Film School: A Guide to Aspect Ratios

What are aspect ratios, and what can they mean for visual storytelling?

As Fandor demonstrates, the power of aspect ratio is that the screen’s dimensions can tell us anything from the time period of the story it frames, to the mood of the characters and the action it’s our window onto:

Now You See It looks at more examples, to help answer the question every film-maker must about Aspect Ratio: Which Should You Choose?:

StudioBinder also looks to examples to help answer this question about Aspect Ratios in Film: How to Choose The Most Cinematic Aspect Ratio:

Pan & Scan

Different shows and different screens don’t always match dimensions. Whether it’s YouTube versus Instagram, landscape versus portrait, or widescreen cinema versus television, images are often cropped to fit different formats, and moved around to show the most important part of each frame. This technique is called pan & scan – and, as Patrick H. Willems explains, often you may be seeing only part of movies you watch:

Next time you’re watching a “remastered” version of an older movie or TV show, check whether the “upgrade” is actually a downgrade:

Further Viewing

In production, aspect ratio is often determined by the camera’s sensor size. In Depth Cine offers an overview of the more popular industry standard sensor sizes:

Delving deeper into the mechanics of capturing true “widescreen” footage – specifically, at an enthusiast or prosumer level – is Anamorphic on a Budget‘s detailed explainer, “The Effects of Sensor Size and Focal Reducers“:

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