What Is It About the 1.66:1 Ratio That I Love So Much?

Dick

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It's weird, and I've been trying to figure it out for years. When I throw a 1.66:1 OAR film up on my 65" OLED, I just instantly feel comfortable and ready for a great film-like experience. That's actually one of the reasons I love most of the Hammer releases and most early British "widescreen" films.

It's not all that far from being 1.78:1, but just that very slight narrowing of the image makes it seem closer to a theatrical presentation, since 1.78:1 is what most 1.85:1 films default to on Blu-ray releases. 1.78:1 feels like video. 1.66:1 feels like theater. 1.33:1, of course, feels like t.v.

And I prefer 1.66:1 to all other ratios. Just a personal preference. I simply love the shape.

2.35:1 is way overused anymore, because studios figure most of us have widescreen displays at home. But that ratio should be more an artistic choice than a commercial one. Most 2.35:1 films could easily be shot at 1.85:1. (Or, preferably, 1.66:1, but that is apparently a dead ratio for modern films, at least in the U.S.). Most directors don't use the widescreen frame well, and basically shoot with 1.78:1 widescreen displays in mind, thus centering most important information in the center of the frame. Really good directors of the past (and a very few even now, such as Tarantino) work with their DOP's to create images that have vital information from the left all the way to right edges.

But 1.66:1 is just a beautiful shape to me, as great architecture can be, or living things in nature. Can't really explain it. Some of you probably prefer 2.35:1, and I admit that it (and the 2.2:1 large-format ratio) is often absolutely preferable (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE HAUNTING, THE WILD BUNCH, LUST FOR LIFE, etc.).

But put even a mediocre 1.66:1 in front of me, I will watch it through and probably enjoy it, whereas I might not (as much) if presented in 1.85:1 or 2.35:1.

Weird, like I said.
 
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Rob W

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Odd that 1:66 seems like theater to you, since aside from the brief early days of widescreen it simply did not exist as a projection standard in North American cinemas. Bt the late 50's, pretty much everything in 35mm was run "flat" (1:85) or "scope" (2:35) and the studios making the films knew it and composed for it (even if they knew they may play at 1:66 in foreign markets.) You would have been hard-pressed to find a commercial theater that could even run 1:66 by the 1960's aside from art houses that played European fare.

The sheer number of 1:66 video transfers out there has misled people not in the theater business that 1:66 was a viable ratio in U.S. and Canadian theatres far more and far longer than it really was.
 

murrayThompson

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It's weird, and I've been trying to figure it out for years. When I throw a 1.66:1 OAR film up on my 65" OLED, I just instantly feel comfortable and ready for a great film-like experience. That's actually one of the reasons I love most of the Hammer releases and most early British "widescreen" films.

It's not all that far from being 1.78:1, but just that very slight narrowing of the image makes it seem closer to a theatrical presentation, since 1.78:1 is what most 1.85:1 films default to on Blu-ray releases. 1.78:1 feels like video. 1.66:1 feels like theater. 1.33:1, of course, feels like t.v.

And I prefer 1.66:1 to all other ratios. Just a personal preference. I simply love the shape.

2.35:1 is way overused anymore, because studios figure most of us have widescreen displays at home. But that ratio should be more an artistic choice than a commercial one. Most 2.35:1 films could easily be shot at 1.85:1. (Or, preferably, 1.66:1, but that is apparently a dead ratio for modern films, at least in the U.S.). Most directors don't use the widescreen frame well, and basically shoot with 1.78:1 widescreen displays in mind, thus centering most important information in the center of the frame. Really good directors of the past (and a very few even now, such as Tarantino) work with their DOP's to create images that have vital information from the left all the way to right edges.

But 1.66:1 is just a beautiful shape to me, as great architecture can be, or living things in nature. Can't really explain it. Some of you probably prefer 2.35:1, and I admit that it (and the 2.2:1 large-format ratio) is often absolutely preferable (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE HAUNTING, THE WILD BUNCH, LUST FOR LIFE, etc.).

But put even a mediocre 1.66:1 in front of me, I will watch it through and probably enjoy it, whereas I might not (as much) if presented in 1.85:1 or 2.35:1.

Weird, like I said.
70MM format is the one I prefer the most, but there are few.
 
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TJPC

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I find the Cinerama 3 strip ratio the most fascinating, especially when it has been carefully matched up and hidden as much as possible as I the Blu ray of "How The West Was Won". I end up watching for tell tale evidences of this match up instead of the story in HTWWW. I have seen this movie countless times, and although I generally hate westerns, it is the technical aspect that keeps me coming back. It is too bad that I find most of the rest of the Cinerama format movies just dated travel logs. These would be impressive on screen in a Cinerama theatre, but I find them hard slogging at home.
 

Dick

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Odd that 1:66 seems like theater to you, since aside from the brief early days of widescreen it simply did not exist as a projection standard in North American cinemas.
Yup. Like I said...weird.
 
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nanook

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I think Paramount had a slightly different definition back in the 1950's for the "Golden Ratio: 1.85
 

CC95

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Scott
It's weird, and I've been trying to figure it out for years. When I throw a 1.66:1 OAR film up on my 65" OLED, I just instantly feel comfortable and ready for a great film-like experience. That's actually one of the reasons I love most of the Hammer releases and most early British "widescreen" films.

It's not all that far from being 1.78:1, but just that very slight narrowing of the image makes it seem closer to a theatrical presentation, since 1.78:1 is what most 1.85:1 films default to on Blu-ray releases. 1.78:1 feels like video. 1.66:1 feels like theater. 1.33:1, of course, feels like t.v.

And I prefer 1.66:1 to all other ratios. Just a personal preference. I simply love the shape.

2.35:1 is way overused anymore, because studios figure most of us have widescreen displays at home. But that ratio should be more an artistic choice than a commercial one. Most 2.35:1 films could easily be shot at 1.85:1. (Or, preferably, 1.66:1, but that is apparently a dead ratio for modern films, at least in the U.S.). Most directors don't use the widescreen frame well, and basically shoot with 1.78:1 widescreen displays in mind, thus centering most important information in the center of the frame. Really good directors of the past (and a very few even now, such as Tarantino) work with their DOP's to create images that have vital information from the left all the way to right edges.

But 1.66:1 is just a beautiful shape to me, as great architecture can be, or living things in nature. Can't really explain it. Some of you probably prefer 2.35:1, and I admit that it (and the 2.2:1 large-format ratio) is often absolutely preferable (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE HAUNTING, THE WILD BUNCH, LUST FOR LIFE, etc.).

But put even a mediocre 1.66:1 in front of me, I will watch it through and probably enjoy it, whereas I might not (as much) if presented in 1.85:1 or 2.35:1.

Weird, like I said.
The ratio should reflect what the material calls for.
Even if a director loves the wide 2.35 image for most films - most good directors recognize when the material calls for a different ratio.
anything that needs head to toe coverage (like Astair films, and anything with dance) would be a disaster in 2.35. Conversely- epic scope movies would lose their majesty by using smaller ratios.
The rule of thumb is usually that stories that are all interiors should be somewhere in the 1.33 - 1.85 ratio.
there are exceptions of course. But ‘My Dinner With Andre‘ would gain nothing by being in Cinemascope - and Ben Hur would look terrible in 1.66
 
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Lord Dalek

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Everything between 1.33 and 2.20 is just personal preference. This is why I think certain terrible internet critics throwing around the word "bastardized" for transfers that dared to remove that tiny bit of extra masking for 1.78:1 transfers of films originally shown in 1.85:1 is total crock.

Also I'm not a fan of 1.66:1. The extra thick mattes on the left and right don't add anything really and just chew up valuable horizontal resolution. Sorry purists.
 
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Mark B

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As a photographer I am highly sensitive to composition within a frame, and for me 1.75 and 1.85 are the most satisfying ratios to view. 1.33 is just too square, and although there were some cinematographers and directors of the period that used it with innovation, for the most part I find that ratio a compromise. 2.35 is sometimes appealing, but quite often, especially in the early days of that ratio, it just wasn't used well. 1.66 is too close to square for me and I often feel there is too much excess space in the top and bottom of the frame. It feels sloppy and undefined. 1.85 just works. It's very much in line with natural peripheral vision, and lends itself to very clever and effective composition. Just my 5 cents on the matter.
 

GerardoHP

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I like the 1.66:1 ratio when its used on a film like Passage to India, where it suggests the older film formats from the story's era. That film was shown 1.85:1 in the US, though, but the European Blu-ray shows it in 1:66 and it works beautifully. I have to say that I generally prefer the scope format but I believe it's all in one's head. Scope movies were huge when I was a kid and going to the movies to see a film in CinemaScope felt like you were getting something extra, and indeed you were. That feeling never left me.
 
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Mark-P

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1.78:1 feels like video. 1.66:1 feels like theater. 1.33:1, of course, feels like t.v.
What feels like theater to me is an image projected on a screen with curtains on the sides that open or close to the exact shape of the image without black bars, whether it be 1.19:1 or 2.55:1. But it’s lonely in this camp...
 

TJPC

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Almost everybody has a wide screen TV now. Couldn't Blu rays of academy aspect movies have a "curtain" around them instead of a black bar?
 

Mark-P

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Almost everybody has a wide screen TV now. Couldn't Blu rays of academy aspect movies have a "curtain" around them instead of a black bar?
No! Don’t alter the movie with that crap. Disney already did it with “DisneyView” option on Bly-rays which put special artwork in the side panels. Unused areas in the screen should be invisible as in black and not illuminated by a fake curtain in a darkened theater.
 

darkrock17

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I've watched so many movies in widescreen for the last 20+ years now that I except to see black bars on top and bottom because I've been seeing them that way because that's how the DVD's had them. It's weird seeing them on TV now and were they take up the entire screen.
 

skylark68

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I just watched Kino's Line of Demarcation which is 1.66:1 and it looks stunning. The interior shots and the shots in the woods look extremely claustrophobic which is effective considering the Gestapo and armed patrols are everywhere in the small village.
 
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Worth

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What feels like theater to me is an image projected on a screen with curtains on the sides that open or close to the exact shape of the image without black bars, whether it be 1.19:1 or 2.55:1. But it’s lonely in this camp...
Most cinemas don't even have that anymore.
 

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