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1:2.35 vs. Anamorphic Widescreen


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#1 Ian Coad

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 02:40 PM

i'm having some difficulty understanding differences in widescreen aspect ratios.

i feel like i know and am visually familiar with 1:2.35, yet at times certain dvds appear much wider, without any noticable distortion. i see films by david fincher, steven spielberg and paul thomas anderson, and these tend to appear as longer, more narrow rectangles. can someone inform me as to whether films ever go wider than 2.35? is there a difference sometimes utilized in anamorphic widescreen vs. spherical?

thank you.

- ian.
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 04:16 PM

Well, 2.35:1 actually hasn't been used since the 70s. Today's widescreen aspect ratio is 2.39:1 (often stated as 2.40:1). That is usually the same thing as anamorphic widescreen, though sometimes spherical 35mm is just cropped to get that aspect ratio. Nothing wider is usually shown in theaters.

You might benefit from doing some reading at widescreenmuseum.com.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 04:18 PM

You may be seeing some difference due to improper DVD viewing, some with the 16x9 anamorphic squeeze left in, etc.

Technically there are two primary 35mm theatrical aspect ratios: 1.85 "matted widescreen" or "flat" and 2.40 "anamorphic widescreen" or "scope".

And don't confuse 35mm anamorphic with the standard def video 16x9 anamorphic format.

In video, there are really only two formats that affect aspect ratio: 4x3 and 16x9 (which is anamorphic in standard definition). 4x3 is the same thing as saying 1.33 : 1 and 16x9 is the same thing as saying 1.777777... : 1, and within those two video formats, you can letterbox to any other ratio.

There are some variations in 35mm projection like 1.66 matted widescreen... and within the two projected ratios, flat and anamorphic, you can have variations like Storaro's 2:1 Univisium ratio (usually side-matted within a scope print), and there is nothing stopping someone from making up a new letterboxed ratio for home video release, like 2.0 : 1, 1.9 : 1, etc.

Now some 2.40 movies are letterboxed to only 2.35. Also, some monitors have more overscan than others, so if the monitor is trimming 10% overall, then a 2.40 letterbox may look more like a 2.35 letterbox and a mild 1.85 letterbox will completely disappear on a lot of 1.78 (16x9) monitors. A 2:1 letterbox may end up looking more like 1.9 : 1, etc. if you aren't seeing the entire video signal.

There have been some Super-35 movies that were composed for cropping to 2.40 but letterboxed to only 2:1 on home video, at the request of the directors who wanted to minimize the amount of letterboxing. But that trend sort of died out years ago and only covered a few titles like "Top Gun", "Howard's End", "Star Trek 6", "Austin Powers", and an early transfer of "The Abyss".

Also, early home video transfers of the restored "Lawrence of Arabia" were only about 2:1 instead of the 2.20 : 1 65mm aspect ratio of the original.

5-perf 65mm spherical movies should be letterboxed to around 2.20 : 1 in general.

There have only been a few titles and formats wider than 2.40. Ultra Panavision (65mm anamorphic) was about 2.7 : 1, perhaps the widest format (ignoring CircleVision) next to Abel Gance's Polyvision. Cinerama was about 2.66 : 1. Early CinemaScope started out at 2.55 : 1 in theaters.

There weren't that many Ultra Panavision (aka MGM Camera 65) movies made: "Raintree County", "Ben Hur", "Fall of the Roman Empire", "The Greatest Story Ever Told", "Mutiny on the Bounty", "Battle of the Bulge", and a few others.
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#4 Ian Coad

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 11:39 AM

thank you so much guys. at this student level is just one massive hurdle after another, where i obsess and do everything in my power to digest something...just in time for something else to come along, but i wouldn't have it any other way. david i'm gonna take a look at that sight right now.

cheers.

- ian.
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