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Aspect ratio and storytelling

Aspect Ratio storytelling Cinematography

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#1 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 11 May 2014 - 03:58 PM

Hi everyone,

 

I am a very new "Cinematographer/director" I have no experience and I am trying to learn some fundametals, some of the questions come to my mind about frame Aspect ratio, Why would a Cinematographer choose 16:9 over 2.35:1 for example or vise versa ? and how does this effect the story?

 

And there is some movies where you can see both of tha aspect ratio like for example Chris Nolan's Batman the dark knight rises where he used 35 mm in most of the movie  where the aspect ration are 2.35:1 or so and Imax 65 or 70 mm in a lot of the scenes where the aspect ratio is 16:9. doesn't this effect the harmony of the film ??

 

Screen shots from Batman the dark knight rises

 

35 mm BTDKR.jpg

 

Imax BTDKR.jpg


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#2 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 12:17 PM

It's quite simple really.  Chris drove the idea of mixing the formats for dramatic purposes.  The drama was photographed in Panavision 4 perf anamorphic that is 2.40:1 and the action scenes are photographed in IMAX 65mm, 15 perf that is actually 1.43:1 aspect ratio.  No 16:9 involved. That is mainly a digital format.  Chris is all film. You will see it again in his upcoming picture "INTERSTELLAR" this fall.

 

G


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#3 Sean Cunningham

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 02:34 PM

And don't ever let someone tell you that comedy or certain genres don't warrant, aren't compatible with or otherwise "shouldn't" be done wide.
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#4 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 02:54 PM

Thank you Gregory and sean, I appreciate your replies, I am not really good with film, I am a pure Digital guy however I am really captivated with film look and I like really Nolan films ( Wally pfister always nail it)  but there is somthing that still confusing me, what do you mean exactly by drama !? 2:35 or 2:40 go better with drama !? incase yes, why did Roger Deakons or Denis Villeneuve chose 1.43:1 or 16:9 to shoot Prisoners ( shot in Film also) as it was really a drama genre !

 

thank you


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#5 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 03:01 PM

Thank you Gregory and sean, I appreciate your replies, I am not really good with film, I am a pure Digital guy however I am really captivated with film look and I like really Nolan films ( Wally pfister always nail it)  but there is somthing that still confusing me, what do you mean exactly by drama !? 2:35 or 2:40 go better with drama !? incase yes, why did Roger Deakons or Denis Villeneuve chose 1.43:1 or 16:9 to shoot Prisoners ( shot in Film also) as it was really a drama genre !

 

thank you20130819_prisoners_tvspot60.jpg


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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 03:12 PM

For myself, and this is ya know, personal preference, but I tend to think of it like this, 2.35 (9 or 40, however you want to call it) is drama between a person and an environment, or when you want to keep people with other people in the frame-- or play off of that (isolation in a larger frame for one character -v- a group in a reverse, or a dirty reverse for example) and 1.85 (or .78 16x9 all about the same) for when you want to really allow a close ups to be filled with the actor-- a more introspective and character driven framing.

 

Of course this is all just a rough thing. NOw a days as well people are going IMAX for the scale of things-- e.g. they'll use the 1.43 for very large immersive pieces of a greater film, such as Nolan does, -v- someone like PTA who used 65mm but in a 1.85:1 to give the same type of quality to the grain as medium format photography ect.

 

There are no hard and fast 'rules' and the expectations where 2:_ _ used to be for large scale epics, has been strongly cooped these days and subverted, so audiences will accept generally what you give them.

What is your job, as a cinematographer with your director is to decide on how to use the frame, and what it offers you, to form and reinforce the ideas you wish to convey in your specific project.

 

As such it is perhaps more important to think about how other films aspect ratio choices make you feel, what worked for you, in order to form your own opinions and style in such things.


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#7 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 03:47 PM

For myself, and this is ya know, personal preference, but I tend to think of it like this, 2.35 (9 or 40, however you want to call it) is drama between a person and an environment, or when you want to keep people with other people in the frame-- or play off of that (isolation in a larger frame for one character -v- a group in a reverse, or a dirty reverse for example) and 1.85 (or .78 16x9 all about the same) for when you want to really allow a close ups to be filled with the actor-- a more introspective and character driven framing.

 

Of course this is all just a rough thing. NOw a days as well people are going IMAX for the scale of things-- e.g. they'll use the 1.43 for very large immersive pieces of a greater film, such as Nolan does, -v- someone like PTA who used 65mm but in a 1.85:1 to give the same type of quality to the grain as medium format photography ect.

 

There are no hard and fast 'rules' and the expectations where 2:_ _ used to be for large scale epics, has been strongly cooped these days and subverted, so audiences will accept generally what you give them.

What is your job, as a cinematographer with your director is to decide on how to use the frame, and what it offers you, to form and reinforce the ideas you wish to convey in your specific project.

 

As such it is perhaps more important to think about how other films aspect ratio choices make you feel, what worked for you, in order to form your own opinions and style in such things.

Thank you so much Adrian, your reply was very informative


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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 03:49 PM

My pleasure. Glad i could help in my own way.


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#9 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 05:24 PM

Prisoners was Digi as far as I know but not 16:9 (1.78:1). 16:9 is what the current HDTV format is. Not to be confused with the theatrical formats of 1.85:1 or 2.40:1. It's all a creative choice.
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#10 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 05:45 PM

I guess I am alone in actually liking 1.33 for some material? Will we ever see a return to that in any meaningful way? I don't just shoot it because I am too poor for S16 (although i am) but I like it. But I realize I look like a dweeb by saying so.


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#11 Younes Boudiaf

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 05:54 PM

Prisoners was Digi as far as I know but not 16:9 (1.78:1). 16:9 is what the current HDTV format is. Not to be confused with the theatrical formats of 1.85:1 or 2.40:1. It's all a creative choice.

Yes Indeed it was shot with ARRI Alexa plus and Alexa Studio the format was 1.85 : 1


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#12 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 05:55 PM

I like the 2:35 ratio because when you project it in theaters it can fill the screen edge to edge with no letterboxing or pillar curtains. That's the reason for it.  Anamorphic can fill a movie screen.  The 1:85 gets curtains drawn in on the sides.  Although plenty of film festivals screw this up all the time and don't actually zoom out your image to fill the screen.

 

I dislike the use of 2:40 for non narrative things like commercials and music video.  I think it's a cinematic ratio and should be reserved for that.  Filming a music video or TVC in 2:35 comes off a bit pretentious.  But it's a matter of taste.


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#13 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 05:58 PM

I guess I am alone in actually liking 1.33 for some material? Will we ever see a return to that in any meaningful way? I don't just shoot it because I am too poor for S16 (although i am) but I like it. But I realize I look like a dweeb by saying so.

 

Nope...I still shoot 1.37:1 (an aesthetic choice.)  Bergman's The Seventh Seal is one of my favorite works in that ratio.


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#14 Young Pizzy

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 06:14 PM

For me, I love anything shot with the 2.35 or 2.39 or 2.40 Aspect Ratio ......I think its really lovely and gives me that sense of Cinematic feeling :) and I love to shoot on the above Aspect Ratio
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#15 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 06:24 PM

Meeks Crossing and The Grand Budapest Hotel both recently utilized the 1.37 ratio, and I though it was very interesting, though I personally tend not to have a preference, aside from saying I love actual anamorphic photography-- so long as it's not over-done with the flares.


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#16 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 06:56 PM

Meeks Crossing and The Grand Budapest Hotel both recently utilized the 1.37 ratio, and I though it was very interesting, though I personally tend not to have a preference, aside from saying I love actual anamorphic photography-- so long as it's not over-done with the flares.

 

It all depends on the project.  I personally feel that the 2.35:1 ratio is extremely overused these days (much like the Steadicam.)  If it's a film with grandiose lanscapes (or ideas,) I'm all for it.  But if it is a more intimate portrait of the characters, I usually feel that 1.85:1 is more suitable.

 

But in the end, it's a matter of what works for the given project.


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#17 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 10:01 PM

When I plan a project, aspect ratio is one of the first considerations as it immediately from the first frame sets the emotional quality of the piece. I've developing two pictures, Blood Moon Rising and The Hunted which use the wide vista of the animorphic ratio to convey a sence of overwhelming isolation and helpless leaving the proragonists to fend for themselves in a vast wasteland while in Dollie another project I wrote, uses a narrower European Widescreen ratio for a sence of a more claustaphobic, realistic feel. All three are horror films but the demands of each are different. Every element that goes into each and every oe of your frames should have a purpose for being there, a conscious choice you make barring of course those sarandipidous happy accidents you choose to retain because they he enhance your image. The muse en scene of your composition is the culmination of every element of screencraft, framing, lighting, staging, camera movement, set design, location scouting, casting, costumig set dressing, prop elements, makeup, hair, lenses, filters, gels, color pallet, set dressing, sound design, scoring, special FXs, Cgi, all and more effect the final image and that includes the sound elements I mentioned as sound has a very significant influence on how the image is perceived by an audience. All of this has a single purpose, that of envoking emotional responce from an audience. You actally feel a movie moreso than see one.
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#18 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 10:05 PM

 

It all depends on the project.  I personally feel that the 2.35:1 ratio is extremely overused these days (much like the Steadicam.)  If it's a film with grandiose lanscapes (or ideas,) I'm all for it.  But if it is a more intimate portrait of the characters, I usually feel that 1.85:1 is more suitable.

 

But in the end, it's a matter of what works for the given project.

I'd agree with that. It kind of reminds me of the days of DV when you had to frame 1.78 to make it "filmic" because everyone else did 1.33. Now a days it's because everyone does 1.78, you have to do 2.35. Hell maybe in a few years we'll go to 3:1 or back to 1.33


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#19 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 11:58 PM

?..I am really captivated with film look and I like really Nolan films ( Wally pfister always nail it)  but there is somthing that still confusing me, what do you mean exactly by drama !? 2:35 or 2:40 go better with drama !? incase yes, why did Roger Deakons or Denis Villeneuve chose 1.43:1 or 16:9 to shoot Prisoners ( shot in Film also) as it was really a drama genre !
 
thank you


This time, Hoyta van Hoytema nailed it. By drama, I'm referring to the narrative story. When the big action starts, Chris goes BIG with the format, IMAX, thus lighting up that big IMAX screen.
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#20 Simon Wyss

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 12:28 AM

Drama is by inner conflict, tension between a character and surrounding is called Melodrama. The rest is Kitsch. How I love that word!

 

I am a total 4-to-3 fighter. The diagonal is 5. It’s the most dynamic and depth-inviting aspect ratio.


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