Hey guys, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve written an update to this blog. Since I last wrote, summer has come and gone, all too quickly, and I have started my Graduation Project. My research for my project is what inspired this post. Today, we will be discussing aspect ratios and video quality. I will be referring to a particular movie that reflects aspect ratios and how they can change the mood of a film. I highly recommend you watching it.
First up on the agenda, aspect ratio. You may be thinking, “what is that?”. Well, I will tell you all about it. Have you ever noticed how when you are watching a movie, there are those little black bars on the top and bottom of the screen? Well, those give us our aspect ratio. The movie was not shot with those black bars on the lens; they were added in post-production. So, one important thing to note about theses aspect ratios is to figure out what ratio you are going to use before you start shooting so you can frame all of your shots with your chosen ratio in mind.
Now let’s get into some of the ratios and examples of them. The more common ratios used in filmmaking are 1.85:1 and 2.39:1. These two aspect ratios are the most common ones that are used to project the films in the movie theaters. The two most common ratios for home and YouTube videos are 4:3 and 16:9. See the pictures for examples.
Next, we will analyze one of my new favorite movies and how it uses the aspect ratios to reflect different emotions during the film. I am talking about Christopher Nolan’s new film “Dunkirk.” Nolan did something with this film that had never really been done before and that was to shoot the majority of the movie in IMAX-quality film.
Have you ever used a film camera? If so, then you would know that the standard film size is 35 mm. IMAX cameras shoot in a huge film size of 70 mm. That is the reason that IMAX movies are so crisp and clear; the film is big enough to capture a ton of light and detail. Most of the movie is shot that way, but there are some scenes that Nolan switched to 65 mm film. While you are watching the movie, you can see the change in the black bars at the top and the bottom when they switch between using the different film types. (See picture)
The other movie that I want to look at is “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” (Spoilers ahead!) At the moment that Katniss is going up in the tube to enter the arena, the film sizes change. The ratio changes from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1. The reason for this is because all of the arena schemes were shot using IMAX film. In the scene, the black bars on the top and the bottom slowly expand to the bigger ratio. The decision to do this, in my opinion, was an awesome decision. It gives the viewer a bigger image to take in, and the way the it slowly expands, helps to add a feeling of tension and danger.
When choosing what aspect ratio to use in your film, if you are making one, you need to think about it and decide on one before you begin filming. That way, you can know how to frame all of your shots before you start. If your film will have a lot of movement and action in the background of the frames, then you might want to go with a wider aspect ratio to capture a wider field of vision. I hope that this helped you understand aspect ratios and film quality a bit better.