In the Jailhouse Now

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27, 2011

By James Wood

O Brother Where Art Thou?When the Johnny Cash song “In the Jailhouse Now” is sung by the Soggy Bottom Boys in O Brother Where Art Thou? I can’t help but tap my toes in enjoyment. The natural flow and rhythm of the music just brings a smile to my face. It’s easy to get lost in the moment when things transition effortlessly between story and music. Contrast that with an episode of Glee where the story feels like a tagged on afterthought to the musical numbers and the transitions between the two can nearly give me whiplash. Transitioning smoothly from one form to another takes care and artistry to do well, or it can be done with the bluntness of a banging hammer.

One of the hurdles in transitioning to the high definition, wide screen format is the different aspect ratios. The standard definition 4:3 aspect ratio was replaced by wide-screen formats, but not all wide-screens are the same. Most broadcast content today is distributed in a 16:9 (high-definition) format, and movies are typically an even wider 2.35:1 CinemaScope format. If every time I sit down to watch a movie I have to suss out the aspect ratio then punch a half-dozen buttons on a remote control to get the TV to display the right dimensions, that immediately pulls me out of the moment. I’m probably typical in that I try to find one setting and stick with it so I don’t have to mess with the finer bits for every movie. But that makes me feel like I’m in the jailhouse.

I’m constantly faced with watching TV and movies behind bars. Black bars on the top and bottom of the screen or on the sides of the screen (or both) help to preserve the original aspect ratio, but leave me wishing I had more screen space. All those black bars are just wasted space that could be filled with my movies.

Runco has heard our cries of anguish and come to the rescue with the CineWide technology. When projecting a movie shot in the wider 2.35:1 format (known as CinemaScope) it’s too wide for the slightly narrower 16:9 screen. Instead of taking the easy way out and slapping some black bars up on the screen, Runco uses advanced and proprietary signal processing to stretch the image to the full height, then adjust the width to fill the screen with a unique anamorphic lens system to maintain the same appearance as the original.

All the science behind it is fantastic, but what you need to know is that the awkward transitions are over. Instead of living in the jailhouse or constantly playing engineer with your remote control, you get to sit back and enjoy the show.

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