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Why The Switch To HD Upset Joss Whedon (& Fans)


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Both fans and the people behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer have attacked the cheap HD remasters that have effectively ruined the show.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a beloved piece of horror television, which is why fans and crew members – including Joss Whedon – are so embarrassed by the series’ lazy HD remaster.

Vampires aren’t always popular in the horror genre, and the public’s relationship with these monsters has changed a lot with the many contrasting takes on vampires over the years. Buffy the Vampire Slayer helped reinvent the creatures in an exciting way, and proved how this particular niche of horror could actually be competently done on television.

Related: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Why The Vampires Transform & Turn To Dust

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a pivotal piece of television history, and a crucial steppingstone for the careers of both Joss Whedon and the show’s titular Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar. However, Buffy debuted in 1997; it’s very much a product of its decade, for both better and for worse. One major area where the show has become unfortunately dated is that it was originally produced in standard definition on a 4:3 aspect ratio. The attempts to update Buffy the Vampire Slayer for modern viewing and streaming have irresponsibly messed around with these elements, which have since resulted in the show’s modern version being an inferior product.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer HD Remaster Off Colors

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It’s often exciting when older shows receive modern remasters; the best examples work together with the creator or production team to supervise the process. The HD remasters for Buffy the Vampire Slayer were done without any involvement from the show’s team, and the results are disastrous. Furthermore, Whedon intended for the show to be viewed in 4:3, as it was shot. This is why he resisted transferring it to widescreen during the series’ initial DVD run. This move went against Joss Whedon’s instincts and wishes. This transition affected the show in numerous ways, whether it’s new framing that ruined shot composition that included crew equipment – and even crew members in the worst cases – or the rampant use of digital noise reduction technology that led to many brightly lit and overexposed scenes.

Buffy has an intentionally dark look that the show’s director of photography and post-production team worked hard to achieve, so the use of digital noise reduction made everything so much brighter in a way that didn’t just ruin what they wished to achieve, but completely changed the tone and atmosphere of scenes. It’s especially silly to see brightly lit scenes when so many of Buffy‘s characters are vampires, who are meant to thrive in darkness. Even one of Buffy’s stunt coordinators has weighed in about how the darkness in certain scenes is used to obscure things like the use of stunt doubles, which is now ruined by the remaster. There’s no care put into this transfer, which is so surprising for a property with such a legacy and spin-off potential.

Fans used to be upset over the fact that spending a lot of money for this remastered version of the series got them an inferior product to what was available on the DVDs a decade earlier. However, what’s become more distressing over time is that networks that are choosing to air Buffy, like Pivot, are going with the HD remasters since they need to fit with modern viewing expectations. This means that the dominant version that’s being pushed out and widely available is the compromised version of the show. This doesn’t just taint the experience for first time viewers, but pushes the original version further into obscurity as the HD version becomes the norm. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the type of series with extremely dedicated fans, so some people have put in painstaking work to create their own superior remasters. Even so, fans shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to properly watch a show that’s over two decades old.

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Updated: November 7, 2020 — 8:30 pm

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