restoration of Star Trek: The Original Series for Blu-ray. Unfortunately, a lot of special circumstances made such an undertaking possible. Star Trek is a cherished classic franchise, spanning more than forty years of entertainment, from over ten films and at least five television incarnations. Buffy, not so much. Though very beloved and popular within certain eclectic circles, Buffy still maintains a more cult status, not that there’s anything wrong with that at all. The 2009 re-imagining of Star Trek had a lot of influence on the series restoration as well, which resulted in a renewed interest in the property.

Recently, there have been rumblings of a possible revamp with a new film about the Slayer mythology. The difference here being, a potential blu-ray restoration of the series depends greatly on the monetary profit of the new film, if it ever does happen. Basically, it would be a proof of concept. Discussing this notion, it’s nearly impossible not to think of Serenity, the motion picture rendition of Joss Whedon’s other highly valued TV show, Firefly. Imagine what could have been, had Serenity proved to be financially viable.

Regardless, Firefly did eventually receive a Blu-ray transfer. Reason being, Firefly is a consistently popular title for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. If you’ll recall, the studio had no desire at the time to tell this story on at the multiplex. Thus, Universal Studios put up the dough and bought the rights to make Serenity a reality. Though the film broke almost even at the box office, the DVD continues to make up for such big screen shortcomings.

Firefly on Blu-ray actually shares a lot in common with Buffy. Whedon’s sci-fi western was shot in HD*. However, just like Buffy, the visual effects were done in post on standard video. Depending on who you talk to, the jump in picture quality is too minor to be a deterrence. Your mileage may vary. At issue here is the fact that all of Buffy has been reduced to the video format, not just the effects. For this to be a worthwhile endeavor, Fox would have to seek out the original film negatives, provided all of that source material is readily available and has been well-preserved. Consider as well, using the original print, a hundred and eight hours or more of footage has to go through the editing process again, including a potential remastering of both music and sound editing. Presumably, special features would also require a boost. I’m talking about more, new audio commentaries of course, possibly even picture-in-picture video versions. Roughly 32 commentaries within 144 episodes leaves plenty room for improvement.

I know all of this sounds extremely pessimistic, but I’m being more realistic than anything else. Fox has to ensure a high enough return on this kind of investment, and you can only hope to get back what you put into it. Rather than porting over the pre-existing DVDs to a rushed and basic HD up-conversion for a quick cash grab, long hours and elusive resources would be necessary to do this right. However, it’s not a hopeless pipe dream.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still a valuable and profitable franchise today. Conventions, colleges, essay books, comics and more all keep this material in the public consciousness. Cult or otherwise, there’s still plenty of lucrative product to be sold with the Buffy brand. What with the vampire craze at an all time high and Joss Whedon’s recent status breaking into the multifaceted, multimillion dollar mainstream, the iron is blazing hot and the time to strike is certainly now, if not very soon. Make no mistake, if 20th Century Fox put forth the right amount of effort, a proper Blu-ray edition could easily mean big bucks for their home video market.

So, with a little patience and luck, I think Buffy on Blu-ray could be very feasible in the near future. After all, March of 2012 is the 15th anniversary of the television series’ initial release. This would give Fox plenty of time to produce an amazing, definitive box set on Blu-ray, they would just have to get started, pretty much now. After that? Two and a half years provide room for an inevitable Blu-ray release of Angel, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Just like Patrick Norton of HD Nation, and the vast array of Buffy fans around the world, I hope to one day soon ask the Blu-ray question again, and the Magic 8 Ball to respond, “All signs point to Yes”. At this point, I’d even settle for a, “Reply hazy. Ask again later”.

*Correction: Thanks to Whedonesque member, Tin Ear Tom, I’m reminded that Firefly was actually shot on 35mm film.

45 thoughts to “Essay: Why Buffy may never be Blu.”

  1. Woah! I read the whole thing =P You made some great point throughout this whole blog, and I couldn’t agree with you more.
    I would be very open to a blu-ray box set of Buffy and Angel, and Widescreen would just look terrible! I really hope tyhey do it!
    Good work!

  2. Great article!

    I’ve also felt that shows like Buffy, Angel, The X-Files, etc will most likely never end up on Blu. At least not without a massive influx of cash.

  3. I can most definitely see a Blu-ray release of Buffy in the future. I think I read somewhere else that Buffy has always been one of the better selling series on DVD, probably because they squeezed so many episodes onto each disc and sell the series at a generally cheaper price than others. It will eventually make its way to the HD option.

    It’s just questionable what it will entail. Simply transferring Buffy to Blu-ray is different than an HD remastered Buffy series. Like you said, that is an expensive undertaking. I do not doubt that the sales would be there to compensate for it, but it seems to me that there are still risks when it comes to selling the Blu-ray format. The growing frequency of BR/DVD combo packs suggests to me that not enough people are going Blu. (I’m not sure if that’s what it really means, but it means that something is wrong. Back in the day, we didn’t have DVD/VHS comb0 packs.) Buffy will most certainly appear on Blu-ray in the next 10 years, but I doubt we’ll see any drastic improvements beyond what we already have. I can just guarantee that the compression will be a lot better.

    1. @Gospel X – You make a good point about BR/DVD Combo Packs, but I think it means that people buy those to have a wider range of options as to where the title can be played. But, as Blu-ray players become more affordable (I bought my Philips Blu-ray player for $97) and become the standard, default machine, I’m sure we’ll see less and less of these combo packs. Generally, they sell real well with Disney titles. You can put the Wall-E Blu-ray on in the living room, but the player in the Minivan is probably basic DVD, which is where that other disc will come in handy for the kids during a long car ride. πŸ™‚ You’re right that we don’t have DVD/VHS combo titles, but we do have DVD/VCR combo player machines.

  4. Good article!
    I always thought it will never hit Blu because of the 16mm film. I wasn’t aware that, besides the special effects, the whole series was edited on video resolution. That’s a lot of work!

    I have a similar question with The X-Files. While I own the whole 7 seasons of Buffy, I only have 3 of X-Files, because I’m waiting for a Blu release. Could it be possible? Same for Friends.

    1. @Mr.Floppy – I think it’s possible, sure. But, similar to Buffy, it’s a question of the format they decide to pull from as the source material, and how much money and time they’re willing to put into the restoration of that material, be it film or video. Much of The X-Files was initially a Canadian production, which often used different film speeds, frame rates and video formats from The States. Same goes for the UK. They typically run through film at 30 frames per second, versus 24 frames per second in America. This can give an awkward, sped-up feeling to the image, particularly during scenes with lots of fast motion and movement. For example, there are car chases in the first couple seasons of The X-Files that give off this effect. Luc Besson’s film, The Professional also occasionally has this problem. This probably means almost nothing for a potential Blu-ray transfer, it’s just something strange I thought of just now.

  5. Huzzah! Thank you for your eloquent investigation into the best series of all time. I sincerely hope that 20th Century Fox wakes up and smells the dollar dollar bills and gives the fans what they want. ‘Sha’mon!

  6. i love buffy, im actually watching the fourth season right now, and i agree with everything you said.
    but you started with “why buffy may never go on bluray” and ended with the opposite “could be very feasible in the near future.” O_O

    and i didnt get this sentence: ” I hope to one day soon as the Blu-ray question again”

    1. @leo – The important word to note is “may”. I talk about how Buffy “may” never hit Blu-ray, but I also mention by the end that it still “could” happen, just that some important changes needed to occur first in order to do it right.

      The weird sentence you pointed out was a typo. I’ve now gone back in and corrected it so it makes sense. Thanks so much for catching it! I wear very thick glasses, so I sometimes miss a letter or two. πŸ™‚

  7. There is good technical reasoning for no Buffy on blu. While it was shot on film, the sfx were not. They were done in video. The show was edited in the SD video domain. There is no such thing as a high resolution master to make a blue ray from to begin with. To put Buffy on blue ray they would need a new HD transfer of the original film elements, new HD sfx shots an it would all need to he really edited and composited.

    Star trek TOS made it to blue ray not because it was “cherished” but becausbit was done 100% on film in the analog domain. Doing an HD transfer was much easier.

    Many shows from the 80s and 90s and early 2000s are in the same technical bind.

    Babylon 5
    ST TNG

    The list goes on. If they could do blue ray they would. It would print money.

    1. @ian – All of those points are brought up in the essay (editing in video, vfx in video, using the original film negative for transferring to Blu-ray). I agree with you that it was easier to bring Star Trek TOS to Blu-ray, because of being done on film, but all the work and extra updating of vfx were done because of the show’s classic, beloved status and it was done at that particular time due to the renewed interest in the material brought on by the new motion picture.

  8. I will be surprised if Buffy does not make it to Blu-Ray eventually, but unfortunately, I will be even more surprised if it receives the type of cost intensive, loving restoration to full glory that you envision for it.

    Given the history of DVD to Blu-Ray transfers, my expectation is direct reprocessing of 360 to 480i (Its Buffy! But now in a BLUE box!). Since studios never tire of repackaging and reselling the same product to loyal fans who are hoping for just a little more connection to their beloved obsessions.

    Given that Joss is in the mix, there will be someone fighting for a higher quality product to maintain brand equity. But in the end, it will come down to who owns the rights.

    As the new Kuzui based Buffy disaster in the making and the failure to relight Firefly on a non-Fox network clearly demonstrates, this is not always Joss.

  9. Fix your formatting? I logged onto this and can’t read it as the text is underlaid beneath the left-side ads. I dinged two friends to ask them to check it out on theirs to see if it worked and they can’t read it either.

    1. @Alex – I’ve never had an issue reading articles on this site. However, it could be a browser issue you and your friends are having. Personally, I use Firefox, on a 16×9 widescreen monitor. I remember Internet Explorer having this problem all the time, which is one of the reasons I switched. Also, when I got my new monitor, I had to manually adjust my computer’s screen resolution and size to accommodate. Give those a try and see if that works. If not, you can always change it back, but I don’t think it’s something on this end, or else I would also be struggling with it. I would also suggest contacting the site’s owner, Tabz and telling her all about it. I’m sure she can help better than I can.

  10. “Coupled with massive compression techniques (squeezing four episodes of the show, special features and overly-flashy menus onto a single disc), this is why the eventual DVDs mostly look so, let’s face it, terrible. Too often, the episodes look like VHS tape quality, because they are VHS tape quality. Somehow, season four looks comparatively nicer, but that’s a mystery for another time.”

    1. Plenty of shows do fine w/ 4 episodes, special features, and animated menus per dual layer disc. Buffy suffers, at least in S1 & S2, from the lighting and 16mm grainyness working together to make the picture look worse.
    2. Not all SD videotape is VHS. VHS is a far cry from what is/was used professionally in broadcast circles. They probably used Betacam SP if analog or some form of a DV-based format (DVCam, Digibeta…) if digital.

    1. @Bix – 1. While yes, plenty of other shows do not have this problem, Buffy’s post-production is a special circumstance, in addition to the less than satisfactory work that was put into the transfer in the first place. I’m simply suggesting that the extra space on the disc used for these crazy, animated menus and some of the more EPK-style featurettes could be better spent lessening the compression and making the episodes look just a bit better to counteract against the video format source material.
      2. This is more of a semantics discussion, but let’s say you’re right. Perhaps it’s not VHS, but rather some better quality video format. Problem is, it’s still a poor image transferred from video, and not the original film negative. This is key, I feel. To do this right, and to make it worth it in the first place, Fox Home Entertainment should use the film format Buffy was shot on for their Blu-ray upgrade, not simply porting over the video resolution. That’s like using a copy of a copy to clean an image. Why bother? This goes for the 16mm seasons as well. Whether it’s grainy 16 or cleaner 35, both should be used for the process as they are both film and not third generation duplications.

  11. Angel on the other hand… would be VERY easy to put on Blu-Ray!

    Maybe they feel that Angel shouldn’t be on Blu if Buffy isn’t?

  12. I’m so glad people are at least discussing the possibility of Buffy coming to Blu Ray. I own the uk chosen collection and from season 4 onwards it’s shown in the widescreen format. I prefer this as I have a ws hdtv so in the early seasons there’s black bars at the sides which I find more distracting than the odd goof here and there. I’m usually so engrossed with the series that I don’t notice most of them anyway.

    I’m not really sure how big a following Buffy really has worldwide but it’d need to be pretty big to make the transfer financially viable to whoever is in charge of these things. From what i’ve read here and elsewhere it will take a great effort to do the transfer right and that’s what worries me. As previously mentioned I have the entire series on dvd but I’d gladly fork out the money for a Blu Ray transfer but only if it’s done right and not some half-assed effort to cash in on the die hard fans.

    I realise there’s not been any activity here for a few months now but I’ll keep checking in here just in case.

    Bye. πŸ™‚

  13. well,,,, my comment has been mysteriously removed,,, but i am still writing it !!!:
    “buffy is getting a theatrical reboot planned for 2012 ,,, so just like Star Trek : original series getting a blu-ray update ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    buffy will too, because vampires are ,, well just like one of my friends said:”vampires are the shit” ,,,, we all know that vampires are famous right now and buffy is a VAMPIRE slayer ,,and with buffy being NOW and not THEN and FOX will see the cult that buffy has and buffy will hit the markets on blu-ray at sometime in 2013 ,, 2014 maybe 2015, but atleast for now buffy will be in the movies (cinma) and if the movie turns out a hit (wich sadly effects the buffy series blu-ray chance because the buffy cult is declaring war on warrner bros. for the joss whedon less reboot and i say this with the most regret if the movie fales just like the original 1992 BAD movie buffy series blu-ray chance is low ,,, like never ,, but fox knows the success that the buffy series have so it still might get out on blu-ray,,,, WOW that was a LONG SIDEBAR) …. buffy is getting out on blu-ray ,,,,,, well,, that was long but at the end buffy is gonna be available on blu-ray soon

    thats right our slayer is goona wear BLU soon!

  14. The problem with the BD regime is that it is a
    resolution apartheid. BD should have been an
    open platform capable of presenting ALL native
    standards (in fact it is in theory but the regime has made your player and the disc manufacture prohibit this capability) allowing your screen remap whatever the native rez is.
    For example you cannot even buy a native 720p TV show or concert on BD they are all
    bumped up to 1080 before going onto the disc.
    The original SD masters of BUFFY has far more quality than the DVD’s allow due to regime policy of forcing too many episode on a]single DVD…take for example THE BODY you will notice that due its critical acclaim that episode on the American R1 DVD’s looks superb but the other episodes on the same disc
    look dirty and grainy because they had to steal
    bit rate from those episodes to make THE BODY look sublime. If BD had been all rez native respectful instead of a 1080 dictatorship
    the SD masters of BUFFY could have been given 2 to 3 times more than the max bit-rate
    they ever had on DVD plus LPCM sound on BD
    and with a bit of electronic clean-up or even without they would look stunning. Our best hope is an SD card or memory stick format that is all native rez friendly.

  15. Hi there
    an amazing article and heres to a Blu ray release!

    I have the UK releases which are in widescreen from season4 and yes the cheese man is visable in this shot!

    at least Buffy is on film and thereful easier to upgrade to 1080p as appose to classic Dr Who on 525 video tape

  16. If they ever release Buffy and Angel in Blu-Ray, I’m buying. Until then, I won’t even bother getting myself a Blu-Ray player.

  17. Although all your points are valid, they could just release Buffy and Angel blu-ray in the 4:3 format. Or this can’t be done????? I don’t understand much of the BD format, but it really has to be widescreen??? In some years and with the increase in technology, our DVD sets will be unwatchable.

  18. Honestly none of the examples look like deal killers to me, on bluray you could offer both cuts of each episode, I don’t see why he has to limit this to one version.

  19. @CIL They can’t release Buffy on a 1080p 4:3 blu-ray format because the editing and effects were done after the film was down-converted to 480p. They would need to redo the editing and effects again!

    1. This is true, as I mentioned in the essay. What’s interesting is that due to HD broadcasts on cable and also up-conversions on Netflix Streaming (which does make the show look better, since compression isn’t so much an issue), it could be argued that these iterations are enough of a bump in image quality, they would give technicians something to work with, so a Blu-ray transfer using that material could be feasible, in theory. Wow, that was quite the run on sentence. πŸ™‚

  20. I want widescreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want widescreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want widescreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want widescreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I already own the normal DVDs….and now…..

    I want widescreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want widescreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want widescreen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Hopefully the guy who wrote this still reads the comments. lol I done some research on this as well & found out seasons 2 & 3 were shot in widescreen as well. The first season, I’m thinking was also. I think if Fox really wanted to release this & spent a large amount of money to do so, they could easily edit out all the set lights, boom mics, crew and so on out of the 16:9 picture. Especially with the technology they’re using today in TV shows & movies. If this does ever get the Blu-ray treatment & is released in a 4:3 ratio, I won’t even bother upgrading my DVDs. IMO if a show/movie has a source that is 16:9, it should be released on Blu-ray that way.

    1. Yes, I still read these comments. Can you provide directions to sources you’ve found in your research that definitively state the master image to be 16×9? It’s possible you’re referring to the picture real estate that borders within the frame, which would be everything outside the Matte Box. As I explained in my article, the Matte Box is put in place to provide the crew a cut-off point with which they can work safely on the set and not be seen. For example, if someone with a Boom Mic needs to get in really close to an actor to pick up the best possible sound, the Matte Box will be used to let them know just how close they can get. After principle photography (usually in the editing stage), the person with the Boom Mic is cropped out, as that space was never intended to be used in the finished product, anyway. As I’m sure most folks have now seen the “widescreen” versions on Netflix, iTunes and so on, and either don’t notice or don’t care about such appearances, there’s something else to consider.

      When Joss Whedon talks about how the show was shot and composed to always be a more intimate, 4×3 picture, he’s referring to more than just what can be seen in the corners of the frame. If you frame a two-person head shot, say, of Buffy and Angel having an emotional argument about their relationship, the 4×3 aspect ratio puts you right in their faces. That’s all you see. You can’t focus on anything else. It’s up close and personal and you’re trapped, forced to witness the drama, and it gives more of a sense as if you, the viewer, are the exact same distance from their faces as they are to each other. If you do that exact same shot, but in 16×9, it gives you all this negative, empty space behind their heads. Not only does it just look plain awkward and like a camera man can’t do his job, but you start to lose that intimacy and emotional pull that draws you into their faces. If you have a widescreen shot like that, you have to pull back, away from their faces to compensate for all that extra space that is now onscreen, thus diminishing that closeness and intensity. This all may not matter to a lot of people, but it’s basic film language 101, and subconsciously what makes shows like Buffy so strong and compelling. In story telling, as is in life, it’s not just what you say, but it’s all in how you say it.

  22. I’m looking at the three example shots, and either I’m blind or you’re blowing this way out of proportion. I don’t think the widescreen enhancement ruins anything or is distracting. I actually saw season 4 to 7 in widescreen and I was really happy with it opposed to the American full screen release. I want nothing more than a bluray release, but they have to do it in widescreen.

    1. Short of drawing thick, red circles around the offending material in those images, I’m afraid I can’t help you. πŸ™‚ Having said that, I envy you. I wish I could either not see such things or be able to simply ignore it, in favor of the admittedly much-preferred panoramic, widescreen image. I just can’t do it. Besides, if a square is what the storyteller meant for his story to be framed in, it’s not my place to demand or expect otherwise. It would be like adding technicolor to the stark and striking black-and-white of Alfred Hitchcock’s, “Psycho”. As much as I like beautiful, vibrant color, I’d rather appreciate the original, B&W photography. I suppose what could be done is this: Provide the “widescreen” images on the Blu-ray release for Buffy, with stage lights and all (because it’s not as simple or cost effective to digitally paint out everything), but prompt the viewer with the option to watch the show in its original, 4×3 aspect ratio, thus simply cropping out what was not meant to be seen, which is what’s typically done in post production, anyway. Yeah, I rather like that idea quite a bit.

  23. I had the same feelings watching the widescreen versions as I did watching the OAR. I’ve also talked to many other fans that said the same. It’s not like they don’t have the money to do what needs to be done to get the show on Blu-ray. It’s just a matter of Fox/Joss wanting it to happen, and Joss could re-consider having Buffy in a 16:9 ratio if enough fans demand it. And from what I’ve seen that demand is growing. Here are links to caps from a season 2 scene shown in the Region 2 season 4 DVD set the first is a cap from my US set:

    Also the effects wouldn’t have to be brand new, they could just re-create the old ones at a higher resolution. If a fan on youtube can recreate vamp dustings from certain seasons it shouldn’t be difficult or cost a lot for them to do the same:

  24. Now that some people have gotten used to the widescreen versions, the only way to really make a blu-ray release work and to appease to all fans, is to offer both 16×9 and 4:3. There is no way around that the entire series (expect OMWF) was intended to be seen in 4:3, so that should always be available. I am an OAR enthusiast when it comes to movies, but I actually don’t mind the widescreen versions of Buffy aside from the jarring goofs every so often. Those don’t have to be digitally erased, but those certain shots can just be cropped a bit. And I know people don’t like cropped images, but those will only be for a few shots and won’t be noticeable.

    So in the end, release it on blu, either in 2 different sets or make both versions of episodes available on the same one. Original 4:3 TV broadcasts, and the 16:9 with the goofs shots cropped.

    1. A lot of people say they can make “pop-up” black bars to get the 4:3 & 16:9 aspect ratio. If they can make the menu pop-up on Blu-rays, they could certainly make black bars pop up. Even though I want 16:9, I think the black area should be some kind of Buffy type design like Disney has for their 4:3 Blu-ray releases. That way for people who want to have a marathon don’t suffer burn-in lines on their HDTVs.

  25. I agree that a Blu-ray using the original film would be great. I’m also fine with Buffy being 4:3 as Joss has clearly stated that this is the way he made the show to be viewed, but the whole scenes being too dark issue has got to go.



    Gentle Viewer:

    No doubt you are looking over this scrumptious BUFFY package and exclaiming “No @#$%ing letterboxing? Whutzat? GYPPED!” Possibly you are breaking things. Please calm down. The fabulous episodes of BUFFY (and that one crappy one, sorry about that, seemed really cool when we wrote it…) were not shot in a widescreen format. They were shot in the TV 4 by 3 ratio. Now I’m a letterbox fanatic, but not just because I crave th’ wide. I want to see the whole screen, as framed by the director. The BUFFY’s I (and others) shot were framed for traditional TVs. Adding space to the sides simply for the sake of trying to look more cinematic would betray the very exact mise-en-scene I was trying to create. I am a purist, and this is the purest way to watch BUFFY. I have resisted the effort to letterbox BUFFY from the start and always will, because that is not the show we shot. This is. So enjoy! Stop breaking things. You’re getting the best presentation of — let’s face it — the best Television Drama since MATCHGAME ’79. Bye for now!


    Joss Whedon

    1. To Joss Whedon,

      The original Star Trek was shot in 4:3 aspect ratio, and I have no problem with that. Most of the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer can also be converted to 4:3 aspect ratio on Blu-ray. However, “Once More, With Feeling” was shot in 16:9 aspect ratio and it is my favorite episode. I already own all 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel on DVD. The last four seasons of Angel were shot in 16:9 aspect ratio. I have a 1080×1920 60″ Samsung HDTV and 879 Blu-rays, some of which have multiple discs. I would really like Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be converted to Blu-ray and, if possible, also Angel.


  26. Everything I read above is old and should be updated, as we now are getting Buffy as an 1080i True remastered HD on a network called Pivot who has purchased the rights and WB is in charge of the remastring, I have downloaded the first 2 seasons and they look really great, there’s very little cropping if any and they are wide screen. So it is now possible for the blu Ray Treatment they are already in HD NOT up-scaled as Netflix has been doing these are true HD remastered from the original negatives.

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