Open matte is a filming technique that involves matting out the top and bottom of the film frame in the movie projector (known as a soft matte) for the widescreen theatrical release and then scanning the film without a matte (at Academy ratio) for a full screen home video release.
Usually, non-anamorphic 4-perf films are filmed directly on the entire full frame silent aperture gate (1.33:1). When a married print is created, this frame is slightly re-cropped by the frame line and optical soundtrack down to Academy ratio (1.37:1). The movie projector then uses an aperture mask to soft matte the Academy frame to the intended aspect ratio (1.85:1 or 1.66:1). When the 4:3 full-screen video master is created, many filmmakers may prefer to use the full Academy frame ("open matte") instead of creating a pan and scan version from within the 1.85 framing. Because the framing is increased vertically in the open matte process, the decision to use it needs to be made prior to shooting, so that the camera operator can frame for 1.85:1 and "protect" for 4:3; otherwise unintended objects such as boom microphones, cables, and light stands may appear in the open matte frame, thus requiring some amount of pan and scan in some or all scenes. Additionally, the un-matted 4:3 version may often throw off an otherwise tightly-framed shot and add an inordinate amount of headroom above actors (particularly with 1.85:1), depending upon how well the framing was protected.
Many films over the years have used the open matte technique for home video releases and television broadcasts, the most prominent of which include Back to the Future, Schindler's List, Titanic, and Top Gun as well as many films that have been specially formatted for the IMAX expanded aspect ratio of 1.90:1. Stanley Kubrick also used this technique for his last three films The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) and James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) are also examples of open matte.
Open matte can be used with non-anamorphic films presented in 2.20:1 or 2.39:1, but it isn't used as often, mainly because it adds too much additional headroom, depending upon how well the framing was protected. Instead, those films will employ either pan and scan or reframing using the well-protected areas. Anamorphic 2.39 films, by nature, use the entire 35mm frame (except for the soundtrack area), so using an open matte for 4:3 video releases isn't an option. These films must be pan and scanned as a result.
The rise new film exhibition technologies in 1950s like Cinerama, and anamorphic lenses, shooting wide aspect ratios for theatrical films.[clarification needed] This coincided with the rise of television and home media with a much different, narrow aspect ratio of 4:3. To avoid letterboxing for broadcast releases, films were therefore reframed and cropped shot by shot to fit appropriately, and full screen with the 4:3 aspect, with a process called Pan and Scan. Hence, only a cropped small portion of the theatrical frame was broadcast.
Difference between Open Matte and Pan and ScanEdit
Pan and Scan deals with only the 2.39:1 master of a film. For HDTV, the sides are cropped to fit the 16:9 frame.
If footage with taller ratios were shot (digitally or on film), for example IMAX scenes for various films, then the screen real-estate is cropped in accordance to the deliverable ratio. This helps in preserving headroom and composition for the film beyond the theatrical release.