Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

BTTF DVD Framing Fiasco

the problem

Question. What's wrong with the widescreen version of the BTTF DVD?
Answer. The digital transfers for BTTF Parts II & III discs (not BTTF I) are flawed- they have framing errors. The most obvious example has been the resizing scene: the famous futuristic jacket scene at 08:13
What you see in this capture is the widescreen DVD image superimposed over a Laserdisc image of the same screenshot. The red border shows how much you lose. This shows how the DVD frame needed to be moved down to show Doc pushing the button on Marty's jacket, and also show the cuffs 'shrinking' to fit (an expensive prop to film for something that gets cut out of the frame!).

Q. What, that's IT!?
A. This is NOT the only example, but this is one of the most blatant. Most of the obvious framing errors are: too much space above the actors' heads; and not being able to see visual cues near the top, or especially near the bottom of the TV screen (props, writing in the background, etc). After seeing the normal VHS or laserdisc versions many times, you will notice in the anamorphic enhanced letterbox version (item 22121, or 9030279) various small things that should've been in the frame, yet were excluded due to the bad framing.

Q. Is it really that bad?
A. Yes. The widescreen version is watchable, but it's just the odd annoying thing here and there that you know should be in the frame, yet is not. These mistakes often miss out jokes or details that relate directly to the story.

Q. How much footage of BTTF II and III are affected?
A. According to a reply by Universal, there is "approximately 2 minutes of misframed footage in BTTF II, and 4 minutes in BTTF III". However, at best, this is blissful ignorance of the facts, and at worse, it is a collection of deceitful lies. There are many, many examples of misframed shots that are coming to light almost weekly. Almost every scene throughout the whole of the movies is affected to some degree, most with around 15% of the picture being cropped off, but some have up to 18% error to the left and 25% at the bottom (38% total!). Obviously nobody is willing or able to check everything in slow motion, but of over 20 random scenes that have been checked, only one or two of them appear the same (assuming a tolerance of 5 pixels). That could be an average of anything up to 100 minutes!


Examples from Part II
Check out the hoverboard and button!
Lorraine and Jennifer in the 2015 McFly house.
Tannen stealing the time machine

Doc Brown's lab in the alternate 1985
The casino matchbook frisbee distraction
Another bad one with the flying DeLorean
Young Biff talks to Old Biff in 1955
The hover-board is cut off in the chase

Examples from Part III
See the lampshade in the mansion?
The futuristic Nike shoes at the drivein!
On horseback talking about the ravine
They try liquor from the saloon as gas
Indian map at the 1885 train station
Strickland starts the Hill Valley festival
Clara gives Emmett a nasty slap!
Seamus trades the gun for a hat!
Pushing with the steam locomotive.
Back home in the timeline with the new car

Q. I don't think my copy is affected though... Are there some good copies that slipped through?
A. Yes, your copy must be affected. The same visual master source was used everywhere. Every single copy of the DVD from every batch in all regions (R1/R2/R3/R4, and maybe R5, PAL/NTSC/SECAM) are affected. The misprint was not corrected until the end of May 2003, even though it was noticed and reported back in September 2002. (it is currently unconfirmed whether the rerelease from 2005, or the 2009 Special Edition, are affected)

Q. Is the "pan & scan" version affected?
A. No. The 4:3 fullscreen/pan & scan version shows the entire frame (similar to the LD image underneath the DVD image in the above picture), and thus is unaffected by the misframing, even if it does look a little ugly.

Q. But shouldn't I be seeing MORE in the widescreen version??
A. Normally, yes. However BTTF is not like most movies in that it was filmed in a soft matte format where the full frame is "matted" (covered, horizontal 'black bars' on the top and bottom) to achieve a 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio. The photography of the shots was composed for a cinematic widescreen ratio (OAR), even though the print might actually contain 4:3 information. It is important not to confuse "more" with "all" or "better". When the film is released on Pan 'N' Scan, the film is unmatted (some films are unmatted for P&S, most aren't AFAIK). Thus you see more of the picture vertically, but this is usually not the way the director intended. Most of the time the director prefers the widescreen framing of his film. This process can often reveal the intrusion of filming equipment such as boom-microphones at the top of the screen.

Q. Is "Framing Fiasco" an official name for this?
A. Yes and No. The studios have been hushing up the situation, but the name itself is taken from the words of trilogy producer and writer Bob Gale in an online chat. He has also said that he went "ballistic" over the misframing, called them "idiots", and said that it might make him "run to the projection booth to complain". The official statements have been downplaying the slip-up, using words like "minor" and "updated", but don't be fooled!

Q. I see. Is there anything else wrong with the discs?
A. Actually, yes there is. There is also garbled sound at numerous chapters in Part II, and the theatrical trailers that are included are wrong (4:3 instead of the original 1.85:1), buggy menus, and frequent freezing and crashing with some of the extra features (Michael J. Fox commentary and Animated Anecdotes). The French language audio track is also out of sync in Part III. The latest rumours also indicate that in euro Part III, many scenes have inconsistent brightness before the layer transition at time 68:46 (dubbed the "Darkness Disaster" by fans)... Stay tuned for news of the V3s in November!

the solution

Q. Is the framing problem being fixed?
A. Luckily, yes! Universal are exchanging BTTF parts II and III (BTTF I is already correct). You can contact them via a freecall number (see table), and depending on zone (North America or Europe), they will send you a prepaid envelope in the mail, and you can put the discs in and return them at no cost to yourself (alternatively, if you want to cut out this wait, you could post them yourself for around 60�). They will then send you out the two new fixed discs after a couple of weeks or so. You have to include:

Unless you live in Britain, in which case you do not need to send the discs back, and need only produce a receipt or proof of purchase.
Email (all regions): universalstudios&dreamworks@leemarketing.com and contactus@ustudios.com and also universal_hvs@archway.com
USA Canada Australia New Zealand
(888) 703-0010
(972) 293-5903
(1-866) 532-2202
(416) 495-3485
02-9207-0500 0-9-375 7740
Back to the Future DVD Returns
PO Box 224468
Dallas, Texas 75260
melissa.mcgee@unistudios.com
Customer Service Co-ordinator, Universal/Alliance Atlantis Home Video.
BTTF Exchange
UPA Customer Service
25 Hickson Road, PO BOX 17
MILLERS POINT NSW 2000
BTTF Exchange / Customer Service
Universal Pictures Video NZ
PO Box 617
Auckland
UK/Ireland Germany Netherlands Spain (Portugal?)
(+44) 208 910 5000 (Sue Black)
08705 900 909
+ 49 40 35008 01
T: +49 40 35008 357
F: +49 40 35008 360
020-5711 000 91 221 73 33
Lucy.Smith@umusic.com
Stephen.Farrell@unistudios.com
Customer Services, Universal Music
Chippenham Drive, Kingston
Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK10 0AT, England
Universal Pictures
Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse 93
D-20355 Hamburg
info@universal-pictures.de
christine.slock@unistudios.com
Universal Pictures
Hobbemastraat 20
1071 ZC
Amsterdam
info@universalpicturesiberia.es
tragma.universal@arrakis.es
TRAGMA Log�stica,
C/ Linneo
13 Local, 28005 MADRID
France Italy Norway Poland
+ 33 1 44 41 94 94 ? (06) 36.71.01 815 32 221 + 48 22 675 7860 ?
+ 48 22 811 8061 ?
Frederic.Troncy@unistudios.com Universal Pictures (Italy)
Viale Giulio Cesare, 2
00192 Roma
Temp.Rome@unistudios.com
universal.no@unistudios.com
Universal Pictures Norge
Holmenveien 20
0215 Oslo
info@imperial.com.pl
Greece Denmark Sweden Finland
+30 1 659 5255 ? + 45 3391 2110 ? +46 8 629 5300 ? + 3589 615 4677 ?
universal.gr@unistudios.com Coming soon... Coming soon... Coming soon...
Argentina Brazil Mexico Japan
(00541) 4867-7070 + 55 21 3389 7654 ? + 525 263 5200 ? 81-3-5403-6828
03-3405-8900
Coming soon... Coming soon... Coming soon... Coming soon...

Q. When do I send the discs?
A. Right now. The first copies became available through the mail in April. As we speak, you are missing out on having perfect BTTF DVDs.

Q. How long does the delivery take?
A. They mostly appear to be coming through via USPS and UPS. Depending on your location, it may take anything from as short as 5 days, to as long as roughly a month.

Q. How do I know this isn't a big con?
A. No, this is genuine, and is not a conspiracy or hoax. Many people have already recieved their free replacement discs in clear jewel cases as seen below. When you think about it, a DVD only costs about $1 to manufacture in bulk, so it's not that big a deal for Universal to ship a few thousand replacements around the world for free. There is no great loss- think about how many unwanted ISP coasters you have!
The shiny new discs

Q. Can I just take back my discs to the store in the summer, and switch them for a fixed set?
A. Theoretically you could. But you'd have to make sure the store had the fixed copies in stock first. Beware of eBay and online shopping outlets like amazon (dvdsoon.com has fixed discs, and play.com say they have them, but they do not). Canada was the first country to have them on the shelves (as of late July '03), and now they are apparently available at MVC in the UK (as of Jan 2004). Copies will turn up elsewhere in due course. This is likely to happen once demand has been satisfied for existing mailout customers. The old discs have not been withdrawn, and stores are continuing to sell the old copies, so it is important to check for a small "V2" printed on the back of the box by the bar code, and also on the discs themselves, around the rim near the copyright/date. Some copies delivered to stores as late as May 03 are still the faulty editions (even if the staff do not know about the problem and try to assure you they are fine), and some sold in Jan 04 were still faulty. In fact, there are reports that Barnes and Noble still shipped some in Oct 06.

Q. How can I tell the difference without playing them?
The important 'V2' A. If it does not have a V2 on the packaging and disc, then it is NOT a fixed version. Some territories will also have a green and white on-pack sticker that states "Remastered". If you have a DVD-ROM drive on your computer, another test is the date of creation: most flawed pressings were last modified between 4/09/2002 and 10/21/02, whereas the new V2 discs were made on or after 03/08/03. The date for Part III is 20/8/2003 (or 18/11/2003 for mainland Eu). Here is a pic of the new edition of Part III. Note that the R stands for Revision (this is Region 2, not 1) and note also the 2003 date at the bottom.

Q. But I don't live in the US. Can I still exchange my Region 2/4/(other) version?
A. Yes. No matter where you live, and no matter which version you bought, you can change them in the relevent territory. Slovenia, Colombia, Turkey and the Philippines are the only countries so far quoted as not offering replacments. You can even send, eg, some R1 discs back to the US from Europe, and they are obliged to treat everybody the same. The green sticker

the future

Q. Who else has covered this story?
A. This is major headline news, and has been covered on forums and in printed magazines around the world. However, you can do your bit to spread the word too: contact your local papers and magazines and shops to tell them about it. And if somebody mentions BTTF, you should always ask them if they know about the scheme for the free replacement discs to fix the framing blunder...

Q. Have I missed it? Am I too late?
A. There has been no indication of a cutoff date. Although it may go on for a year or more, other freebie schemes have been dropped without warning. They are still sending them out right now (Aug 2004), so it's probably best to do it as soon as possible.

Q. It doesn't matter to me. Why should I bother?
A. It is a very big deal for both BTTF and for other movies. There is a big list of movies affected by framing errors, including A Hard Day's Night, Fear And Loathing, Chasing Amy, Abba, Alien 3, Clerks and Reservoir Dogs. This problem can happen to any movie, and so it is guaranteed to happen again to other movies in the future. The discs just mentioned do not have really big cult followings, and so the mistake was only reported by a small number of people. The studios have decided that it isn't worth their while to correct these discs, and so if you were unfortunate enough to buy one then you're stuck with a defective copy. The more people take Universal up on their offer, the more likely they are to offer replacement (there was a running product recall for the faulty Jurassic Park D2R1, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Monty Python's Meaning of Life, as well as some James Bond movies, and Disney's Tarzan).

Q. I think I'll keep my imperfect discs. How much money are they worth?
A. "There you go lady, there's a quarter". In truth, the faulty discs will NOT ever be collector's items. They were mass-produced and are available in every corner store. With several million sales worldwide, there is simply no market for them. Regardless of whatever else you have read, they are not rare or valuable and never will be. If anything, the V2s are much harder to get, and so will fetch more.

This FAQ written 2002-2008 by Prizm, Andreas Winkler, gullwingDMC, Richard Walledge, Alessandro, Jake Lauden and Nagari, with a little help from Futuregirl, and the message board at www.bttf.com.