Aspect Ratios

For show notes, please visit our corresponding discussion thread.

Join Brian Dobbs and Sam Posten as they talk about movie aspect ratios, from their history, why we need them, and optical physics that help define them.  Topics such as soft and hard matting, constant image height projection, and comparisons of television, computer and movie aspect ratios are explored.

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Brian Dobbs

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89 Comments

  1. Wooohoo glad to see it up! I was originally worried we would go too deep on this subject but I think we kept it light. And we hit just the right amount of sound effects for you guys who said we might be over doing it! Thanks Brian!

  2. Looking forward to a listen, as always. I'll be certain to listen to it all within the next few days.

    I know I haven't listened yet, but I have to toss something in, and this comes from a lifetime in photography, including two degrees from one of the top photography schools in the country. Focal length does not change the shape of the face. That is the result of changes in distance between the camera and subject. It actually has nothing to do with focal length. Yes, the two are inter-related in some senses, but all those examples you see "proving" this misconception, including the article linked above, are due to changing the distance between the camera and subject, not focal length. I'll spare you all an explanation that nobody here wants to wade through anyway. Sorry for the somewhat off-topic rant.

    Interesting topic, though. It's probably something most viewers don't put much thought in to.

  3. Sam I think you'd be surprised to learn what a large amount of TV productions that are now shot in 2:1. You seem to under the impression that it is just a couple. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are shooting a large percentage of their shows in non-standard ratios. It might also surprise you that The Mandalorian and the second season of Star Trek Discovery have gone all the way to 2.35:1. Needless to say, the studios are definitely not moving toward the 1.78:1 standardization that Brian is wishing for.

  4. It’s not just Discovery; Short Treks is also 2.40:1 and it looks like Picard will be as well.

    The new Apple show I sampled (Morning Show) is also 2:1.

    HBO seems to be holding at 1.78:1 but that’s probably more of a legacy holdover from their days of “everything must be full screen” – expect that to change as other prestige productions continue to leave traditional TV ratios behind.

  5. Maybe it's just me, but I don't really see the point of shooting television in 'scope. The whole purpose of the format was to provide a bigger, more immersive experience, and you get just the opposite on television – unless you're in the 0.01% who have a constant height front projector set up. Black bars are fine for preserving a wider theatrical ratio, but I don't love them for their own sake.

    This is becoming a problem in theatrical exhibition, as well. It seems more and more cinemas have constant width screens and present wider ratios letterboxed with no proper masking.

  6. Haven't had a chance to listen to the show yet, but The CW's Batwoman is using 2:1 aspect ratio, too. Looks absolutely horrible in those markets like Reno where most cable and satellite providers only offer that channel in letterboxed 4:3 standard def.

  7. Brian Dobbs

    UGH 2:1…why? All they're doing is removing image.

    Not as much as you think. 4K cameras have a native aspect ratio of 1.896:1 (4096 X 2160 pixels). You would be cropping the sides to make if 1.78 as well.

  8. Sam Posten

    Brian is a proponent of ‘new full screen’ aka taking full advantage of every 16×9 pixel on his tv.

    Well, that creates a dilemma with about 85% of all content created through all of time, doesn't it? An image is more than just pixels and data.

    As I already said, I need to listen to the podcast.

  9. Sam Posten

    Brian is a proponent of ‘new full screen’ aka taking full advantage of every 16×9 pixel on his tv.

    To me, that seems less necessary than ever, with screen sizes growing, prices coming down, and black levels rapidly improving.

    My $500 TV has such good blacks that any black bars simply disappear into nothingness, especially with the room lights off or dimmed. You can’t tell where the TV frame is, you just see an image and the TV appears to just be that shape. Since I watch a lot of material that comes in ratios other than 16×9, it’s immensely helpful.

    But it’s the age old philosophical argument: are you watching content to show off your gear, or are you using your gear to watch content?

  10. JohnRice

    Well, that creates a dilemma with about 85% of all content created through all of time, doesn't it? An image is more than just pixels and data.

    As I already said, I need to listen to the podcast.

    EDIT: Brian, Brian, Brian… (shaking my head) listening to the podcast.

    I have to agree with you. Brian, Brian, Brian… (shaking my head too)

  11. Hey I know that the pitchforks are being sharpened but I want to make one thing clear: It's my understanding that @Brian Dobbs is NOT advocating that content be 'pan n scanned' to fill 16×9 screens but that most content creation should merge to the 16×9 screen standard. So less scope stuff and less 2.1, ultrawide IMAX ratio and 4:3 stuff too.

    Again, I disagree with that and know that Dolby Cinema continues to push 2.35 content hard and really like that format there.

    But that is waaaay different than advocating for anything to be chopped off.

  12. You guys are making this out to be a much bigger deal than it is.

    GerardoHP

    I'm kind of aghast. This discussion seemed to come from someone who doesn't respect the artistic integrity of film. I really have nothing else to say.

    Yeah, no.

  13. I do want to reiterate my thanks to Sam and Brian for taking the time to do these podcasts. I suspect there's a lot of time and effort involved. When you express yourself, you put yourself at risk of blowback, but these guys still do it.

    …so, thanks guys.

  14. While I can appreciate where Brian is coming from, I too have the opposite opinion. I love the variety of aspect ratios. Standardization is boring. How fun is it when, on one hand a movie called The Osiris Child comes out with a 2.66:1 aspect ratio, and then Steven Soderbergh makes Unsane with a 1.56:1 aspect ratio?

  15. Todd Erwin

    They aren't cropping – they are windowboxing, making the image even smaller.

    Not sure if I understand what you are saying here, but allow me to clarify with visuals below what one of my main issues is.

    "Experience Black Panther the way it was intended." – See? They are literally selling the IMAX version as the definitive version.

    Using Black Panther as an example, why not…

    1) Release the film theatrically entirely in the IMAX 1.9:1 aspect ratio? They obviously have the image to do so. They're just hiding the top and bottom of the frame, so that they can give a 2.35 image for…reasons?

    2) Release the film on home video with a) the IMAX 1.9:1 scenes as shown theatrically or b) the entire film in the IMAX 1.9:1 aspect ratio?

  16. @Sam Posten and @Brian Dobbs Fun episode! I listened to it as I was doing Thanksgiving grocery shopping. 🙂 I thought, how are they going to discuss aspect rations for an hour and half, there’s not that much to say?!?! You showed me! :rolling-smiley:

    Fun topic, enjoyed it. Learned a few things like 2.39 is 2.40.

    if you ever want to talk optics, give me a call pre-show and I can whisper some some things for you to use when you’re on mic. I wanted to jump in and expand on some explanations regarding anamorphic lenses, depth of field, and other physics details 😀

    Good work. Looking forward to what’s next!

  17. Thanks so much @DaveF – I had the same reticence when we were planning out the episode, could we really make it into a full show? The feedback you have all given says we were successful AND we had fun doing it, so win/win! Will talk over having a follow up on it down the road and will definitely give you a consult!

  18. BTW, just to clarify, if blu-ray/UHD manufacturers gave consumers the ability to project 2.35 without all the hassle, and in a way that is superior in resolution to 1.85, then my opinion might be different.

    For example, reviving the 'anamorphically enhanced' aspect, but for blu-ray/UHD

  19. JohnRice

    Do creative decisions play into it at all? Or is there nothing more to consider than numbers?

    I'm all about ultra-wide, but unfortunately the home experience does it a disservice, which is important IMO because that's where we are watching most of our movies.

  20. Josh Steinberg

    My $500 TV has such good blacks that any black bars simply disappear into nothingness, especially with the room lights off or dimmed. You can’t tell where the TV frame is, you just see an image and the TV appears to just be that shape. Since I watch a lot of material that comes in ratios other than 16×9, it’s immensely helpful.

    Maybe if I could get my setup like this my opinion might change, but lighting conditions would have to be perfect, and even in my pitch black room with matte paint there's still enough ambient light from the projector to nullify any pure black framing that might come from the scenario you describe.

  21. I think it comes down to this central philosophical difference, as I was mentioning earlier, that’s always been in conflict – whether it’s stereos, cars, TVs or anything else:

    Do you use your TV to watch content you enjoy, or do you use content to show off what your TV can do? Are you watching the set, or are you watching the show?

    Not much different from those who picked their album listening choices based on what shows off their stereo, as opposed to using their stereo to listen to the music they enjoy.

    Do you have a car to take you places that you like to go, or do you go places because you like driving in your car?

    Some people want to have every spec maxed out at all times. Their enjoyment comes from experiencing what the tech can do. My brother has a 5.1 system and he forces everything to come out of all channels all the time, whether it’s music or TV or movies. That’s what he wants out of “surround sound” – to be surrounded by sound. Me, I have a 5.1 system too, but I like to listen to things as close as I can to how the people who made them designed them to be – so my stereo music gets played through the L and R speakers, and I don’t force “all channel stereo” so that movie sound plays through all speakers equally.

    I’ve always thought HTF was a place where we strive to honor the intent of the content creators – it’s right there in the mission statement. So I have to confess I’m a little puzzled that there are arguments being made in favor of homogenizing content to only one kind of framing that sacrifices artistic intent in favor of “fill my screen.”

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with home users opting to take advantage of the zoom button to fill the screen, or using AVR processing to fill the room with more sound than intended. But I want those decisions to be made on the individual, home user level, and not to be factors in how content is being created and distributed.

  22. Peter Apruzzese

    Adjustable velvet masking in my projection setup completely eliminates any issues with framing.

    Me too. Yeah, that's the hassle that Brian is talking about. Maybe it's because when I was young I fantasized about being a projectionist that I absolutely don't mind the hassles of setting up: adjusting the curtains, dialing in the framing and even adjusting the focus before each and every showing!

  23. I also just don’t care about black bars. They don’t bother me.

    When I was a kid – like, single digits of being a kid – there was a special letterboxed version of Star Trek IV on VHS that came with an intro from director/star Leonard Nimoy. My parents must’ve rented it by mistake. I watched with great interest as Mr. Spock-Without-Ears explained that the movie was shaped like a rectangle and the TV was shaped like a square, so they could either cut part of the picture off or have a full image that was smaller than the screen. He showed clips of one scene in both ways and I instantly got it.

    We don’t expect paintings to be the same shape. Statues to be the same size. Songs to be the same length. Why on earth should we want or expect filmed content to be the same when we don’t hold anything else to that standard?

    Take show like The Mandalorean. You could argue that it’s made for TV, that the vast majority of TVs sold are 16×9, ergo, the show should be 16×9. To me, the more interesting argument (which clearly won over at Lucasfilm) was that all of the Star Wars movies are 2.40:1, and that that wider framing is part of the visual language of the Star Wars universe.

  24. Josh Steinberg

    Some people want to have every spec maxed out at all times. Their enjoyment comes from experiencing what the tech can do.

    I hear you, but that's not where my beef is coming from. I'm bothered that the content creators are purposefully masking when they don't need to, like my Black Panther post earlier demonstrates.

    I have less of an issue with the black bars if the movie was shot anamorphically, because under anamorphic conditions, the view is literally wider than if it was shot in 16×9 and then cropped to fit the same aspect ratio that the anamorphic image is.

    The problem is a home video problem. Give me all the 2.35 at the theater, and I will eat it up. It's just that 99% of the stuff I watch is at home. Anecdotally, aren't theaters having trouble filling seats more and more these days? The shelf-life of a movie in a theater is nothing compared to it's life on home video, so why don't artists (like Gore Verbinski) take that into consideration?

    Josh Steinberg

    So I have to confess I’m a little puzzled that there are arguments being made in favor of homogenizing content to only one kind of framing that sacrifices artistic intent in favor of “fill my screen.”

    I completely understand where you are coming from. But I think content creators are kidding themselves if they think their movies are made for theaters, in this modern day when we are just now beginning to scratch the surface on movies made exclusively for Netflix, for example. Like, why was Bright formatted for 2.39? It will never see the light of day on a traditional movie screen, so what exactly is the benefit of giving us less image knowing it will only be on 16×9 screens at home?

    Josh Steinberg

    Take show like The Mandalorean. You could argue that it’s made for TV, that the vast majority of TVs sold are 16×9, ergo, the show should be 16×9.

    Yes, my point exactly.

    Josh Steinberg

    To me, the more interesting argument (which clearly won over at Lucasfilm) was that all of the Star Wars movies are 2.40:1, and that that wider framing is part of the visual language of the Star Wars universe.

    This is a good point, and it has merit. Jurassic Park broke this rule, and so did Ice Age. I'm sure others did as well.

    The *cynic* inside of me suspects that some content creators are framing for 2.39 to make themselves feel better. As if the framing of the movie somehow elevates an otherwise shitty movie because 2.39 is more prestigious.

    Josh Steinberg

    We don’t expect paintings to be the same shape. Statues to be the same size. Songs to be the same length.

    I see what you're saying, but I feel as though this comparison is mixing apples and oranges.

    Josh Steinberg

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with home users opting to take advantage of the zoom button to fill the screen

    I do, haha. I think this is worse than black bars! Give me the image the way it was intended to be seen for sure, but given the reality of the situation, the idea of movies being made for theaters is antiquated. So therefore, just like the 50 years or so of television that was created in 4×3, content creators should be thinking the same way unless viewing conditions change for the majority of consumers.

    I think the exceptions are for movies made specifically for traditional IMAX (Intersteller, etc.) or anamorphic productions (Hateful 8) where there is no other way to experience that movie the way the director intended but in the science museum or with anamorphic exhibition, and maybe for some avant garde experimental movie.

    Otherwise it just looks like they hid image and are in denial about current viewing conditions (home video…even phones! EEEK!) for most people on the planet at this point in time.

    It's not that I want every movie to look the same. If home video had a way of projecting a 'wider' image on a physically wider screen, without cheating like zooming or digital scaling, etc, then this would be a different discussion.

    Josh Steinberg

    When I was a kid – like, single digits of being a kid – there was a special letterboxed version of Star Trek IV on VHS that came with an intro from director/star Leonard Nimoy. My parents must’ve rented it by mistake. I watched with great interest as Mr. Spock-Without-Ears explained that the movie was shaped like a rectangle and the TV was shaped like a square, so they could either cut part of the picture off or have a full image that was smaller than the screen. He showed clips of one scene in both ways and I instantly got it.

    This is awesome BTW.

  25. I picture Brian sitting in his HT, mentally counting out and obsessing about how many more pixels there could be in the image, rather than enjoying the visuals and story telling.

    To be honest, I watched the entire first season of Handmaid's Tale without even realizing it was 2:1, until I read a comment about that later. That might be a "TV Show", but it's made with a very theatrical approach. I don't even know what aspect Westworld is in.

    Just don't ever watch American Gods. Your head might explode.

    The more it's explained, the more I shake my head.

  26. Brian Dobbs

    The problem is a home video problem. Give me all the 2.35 at the theater, and I will eat it up. It's just that 99% of the stuff I watch is at home. Anecdotally, aren't theaters having trouble filling seats more and more these days? The shelf-life of a movie in a theater is nothing compared to it's life on home video, so why don't artists (like Gore Verbinski) take that into consideration?

    It's not that I want every movie to look the same. If home video had a way of projecting a 'wider' image on a physically wider screen, without cheating like zooming or digital scaling, etc, then this would be a different discussion.

    I'm quoting these two paragraphs to point out an inconsistency in your argument. You know that a DCP has a resolution of 4096 X 2160 (4K) or 2048 X 1080 (2K) which means that even theaters aren't using the maximum resolution available when projecting a 2.35:1 image, right? So why is is okay for theaters to zoom or digitally scale but not home setups?

  27. Mark-P

    I'm quoting these two paragraphs to point out an inconsistency in your argument. You know that a DCP has a resolution of 4098 X 2160 (4K) or 2048 X 1080 (2K) which means that even theaters aren't using the maximum resolution available when projecting a 2.35:1 image, right? So why is is okay for theaters to zoom or digitally scale but not home setups?

    I think I understand what you are asking, but respectfully sir, I never said I was concerned with not taking advantage of the maximum pixel resolution, although I understand it's relevance. Your question did make me think of something though.

    Imagine you have a 2.35 screen at the theater. The curtains go in to mask the sides for 1.85 movies, and out to expand the screen to 2.35. 2.35 is supposed to be a 'bigger' (wider in physical size) format.

    So what is the 2.39 deliverable to the theaters? Is it a 16×9 formatted image with black bars baked in at the top/bottom that are masked upon projection?

    What is the 1.85 deliverable to the theaters? Perhaps it's a 2.35 image with black bars baked into the sides that are masked upon projection?

    Or something else entirely?

    In any case, this isn't where my main beef is.

    It's totally okay to zoom or digitally scale at home or theater (as long as it doesn't crop off part of the image!). I'm totally fine with this. Ideally, I'd do this at home. It's just completely impractical. So why, artistically, are content creators framing in a ratio that can only be experienced for such a short period of time (2-3 week run in theaters vs. the 16×9 standard that most people view things on these days and for the majority of the film's life?

    Ideally, I would love for there to be both 1.85 and 2.35, and I would love to do a legit 2.35 screen at home. But home video does a disservice to 2.35, making 1.85 the larger format now.

    A big screen TV used to be rare. Now everyone has one, and to an extent, a theater experience in their house. Given the ubiquity of 16×9 screens at home, at the office, on phones, etc., and surround sound at home (including soundbars, ugh), practically speaking, for any given film's existence, why aren't content creators favoring the aspect ratio that is more immersive at home…where most things are watched?

    This wasn't always the case. The distinction between film and TV used to be quite clear. Now? The lines are blurred. Movies formatted for a screen that really doesn't exist at home just stopped making sense.

    I think all of this could have been remedied had manufacturers just simply released anamorphically enhanced blu-rays/UHDs, like was once done for DVDs, back when 16×9 TVs first started coming out but made non-anamorphic DVDs look like complete garbage and windowboxed!

    But then there's still the problem of Dark Knight getting cropped during IMAX scenes and subtitles as well. So practically speaking, I understand why they did it that way, baking in the black bars.

    Would anyone hear advocate for purchasing a 21:9 TV?

    Mark-P

    Maybe it's because when I was young I fantasized about being a projectionist that I absolutely don't mind the hassles of setting up: adjusting the curtains, dialing in the framing and even adjusting the focus before each and every showing!

    I thought I would be into it as well, just like you describe here. I thought about this for YEARS. Do I go with 2.35 or 16×9? At the end of the day, I figured adjusting would get old quick. And when you have young children, the amount of time you get to yourself is practically nothing compared to what life once was like. I get about 1 hour a day to myself to watch something, and every so often 2, and every second of that hour or two counts big time. Binge watching? I don't have time, nor will I for years, possibly decades. So really I just gotta fire everything up really quick and press play.

    Cameron puts it best, at the end of the episode. 😉 2.35 Avatar is less image than 16×9, even theatrically.

    I've been thinking about this for years, starting around 2003 when I was making my own film in college. I had a DV camera, and the only way I could achieve 16×9 was by cropping the 4×3 image. It made me feel better superficially (Look Ma, it's widescreen!), but it wasn't real.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

  28. …heading for the liquor cabinet.

    Sorry to be snarky, but I'm simply at a loss for more ways to explain.

    I had a DV camera, and the only way I could achieve 16×9 was by cropping the 4×3 image. It made me feel better superficially (Look Ma, it's widescreen!), but it wasn't real.

    OK, maybe this is the best place to come from. They're movies. They're… not… real. There is no such thing as what's "real". (can we not throw in a pointless wrench such as documentaries?) There's only what the creators of each fantasy choose to create and how they choose to present it. It's not about hardware. It's not about the machinery used to make the sausage. It's about the sausage.

  29. Brian Dobbs

    I think I understand what you are asking, but respectfully sir, I never said I was concerned with not taking advantage of the maximum pixel resolution, although I understand it's relevance. Your question did make me think of something though.

    Imagine you have a 2.35 screen at the theater. The curtains go in to mask the sides for 1.85 movies, and out to expand the screen to 2.35. 2.35 is supposed to be a 'bigger' (wider in physical size) format.

    So what is the 2.39 deliverable to the theaters? Is it a 16×9 formatted image with black bars baked in at the top/bottom that are masked upon projection?

    What is the 1.85 deliverable to the theaters? Perhaps it's a 2.35 image with black bars baked into the sides that are masked upon projection?

    Or something else entirely?

    So here is what is delivered via DCP. As I stated before, the full resolution is 4096 X 2160 (half that for 2K). A 2.39:1 image is letterboxed on that DCP with a resolution of 4096 X 1716. A 1.85:1 image is pillarboxed with a resolution of 3996 X 2160. Digital projectors have two presets 2.39:1 and 1.85:1 each of which shows the resolutions stated above and crops out the black bars. IMAX theaters have a third setting known as "full container" which projects the full 4096 X 2160 resolution which is why Digital IMAX has an aspect ratio of 1.9:1.

  30. I don’t understand the comment that cropping the captured image makes the final product not real.

    Since the popularization of widescreen in the 1950s, widescreen ratios have commonly been achieved by shooting film negative of one shape and then using aperture plates in the projector to crop the image, so that only the picture image the filmmakers intended would be seen. This has been a standard production method for three quarters of a century. I guess all of those widescreen movies I own aren’t real either.

    I don’t mean to be negative but this sounds like a lot of the old pan and scan argument in fancy new clothes.

    Not every bit of information that’s picked up by a camera lens is intended to be seen in the final product. And movies, like it or not, come in a variety of shapes. And since movies are evolving into prestige television, expect those shows to come in a variety of shapes as well.

    Just because a technical capability exists doesn’t mean it always has to be used to its fullest. Asking all content to come formatted to 16×9 because the TV is that shape doesn’t seem any more logical than asking all new albums to run 80 minutes because that’s how much music a CD can hold.

    Comes back to that basic point I keep bringing up: are you putting on movies to watch your TV, or are you using your TV to watch movies? I’m in the latter category.

  31. @Josh Steinberg , I suspect you’d agree that most of us occasionally play something to “show off” our system’s capabilities, but your point is so valid. The one you keep trying to make. I’m in the same boat as you. Yeah, “show off” stuff is fun, but I buy the hardware to enjoy movies… and music. That’s the core motivation for me.

  32. Oh absolutely, we all have our demo discs. And I’m thrilled to use something that looks extra great to show off what my stuff can do.

    But it’s at least as important, if not more so, that my system can display my favorite movies as they were meant to look. Which means that not everything I watch takes full advantage of what my stuff can do. But that’s okay.

    It’s kinda like, you want your speakers to be able to go really loud for that sudden explosion in the movie, but you don’t want to watch the entire movie at explosion volume.

  33. Josh Steinberg

    I’ve always thought HTF was a place where we strive to honor the intent of the content creators – it’s right there in the mission statement. So I have to confess I’m a little puzzled that there are arguments being made in favor of homogenizing content to only one kind of framing that sacrifices artistic intent in favor of “fill my screen.”

    You only have Brian and maybe a few others making that argument while the rest of the us are still in agreement with our mission statement. A vocal minority shouldn't allow you to be puzzled in this type of discussion because there will always be minority and majority opinions in any discussion, no matter the subject matter. Without differing opinions there wouldn't be much of a discussion.;)

  34. I keep pondering the concept of "anamorphically enhanced", and it seems nonsensical for BR and completely absurd for 4K. It made sense for DVD, since the resolution is only 640×480, TVs were mostly CRT, which are not fixed pixel (as I understand it), HD TVs were on the horizon, and there was a genuine need to squeeze every possible bit of image out of a very limited format.

    The best I can figure it out, an anamorphic 4K would require a projector or TV of greater than 4K resolution to achieve any benefit. Or even more absurd, it would only have any benefit with projection systems using an anamorphic lens, which seems, to be honest, insane. In the real world, especially at home, 4K already has far more resolution than than can actually be used, so there's plenty of room to vary the AR. As I tried to figure out the logic, it occurred to me that maybe it's not fully understood that the "black bars" on modern formats, in essence, don't exist in the compressed digital format that's contained on the disc. Yeah, there's an unused black area, technically, but in the digitally compressed format, that area doesn't exist. It doesn't take up any bandwidth, which allows for less compression to be applied to the image area that is used. If it was anamorphic, the image area used would be larger for the benefit of the .0001% of people who might conceivably have a system capable of taking advantage of it. That larger image area would mean more compression would need to be applied, resulting in lower image quality for the other 99.999% of viewers.

  35. Mark-P

    So here is what is delivered via DCP. As I stated before, the full resolution is 4096 X 2160 (cut those numbers in half for 2K). A 2.39:1 image is letterboxed on that DCP with a resolution of 4096 X 1716. A 1.85:1 image is pillarboxed with a resolution of 3996 X 2160. Digital projectors have two presets 2.39:1 and 1.85:1 each of which shows the resolutions stated above and crops out the black bars. IMAX theaters have a third setting known as "full container" which projects the full 4096 X 2160 resolution which is why Digital IMAX has an aspect ratio of 1.9:1.

    Thanks for the explanation.

    I think, in order to advance this discussion, it would be nice to understand what each of your opinions and thoughts were on the Black Panther example. Otherwise, I accept that I'm in the minority on this, but please don't assume that all I'm thinking about are numbers and specs. I'm seeking the most immersive experience possible.

  36. I suspect I’m the last opinion you want, but my perspective is that movies like Black Panther, Interstellar and a few other similar examples are so unusual and extraordinarily unconventional that they shouldn’t be used for general arguments regarding the home presentation of the other 99.99% of movies.

    just to add, if a movie is presented theatrically in multiple ways, I don’t see how there can be a simple answer regarding how it should be presented at home.

  37. JohnRice

    I suspect I’m the last opinion you want, but my perspective is that movies like Black Panther, Interstellar and a few other similar examples are so unusual and extraordinarily unconventional that they shouldn’t be used for general arguments regarding the home presentation of the other 99.99% of movies.

    just to add, if a movie is presented theatrically in multiple ways, I don’t see how there can be a simple answer regarding how it should be presented at home.

    Good points. 🙂

  38. Brian Dobbs

    The problem is a home video problem. Give me all the 2.35 at the theater, and I will eat it up. It's just that 99% of the stuff I watch is at home. Anecdotally, aren't theaters having trouble filling seats more and more these days? The shelf-life of a movie in a theater is nothing compared to it's life on home video, so why don't artists (like Gore Verbinski) take that into consideration?

    If I understand, you’re asking, “why don’t TV and movie creators sacrifice artistic visual creativity to have more pixels used on home TVs?”

    Is that the gist of it?

    If so, the answer is, I think, “because they’re artists and they’re making art and filling all the pixels is not always in service to the art.”

  39. As with everyone else, I get that wider aspect ratios than 1.77 result in smaller image on my TV and screen. And it’s a bit weird to me that “TV shows” are being made is wider widescreen formats.

    On the other hand…it’s interesting. It serves as another data point that “TV” is an art form with its own dignity. It’s no longer the lesser, inferior medium to the One True venue of The Cinema. TV is getting new material with creators exploring formats, as they’ve long done for movies. And it affects the viewing experience. And if the results are good, then good. Higher quality, more intentional art meant for the home viewer.

    And who knows…if there is a massive shift to 2.40 aspect ratio content, the industry may consolidate around it and in a decade we’re all replacing our displays with new 16K 12:5 displays. And we’ll grumble about letterboxing or zooming all the 16:9 shows from the 2000’s 🙂

  40. No, but I wouldn’t object if they were. If the showrunners or studio feel they have a worthwhile reason for picking that ratio I wouldn’t complain. I watch a variety of television content from all eras on a regular basis, often daily – I see 4×3 material all the time and have no issue whatsoever with viewing it on my display.

  41. i don’t object to the loss of 4:3 shows. But I wouldn’t object to them. If it was shot in 4:3, that’s how I’ll watch it, given the choice. (Waiting for Disney to get The Simpsons in OAR.)

    The iPad screen is basically 4:3 and watching Futurama on it better uses its pixels than all the 16:9 content I download from Netflix. 🙂

    Watching the Disney+ show “Imagineering” (which is great), it has a lot of archival footage on 1.33 aspect ratio, and it reminded me how that format is just as interesting as widescreen. It’s a different feel. And having a show use widescreen and square is neat.

  42. Brian Dobbs

    Curious though, does anyone have an issue with the fact that TV shows are no longer produced in 4×3?

    I personally am not a big fan of the 4:3 aspect ratio – it's just not as immersive. I think the natural human field of vision approximates a 16:9 ratio, (1.87:1), so it's only natural to produce content in an AR that suits our biology.

  43. JohnRice

    What's your point?

    The standard changed, and thus no content creator chooses to create in 4×3 anymore. Why can't the same argument be applied to film? I understand it's not exactly the same, as there are still 2.35 screens out there, but home video is more popular than ever, and movie attendance is going down.

    Imagine a world with no cinemas. Crazy, I know, but just go with me for a minute. I'm not advocating for it, but it could easily happen. 2.35 would be antiquated, and without a proper place of exhibition. And given my reality of experiencing 99% of movies at home, 2.35 (to me) isn't as immersive as 1.85 or 1.78, so it's less desirable at home.

    2.35 was originally used by filmmakers because it was a bigger format, and it still is…in theaters. But not at home. So one could reasonably argue that the filmmakers' intent is not being honored at home. If I had CIH or if home video was set up in a way to do justice to 2.35, then we wouldn't be having this discussion. The reality is that anything wider than 16×9 ends up being a smaller picture, and thus, less immersive. This isn't opinion, it's physics.

    Big studio films may skip cinemas altogether in the not too distant future. It's already started with Netflix, and more studios are jumping on the bandwagon.

    If home video can change to deliver an easy way to switch between 1.85 and allow for a bigger presentation of 2.35 (not smaller like it currently is), then my opinion would be different.

    Worth

    Maybe it's just me, but I don't really see the point of shooting television in 'scope. The whole purpose of the format was to provide a bigger, more immersive experience, and you get just the opposite on television – unless you're in the 0.01% who have a constant height front projector set up.

    Yes, exactly.

    Josh Steinberg

    I’ve always thought HTF was a place where we strive to honor the intent of the content creators

    We do, and I do. Every 2.35 movie is projected that way. I'm not advocating for modifying the OAR on playback. I'm suggesting content creators examine the reality of the situation. Also, don't forget, this is the HOME theater forum, where display of films is fundamentally different that cinemas (2.35 smaller at home vs. bigger in cinemas), so IMO it's perfectly reasonable for us to advocate for our interests, which are similar to, but not exactly the same as cinemas.

  44. Are you familiar with the concept of "motivated reasoning"? In essence, it's backward logic. Deciding what you want for yourself, based on your personal motivations, then trying to come up with reasoning to make it apply to everyone else. A telltale sign of motivated reasoning is often when the argument against your reasoning is extremely simple. aka: "The creative content creators choose to create it that way." Then, the arguments in favor of the motivated reasoning get more and more extensive and elaborate, factually incorrect (cropping the capture image is "fake"), or use extreme, unconventional examples, like Interstellar and Black Panther, and repeatedly direct back to those same examples. Finally, it involves denying the real intent, such as was done in the post above in the response to Josh, by spinning what's actually being said. Forcing content creators to produce everything in the AR you deem acceptable is not really what I'd consider to be "strive to honor the intent of the content creators". It's taking the option away from them entirely. The previous post displays an obsession with the image being "bigger". I know that is denied, but read the post. It's clear. I'm sorry that creativity, composition, storytelling and just the freedom for the filmmaker to make their films the way they want is lost in this argument. There's more to movies than commerce. At least, there should be.

    As to your 4:3 question, let's explore that. Let's say there was a TV show in the vein of This Is Us, that takes place in multiple times. Let's say it was a very elaborate sitcom, because that seems to fit more with where I'm going. Let's say parts of it were set in the '50, and those parts were presented in 4:3, and B&W. I can see how that would be extremely effective, and entertaining, for me, at least. Hell, maybe the entire show could be in the '50s and all in 4:3 B&W. Nope! Gotta fill that TV frame! Not if I have anything to say about it.

    Anyway, I believe I'm done. This argument is getting mundane. Everyone enjoy their weekend. We still have every bit of the 2' of snow that fell on Tuesday, so I'm going to watch movies that don't fill my TV image, and enjoy not even think about it.

  45. For what it’s worth, I don’t really care much either way, and I always watch film and television shows in the manner they were created (if possible), but a couple of points.

    There seems to be a belief that the selection of aspect ratios is and always has been a creative choice, but that simply isn’t true. It was often mandated by the studios. There’s an old interview with Spielberg where he talks about wanting to shoot Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1.85, but Paramount insisted on ‘scope.

    And with respect to current television shows shooting in widescreen, I can’t help but feel that it’s less a creative choice and more a signal of superiority – a subtle way of suggesting that “this isn’t a tv show, this is cinema.”

  46. Why?
    Because, Art. Emotion. Feel. Visual language.

    “b&a: This is a film that was made in widescreen – in 2.39:1 – the first time a Toy Story film has been seen like that. How did that come about?

    Jonas Rivera: Well I remember years ago, we did a a CinemaScope test that would eventually lead to doing A Bug’s Life that way. They rendered one shot of Buzz walking down the hall. I think he sees Sid’s room. And it always stood out to me. It made them feel even smaller. Just, there was something about the aspect ratio and the dust and the particulate in the air, I think to me, has helped make the scale – Toy Story is all about scale. So it’s helped to amplify that.

    Josh Cooley: We were talking about just how to make this movie feel different. So, still Toy Story, but we didn’t want to repeat anything that we’ve done before. So we talked about widescreen and I had never seen that test, Jonas, until you mentioned it. You saw more of the world, which was really cool. And so we were talking about how we could – because we’re leaving the kid’s bedroom, we’re going out into the world – that it would be cooler to make it feel bigger. And even in the beginning, the way we tried to frame it was framing for 1.85, for when Woody is in the bedroom. And then when he gets out into the world, letting it open up. And also when he sees Bo again, just letting the world open up.

    Mark Nielsen: Cars was 2:39 because we have horizontal characters. Pete Docter wanted Up in 1.85 because it was about an ascent. So there’s usually some narrative reason. Ours was scale. We said, ‘They’re not in Andy’s room anymore. We are out into the world.’”

    https://beforesandafters.com/2019/0…ory-4-made-the-filmmakers-sick-in-a-good-way/

  47. Brian Dobbs

    I believe they just zoomed the image, right? I applaud the effort though.

    The big issue with that display was that it either stretched or windowboxed content randomly out of the blue for no reason, often if it detected any change in resolution.

  48. I think the main reason 1.78:1 was chosen as the de facto HD ratio is that it was the mid way point between 1.33 and 2.35 – so black bars wouldn't be too obtrusive regardless of the content being displayed.

  49. Just watched Aquaman for the first time (I know, I'm late).

    It's safe to say that the majority of the movie was 1.78:1, leaving me perplexed as to why 2.35:1 was even in the mix at all? If they knew this would be released on IMAX screens, which are more similar in ratio to our screens at home, what is the purpose of releasing any of it in 2.35?

    Remember, 2.35 was originally meant to offer a bigger picture to audiences, and it still does…in traditional theaters. But the complete opposite is true for movies released in IMAX theaters and at home. It's smaller, and thus less immersive presented that way, simply by its nature.

    Big screens at home were once a luxury. Now everyone has them. The bigger the better, so why continue using aspect ratios that present the movie 'smaller?' Filmmakers are cutting off their nose to spite their face. They are kidding themselves if they think 2.35 is bigger, because it's only true for a relatively insignificant portion of a film's lifespan.

    If it was shot anamorphically, like Hateful 8, and presented that way in a theater with a film projector, I'm thumbs up all the way!

    But how often do we watch movies this way anymore?

    To get people into theaters, movies were produced in widescreen. Anamorphic productions actually captured an expanded view. Matting 'cheats' to get the widescreen effect.

    I'm now thinking how ripped off I would feel if I were to have originally seen Aquaman in my local theater on a 2.35 screen only.

    This movie looked and sounded incredible, up there with Nolan (even though this is fake CGI crap and Nolan's stuff is practical) and I applaud James Wan for giving us the alternating aspect ratios for the home release. I would directly tweet him but apparently he's not on Twitter anymore.

    So if the original purpose of 2.35 is being completely negated by how the overwhelming majority of the public views films and TV these days, why do filmmakers still use it?

    2.35 is legacy. I get it. Is that a good enough reason to continue using it? I'm not sure I really accept the "for artistic reasons" anymore, simply because the overwhelming majority of movies and tv are presented differently these days than they were originally.

    Nothing but love for everyone here. I realize my opinion is in the minority. I'm simply questioning, as I, like you, have lived and breathed home theater for most of my life. My inherent nature is to question why things are still done when my common sense tells me there might be a legitimate reason to change the standard and to not simply go forth simply because that's the way things have been done. I apply this thinking to everything I do in life.

    Peace and love.

  50. It bugs me to sit through a movie with different picture heights.
    Hence, the partial IMAX-content DUNKIRK and MI:6 when played at home with the fixed 16:9 screen, i rather played through a player set to 4:3 letterboxed output, zoom the vids to cut off the top and bottom bars such that the picture appears as cropped image to acheive same height as 2.4:1 movies.

    Now… I'm just hoping that the "CINEMATIC edition" of the above both to release someday, so that i can buy just a version of what i truly will enjoy!

  51. If you want Dunkirk or any other Christopher Nolan film that’s partially IMAX to view at home in the cropped standard theatrical format of 2.40:1 (or 2.20:1 in the case of Dunkirk), both the DVD editions and the streaming versions (at all resolutions) maintain constant height. The BD and UHD disc releases are specifically intended to have switching ratios to preserve the director’s intent while taking advantage of the extra high quality presentation that discs allow for.

  52. U2’s latest concert film was released on new year’s day on DirecTV in the US and different outlets worldwide. It has a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.

    I wish I had screenshots because it’s a good example of choosing a ratio to match the subject material. The tour being captured, the 2018 “Experience and Innocence” tour, had a giant screen as it’s centerpiece which, instead of being located at the end of the arena as is typical for live concerts, actually ran through the middle of the floor, with a catwalk stage underneath it. The band could also enter the screen itself and perform from inside it. The screen itself had to have an aspect ratio at least as wide as 4:1.

    U2’s previous tour (“Innocence and Experience” in 2015) used the same layout and was shot as a concert film in the 16×9 ratio. What ended up happening in that film was that either the shots were too tight, or too wide, as the director struggled to frame an object that wide within a much taller frame. To show the complete screen ended up revealing a lot of audience below and scaffolding above, which paradoxically made this record-breakingly large screen seem tiny and unimpressive.

    By going with 2.40:1 this time, the framing choices are much cleaner and more visually pleasing. The screen can be properly framed in such a way that the sense of proportion becomes clearer to the home viewer. It conveys the sense of bigness much more accurately, and when the home viewer is meant to focus on the screen visuals, they’re much more captivating from this perspective.

    In this case, the wider aspect ratio is simply the better match to the subject material being shown. It maintains the correct proportions between the stage/screen, the band, and the concert audience, rather than allowing the audience or stage rigging to take focus away from the performance.

  53. "Forever" on Amazon Prime might be doing something with aspect ratio. I noticed in the third episode that it's ~2.40, but I think it was 1.77 in the first episode. There's a plot event in the second episode, so it might have shifted. But not sure; haven't checked if it was actually super wide the whole time.

  54. DaveF

    "Forever" on Amazon Prime might be doing something with aspect ratio. I noticed in the third episode that it's ~2.40, but I think it was 1.77 in the first episode. There's a plot event in the second episode, so it might have shifted. But not sure; haven't checked if it was actually super wide the whole time.

    2.40 from the start. See? The diversification of aspect ratios is becoming so common that you don’t even notice black bars anymore. 🙂

  55. DaveF

    I also have to check Mr Robot S4. Episode 7 was very widescreen and now I’m questioning everything I know about watching TV! :laugh:

    just that one episode, going for a “cinema” vibe. Back to 16:9 subsequently.

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