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BTTF DVD Framing Fiasco

the problem

Q. What's wrong with the widescreen version of the BTTF DVD?
A. 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 scene: the famous futuristic jacket scene What you see is the widescreen DVD image superimposed over a laserdisc image of the same shot. 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 screen (props, writing in the background, etc). After seeing the normal VHS or Laserdisc versions many times, you will notice in the anamorphic 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, this is probably a stretch of the truth, as there are many, many examples of misfraed 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!).

Check out the hoverboard and button! See the 2015 McFly kitchen background? Doc Brown's lab in the alternate 1985 Another bad one with the flying DeLorean Young Biff talks to Old Biff in 1955 The hover-board is cut off in the chase See the lampshade in the mansion? The futuristic Nike shoes at the drivein! On horseback talking about the ravine The second breakfast machine Indian map at the 1885 train station Clara gives a nasty slap!

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 was used everywhere. Every single copy of the DVD from every batch in all regions (R1/R2/R4, 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.

Q. Is the "pan & scan" version affected?
A. No. The 4:3 pan & scan version shows the entire frame (similar to the laserdisc 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. 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 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 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 crashing with some of the extra features (Animated Anecdotes). The French audio track is also out of sync in Part III.

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 the UK, 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
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
PO BOX 17 MILLERS POINT NSW 2000
BTTF Exchange / Customer Service
Universal Pictures Video NZ
PO Box 617
Auckland
UK Germany Netherlands Spain/France
(+44) 208 910 5000
08705 900 909
+ 49 40 35008 01
T: +49 40 35008 357
F: +49 40 35008 360
020-5711 000 ?
Customer Services, Universal Music
Chippenham Drive, Kingston
Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK10 0AT
Universal Pictures
Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse 93
D-20355 Hamburg
info@universal-pictures.de
Universal Pictures
Hobbemastraat 20
1071 ZC
Amsterdam
Coming soon...
Denmark/Sweden Italy Japan Brazil/Mexico
0 (06) 36.71.01 2 3
Coming soon... Universal Pictures (Italy)
Viale Giulio Cesare, 2
00192 Roma
Temp.Rome@unistudios.com
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 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. The shiny new discs

Q. Can I just take back my discs to the store in July, and exchange them for a fixed set?
A. Theoretically you could. But you'd have to make sure the store had the fixed copies first. This is likely to happen once demand has been satisfied for existing customers. The 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 date. Some copies delivered to stores as late as May are still the faulty editions (even if the staff do not know about the problem and try to assure you they are fine).

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. 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.

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 exchange them in the relevent territory. Slovenia is the only country so far quoted as not offering replacments.

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, 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, Abba 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).

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.

Written 2002-2003 by Prizm, Andreas Winkler, gullwingDMC, Richard Walledge and Jake Lauden, with a little help from the message board at www.bttf.com.
A backup version of the updated version.