Revisiting Aspect Ratios

The Changing Shape of Cinema: The History of Aspect Ratio from on Vimeo.

Watch out, I’ve been blog surfing again… Actually, a little more like blog skimming. Can’t thank Vincent Laforet enough for his constant flow of consistently stellar info.

With inclement weather stranding the crew of my latest project in Newark for an extra day, this video came as a welcome reprieve.

A month back I wrote a quick note about aspect ratios, in particular my affinity for 2.40 (or 2.35, as you will see in the above video). Without a traditional film background, FilmmakerIQ’s breakdown of how this all came about was of extreme interest to me. I’m a firm believer of the idea that you can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been. The idiom is equally true in the growing lifeline of a profession.

As much as the aspect ratio race of the mid 20th century was about being the one to set the standard as anything, each revision was made with reason. Each addition to the growing repertoire filled a hole; a need made obvious by its predecessor.

The Academy Ratio was an adjustment for the inclusion of audio. Vistavision was meant to be comparable to Cinerama but at a far lower cost. And Todd AO applied a technique used in MGM 65 but on a more common film stock. Each had their distinct advantages, like CinemaScope’s 2.35 aspect ratio on 35mm film. They too had their drawbacks, for instance Cinerama’s single focal length.

As we develop each of our projects – whether independently or in a far larger group – we have the advantage of studying each of these ratios. They’re like paintbrushes we all own and can use at any time if they suit the painting. Grand, isn’t it?


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