The numbers and legalese get a little exhausting, frankly — and that’s part of the problem. Documents like these are clearly written by lawyers and executives, and while they certainly ask the tech folks to explain these issues to them, something’s getting lost in translation. (The misunderstandings of simple video terminology within the document are real howlers.)
And within the pages and pages of this document, there is one key phrase that’s missing: the one that our site and others have pounded away at for weeks, “original aspect ratio.” The explicit request for the nebulous “16×9” not only risks studios sending in cropped films; it also means that full-frame, 1.33:1 programs like the original BBC House of Cards are streaming with the tops and bottoms chopped off to create a 16×9 image.
The mere addition of the phrase “original aspect ratio” to Netflix’s list of preferred file types, or a 30-second find+replace within the document to eliminate the confusing 16×9 requirement, could clear up confusion for the company, its content providers, and, ultimately, the consumer. But contacted for comment on the document and our reading of it, Netflix Director of Global Corporate Communications Joris Evers emailed, “We don’t have any further on the record comment on this topic.”
As it is, their system is broken — and their “report it and we’ll fix it” solutions aren’t working. (Example: four weeks after Tumblr, this site, and countless others first reported that Man on the Moon is streaming in a cropped version, it still hasn’t been replaced.) It’s sort of sad how easy it would be to fix all of this. But I’m not holding my breath.