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"Firefly" Gets Hi-Def Makeover

Friday 4 August 2006, by Webmaster

UHD to Premiere Cult Hit in HD

The fan base for Joss Whedon’s space-Western TV series "Firefly" has grown exponentially since its short-lived 2002 run on Fox. Canceled after 11 episodes due to low ratings, published reports said the series went on to sell more than 300,000 copies when released on DVD the next year.

The sales impressed Universal, which greenlighted Mr. Whedon’s feature film spinoff "Serenity." The film was released in 2005 and garnered rave reviews from critics and fans, but only managed to break even at the box office. Even after three years on store shelves, "Firefly" earlier this week ranked 36th in DVD sales on Amazon. The more recently released "Serenity" ranked 64th.

Now the series is being made available in HD. Twentieth Century Fox Television has remastered the show’s 35mm print to 1080i high definition for a Sept. 24 debut on UHD, a network spokesperson confirmed.br> The unveiling of a widescreen HD version format of a short-lived 2002 series is as unusual as the program’s resurrection as a cult hit and theatrical movie. Typically a series is either shot in widescreen high definition and broadcast that way, or shot on video or film in standard 4:3 aspect ratio.

But "Firefly" was shot on film (which can be converted to HD) and in widescreen, two years before Fox started broadcasting HD programming.

According to the "Firefly" DVD commentary, Mr. Whedon (best known as the showrunner for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel") battled with Fox over the widescreen issue. He said he filmed the show’s actors on the extreme sides of the frame so Fox would have no choice but to air the show in his preferred format.

It was one of several battles between Mr. Whedon and the network, which aired episodes of the serialized drama out of order and pre-empted the show with sports. But Mr. Whedon’s seemingly impractical decision to shoot "Firefly" in widescreen aided the show’s DVD sales (collectors prefer that format)—which in turn spawned the movie, and now enables a proper HD presentation.