Some of the movies you're watching on Netflix don't really look like they're supposed to. That's because Netflix appears to be cropping some movies to fit your television screen without letting you know about it.
A Tumblr blog called "What Netflix Does" is drawing attention to the problem. The blog, started out of frustration on a Netflix forum, shows instances of Netflix chopping off segments of frames from popular films - which ultimately serves to reduce what's visible in many shots.
Flavorwire, who drew my attention to the blog, describes what's really going on here. Netflix is basically taking movies shot in "Scope," or 2:39:1 and chopping off the edges to make them fit your 16:9 screen. Normally, a 2:39:1 ratio film would be given horizontal black bars above and below the frame in order to fit on your typical widescreen television.
But with no warning, Netflix seems to be cropping large portions of the visuals. For instance...
Netflix's help page talks about aspect ratio. They specifically state that rather than stretch your picture, they simply employ those horizontal black bars:
"These black bars are due to the aspect ratio in which the movie or TV show was filmed. The camera used wasn't filming in an aspect ratio that fits your TV screen. For example, some films are shot in a format that is wider than your TV, so rather than stretch the picture, black bars are placed above and below the picture."
But that's clearly not what Netflix is doing in these examples.
Why does it matter? Maybe it doesn't. The vast majority of Netflix users would not notice/would not care about this at all. But if you're really into movies, this is the kind of thing that pisses you off. Every shot is the way it is for a reason, and cutting off segments of it can, in theory, change the entire thing.
Is Netflix just settling for pan and scan to assuage people who complained about black bars in their movies? If so, they should at least tell us that they're cutting of part of the image. Is it a technical issue? Laziness? What do you think?