The history of aspect ratios

“John Hess traces the evolution of the screen shape from the silent film days through the widescreen explosion of the 50s, to the aspect ratio of modern digital cameras.”

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Wow, that Cinerama is incredible.

I’m looking forward to the 4k Blackmagic. Shoot with whatever damned lens you like, crop to anamorphic-style aspect ratio, still have broadcast HD.

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I want to know what made Taylor Swift think that something like 3.54:1 was a valid option.


I swear someday I’m going to shoot something and crop it like this…

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I wrote a (nice, in my own humble opinion) history of various aspect ratios from the point of view of still photography over at the Photography Stack Exchange site, with quite a few links and references to further reading. If you find this video interesting you might like that too. (Also, easier to skim if you have a short attention span.)


Interesting content. Pleasant enough presenter. Slightly annoying style of presentation. I would have been happier with about half of the herky jerky bits.

Fascinating how technology and arbitrary decisions seem to alternate with one another in shaping popular media.

Very interesting and well done presentation but I’d like to add a few things to it. When the Academy changed the size of the film exposed area to allow for an optical track it changed only the film image aspect ratio from 1:33… to 1:37. This change in aspect ratio was done to account for theaters projecting the image from above the perpendicular center of the screen. Thus the image while 1:37 on the film would be distorted by the projection geometry to be 1:33… on the screen.

Things got a little further confused when SMPTE issued its film camera aperture standard (now SMPTE 59-1998). It includes nominal dimensions in both inches and millimeters. The aspect ratio using the millimeter dimensions is 1.375 whereas that using the inch dimensions is 1.37460…
As far as I can determine SMPTE considers the SI unit dimensions authoritative.

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Totally ignoring the new standard aspect ratio… Vertical iPhone


There is a hilarious PSA style video about that. With puppets. Let me go see if I can find it . . .

Ah, here we go!


Hmmm, approximately the dimensions one would get if surreptitiously shooting salacious scenes through somebody’s window-blinds…

I’m old, but unfortunately I’m too young to have seen any films in a theater in the fifties. All I know of watching the classics happened at my college movie theater in about 1980. I do have a vivid memory of the (presumed student) projectionist flipping through all the different anamorphic lenses to find the right one for a particular movie one night.

Interesting but I am distracted by John Hess’s lack of a shoulder how could he carry a shoulder bag?

You might find my article of interest: The New Era of Screen Dimensions

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