July 3, 2013

Learn About Every Aspect Ratio Ever Used in Cinema & Get Free Templates for Your Own Work

No matter what you're shooting, be it Super 16, 35, HD, or iPhone videos for YouTube, you're going to run into the question of aspect ratio. Aspect Ratio, defined as: "the proportional relationship between [an image's] width and its height," determines not only the look, but frequently the feel and mood of a piece, too. At some point, every production is going to have to pick one, and at Vashi Visuals, you can not only see every aspect ratio used in the history of cinema, but also pick up a free template package for use in your own projects.

Aspect Ratio can play a huge part in giving a film its mood, e.g., the epic 2.35 of Panorama is very different from the 1.43 of IMAX. Here's a quick refresher for the uninitiated:

Aspect ratio is commonly expressed as 2 numbers separated by a colon, as in 16:9. For an x:y aspect ratio, no matter how big or small the image is, if the width is divided into x units of equal length and the height is measured using this same length unit, the height will be measured to be units. For example, consider a group of images, all with an aspect ratio of 16:9. One image is 16 inches wide and 9 inches high. Another image is 16 centimeters wide and 9 centimeters high. A third is 8 yards wide and 4.5 yards high.

Over at Vashi Visuals, you can check out every single aspect ratio ever used in film, from Thomas Edison Standard to Cinerama and beyond, all the way to the RED. In addition, there is a direct download link to free .PNG templates that you can use in your own productions. This is a great post, and Vashi has done everyone in the community a great service by digging deep showing us just how crazy the history of aspect ratios actually is.

What do you think? As an indie filmmaker, what is your relationship to aspect ratio? Do you have a favorite in terms of aesthetics? When planning and shooting a production, how much thought do you give to aspect ratio?

Link: Ultimate Aspect Ratio Guide -- Vashi Visuals

Your Comment

13 Comments

I know it's subjective, and it rounds around what kind of aesthetics a film can have, but I'd like to know if there is a study about what each aspect ratio can bring to the audience in terms of reaction/emotion or sense of the world you're bringing to them.

July 3, 2013 at 6:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rodrigo Molinsky

I think there must be. There used to be some heatmaps on vimeo about where audiences looked on the screen. I guess that also has to do with the aspect ratio. Of course the ratio has a direct influence on the way you frame too.

July 3, 2013 at 6:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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maghoxfr

I think that the tighter a ratio is the more confined, focused and even to a certain extent the tension an image has is greater than a larger one. Action/thriller films typically use a tighter ratio.

July 3, 2013 at 6:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

Thanks, guys! I appreciate those tips. And I actually saw one of those videos (about where the audience were looking) with some "There will be blood" footage, I believe.

July 3, 2013 at 7:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rodrigo Molinsky

yeah totally...i think that for action, drama and vfx is much better a 2:40 aspect ratio, and for TV or comedy or something light is better a 16:9 aspect ratio...it gives another mood to the whole film. In my opinion, of course.

July 3, 2013 at 7:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jesuan

I think IMAX with its close to 4:3 aspect ratio has a very different feel...native IMAX films tend to be shot wider angle, but manage to retain the closeness to characters due to the larger screen and higher resolution. This results in a better feel for the environment the characters are in. IMAX also has a unique framing rule, which is to frame action in the lower third.

July 3, 2013 at 7:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gabe

This is partially posted from the other NFS aspect ratio discussion, but it seemed to be more on topic here:

I had an amazing time shooting 2.35 on my feature. The film is about two journalists working together on a story, and after a short conversation with my DOP, I immediately opted for 2.35 because the extra horizontal reel-estate (pun intended) gave us a lot of room for great two-shots. Even tight close-ups with both of them side-by-side in a single frame. So cool!

An interesting aspect ratio story from a feature that another of my DOP buddies worked on: he really wanted to shoot 2.35, but the art department won out in the end, opting for 1.85, because it was a period piece and they didn’t want to have to dress all that extra width. Never really had to deal with that kind of consideration before.

July 4, 2013 at 6:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I prefer 1.85 (16:9 is 1.78, close enough). 'Scope looks good on a HUGE screen, not so good on a small multiplex screen.

July 3, 2013 at 10:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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c.d.embrey

they should make a new standard for 4K.
2:1 is simple and brings the nest of all the widescreen aspect ratios.

July 4, 2013 at 4:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tulio

Personally I love 2.35 and 3.00 on Vimeo with the black bars cut off. Gives a real cinematic perspective.

July 4, 2013 at 6:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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NVR

I like the .7 ratio because I want people to be looking at the screen sideways.

Ah, I kid, I kid. Happy 4th of July.

July 4, 2013 at 11:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Great inspiration! The second post on rectilinear aspect within a week. As it is with the welding helmet window: its aspect ratio contributes 0 to the quality of the weld; it is the skill of the welder in laying down (good ) metal that is key. Similarly with a movie.

However, I had a feeling neither post properly addressed the matter of *every* aspect ratio ever used in movies. So, I searched with the term: "movie projection onto buildings", and via http://videomapping.tumblr.com/ came across http://vimeo.com/60209340 ( Paleodictyon - making of ) among others. Dissatisfaction with the 2 posts NFS provided prodded me into looking further; and what my search came up with took me not only outside of the box but gave me relatively easily doable solutions to other problems that I had previously thought practically undoable. Even reading posts that on the surface appear pedestrian can guide one into solutions. Thanks.

July 4, 2013 at 9:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Shem

I personally am a big fan of the classic 2.4:1 format. wether or not it's actually exactly 2.4:1 is often hard to see whatwith general confusion of scope-formats and slight cropping during viewing. And while I know the industry standard right now is 2.39, I tend to just juse 2.4:1 since it's mathematically easier... and the difference is usually never more than a handful of pixels.

Though I would have liked it if they not only had the aspect ratio but also a picture of the negative area used, it's perforations and pulldown-direction, and if it relied on anamorphic lenses and what strength and if the anamorph was on both camera and projector or one or neither or applied during printing... though I guess that would make it all a bit unwieldy as a list.... Oh, well... I'll just have to do my own list, I guess... ;)

July 7, 2013 at 5:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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