15 Minutes With:: Panamorph
A paradigm shift in video processing? At Panamorph/Folded Space we are branching out from the precision anamorphic lens market into the rarified air of video processing algorithms and the mysteries surrounding “the secret sauce.” Folded Space, through Multi Format Encoding (MFE) attempts to fulfill the time-honored dream of perfectly replicating the magical experience of big-screen cinema in the home.
This article will be the first of a three-part series in which we will explain the what, why, when and where of Folded Space’s new family of technologies and why they are important to every movie lover. The umbrella under which all of these technologies reside is called Multi Format Encoding or MFE, but there is more to MFE than encoding software. There is also the decoding side of the equation, MFD, which brings the magic of MFE encoding to your display. We should first discuss the problem that caused the momentum shift in the video processing paradigm. The problem is: We live in a 16:9 world, but we love to watch widescreen 2.35:1 movies. In order to put 2.35:1 movies on a disc that is formatted in a 16:9 aspect ratio, studios have to make some painful compromises. You mean, like those horrible letterbox bars?
Yes, exactly. In fact, the black bars are the least of it. In order to make the 2.35:1 geometry (think wide rectangle) fit into a 16:9 Blu-ray frame (think narrower rectangle) something has to give and that something is 33 percent of the vertical resolution of the original HD image. In other words, instead of the 1920x1080 lines of resolution we expect from HD, we get only 1920x810 or so lines of resolution in 2.35:1 aspect ratio Blu-ray movies. Yes, it’s true!
Seventy-five percent of the top-grossing, best-loved and most immersive films ever made are put on Blu-ray discs at 33 percent lower resolution than 16:9 movies and TV shows. David Letterman’s Late Show is broadcast at higher resolution than what is available for Star Wars on a Blu-ray disc. This is a real problem that begs for a creative solution. Folded Space’s simple, elegant and inexpensive solution to this problem is MFE encoding for Blu-ray discs.
MFE encoding starts with a 16:9 Blu-ray disc containing the letter boxed 2.35:1 version of the film just like we currently have and are used to seeing. This means that no matter what equipment you may or may not have, if you own a Blu-ray player and an HD display device, you can play an MFE-encoded disc. MFE is fully backwards compatible. Then comes the cool MFE encoding that solves the 2.35:1 in a 16:9 world conundrum.
The 2.35:1 version that results from the MFE workflow is extracted from a high quality 4K master. What this means is that after the extraction there is lots of extra resolution left over. This extra resolution is the key to what makes MFE so special. Folded Space takes some of that extra vertical resolution and Folds it into the Space taken up by the black bars of the letter boxed image where it happily hides, waiting to be decoded, not taking up any extra room on the disc at all. The implications of decoding the hidden data is the key to understanding the value of the MFE feature set.
When an MFE Blu-ray disc is played on a Multi Format Decoding- (MFD) enabled Blu-ray player or display device, three additional visual formats aside from the original 16:9 letterbox are available. The MFD Blu-ray player reassembles the hidden resolution with the letterboxed image to create these additional visual formats. Depending on the features and capabilities of your display device you have: