Last week we covered the unfortunate awfulness of Buffy's HD remastering, and it got me thinking - even if Buffy had gotten the treatment it rightly deserves, is it something that needed to be done in the first place?
Now obviously Buffy's remastering isn't your average remaster, in terms of its less than stellar quality, but even then, it's still a pretty stark reminder that sometimes you can't chop and change old TV to make it look like it's shiny and new again so easily. Sure, it's easy enough to say that Fox just did a bad job - but even if Buffy had gotten a good remastering (sans terrible CGI and the occasional cameraman being kept on screen, of course), a widening of Buffy's original 4:3 framing would go against the original intentions of its creator, Joss Whedon. These old shows are products of their time, from a creative stand point - and by removing that context from them, you removing part of the show itself. Sure, it's nice to see shinier versions of our favourite old series, but in a way it feels like you're losing something by doing it.
Then there's extensive remasters that go beyond upgrading the visual quality of something and outright editing it - George Lucas' much maligned tweaking to the Star Wars movies, for example, has long been a bane of fans who just want the original versions released on home formats. That's not just removing context from the original, but going back and actively changing it. Unlike Whedon, that's the actual creator's choice to do so, but still, that comes at the detriment of fans who fondly remember the original films they watched in the theatres - especially as access to the original versions is difficult to do. It's removing a whole different kind of context to the one Buffy's HD remastering removes, but it's a context removed nonetheless - perhaps even a more extreme one, even if it comes from Lucas' own intentions for his creations.
For me, the context of a piece of media - the time it was made, the way it was shot or presented - has always been an important aspect of appreciating it. I think it's the literature student within, that desire to understand the environment and circumstance in which something was made. Although for literature studies that context is different as it's historical, it's not something that can really than chopped and changed and 'remastered', for media like old TV shows that sort of context is still just important to my appreciation of it. It gives a sense of time and place to media, informs my critical understanding of it. Especially in the context of something like Whedon's approach to Buffy - where the technological 'limitation' of TV was something that helped create and inform the show's aesthetic and the way it was framed - it becomes all the more important. Any sort of remastering, even if it's one that merely makes something clearer or if it's something as extensive as what's happened to Buffy, goes into part of removing that context is removing something that is important to me.
Then again, there's right ways of going about a remaster, that may remove that original context that I appreciate in my approach to something, but are still faithful to the source material in such a way that that contextual absence isn't as notable - such as the Star Trek blu-ray releases. There's new CG effects, yes, but they're largely faithful to their originals - and at least from a cinematographic perspective, little has been changed to The Next Generation or The Original Series' look in their remastering that while you're getting a cleaner, newer version of it, it still retains some of that original context and it's original format. The people behind it even went so far as to explicitly show people how extensive remastering (such as changing to a widescreen format) was not only impossible, but against the spirit of the remastering process itself. It's the best way of going about the remastering older media - it gives people the chance to own it on current formats, and at the same time it doesn't inherently change something about that media that aids admiration of it from a more critical perspective.
Where do you stand on it - obvious laziness of Buffy's HD remastering aside, are you fine with more extensive remasters of old shows or movies, even if it means losing the context of the way it was originally formatted when you first saw it? Or are you a purist that just wants the original to be preserved, regardless of the format its appearing on?
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