Man of Steel Trailer from Warner Brothers on YouTube.

I’ve recently immersed myself into the world of aspect ratios.

I think it may have started when I was asked to put together a 007 reel for a benefit recently. I was frustrated as a copy of one film had been formatted for a 16:9 screen, and another was in its original theatre form. It sounds naive, but I really hadn’t spent much time looking into the differences between the ‘wide screen’ and ‘full screen’ options. Blonde moment.

I’m going to pretend for a quick moment that there is someone else out there who didn’t know all of this so that I can offer this brief run down. There are at least 24 aspect ratios that have been used commonly over the years. Here are four we are all likely familiar with.

1.33 (4:3)Remember when TVs were square.. or essentially square? Well this was it in all its glory.
1.77 (16:9)When television changed to a more ‘wide screen’ look, it followed this aspect ratio. It’s widely viewed as the HD standard.
1.85Here’s one of two most commonly found at the movie theatre. Universal first introduced this in 1953. Off the top of my head, District 9 was shot at this aspect ratio – but the list doesn’t end there.
2.40 Now don’t be fooled a lot of people will be calling this 2.35, but after the 70’s the anamorphic standard for film is actually 2.39 – or better known as two-four-oh.

We’ve all been stunned by the Man of Steel trailers airing before the newest feature film. I caught it before watching Oblivion the other day. As the camera closes in on Russell Crowe’s character the full effect of 2.40 hits you like a Mack truck. In plain sight the planet behind him is falling to pieces, but we are all still captivated by his expression. His disbelief.

Later in the trailer, young Clark puts his hands to his hips and for the first time makes the storied Superman pose. The aspect ratio gives the shot power, without giving away any more than it has to.

Or how about the breadth of the shot as Superman’s cape flows behind him as he emerges from his fortress of solitude. And then moments later, when his face is turned to the sky the framing has above his shoulders yet below his hairline, the aspect ratio provides for this ultimately personal moment as Superman is still framed to the left side of the screen. You don’t feel like you’re crawling up his nose.

Although I don’t see the ability to shoot 2.40 in the foreseeable future, as I prepare trailers for my upcoming project I may crop to keep a similar effect. It certainly extends the directors ability to focus the viewers attention.

Just like this provided me the opportunity to post about Man of Steel. Stoked for this movie release.


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