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What aspect ratio seems most natural to you?


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#1 Benson Marks

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 06:31 PM

I have been interested in aspect ratios for quite a while and would like to ask which aspect ratio seems most natural according to human eyesight terms.

I'm assuming it's 1.85, but I'm not so sure.

Thanks for your information, it is greatly appreciated.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 09:12 PM

I think it depends on the film and the role of the "person" in it. In a small person in a big world (Braveheart comes to mind, though most epics can fit this) I feel the Anamorphic frame fits. But, if it's an intimate film, then perhaps 1.85:1 may well suite more and feel "natural." A part of me wants to say that there is no such thing as "natural," rather, that what seems "natural," is the sum of the conditioning any and all societies imbue.
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#3 Walter Graff

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 10:00 PM

I'm sorry, I was watching the story. What did you ask? :)

No such thing, it's personal choice, subjective. A chosen aspect can help a look look more appealing, but as for which is 'right'. Doesn't exist. But you'll get lots of opinions. Don't confuse the tools and tricks with the end result. Most of the best movies shot over the last 100 years were shot in 4:3. No one cares about the aspect, just that it was a great film. After that sometimes they'll say it looked beautiful, but that is always after the only parts of a film that matter to a viewer.
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#4 Benson Marks

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Posted 27 September 2008 - 04:18 PM

It seems that this is all more of a matter of opinion and which format is better to shoot with than which format is most in touch with reality.

Thanks for straightening me up on this topic.

Now the question is about which aspect ratio to use on what kind of movie, but that's for another topic.
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 27 September 2008 - 11:43 PM

I think sitting a little too close to cinerama is closest to reality. It creates a full field of vision as well as peripheral vision and things you have to turn (interact with the scene) to see clearly.
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#6 Paul Bruening

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 07:10 AM

Hello Benson,

Many here have taken on this topic before. More than a few times, even. I don't recall the group being able to reach a consensus on it. It seems that it is really a subjective thing. I think Walter's statement is in the ball park that many of us have arrived at. Story is king, at least in dramatic movie making.

Me? I love widescreen. I'm willing to navigate through its peculiarities just to use it.
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#7 Simon Wyss

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 07:38 AM

Yeah, there has already been exchange on this subject. In my eyes film is the invention between the old and new age (which began around 1894 with final transition in 1967). It bears the signs of expansion as well as those of integration and it occurred in the "summer" of a plutonic round, astronomic-wise, during the couple signs: plutonides in Taurus, 1851-1884 (chemistry), plutonides in Gemini, 1884-1914 (habits), plutonides in Cancer, 1914-1939 (liability), plutonides in Leo, 1939-1958 (participation). What does that have to do with image aspects ?

There are esthetic values in the aspect ratios. Let's take the square (1:1). It appears calm, still, solid. An irrational ratio like root of 2 to 1 (1.414213562:1) appears a little uncomfortable. The traditional 4 to 3 ratio (1.33333:1) appears rather dynamic.

There are the physiological values with the ratios. From the wide screen systems such as CINERAMA and its forerunner, Fred Waller's dome machine gun trainer, we know that something like 2.75:1 comes close to our field of sight. Okay. CinemaScope was with a curved screen, Todd-A. O. goes with a curved screen. Today almost everything is shown flat. Are there any curved TV/video/computer screens ?

Esthetic reasons dominate. The movie experience has entirely changed from social to individual, to say the least. Perhaps the esthetic values (I'm trying to avoid the word laws) have turned cursory, even dictated by non-pictorial deliberations. There are fashions, something comes into vogue. "What, four to three ! What are you talking of ? We're not in the Fifties, boy." So, the production is arranged for cropped 1.85:1 or 1.75:1. Many cinema theatres have a too small Academy aspect ratio (4:3) screen, a mere section within a "normal" wide screen. The exhibitors have no fear to crop an elder picture and actors' faces in close-ups. Decapitated, chin off. Reckless
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 11:16 AM

Both Cinerama and IMAX were or are immersive formats -- they work by creating an image large enough to enter your peripheral vision and sharp enough to withstand a high degree of enlargement.

But IMAX is around 1.33 or 1.45 depending on who you talk to and Cinerama was around 2.66.

Waller's earlier experiments involved taller images (his gunnery training device involved five cameras and projectors in a roughly pyramid shape) but he knew that most movie theaters could not be expanded vertically due to their architecture, just horizontally. So he concentrated on expanding the sides of the image to make it more immersive.

IMAX does it by just being larger overall while being squarish. The upper part of the frame is generally just "sky" in many compositions, and often you compose important action near the bottom.

While in most first run theaters, you can say that a scope (2.39) presentation will be wider horizontally than a flat (1.85) one in the same theater, some theaters sort of average the two, or use the same width, with the scope image just being shorter. And most people don't compare a 1.85 print to a scope print in the same theater anyway.

So nowadays, which format you choose depends more on aesthetic issues and how it matches your visual design for the movie, based on the script. It also depends on whether you shot the movie with some intent for theatrical presentation in the first place.

Though I recall Gordon Willis' use of scope in the 1970's in movies like "The Parallax View", "Klute", and "The Paper Chase" and how he said that you don't have to go for the cliche thinking that 2.39 is only for epics and outdoor movies, you can play against expectations -- just as you can shoot an epic in 1.85 ("Gone with the Wind" is a 1.37 movie afterall).

There is no wrong or right choice -- "Waterworld" was shot in 1.85 because the director felt that a sailing ship was a vertical subject, but Ridley Scott shot "White Squall" in 2.39 because he felt that the ocean was a horizontal subject. Spielberg shot "Jurassic Park" in 1.85 because he felt that dinosaurs were a vertical subject but the 2.39 remake of "King Kong" had plenty of dinosaurs, plus a tall ape. Many New York movies use 1.85 because the city is considered to be a vertical subject, yet one of the ultimate New York movies is "Manhattan", which is 2.39.

If you are using human vision as a cue for picking an aspect ratio, it is sort of meaningless -- our eyes don't have a rectangular frame that borders a subject, with objects composed aesthetically within that ratio. That's why it is an artform. Our eyes concentrate on a central subject and let the real world fall-off around the periphery. So the only way to simulate that is with extremely large projection with an image that is sharp & grainless enough that you can just look inside the center area. Aspect ratio really isn't much of a factor, though I'd say that scope projection in a decent movie theater is the next closest thing to large screen IMAX projection for that effect, assuming you don't have a viewer that likes to sit in the back rows.

In terms of composition, 1.85 comes closer to the "Golden Rectangle" of art, which is around 1.61 : 1 I think.
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#9 Simon Wyss

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 01:15 PM

It is 1.6180339887498948482045868343656 : 1.
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:33 PM

But whose counting ;)
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#11 Simon Wyss

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Posted 29 September 2008 - 04:04 PM

O, 't was fun using my computer once as computer. Didn' t know it calculates 32 decimal places.
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#12 Benson Marks

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 01:11 PM

David, are you telling me that I should go for the 2.39 ratio because it is closer to our field of view when more and more theatres are now making 1.85 screens that make 2.39 movies smaller than their spherical lens counterparts? I'm sorry, but that just didn't make sense to me. I don't think size matters anymore in this day and age we are living in. Care to explain?

Edited by Benson Marks, 15 October 2008 - 01:11 PM.

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#13 Andrew Koch

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 03:54 PM

There is no wrong or right choice --

If you are using human vision as a cue for picking an aspect ratio, it is sort of meaningless -- our eyes don't have a rectangular frame that borders a subject, with objects composed aesthetically within that ratio. That's why it is an artform.



I will not speak for David, but based on these quotes from his previous post, I don't understand how you came to the conclusion that David suggested you should shoot 2.39 over 1.85.

I think the story should be the reason for choosing an aspect ratio. Is there a particular story that you want to tell that requires the viewer to have a more immersive experience?

As far as movie theaters making 2.39 films look smaller on 1.85 screens, I personally don't know much about that so I'll let someone else more qualified comment on that. But even if you are finding that to be happening quite a bit, I don't necessarily see how that would be an automatic deterrent from shooting in that ratio. To me, artful framing (in whatever ratio the film requires) is more important than filling a screen as large as possible. That's why it drives me nuts when people stretch their 4:3 TV shows on their 16:9 TVs. I asked someone why they watch TV distorted like that. His answer "because I am using all of the TV, I get a larger image, and I don't have to have bars on the sides." Obviously I can't agree with this, but it is this same line of thinking that led to the horrors of pan and scan. A 4:3 television will make a 2.39 image look smaller when letterboxed, but it is worth it because you get to see the whole image.

So in terms of theatrical projection, yes, some theaters might make the image less tall in 2.39. It is sort of like letterboxing a TV that is not wide enough for our images in "fullscreen", but we still as filmmakers can say what we want to say because our framing is (hopefully) intact.
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#14 Paul Bruening

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 04:22 PM

Many of us delight in the subtle differences in format that are available. I'm a big whiner for 2.39:1. Frankly, the viewers don't know or give a s***. They just want a good movie experience.
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#15 Benson Marks

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 04:25 PM

Aspect ratio really isn't much of a factor, though I'd say that scope projection in a decent movie theater is the next closest thing to large screen IMAX projection for that effect, assuming you don't have a viewer that likes to sit in the back rows.

In terms of composition, 1.85 comes closer to the "Golden Rectangle" of art, which is around 1.61 : 1 I think.


This is what I mean, Andrew. He was saying that as realism goes, a scope film might be more immersive and realistic than a flat film on the basis that the image fills up more of the theater screens. There's only one problem with that, it's that more and more theaters everyday are switching from screens with an aspect ratio of 2.39 to screens that are framed for 1.85 projection, mainly with newer, digital, or remodeled theaters. I don't know what theaters you've been to, but it looks like you've never been in one of these newer theaters. This is about the future, Andrew, and it looks like David's assumption is less of a factor than it was ten years ago. What do you think about that?
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#16 Justin Hayward

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 05:12 PM

it's that more and more theaters everyday are switching from screens with an aspect ratio of 2.39 to screens that are framed for 1.85 projection,


What?
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#17 Benson Marks

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 05:46 PM

What?


I'm sorry, Justin, but I don't understand what in the planet you mean by that. Are you surprised by that quote? Are you saying it was a factual error? Are you asking what I meant by that? What, Justin, What?

Edited by Benson Marks, 15 October 2008 - 05:47 PM.

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#18 Justin Hayward

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 06:07 PM

What theaters don't offer scope and flat on every screen? And where are they?
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#19 Benson Marks

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 06:24 PM

What theaters don't offer scope and flat on every screen? And where are they?


Oops! my bad... That's the consequence for being a slow thinker.

I was really saying that some of the newer theaters were using theater screens with an aspect ratio of 1.85 and if a movie had a 2.39 ratio, a curtain would cover the top of the screen so that it would be at a 2.39 ratio. The theaters some of you are probably familiar with have theater screens with the 2.39 aspect ratio, and curtains would cover the sides for 1.85 movies. But more and more theaters are adopting this 1.85 theater screen for their facilities than 2.39 theater screens.

Shoot, I hate it when I make grammatical errors like that.

Edited by Benson Marks, 15 October 2008 - 06:25 PM.

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#20 Andrew Koch

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 07:16 PM

This is what I mean, Andrew. He was saying that as realism goes, a scope film might be more immersive and realistic than a flat film on the basis that the image fills up more of the theater screens. There's only one problem with that, it's that more and more theaters everyday are switching from screens with an aspect ratio of 2.39 to screens that are framed for 1.85 projection, mainly with newer, digital, or remodeled theaters. I don't know what theaters you've been to, but it looks like you've never been in one of these newer theaters. This is about the future, Andrew, and it looks like David's assumption is less of a factor than it was ten years ago. What do you think about that?


Like I said before, I have not heard that there was a trend for newer theaters curtaining off the top and bottom for 2.39. My question to you is, how sure are you that this is the new trend? I'm sure there are theaters that do this, but how have you come to the conclusion that this is the direction that theaters are heading? Have you been to new theaters all across the country. What city do you live in? I am not saying this as a criticism, if you have information about the new specs of screens, I would love to have access to that.

That said, even if you are right, this still is no significant reason to stop shooting in 2.39. If 2.39 tells a certain story more effectively, then who cares if the screen is not as tall? I'm talking about artful framing, not necessarily filling up the most space on the wall. In terms of talking about the future, people involved in this industry are always looking to the future. David Mullen, ASC doesn't make a habit of assumptions about anything related to filmmaking. He researches and constantly updates his skills. The same is true about companies like Arriflex and Panivision. If 2.39 were a dying format, then why do they keep coming out with new anamorphic glass? Why has there been a revived interest in 2perf techniscope and super 35?

I just looked up the 10 top grossing movies in the US this year. 8 of them were 2.39.
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