January 27, 2018

Working with Aspect Ratios: Which Is the Right One for Your Film?

Your frame's aspect ratio is more than a mere relationship between its width and height.

Choosing your film's aspect ratio may be something you've never really thought that much about. In fact, you might have always just stuck with your camera's default setting, whether it's 2:40:1, 4:3 or 16:9. However, being wise about which aspect ratio you go with is not only important for distribution but it can also add a lot of depth and visual appeal to your projects. In this video, Zach Ramelan of PremiumBeat goes over how to choose the right aspect ratio for your films and videos. Check it out below:

There are many reasons why it's important to make informed decisions about your projects' aspect ratio, but the two at the top of that list are 1.) method of distribution, and 2.) aesthetics.

Distribution

Where are you intending to showcase your project? In a theater? On YouTube? On social media? There are many avenues that you could take your film or video down, but knowing where it will end up can help you decide on which aspect ratio you should go with. For example, if you're distributing your film on YouTube or Vimeo, widescreen 16:9 is the standard (though you definitely don't have to settle for it), while most theater screens cater to really any ratio you like, including 2.40:1 anamorphic. Furthermore, if your project is going to be seen primarily on smartphones, you might want to go vertical. Your method of distribution doesn't back you into a corner, but it could help you make a choice on which aspect ratio to go with.

Aesthetics

I'm sure you've noticed how many filmmakers add matte bars to give their 16:9 shots a cinematic 2:40:1 aspect ratio. This is because that anamorphic look, as well as 1:85:1, has become synonymous with cinema, so by simply adding a couple of horizontal black bars at the top and bottom of your shots you've already told your audience, "Hey, this is cinematic!" That doesn't mean that widescreen isn't cinematic, though, so you can play around with different aspect ratios to figure out which works best for your project—hell, you might find that vertical video is exactly what it needs.      

Your Comment

20 Comments

I dont think he ummmm understands what full frame means....... Full frame does not mean 16:9 at all..... He then references high end imax and epics as good uses of 'full frame'.... not a clue

January 28, 2018 at 1:18AM

3
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Isaac Elliott
Director/Cinematographer
352

Yes, he has no clue of what he is talking about.

January 28, 2018 at 3:53AM, Edited January 28, 4:06AM

25
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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
1649

rotate a 1920 x 1080 matte 180 degrees and increase the size to matte for 4:3? May to encourage a blurry edged matte, potentially google 4:3 matte and you will get a non blurry matte.....

January 28, 2018 at 1:22AM

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Isaac Elliott
Director/Cinematographer
352

I would rather use a native timeline instead.

January 28, 2018 at 4:07AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
1649

B. S.

Here is a better NFS article https://nofilmschool.com/2013/07/using-aspect-ratios-like-a-pro-part-1
Or this one: http://www.slashfilm.com/non-traditional-aspect-ratios/

I also recommend watching “it comes at night” and experience how they used a wide aspect ratio to create uneasiness.

January 28, 2018 at 1:49AM, Edited January 28, 2:13AM

1
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Rajesh Naroth
Filmmaker
335

I have never understood why people add bars to their timeline instead of working in a native resolution.

January 28, 2018 at 3:57AM, Edited January 28, 4:07AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
1649

Me neither, I prefer to change the resolution on premiere.

January 29, 2018 at 11:55AM

5
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Jesús Vanegas
Director, Director Of Photography, Writter
81

I am a little bit late, but i know a couple reasons - for example if you upload to youtube, only 16:9 resolutions will work with cards (link to channel, subscribe button etc). Also some people/companies demand standard resolutions ex. 1920x1080 regardless of actual aspect ratio

March 7, 2018 at 3:32PM

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Don't share videos from this guy again, please.

January 28, 2018 at 11:53AM, Edited January 28, 11:53AM

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By the way, vertical videos? Really? I didn't know human beings evolved to have the two eyes in vertical arrangement. The smartphones have produced too much harm.

January 28, 2018 at 11:59AM

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John you are missing the point...i think. Vertical (9x16) is all about marketing and audience. If your market is millennials they do EVERYTHING on their smart phones. From recipe to ads to products, training to movie trailers this format or style is becoming more and more popular.

January 28, 2018 at 10:50PM

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Stopped watching as soon as he kept referring to 16:9 as "full frame" and then something about imax that made no sense.

January 28, 2018 at 7:53PM

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MattyMustng
Director of Photography
271

January 28, 2018 at 11:56PM

2
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January 29, 2018 at 4:08AM

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March 26, 2018 at 12:26AM

2
Reply

I hate when TV shows put black bars on top and bottom to look cinematic. It's an increasing trend. So stupid.

February 2, 2018 at 8:56AM

0
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Say "NO!" to vertical videos! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt9zSfinwFA

March 8, 2018 at 12:18AM

5
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Wow This Photography Classes should be eastablished in each and every town in america. and thankyou for sharing these tips with us. and i just bookmarked it for future reference. once again thankyou buddy.
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March 11, 2018 at 11:17AM, Edited March 11, 11:17AM

8
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You're right buddy. The tutorials are really good.
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April 6, 2018 at 2:56PM

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blackboss
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