The Changing Shape of Cinema

The Changing Shape of Cinema: The History of Aspect Ratio

Aspect Ratio is a fundamentally simple concept with a deep and important history.

Simply put, the aspect ratio is the ratio of the width of the image to the height. This can be expressed as two numbers like 4×3 or 16×9 or as a decimal such as 1.85 and 2.35 – though these can be written as a ratio as in 2.35:1.

But how did it all begin? Let’s turn the dial of history and look back at the very first aspect ratio of the very first motion pictures.

Composition Techniques for Widescreen Aspect Ratios

Odds are if you are watching this video, you’re most likely be working in some form of digital video. And as we learned in the History lesson on Aspect Ratio, almost all digital video products use the 16×9 aspect ratio.

But 16×9 isn’t really that classically cinematic, especially now that HD is the norm. Maybe you want to get that Scope 2.35 look.

But when you’re on set, your camera’s viewfinder is going to give you plain old 16×9. How can you get an approximation of what your final aspect ratio will look like?