Aspect Ratios

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  • #255603

    Ben Saunders

    I’ve noticed two things I’ve watched recently – the Star Wars Mandalorian Trailer and the music video for Kiss & Tell by Angels & Airwaves – have been in SUPER wide aspect ratios. This looks utterly daft on the webpage and has hideous black bars taking up 1/3rd of the picture in fullscreen. What the fuck is going on? Is this where entertainment is headed in general, or are these just two special cases?

    I remember the latest series of Doctor Who was in wider-than-16:9 as well, but it was only a bit wider, with the black bars being much smaller – it was still annoying as fuck, though. it’s especially annoying for somebody like me who watches everything on a laptop which doesn’t have an incredible amount of screen real estate to begin with.

    Is this an attempt to make things look “more cinematic”, or “like a movie”, is it a genuine artistic thing, is it a marketing strategy for ultrawide monitors and televisions? Will we be seeing more and more entertainment in this absurd aspect ratio? Is your average consumer impressed by ultrawide content, or will they just fiddle with their remote until they can stretch the image to cover the black bars, like some people do when stretching 4:3 content to widescreen?

    #255604

    Ben Saunders

    I am now going to attempt to embed images. Here goes:




    #255605

    International Debris

    Is this an attempt to make things look “more cinematic”, or “like a movie”, is it a genuine artistic thing, is it a marketing strategy for ultrawide monitors and televisions?

    The first feeding into the third (or vice-versa).

    #255606

    GlenTokyo

    Just looks like a film aspect ratio, 2.35:1, and people watch films quite happily.

    Maybe they just want more budget on the screen at once, and they can play into it being a “movie quality” production for the Mandalorian.

    Music video I don’t know, stylistic choice.

    #255608

    Nick R

    All your screen captures above show the video about 2.40:1. Not an unusual format for blockbuster films – although TV being shot like that has only started happening recently.

    I agree it seems wider and looks worse on YouTube when not in full screen mode. But I think that’s a side-effect of changes in the way companies tend to upload trailers, and in the way YouTube presents them.

    It used to be common for 2.35/2.39/2.40:1 (I can never remember the difference…) videos on YouTube to have the black letterbox borders baked into the video. For a Star Wars example, this Rogue One trailer:

    https://i.imgur.com/UmgnC2b.png

    But now it’s more common for official trailer videos to omit those black borders, so that the YouTube viewport is exactly the size of the film footage, no larger:

    https://i.imgur.com/lbQ54rS.png

    This changes the arrangement of all the other page elements, which I agree looks weird and unbalanced if you’re used to YouTube viewports being 4:3 or 16:9!

    The wider-than-16:9 ratio used for Doctor Who is a 2:1 format called Univisium. Seems to be the trendy new thing to use for anyone aspiring to make prestige TV: https://vashivisuals.com/the-hot-new-filmmaking-aspect-ratio/

    #255617

    Ben Saunders

    Can they stop doing this? Please? Is it too late? Why are films so wide?

    (I know this is a practice that dates back to something like the 1930s and is purely intended to make sure that people can only get a truly “cinematic” experience from actually going to the cinema, so this comes off to me as an attempt to make the home viewing [streaming] experience worse in the hopes of convincing people to keep going to the cinema in an age where you really shouldn’t have to anymore)

    You’re right that it does look 1000x better with the black bars baked in.

    You’re literally not getting “more budget” on the screen at once, the picture is physically smaller. Easily impressed people who don’t think much might think it looks more like a movie, though.

    #255618

    Ben Saunders

    Funny that you say “people happily watch films”, I generally don’t, and the most modern movie I’ve ever watched on home media is I think Revenge of the Sith (2005). So naturally I assumed that was shot in 16:9, because I didn’t notice it having black bars when I watched it a couple of weeks ago, but fuck me, it does. And so does Return of the Jedi. I thought this wideness meme was a recent thing, but it turns out I just didn’t notice.

    #255619

    Darrell

    It’s been a valid cinematic aspect ratio for a long time – we’re essentially talking about Cinemascope here, and equivalents of – but you’re absolutely right both about it looking vain and *ridiculous* on TV shows and absolutely stupid when displayed without black bars on YouTube etc outside of a set 16:9 frame.

    #255620

    Ben Saunders

    It does look embarrassing on TV. Like they’re trying so hard. Especially when what you end up presenting to us in this “prestige TV” format is… Doctor Who series 11. No amount of ultrawide pictures and gloomy lighting can distract from shitty writing.

    #255621

    Warbodog

    When I’m going through directors’ filmographies, they’ll often switch aspect ratios willy-nilly as it goes along, depending on factors like how prestigious the film is, what suits it, how much control they have over it, trends, or whatever.

    Kubrick film screencaps normalised for height (good luck, formatting…):

    It’s always strange when you’re going through a TV series and you hit the movie they made at the end of part-way through, and it goes all narrow and differently shot with different colours and a different atmosphere for just that bit.

    #255622

    Darrell

    Dr Strangelove changes aspect ratios continually all the way through of course.

    #255623

    Warbodog

    Oh… I didn’t notice or just forgot about that inconvenient fact.

    Supplemental: Terry Gilliam films from the 21st century, to show that random width is still ongoing:

    #255627

    Ben Saunders

    “Real” filmmakers like that are always fucking around with aspect ratios. I’m sure they have some very clever artsy-fartsy explanation for why they shot whatever in a specific one. Kubrick in particular was… very specific about things. I’m sure this makes him a “genius”.

    The Dark Knight changed aspect ratio a few times iirc, but that was because some of it was shot in IMAX and some of it wasn’t, I think it was just an unnecessary side effect of that.

    #255628

    Ben Saunders

    There was some movie recently that they shot in 4:3 in an attempt to make the viewer feel claustrophobic, or something. I’ve never felt claustrophobic watching… *checks notes* all of television pre-2004

    #255629

    Dave

    I don’t really mind what aspect ratio people choose as long as it stays consistent for the duration of what you’re watching.

    Unless there’s a good reason to change, switching ratios partway through is really distracting. Films like The Dark Knight (where they shot a few scenes for Imax in a different ratio) spring to mind. It feels gimmicky in a way that I wouldn’t expect of Nolan.

    #255630

    Warbodog

    Kubrick in particular was… very specific about things. I’m sure this makes him a “genius”.

    Jon Ronson’s documentary Stanley’s Kubrick’s Boxes leaves no doubt, just the right side of the insanity/genius line. I find some of his films too nasty, but great variety.

    His very wide aspect ratios were just what was done with ‘big’ films of the time (Spartacus was definitely out of his hands, not a characteristic one at all). Looks like he settled on the sensible ratio he liked for everything once he had enough clout to do what he wanted. So probably only Dr Strangelove where he’s consciously fucking about with the ratio, and it’s not a serious film.

    #255631

    GlenTokyo

    If you can see more of your set/CG background/ environment whatever then it’s more budget on screen.

    If the final fight in Endgame was in 4:3 it’d be wank.

    #255632

    Ben Saunders

    It’s not more than 16:9, is what I meant. Since 16:9 fills the whole screen.

    #255633

    Dave

    If you can see more of your set/CG background/ environment whatever then it’s more budget on screen.

    If the final fight in Endgame was in 4:3 it’d be wank.

    It’s not as simple as that though. Sometimes 4:3 actually shows you more than widescreen.

    https://youtu.be/e_ufcC-iZbU

    #255642

    Warbodog

    4:3 used to fill the whole screen, depends on the screen. I only went 16:9 last year when I replaced my laptop and the cheapest ones in the shop stopped being 4:3. I must have had horizontal bars for all new TV for years, I just really stopped noticing. Now I have vertical bars for older stuff, which I’m getting used to. I hope laptops don’t end up in Cinemascope ratio by 2025, that’d be awkward. Some phones are, and maybe TVs are going that way.

    #255650

    Ben Saunders

    Well yeah by “the screen” I mean almost any laptop or TV made since about 2010. Ultrawide gaming monitors etc have been a thing in the past few years, but they’re hopefully just a fad. Remember VR?

    #255659

    GlenTokyo

    VR is great. Considering the amount of cheap headsets you can get now, and standalone gaming systems like the Oculus Go, it’s definitely not a fad.

    3D TV, now that was a fad. Doesn’t bring much, unlike VR. Room scale VR is the best gaming experience you can have.

    #255660

    GlenTokyo

    Oculus Quest too.

    #255704

    Nick R

    When I’m going through directors’ filmographies, they’ll often switch aspect ratios willy-nilly as it goes along, depending on factors like how prestigious the film is, what suits it, how much control they have over it, trends, or whatever.

    I like how superhero film directors have switched in both directions over the last 20 years:

    Sam Raimi shot Spider-Man in 1.85:1 (DP: Don Burgess), then switched to 2.35:1 for Spider-Man 2 (DP: Bill Pope). IIRC the reason he gave was that because of the it helped the boxy shape made by Dr Octopus’s arms fit better in the frame in shots when he was seen alongside Spider-Man.

    Joss Whedon shot Avengers in 1.78:1 (DP: Seamus McGarvey), then switched to 2.39:1 for Age of Ultron (DP: Ben Davis).

    Zack Snyder shot Man of Steel and Batman v Superman in 2.35:1 (with DPs Amir Mokri and Larry Fong respectively), apart from the IMAX sequences. Then switched to 1.85:1 for Justice League (DP: Fabian Wagner; he’s the only credited cinematographer but I don’t know if he stayed for Joss Whedon’s reshoots). Apparently this switch was because Snyder liked his experiences using the squarer frame on BvS’s IMAX sections.

    All the X-Men, Wolverine and Deadpool films have stuck to 2.35/2.39:1 throughout – except the odd one out is the unreleased The New Mutants. Perhaps that’s why it’s been repeatedly shelved?

    #255715

    Darrell

    I’m actually not bothered by feature films using whatever they want – film is an open canvas and 16:9 TVs are the perfect middle ground to display the lot at home, so whatever the director/DOP feel they need is fine. There are also some interesting modern experiments in variable ratio such as The Grand Budapest Hotel which I think are valid.

    But actual telly made only for telly made in anything other than the shape of everybody’s telly? Wank off.

    #255716

    Darrell

    On a related tangent, Red Dwarf VIII was really late on to have been made in 4:3. Particularly weird as Re-Mastered went to great effort to pretend it was a 14:9 terrestrial TV blowup of a native 16:9 production.

    #255719

    Warbodog

    If the Star Wars TV spin-off is in the same/similar ratio as the Star Wars films, at least the home viewing experience is consistent? Ben didn’t mind that the films were letterboxed after all, so should be fine. As long as they go back and do widescreen Blu-rays of ‘Droids’ and everything (that’s more my era).

    #255853

    Dave

    Nice to hear that all the old 4:3 episodes of the Simpsons are presented on Disney+ in cropped 16:9, despite assurances to the contrary.

    I think I’ll stick with the DVD boxsets.

    #255856

    Flap Jack

    Yeah, 16:9 Simpsons has been a problem for ages. I guess Fox wanted to present classic episodes as “modern-looking” and therefore wide-screen, even if it required disastrous amounts of cropping.

    Sky insists on using these shittier versions of the episodes for repeats, and they always look and feel wrong. Credit to Channel 4 for not doing that and using the 4:3 versions, last I checked.

    Apparently in the US the 16:9 versions were the only options on FXX and the Simpsons World app, until people complained so much that they put up the 4:3 versions as well. People assumed that this correction would be carried forward to Disney+, but WHOOPS, guess that would have been too much work.

    It’s like Red Dwarf Remastered all over again!

    #255857

    Dave

    Yeah, Channel 4 are usually pretty good in terms of aspect ratio for the Simpsons, but they often include quite a lot of clumsy edits too, which is a bit of a pisser.

    #255859

    Nick R

    Apparently in the US the 16:9 versions were the only options on FXX and the Simpsons World app, until people complained so much that they put up the 4:3 versions as well. People assumed that this correction would be carried forward to Disney+, but WHOOPS, guess that would have been too much work.

    ILM’s Todd Vaziri did a Twitter thread in September saying that the FXX app on Apple TV used to have the option for 4:3 versions and commentaries, but they were removed in a software update: https://twitter.com/tvaziri/status/1172728527470256129

    He updated the thread with two reports from different people that Disney+ would have the 4:3 versions. But now it turns out the Disney+ versions are cropped even further. :(

    In summary: Hang on to your physical media, people.”

    (At least we got another Steamed Hams out of it.)

    #255863

    Darrell

    Also, I’m too used to the sound and rhythm of PAL speedup Simpsons to ever be able to comfortably enjoy it at correct speed now anyway. It’s too burnt in.

    #255893

    Flap Jack

    Isn’t NTSC a higher FPS than PAL, not the other way around?

    #255894

    quinn_drummer

    Yeah, NTSC is 30 FPS, and PAL is 25 FPS. So things take marginally longer to watch in the UK than the US.

    #255895

    Ben Saunders

    It’s always been my experience that they speed NTSC things up for PAL regions, resulting in them being faster and higher pitched, and taking less time to watch, not more.

    Naughty Dog tried to compensate for the lower framerate of PAL PlayStations by making Crash Bandicoot move faster – thing is, they overcompensated, which means he moves quite a bit faster in Crash Bandicoot 2, making it the best version of the game for speedrunning. Certain enemies are the wrong speed, you jump higher, and various things like that. It seems they also overcompensate when screening NTSC TV shows in the UK, because watching something like Chuck just feels like it’s on fast forward.

    #255896

    Ridley

    You sound like Paul Robeson on YouTube.

    #255897

    Darrell

    No, PAL conversions are faster. You speed up so its running time is 96% of the original. It works on a 3:2 basis – NTSC you work on a timebase of 24fps>60i, PAL is 25fps>50i.

    PAL>NTSC you slow down.

    #255901

    Flap Jack

    So even though NTSC standard is 29.97 fps, American TV shows run at 24 fps?

    Rude.

    #255914

    Darrell

    Filmed ones do, yus. NTSC is a monstrosity, although some early US colour experiments from the 60s are incongruously high quality compared to 70s/80s stuff.

    #255923

    Katydid

    So even though NTSC standard is 29.97 fps, American TV shows run at 24 fps?

    The standard is set to account for the framerate of video. 24 is the film framerate.

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