Is 2.35:1 being overused?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ryan Patterson, Aug 15, 2002.

  1. Ryan Patterson

    Ryan Patterson Stunt Coordinator

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    I've brought this question up as a curiosity of mine...
    These days, is it a good idea for directors to shoot movies at the scope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, considering:
    • HDTVs are at an aspect ratio closer to 1.85:1;
    • HBO and Showtime are reframing all 2.35:1 HD broadcasts to 1.85:1 because of what they perceive as customer demand;
    • In most cases, it is more desirable to reframe an open mask 1.85:1 film for standard 4:3 TVs, rather than pan & scan scope films;
    • Most theatres are built to take full advantage of the 1.85 aspect ratio; when they project 2.35:1 films, they lower the top of the screen and reduce the overall usable surface area.
    I'm not clear as to what advantage 2.35:1 movies have over 1.85:1 films in the modern age. Gone are the days of Ben-Hur and Dr. Zhivago, when you could experience a Cinerama presentation with dramatic peripheral views of vast backdrops. Although one may think that the 2.35:1 ratio can be used well in high-profile sci-fi movies, Steven Spielberg proved that Jurassic Park looked just fine at 1.85:1 in theatres (and he went even further by shooting the film at 1.66:1). Even Spider-Man, a film with lots of breath-taking skyline views of our favorite arachnid swinging through the city, was presented very well at 1.85:1.
    I can understand continuing the scope style for movie franchises that have used it in the past (eg. Star Wars, Indiana Jones), but where is the need to shoot at this ratio for most other films? Why are movies like Zoolander framed at 2.35:1?
    I really don't have anything against the 2.35:1 ratio (I've watched them regularly since the days of my old 13" TV a decade ago), but I feel it's being considerably overused. It would be nice to see most new releases being framed on HBO/Showtime at 1.85:1 BECAUSE they were filmed at that ratio.
    Any insight would be appreciated,
    Ryan
     
  2. Jonathan Perregaux

    Jonathan Perregaux Screenwriter

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    Steven Spielberg filmed Jurassic Park that way because, well, "Dinosaurs are tall."
     
  3. Nicholas Vargo

    Nicholas Vargo Second Unit

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    Here's the deal. I'm only 16 and I'm thinking of pusueing either a filmmaking career or a career as a film preservationist. If I pursued a career as a filmmaker, I would make all of my films 2.35:1. I never thought that aspect ratio was overused because for storytelling purposeds, it mike make the film look more like an epic story, even if it is short. This is why 2.35:1 is better. There is more space and maybe you can fight to have your artistic vision shown on VHS just so you can tick off MAR supporters, which is what I would want to do.
     
  4. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    While the name of the forum (Home Theatre) might lead us to believe that filmmakers should craft their movies with us in mind, they actually make their movies with theaters in mind as the prime viewing medium. The point of movies is to draw people into movie theaters and not to make TV even more competitive with movies than it already is. Therefore:
     
  5. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    I was blown away by the presentation of Lord of the Rings...fantastic picturesque views of New Zealand.
     
  6. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    2.35:1 is the better and more cinematic a.r. to use. The fact that it still will not fit 16x9 consumer TV's is not relevant. There is the movie experience and then there is the "at home" experience.
     
  7. Nick_Scott

    Nick_Scott Second Unit

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  8. Gabe D

    Gabe D Cinematographer

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  9. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Spider-Man was shot 1.85:1 because it worked better for the swinging sequences to have a taller frame

    I agree that there are many movies that shoot 2.35:1 and don't need to, but it's a great ratio, and I can't picture many films in another ratio
     
  10. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  11. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    As the movie theatre becomes a less and less attractive place to spend time and money, the home DVD player becomes more attractive. However, some OARs are unpopular on conventional TV. Altho I find 1.85:1 very acceptable, I do somewhat resent the large expanse of the dreaded black bar on wider image movies, to the point where Bridge on River Kwai or Titanic won't get in my collection
    As to the director-vison thing, in some cases maybe. But in very many cases, 2.35:1 is merely an unthought convention, stemming from the bigger is better mindset.
    Since the movie industry does have a sell-thru economic policy, it might behoove it to consider the public reaction to the 2.35:1 DVD. That is what is driving the industry to offer P&S DVD editions of films, which is far more inhibiting of the director's vision than a 1.85:1 OAR.
    In short, good point, Ryan
    PS : Er, there are actually also other reasons why Titanic is not on my list. [​IMG]
     
  12. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Some movies suit certain aspect ratios because of the content.

    Do you think Lawrence of Arabia would have been as good if it was filmed at 1.85:1? IMO, it wouldn't.

    Would Being There really need 2.35:1? IMO, no.
     
  13. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  14. Stefan A

    Stefan A Second Unit

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    When you go to an art museum, you see paintings on canvases of all different sizes. Why did the artist choose that shape and size? We can speculate the reason - and sometimes the reason is clear.

    In the end, I think it is the artistic vision of the director. They want you to see the movie in a certain way, so they choose the approriate shape.
     
  15. Ryan Patterson

    Ryan Patterson Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey all, thank you very much for your input so far.
    Many of you have made the point that the 2.35:1 ratio is more of the "artistic" choice among directors, and you hint that the directors feel their movies look more "hip" this way. Unfortunately, this doesn't really answer my question. While a scope movie provides a wider-looking picture, it potenitally sacrifices the height aspect for this gain. You may get to see a vast rocky mountain range in a scope shot, but you may lose the sky above and plains below.
    As mentioned before, I can see the scope ratio being used for big-budget movies that want to display vast backdrops, such as sci-fi films or great epics. However, the effect is lost on me on lower-budget comedies and dramas. I can understand why there are 1.85:1 movies like "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" and "Chasing Amy", but I'm lost as to why movies like "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and the before-mentioned "Zoolander" are even considered for 2.35:1.
     
  16. Joseph Bolus

    Joseph Bolus Cinematographer

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    For "action/adventure" movies, I've always preferred the 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

    And I can tell you that if you have a projector, with some form of aspect ratio control, 2.35:1 looks tremendous at home! (Don't forget that many 16:9 HT projectors are now approaching the price point of a 65" HD RPTV; in other words around $3K-$4K.)

    Now ... for "intimate" movies, (basically romance and comedy type movies), I do prefer 1.85:1. For example, I really did not feel that the Drew Barrymore vehicle Ever After really needed 2.35:1. (Although it looks pretty good on my equipment!)

    THE BOTTOM LINE here is that, as always, it's the director's choice; and we, as HT enthusiasts, really shouldn't question their decisions in this regard. What we should do, IMO, is make sure that our home equipment can present their work in the best possible way at home; no matter what the aspect ratio.

    The magic of DVD is that even a very modest HT setup (say, a S-video input from a "budget" DVD player, feeding a 4:3 27" direct view set, coupled to a DD 5.1 receiver) can do a pretty good job of presenting 2.35:1 at home. It simply entails moving a little closer to the screen. Or, you can do what I did and purchase a budget projector, fed by a progressive scan player, and project onto a 96" 16:9 screen.

    Either way, the 2.35:1 ratio can provide an exciting cinematic experience at home!
     
  17. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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  18. Mike McNertney

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    You're right that it depends on the display. While some theaters have a fixed height screen and move the curtains wider for 2.35:1, as you mentioned, other theaters have a fixed width screen, and lower the top curtain for 2.35:1. So depending on the theater, 2.35:1 may have more or less screen space than 1.85:1
     
  19. JeremySt

    JeremySt Screenwriter

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    Ryan, so far your arguments have left me puzzled. You obviously seem to be in favor of 1.85:1 over 2.35:1. Why? Both formats have artistic merit.

    [q]the 2.35:1 ratio is more of the "artistic" choice among directors, and you hint that the directors feel their movies look more "hip" this way.


    What??? I seee nothing "hipper" about 2.35:1 Your main argument seems to be that 1.85 is more appropriate for HDTVs. This is only true because it would fill the screen.

     
  20. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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