September 12, 2014 at 1:18AM


Terry Gilliam and Aspect Ratios

I just watched Terry Gilliam's "The Zero Theorem" last night and thought it was a very beautiful looking film. When I was doing my post viewing research on the film I came across a nice quote about why he picked the 16:9 aspect ratio and I thought it would be interesting to discuss this here.

From Wikipedia.
"Since Gilliam faced frustrations over the correct aspect ratio on home video releases of his earlier film Tideland (2005), The Zero Theorem was shot in the Maxivision format with an 1:1.85 aspect ratio, with 16:9 matting and telecine in mind, so Gilliam could be certain that every viewer in the world would see exactly what he had intended them to see in a premeditated 16:9 framing, no matter what device they would use; what Gilliam additionally liked about this technique, which he calls "the first one-size-fits-all, full-frame, semi-vinyl motion picture", was that it resulted in round edges on frame corners which he found resembled a vintage 1920s movie-going experience when projectors were not yet fitted to hide the camera gate's round edges."

Here's a link to the video interview.

What do all of you think? It's an interesting perspective and as much as I'd like to start shooting in 2:35, he does make a good point about 16:9 being so universal on all of our electronic devices. But, 16:9 is also bigger than 2:35 so it's not like there would be any issues showing that aspect ratio.

He also talks about being able to see the "gate" in the finished film which I thought actually looked really cool, it worked really well with this film.

However, the one thing I didn't like is that he used iPhones which really just felt weird in this kind of movie.


Choosing a frame rate ahead of time is important for using framing to tell your story. Shooting for 16:9 then cropping to 2.35:1 can cause weird frames or unplanned importance on things or even missing out on a subtly placed prop or similar.

As far as shooting 16:9 as a standard that is defiantly true, 2.40:1 was developed so theatres could offer something that the home viewing experience couldn't, which is why TV isn't shot that way and cinema is. Also why you rarely see comedies shot that way, we perceive 16:9 to be more realistic and real life and 2.40:1 to be more story telling so it can very much change the feeling of your movie.

September 16, 2014 at 12:43PM

You voted '+1'.
Chase Axton

Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was shot in 3 different aspect ratios that are all mixed together in the film...

1.37 : Aspect Ratio for the 1930s scenes

1.85 : Aspect Ratio for the 1985 scenes

2.35 : Aspect Ratio for the 1960s scenes

It`s a bit of a weird experience as you watch the film, but it definitely works in the end.

September 23, 2014 at 6:40PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

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