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Throwaway comment I made got me thinking: IMAX taking us backwards in time to Academy ratio (1 Viewer)

Carlo_M

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DISCLAIMER
This post was made partially in jest (or at least in good humor) based on a throwaway comment I made when looking at the different aspect ratios of Dune and various other partially (or fully) shot in IMAX films. One could watch them on a fixed 2.40:1 aspect ratio in a cinema, or in the "in-between" IMAX screen of 1.90:1, or in the full 1.43:1 IMAX screen for the few in the country that have that.

JACK HANDY'S DEEP THOUGHTS (SNL reference that only those over 40 will get)
As a child of the 1980s I wasn't around when Academy ratio was the standard for Hollywood movies. As I began to get more into film, one of the common things I heard was that Hollywood (and filmmakers in general) migrated to widescreen aspect ratios to get people back to the theaters because they were largely staying home, where TVs had become ubiquitous and had the same aspect ratio (1.33:1) as Academy ratio films.

Being a long-time member of HTF, I recall all the difficulty we had in the late 1990s explaining to our non-HTF friends that the black bars didn't actually take away picture, but added it! (Let's not wade into the territory of open matte films for which this statement did not always hold true).

Well 25 years later, and now widescreen TVs are the norm. It got me thinking. Is IMAX's 1.43:1 ratio (surprisingly close to Academy ratio) the new attempt to "get us back into the cinemas"?

And yes, I know the answer can only be "No" because there are relatively few true 1.43:1 IMAX screens in the US, and I don't get the sense that there's going to be a mass change of screens to 1.43:1 in the near (or far) future. And yes I also get that if one uses true IMAX cameras and film (as Nolan does) there are many more benefits outside of aspect ratio, such as the greater resolution of that type of film.

But it just struck me as a little funny that we went from 1.33:1 to 1.85/2.40:1 (yes I realize there's many more aspect ratios, I'm just choosing the two most common modern ones). And now we seem to be going backwards. Maybe someone should try shooting a film in a trapezoid shape!
 

Todd Erwin

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It’s not just IMAX. Most newer build theaters use a standard height 1.78:1 or 1.85:1 screen with little to no masking, so “scope” or 2.39:1 movies often look smaller. Older builds often used a standard width screen of 2.39:1.

Douglas Trumbull’s 1983 film Brainstorm was shot in alternating aspect ratios where the wider 2.39:1 was supposed to be the mind capture footage and 1.85:1 was normal, story stuff. With a standard width screen, it made the wider aspect ratio more dramatic. If shot today, it would be the exact opposite, with the mind capture in 1.9:1 or 1.4:1 and normal story in 2.39:1. The standard height makes the taller image more dramatic and the wider aspect ratio less so, as it would appear smaller.
 

Indy Guy

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As an owner of a scope projector optimized for 2.35 format, it is frustrating when a film like Top Gun Maverick "shrinks" the home theater image from immersive scope width to 16x9 for the action scenes.
Our eyes are placed in such a way to capture a scope like view of the world.
Many human creations reflect this... The windshield of a car, for example showcases the road ahead in "scope" to match the capability of the human eyes.
In Top Gun it is easy to see the 16x9 action sequences have a safe zone within the top and bottom of the frame 4 that is composed for 2.35. When my projector's auto aspect ratio is disabled so the entire film runs in widescreen, IMAX image compositions have no sense of added important information. In the purest sense a screen should have a fixed vertical hight and as aspect ratios widen, there is more immersion in the wider image because height is never compromised in any ratio.
 

Wayne_j

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A24 is probably more responsible for a return to Academy ratio.
 

Worth

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But it just struck me as a little funny that we went from 1.33:1 to 1.85/2.40:1 (yes I realize there's many more aspect ratios, I'm just choosing the two most common modern ones). And now we seem to be going backwards...
It was always about size, not shape. The point was that the huge screen in the cinema could provide you with a more immersive experience than television ever could. The aspect ratio was incidental.
 

YANG

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the theory of shooting movies in "most suitable" aspect ratio for presentation according to film makers intent... is long gone ever since Christopher Nolan allows IMAX to "dominate" the works distracting the direction where the movie genre should go.
ever since Dunkirk and M.I.:6, i've stopped getting one another optical disc with changing/switching aspect ratio!
 

Joe Wong

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Seeing the tidal wave in Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) in 1.43:1 IMAX is one of my greatest cinematic experiences!
 

Carlo_M

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It was always about size, not shape. The point was that the huge screen in the cinema could provide you with a more immersive experience than television ever could. The aspect ratio was incidental.
The movie theater even at Academy ratio was always spectacularly larger than the common TV sets people had back in the 1950s. Yet in the 50's there was a move towards wider aspect ratio. The reasons for it are numerous. For the cynical "money runs everything" rationale, it was to get people back to the theaters due to the wider viewing spectacle. For the "common sense" rationale, wider ratios more closely matches how humans see (wider than taller). For the "artistic" rationale, wider ratios give artists a wider palette to work from, new framing opportunities, etc. If you show an Academy Ratio movie on an IMAX screen, you'll achieve nearly the same "size" effect, but with the loss of resolution since films shot on 35mm won't look as sharp as true IMAX when projected on that large of a screen.

the theory of shooting movies in "most suitable" aspect ratio for presentation according to film makers intent... is long gone ever since Christopher Nolan allows IMAX to "dominate" the works distracting the direction where the movie genre should go.
ever since Dunkirk and M.I.:6, i've stopped getting one another optical disc with changing/switching aspect ratio!
Nolan really did open a Pandora's Box with that move. Knowing his stance on film and filmmaking I have no doubt that his primary driver was to realize his artistic vision. Now that the practice is more commonplace, the filmmaker's intent may or may not match his. The MCU movies are the best example. Very few (if any?) had the full 1.43:1 IMAX ratio. Watch some of the behind the scenes for the Russo Brothers filming Infinity War/Endgame and it's clear they're framing more at the 1.90:1 ratio with a narrower border on their monitors to represent the 2.40:1 ratio for most non-IMAX movie theaters. But when those two films hit Disney+, there's no changing of aspect ratios, it's straight 1.90:1 (which I believe it was in most IMAX theaters that don't have the full 1.43:1 screen).

Anyway, we could have a discussion on this ad nauseam. I just thought it was funny we started at 1.33, moved to 1.66/1.85/2.4 and others...and are now going backwards in some cases.
 

YANG

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... cinematic ...
the keyword here... CINEMATIC, and that stays in Commercial CINEMA, not home CINEMA, unless you're okay with the restriction of your home display setup, be it mega inch display limited by 16:9 ratio or projection in 1.43:1.
 

Joe Wong

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the keyword here... CINEMATIC, and that stays in Commercial CINEMA, not home CINEMA, unless you're okay with the restriction of your home display setup, be it mega inch display limited by 16:9 ratio or projection in 1.43:1.

Yep, that's what I mean. No mention of a home setup. I would gladly go to a true IMAX theatre to see a film that has 1.43:1 sequences, like Interstellar, Dunkirk, The Dark Knight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
 

Worth

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Our eyes are placed in such a way to capture a scope like view of the world...
For the "common sense" rationale, wider ratios more closely matches how humans see (wider than taller).
Is that based on something? A admittedly cursory google search reveals that human vision is closer to 4:3.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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The movie theater even at Academy ratio was always spectacularly larger than the common TV sets people had back in the 1950s.

That’s true, although an Academy ratio screen in a 1950s or earlier theater was actually much smaller in overall size than you might expect.
 

Worth

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For the "artistic" rationale, wider ratios give artists a wider palette to work from, new framing opportunities, etc...
In reality, the choice of aspect ratio was less a creative choice than a mandate from the studio. There’s an old interview with Spielberg after the release of Raiders where he says he wanted to shoot it in 1.85, but Paramount insisted on ‘scope, so even major directors with a lot of clout had little say in the matter.
 

Worth

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That’s true, although an Academy ratio screen in a 1950s or earlier theater was actually much smaller in overall size than you might expect.
And going bigger meant going wider, as the height of those screens was already about as big as would fit.
 

YANG

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... Anyway, we could have a discussion on this ad nauseam. I just thought it was funny we started at 1.33, moved to 1.66/1.85/2.4 and others...and are now going backwards in some cases.
the funny part is that you've got cinematic screen and home screen mixed up. although in the later days, projectors and projection screens comes with 1.9:1 and 2.4:1 options.
we need to look back at 2 different installation in 2 different environments in detail.

@ home, our CRT TV in 4:3 had been going on for decades since the 50s until beginning of 90s, with CRT TVs comes in 16:9 driven by HD broadcast in some regions. in the transition of CRT to PLASMA, that 16:9 widescreen ratio was carried over and then to LCDTV age. and here in this LCDTV period, PHILIPS had attempt to lead the screen trend to cinematic ratio to mimic what traditional Commercial CINEMA screen looks to be... in 21:9.
螢幕擷取畫面 (143).png

however, that failed as most consumers will complain that typical broadcast programmes in 16:9 ratio leaves a big chunk of black bars left and right, such "specifically designed" 21:9 TVs were not economical as well. hence, due to market demand and popularity, 16:9 wins. and had been that since.
hence, the only change, by population in large, is between 4:3 and 16:9, while 1.85:1 & 2.35:1 applies to cinematic photography only, along with other wider or shorter ratios.

cinematically, the only change i observed in commercial cinema, is between 2.4:1 and 16:9. in history, the wider the picture photography is, the grander the production as well as what the genre of the story tries to bring the audience to. the choice of the aspect ratio sings along to the track where the story goes in different genres. ws1.85:1 was used to draw audience visual focus into the middle of the picture, while ws2.35:1 was intended for grander and wider scale of photography that captures landscapes, actions, and other things that should be relevant to the film.


today... it's a mess.
 

Carlo_M

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the funny part is that you've got cinematic screen and home screen mixed up. although in the later days, projectors and projection screens comes with 1.9:1 and 2.4:1 options.
I'm only referring to TVs since the vast majority of Americans do not have home projectors. In that case, TV was originally released in 4:3, and with the HDTV age starting in the late 90s to current, 16x9 (technically 1.78:1 so true 1.85 movies with no overscan still have small black bars at the top and bottom). All of the various aspect ratios I mention are those that were used by filmmakers in theatrical presentations
 

Carlo_M

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Is that based on something? A admittedly cursory google search reveals that human vision is closer to 4:3.
I realize this will vary based on each individuals' face structure. My forehead and eyebrows clips my vision upward, and my cheekbones clip it downward. So while the eye may be able to see, I think the page I read said 60º above axis and 75º below, the functional view (since our brains learn to ignore things that obstruct your view regularly (can you imagine if your brain always registered "hey that's my nose" - we'd fixate on that constantly) the functional up/down view of the world around you is less than the 135º your eyes can functionally see. Conversely, there are no facial structure that impede one's horizontal field of view, so that theoretical number of about 190º is more fully realized.

Also let's not forget how our eyelids work, up and down for the most part. I'd bet those theoretical number are with eyes wide open, when most of the time our eyes are not open that wide. I just did an exercise where I opened my eyes all the way and added quite a bit of vertical information that I don't see when my eyelids are in their normal state. But opening my eyes wider added no noticeable side information.

Oh, here's the page I was looking at: https://www.vision-and-eye-health.com/visual-field.html
 

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