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Types of re-editing
Films edited for format, length, and content.
- Format: Feature films are commonly produced in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio or 2.40:1 aspect ratio while television currently has two screen formats – A standard 1.33:1 (or 4:3) aspect ratio of analog television and the growing standard of 1.77:1 (or 16:9) aspect ratio for digital television. Prior to the beginning of a film presented in the 4:3 aspect ratio on VHS tapes or DVDs, a disclaimer appears (mainly a black background), reading, This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen. Since the adoption of HD television, some theatrical films intended for 2.39 or 2.40 aspect ratios have been reframed for 1.78 (16x9) for television and home video, and also require the modification warning as per DGA rules.
- Length: Films may be shortened for television broadcasting or for use on airlines. DVD releases of films may also contain longer cuts. In a growing trend, more and more films are being released in an Unrated cut of the film. Prior to when TV airings of the film begins, a format screen appears reading, "The following film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen, to run in the time allotted and edited for content" (see below). The end credits on TV airings of films sometimes speed up to make time free for the next show or film to start, or to free up more airtime for advertisements, which has become an increasingly-common practice.
- Content: Some films have content deemed "objectionable" to "family audiences": sexual content, obscene language, graphic violence, and perceived racial insensitivities. To make these films suitable for younger or more typical audiences, or to appeal to advertisers when a film is shown on basic cable or broadcast TV, alternative versions are created with such content removed or replaced. Often, profanities are replaced with minced oaths. For example, in the edited version of Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson uses the minced oath "screw", "little sucker", and "my friend". The editing of these versions is performed by a censor and not the producer or director of the work. Two other examples would be in the edited version of Mrs. Doubtfire, when Daniel Hillard's mask is run over, he screams "Oh!", whereas in the original version, he screams, "Oh shit!". Another example is The Big Lebowski where John Goodman says, as he smashes the red car, "You see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass?!"; the TV-edited version has him saying, "You see what happens when you fight a stranger in the Alps?!". He also says in the TV version, "This is what happens when you feed a stoner scrambled eggs!". In the 1987 comedy film, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, where Neal Page is at the Car Rental Agency, and says the "f-word" 18 times and the car rental agent says to him something which is muted out on TV airings. Also, Saludos Amigos, Melody Time, and the TV edit version of Atlantis: The Lost Empire were edited to remove cigarettes due to influence on drugs, and in The Parent Trap, the part with Hallie piercing Annie's ears is shorter, whereas in the regular version, the "ear piercing" part is longer. Annie's lines, "Marriage is supposed to be based on something more than just sex, right?" and "Oh my God!" are muted out. Plus, a part in An Extremely Goofy Movie, in which main characters Goofy and Max, as well as Tank, are trapped inside a flaming papier-mache "x", Lola Bunny saying 'eww' during Stan Podolak's deflation in Space Jam and in The Sandlot the kids are on a fairground ride, but they get nauseous and throw up because they had been chewing tobacco were erased. Also, Disney Channel Original series were very infamous for content editing such as Kim Possible, Phineas and Ferb, and so forth due to the clean content.
These films are typically preceded by the disclaimer, "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and edited for content." For example, Mary Poppins was released and re-released on home video, the panning edits of the film were done differently.
There are two main techniques for re-editing films:
Purchased film content is downloaded onto an editing work station hard drive and third-party editors manually re-edit the video and audio tracks, removing objectionable content. The re-edited version is then copied onto media (VHS or DVD) and made available for rental or purchase provided an original version has been purchased in correlation with the re-edited copy. Some manual re-edits are done by fans (see The Phantom Edit) to cut a film to their own – or their peers – specifications.
Although the recent court ruling prohibits business from manually re-editing commercial films, the law still allows for individuals to self censor and edit their own films for personal use.
Programmed re-editing occurs when software (such as that employed in a DVD player) is used to skip portions of the video and/or audio content on-the-fly according to pre-programmed instruction sets which are knowingly used by the consumer.
History of manual re-editing
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In response to consumer demand, families began to re-edit purchased VHS tapes literally by making cuts and splices to the tape. A hotbed for this activity has been Utah with its conservative and entrepreneurial population. When Titanic was released on VHS, a video store owner in Utah began offering to re-edit purchased copies of the film for a $5 service fee. The service became very popular. Before long, several video rental businesses purchased VHS tapes and had them re-edited for their rental club/co-op members to watch.
When DVD technology emerged, the re-editing industry began offering for sale or rental a disabled DVD accompanied by a re-edited version of the film on a coupled DVD-R. Several companies attempted this business. First, some tried to do it via physical brick and mortar stores, the most successful being the deal model and proprietary stores owned by CleanFlicks, Inc. of Utah. Clean Films later became the largest and most successful company in the business by employing an online rental model (similar to Netflix) and avoiding any physical stores. CleanFlicks and CleanFilms were sued with several others and a federal judge in Colorado ruled that the companies were violating copyright. Those named in the lawsuit ceased renting and selling edited films. The legal argument was that the editing resulted in a derivation on a fixed media. At all times, for instance, CleanFilms sold edited films with a legitimately purchased original copy. Furthermore, every rented unit in edited format had a corresponding original copy that was purchased at retail. The judge ruled that the fixed media caused the violation. ClearPlay was not affected by this ruling, as they did not sell fixed media, and editing took place as the unaltered streamed media was altered by the consumer's control of ClearPlay's software.
The lawsuit started because a CleanFlicks franchisee in Colorado pre-emptively sued major directors. The franchisee feared the directors were going to sue because the DGA's website said as much. The Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture Association of America counter-sued and also included several edited film companies for copyright infringement and claims regarding derivative works. In 2006, Judge Richard P. Matsch of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado ruled that it was a copyright violation to distribute re-edited films without the consent from the film studios (key was the fixed media aspect of the businesses).
In an odd twist, despite Judge Matsch's decision and order to the re-editing companies to destroy all their re-edited inventory, shortly after the studios' victory in the Denver court, the lawyers for the studios negotiated with lawyers for the re-editing companies allowing for the sale of existing inventory. One of the companies in the first three days of a "going out of business sale" generated more than a quarter of a million dollars in revenue and eventually sold enough re-edited movies to provide original investors a 5X or better return on investment. This is an unexpected investor outcome given the loss of a major infringement case.
History of programmed re-editing
ClearPlay was sued by the DGA and MPAA, but the case was rendered moot by The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which clarified that ClearPlay's filtering approach was legal and did not violate copyright law. As a result, ClearPlay has been able to offer its products to consumers in the U.S. while others have discontinued for legal reasons.
Another aspect of re-editing comes with consumer made edits, which are called fan edits (or fanedits). It is when consumers load the films into their computers and use video editing software to produce mostly a version with changed content for their own entertainment. Fan edits are becoming more popular since they are spread over the internet.
Future of the industry
It is unclear where this industry is headed. There is demand for the product.[original research?] A 2005 ABC News poll of 1,002 adults from across the USA found that 39% of those polled were interested in purchasing re-edited films, while 58% of respondents said that would not be interested in such a purchase (with a 3-point error margin).
Despite the aforementioned legal rulings, companies continue to sell re-edited movies via the Internet. Some have been shut down as well. Yet, search engine results on the web reveal companies continue to provide fixed media product, such as Clean Play DVDs. Sometimes they use "going out of business" tactics to move inventory. However, physical "brick and mortar" stores have been shut down, such as Cougar Video in Provo, Utah, which remained open long after the named companies in the aforementioned lawsuit were closed down.
Interestingly, one company, Swank, offers re-edited movies created by the studios themselves, supposedly for showings in correctional facilities and other non-theatrical locations. It is not clear if these versions are the same re-edited versions that studios create for airlines or television showings.
- "ABC News Poll". (2005, April 22). Poll: Mixed Reviews for 'Sanitized' Movies.
- "Edited Movies and Clean Family Edited DVDS for Sale ,". archive.org. 9 January 2011.
- "Edited Movies and Clean Family Edited DVDS for Sale ,". archive.org. 8 July 2011.