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who decides things like aspect ratio or fps?


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#1 sam williams

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 11:27 AM

hi all,

i was wondering who set the standards for the different aspect ratios in the first place and the sam with frames per second.

These are surely aesthetic decisions. I would imagine that someone at some point analysed how many frames per second were ideal, fast enough to avoid flickering and slow enough to get the correct motion blur (is this how it was decided?)

Aspect ratio always interested me because im about to start my film aesthetics masters at oxford and was going to look into this area for study. What criteria do people take into account to decide how much horizontal and vertical space is perfect for the best cinema experience?. I guess there are a number to choose from, but there must be the perfect aspect ratio (for the cinema) that is not too wide it makes you have to turn your head and not too small or narrow that it takes you out of the cinematic experience.

Could someone please clarify what motivates your aspect ratio choices, when you are about to embark on a film project, does it envolve artistic considerations, lenses, cost etc.

also an answer to my previous frame rate question would be cool too,

thanks for your time
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#2 Paul Bruening

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 11:39 AM

It kinda' just shakes out.

http://en.wikipedia....of_film_formats
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#3 Patrick Neary

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 12:00 PM

Hi- For a great historical perspective of shooting and exhibition frame-rates (and to some degree, aspect ratios), check out two fantastic books:

An Evening's Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915-1928
by Richard Koszarski

and

The Parade's Gone By
by Kevin Brownlow

both give extensive and interesting history of the early development of cinema.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 12:10 PM

Nothing scientific about it. Just evolved (in terms of frame rates). 16 to 24 fps was considered minimal needed to create the illusion of continuous motion without too much strobing and flicker -- some projectors had three-bladed shutters to reduce flicker.

But often movie projectors were hand-cranked at faster speeds than they were shot, to get more showings in per day.

When sound came along and the frame rate had to be standardized, a survey of movie theaters showed that they were averaging 80 to 90 feet per minute. I believe 90 feet per minute is 24 frames per second for 4-perf 35mm.

Anyway, here is an excellent article by Kevin Brownlow on silent movie frame rates:

http://www.cinemaweb...elf/18_kb_2.htm

As for the 4x3 ratio of the 4-perf 35mm frame, that's something Edison & Dickson worked out based on all sorts of factors.

This is from a Wikipedia article that some other website posted:

Frame Size and Aspect Ratios

When the first film projector, called the Kinetoscope, was unveiled by William L.K. Dickson and Thomas Edison in 1895, it used a 19mm wide film with perfs (the little holes that are used to move the film) on one side. Using only one track of perfs caused the film to become very jittery, so the inventors decided to use George Eastman’s 70 mm film, by first cutting it in half and putting perfs on both sides, thus giving birth to the 35mm film format used in the silent movie era. The effective imaging area (without the perfs) of the new medium was 24 mm wide and Dickson decided to use 4 perfs (18 mm) as the vertical dimension of the frame. This is where the 4:3 aspect ratio comes from - 24:18 = 4:3.
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#5 Simon Wyss

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 03:53 PM

There is this article in the SMPTE Journal of August 1990, pages 652 through 661, by John Belton: "The Origins of 35mm Film as a Standard", wherein he examines the 4:3 aspect ratio settled with Dickson's work.

As to frame rate we must not forget the forerunners to cinematography, phenakistiscope, zoötrope, and praxinoscope. It was already well established knowledge in the 19th century what number of impressions per time unit produces a pleasing appearance.

Dickson, by the way, fumbled with frame rates of 40 to 50 until he met Eugène Augustin Lauste, the man who conceived the Latham Eidoloscope projector before May 1895. Actually it were the Lumière to bring 16 frames a second simplex to many countries while Skladanowsky also reached that rate by the duplex process (alternating between two bands at 8 fps each). At the Paris conference of 1907 a standard frame rate of 1000 per minute was agreed upon.

3 to 4 is a dynamic ratio contrary to the calm golden section or the square, the perfect still. As far as I know this was never discussed intensively.
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#6 Robert Hughes

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 04:01 PM

Just a minor correction - 24 fps would be 90 feet per minute, not per second. Otherwise my Eyemo would run outta film in about 1.1 seconds!

Edited by Robert Hughes, 20 September 2008 - 04:01 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 05:22 PM

Just a minor correction - 24 fps would be 90 feet per minute, not per second.


Thanks, I corrected it.
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#8 Glen Alexander

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 07:41 PM

Just a minor correction - 24 fps would be 90 feet per minute, not per second. Otherwise my Eyemo would run outta film in about 1.1 seconds!


24fps is 180 feet per minute in Vistavision.
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#9 K Borowski

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 06:00 PM

It kinda' just shakes out.

http://en.wikipedia....of_film_formats


Yet another hard-to understand colloquialism for those who aren't native speakers of the English language, good job! ;)


I've always heard it was actually the Illuminati that secretly influenced the world's filmmakers into picking the current standards.
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#10 Dominic Case

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 07:11 PM

These are surely aesthetic decisions. I would imagine that someone at some point analysed how many frames per second were ideal, fast enough to avoid flickering and slow enough to get the correct motion blur (is this how it was decided?)

Frame rate eveolved - as explained above - through a number of considerations, but aesthetics didn't really come into it.

16fps was the slowest that could come anywhere close to giving the illusion of movement, and the fastest that - at first - the film could conveniently be pulled through the camera. Diskson's work at 40 or 40 frames per second wasn't really successful.

16fps also ties into the frame size. 16 four-perf, 3/4inch high 35mm frames are exactly one foot, so the film ran at one foot per second, or two turns of the crank handle.

Cinema owners tended to run their projectors faster (as David says) to get more shows per day (and therefore more revenue). Engineers wanted to run faster to reduce the flicker. But cinematographers, who struggled to get enough exposure on the slow filmstocks, fought against a faster 'taking" speed: and producers could see no merit whatsoever in running film faster as it meant using more stock.

As a result, it became customary in the silent era for films to be projeced faster than they were shot (typically 60fpm taking, 80ish fpm projecting). Films were edited at a pace that worked at that speed. Well-meaning film restorers who project silent film at 16fps (60fpm) might obtain accurate representation of movement, but they doom the film itself to appearing far more tedious than it should.
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#11 Simon Wyss

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Posted 22 September 2008 - 02:09 AM

Yes, you are reproducing partly what Belton described.

And, yes, Karl, it's always the Illuminati. Didn't they also send people to the Moon in 1969 ? Puzzling they had the recording done at 75 fps and the master tape run at 30.
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 23 September 2008 - 07:12 AM

Yes, you are reproducing partly what Belton described.

And, yes, Karl, it's always the Illuminati. Didn't they also send people to the Moon in 1969 ? Puzzling they had the recording done at 75 fps and the master tape run at 30.


As a family member of mine works for NASA, in the manned spaceflight sector, I can't talk about it, for his safety :ph34r:
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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 23 September 2008 - 07:35 AM

It kinda' just shakes out.

http://en.wikipedia....of_film_formats



Interesting stuff! The chart is unclear on a couple of questions I have though:

I've always wondered A) were all "commercial" films prior to 19XX shot and projected in a standard squarish aspect ratio?

AND B ) what was the first "commercial" movie to be framed by the DP and projected in a "widescreen" aspect ratio? And what ratio was that?


Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Edited by Brian Dzyak, 23 September 2008 - 07:36 AM.

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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 September 2008 - 11:46 PM

There were experimental formats in the early decades of cinema, some used on features, or part of a feature (like the Polyvision sequence in Gance's "Napoleon".)

Around 1930, there were some new widescreen, large format systems being tested by the studios, most famously perhaps was Fox Grandeur used for "The Big Trail". You can read an early American Cinematographer article by Arthur Edeson about shooting on this format here:

http://www.widescree...reen/mullen.htm

After the advent of sound, there was a brief period when everyone thought the film format itself should be redesigned as well, partly to accommodate the soundtrack area. Fox Movietone was the early sound-on-film process and the soundtrack area on the print shaved the 1.33 : 1 Silent Aperture to around a 1.20 : 1 ratio, which bothered some people. Eventually the simplest solution was to just make the projector gate less tall to restore the ratio to something close to the Silent Era, the 1.37 : 1 Academy Aperture of 1933.
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