An Aspect Ratio Visual Essay

An Aspect Ratio Visual Essay

Oh aspect ratio, how you vex us! I can remember when I was younger seeing the caption at the beginning of a film on VHS, “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen,” and wondering what it meant. Now of course that I know what it means it makes me upset and angry that doing that was ever a thing. In the video below, the talk is of how cinematographers composed for many different aspect ratios and how things might be either cut off or shown in different contexts, mattes, and aspect ratios. I wish that all films could be shot and composed for their intended aspect ratio, and only ever shown in that aspect ratio! No more cropping or pan and scan and the like.

What really bugs me more than anything though, is when I go in to some place or other to eat or whatever the place may be, and I see a television showing widescreen broadcasting… SQUISHED WITH BLACK BARS ON TOP AND BOTTOM! Ugh, UGH UGH! It’s the worst. I wish the technology had been developed with auto detection involved and meta data embedded in video streams so that TVs, projectors, and whatever else would always show video in their proper aspect ratios. UGH!

Well anyway, this is a fascinating video and I’m sure many of you cinephiles will like it as I did. Personally, I wish we could eliminate all aspect ratios except for 1.85:1 and 2.39:1/2.40:1. And if I had to choose just one, I would go with 2.40:1. I think that one is just perfect, any wider would likely be too wide, and taller just isn’t as good.

Of course most of the things that I have shot and/or edited have been at the 16:9 aspect ratio (1.78:1) because when you are in the indie and small budget world, that’s pretty much what is available.

Anyway, enjoy the video.