Fans of The Wire have been eagerly waiting to see how the beloved show has made the transition from 4:3 standard definition to its new widescreen, HD versions. Leading up to its premiere this past Friday, HBO has kept its HD remasters of The Wire entirely under wraps — but now we can see just what the show looks like in HD. And, frankly, the results are quite good.
Unlike The Simpsons, this is no half-assed scan-and-pan job that merely stretches or crops the original 4:3 frame to fill your widescreen TV. Since the show was originally shot on 35mm film, the editors had extra footage to work with to bring the remastered version to life. That means we now have a “true” widescreen version of The Wire to enjoy. However, it’s important to note that this is absolutely not the definitive version — merely an alternative. As showrunner David Simon describes it, “while this new version of The Wire is not, in some specific ways, the film we first made, it has sufficient merit to exist as an alternate version.”
Simon explains on his blog that HBO worked extensively on its own to complete the necessary work for the HD transfer. Its work included painting out crew and gear, as well as performing additional CGI to mask “mistakes” that are only visible at higher resolutions, and the company planned to release the new version this fall with essentially no input from Simon or the show’s other creators. After he and others behind the show expressed their desire to be involved, however, HBO halted its planned fall released and “allowed us to engage in detail,” writes Simon.