Obviously, the open matte is not as necessary for HDTV or broadcast television in the future as it was a few years ago. The digital technology now suggests that it is a somewhat antiquated process and one that will become obsolete. Some major directors may choose to utilize it for a final theatrical release as well as a home video release.
An open matte is a process whereby the full film frame is projected virtually without any panning or scanning. This means that there is not the need for any special matting strips or framing lines on the screen. Instead, the image is placed directly on the screen with whatever aspect ratio (horizontal or vertical) that the filmmaker prefers. This is, however, a very time consuming process, and the result is not stable (this term comes from the old days when movie projectors were poorly calibrated and lazy film editors constantly tinkered with the picture). Historically, the image on an open matte theatrical print had a noticeable amount of softness due to the bulk of material that was not present on the original blocking print or given away to the projectionist. Open matte enthusiasts have compensated for this by some rather heroic measures, including:
- rolling or peeling the image back one or more times, sometimes several times with the paper in different configurations, to also eliminate the excess. This does not always work as well as it should, but can furnish the film with quite a bit of extra image.
Adjusting the film frames back to the correct aspect ratios is time consuming, and is best accomplished by those with some theatrical camera and grade department experience. Open matte is the precursor to the dreaded "pan and scan" method. Many of the early television programs made specifically for the emerging medium pan and scan, in which the original framed image is placed on a reversible base so that only the desired cropped section is printed as a pan and scan. This is now considered an archaic process within the industry, and it is certainly outdated in today's world of HDTV and digital cinema. d2c66b5586