B2 High-Intermediate US 77 Folder Collection
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What is aspect ratio?
In regards to movies, aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between the height
and width of the image that you see onscreen.
But perhaps the more important question is “why?”
Why do some films look like this...
While others look like this...
Today, most films are presented in 1:85.1 or 2.35:1.
These widescreen formats became popular in the 50s.
Before then, most films were shot in 1:37.1, also known as the Academy Ratio.
Now days, filmmakers can pretty much shoot their films in any aspect ratio they want.
Some filmmakers choose an aspect ration based on the time period their film takes place.
Others find an aspect ratio that they love and stick with it.
Fo example, David Fincher shoots exclusively 2:35.1, which accommodates his sleek cinematography
and wide environments.
On the other side of that spectrum, Andrea Arnold prefers older, boxier formats to create
claustrophobic worlds.
The aspect ratio tells more about the film than you may think.
A GHOST STORY, for example, is shot in the cramped 1.33:1.
This expresses how the main character feels trapped, and we feel the same way.
What's really interesting about this particular film is how the corners of the frame are rounded.
Invoking the nostalgia on old photograph, this makes the film feel like a memory.
THE HATEFUL 8 was shot in the ultra-wide 2.76:1.
Not only does this compliment the beauty of the snowy vistas, it also enhances the feelings
of paranoia and uneasiness once inside the house.
A growing trend in filmmaking is using multiple aspect ratios throughout a single film.
Sometimes this is to distinguish different time periods.
Other times it's due to switching between Imax and standard cameras.
But the most interesting cases are when the change is done to create a feeling.
This can be done in a very obvious, self-aware fashion, like in Xavier Dolan's MOMMY where
the character literally stretches the screen.
The expansion feels like a breath of fresh air as we break confinement.
We feel the same release as the character.
Or the change can be extremely subtle, like in Trey Edward Schultz's IT COMES AT NIGHT.
The film is shot 2.35:1 with 2.75:1 reserved for nightmare sequences.
As the film reaches its dreadful conclusion, the screen slowly and painfully closes in
on itself until we reach 3:1, which equates to watching the film through a tiny slit.
The transition is so subtle that you probably don't even notice it, but you surely feel
Reality has now become the nightmare.
Though it often goes unnoticed, aspect ratio is a crucial element of visual story telling.
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SFX Secrets: The Power of Aspect Ratios

77 Folder Collection
陳廷潤 published on December 7, 2019
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