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Aspect Ratios and Formats


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#1 Tyler Leisher

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 02:46 PM

Hey everyone! So I have a few questions, first of all:


This film was shot on a DVX100B, which shoots in 4:3..but the final output that the filmmaker used was something that looks similar to 2.40:1, I'm curious either 1) Why he did this? (To make it look like film?) and 2) How did he do this? Shot it in 4:3 and letterboxed it (cutting off the image) to 2.40?

I know that the film was submit to and won a few festivals, but I can't see why he would have converted to film just for that.

Next, I've been shooting short films in HDV (1.333, pulled to 1.000 for 1920x1080 image) and I'm really starting to like the 2.40 look, it does have a really film-like quality to it.. and while I can't get the grayscale off of HDV, if I can get a really nice image that looks like 2.40 film that'd be awesome. So, what are the pros of doing something like taking 1.000 to 2.40 ratio? How would I do it?

What are the pros and cons of shooting in the different ratios on film? Is 4-perf better than 3? or 2? is anamorphic better? What are the different ratios and formats used for?
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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 06:00 AM

I think it was Steve Irwin that earlier had a little rant about letterboxing 2.40:1 on video, and I couldn't agree more. It's kinda the rage to letterbox shitty video so as to try to pretend it was made for the big screen and try to big it up. "Oh, look at me, I'm actually, really, a big, big Hollywood feature, you see". For me, this backfires terribly and I just think it looks even cheaper. It's like dress up. And it makes me question the filmmakers behind it.

Don't fight the format. Besides, 4x3 is lovely. It's like shooting with a Hasselblad. Embrace the square.
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#3 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 04:06 PM

Don't fight the format. Besides, 4x3 is lovely. It's like shooting with a Hasselblad. Embrace the square.


Thank you for that, Adam. It saddens me that projects presented 4x3 are now looked upon as "dated." "Embrace the square"! I like it.

Bruce Taylor
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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 04:15 PM

C'mon Adam, it's just an aspect ratio! If a young filmmaker on a no-budget just wants to experiment and learn how to frame for 2.40 without shooting film, he should be able to do it without a professional cinematographer putting him down for it... It's the end result that matters, right? If it looks good and it works for the story, then I say go for it. It's not as if 2.40 is just for "big Hollywood features", as you well know.

Tyler, to get a 2.40 aspect ratio from 4x3 or 16x9 you either matte the frame in post by adding black bars in in your NLE, or you use anamorphic lenses which squeeze more horizontal information onto the narrower 4x3 or 16x9 format. Anamorphic lenses for film are spherical lenses with a cylindrical element on the front which have a 2x horizontal squeeze factor. So the aspect ratio of the negative is about 1.2:1 but the lens squeezes twice as much horizontal info onto the film, and when you unsqueeze the footage the aspect ratio expands out to 2.40:1.

If you're using a camera with a 16x9 native aspect ratio, then you can use a 1.33x anamorphic lens attachment like the Panasonic which was originally meant to squeeze a 16x9 image onto a 4x3 chip. Used with a 16x9 chip, the aspect ratio now becomes about 2.37:1, which is very close to 2.40. Just be aware that shooting anamorphic creates complications - it's harder to focus and frame, and the 1.33x attachments were not made for HD resolutions so they may soften your image a bit.

Anyway, the most important thing is that the aspect ratio does not give you "film quality" by itself, in fact you're technically throwing away a lot of resolution by cropping or using anamorphic attachments on a video frame. The same goes for 35mm lens adapters, though I will argue that in that case the trade offs are less severe when finishing in SD. The same is not true for the 35mm anamorphic format, which uses a much bigger area of the 35mm negative than the Super35 format when cropped to 2.40.

So think hard about why you're doing it and whether it's worth it. If you have a story idea that will be enhanced by the widescreen frame AND you take care to frame your shots for that frame, then take the extra trouble to do it. IMO, the film you linked to above does not have either quality, it looks like they simply framed for 4x3 and slapped some black bars on in post. That's the kind of think people like Adam are objecting to, and in this case I agree.
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#5 Allen Achterberg

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 04:37 PM

more importantly, beginners should practice composition in all different aspect ratio's, including the scope. I wont see you as a "Poser" Tyler. You are learning. There are many different ways to get aspect ratios. You get to learn how to mark your viewfinder and then frame for a new picture frame, catch some vista shots without too much sky etc.

get to it. learn. GO!
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