Aspect Ratio and what you need to know about it
Updated: May 11
Aspect Ratio: A Short Description
The basic idea behind aspect ratios is fairly simple. Typically you'll see them labeled two numbers, divided by a colon. An Aspect Ratio is a proportional relationship between an image’s width and height. Essentially, it is used to describe an image’s shape. Aspect ratios are written as a formula of width to height. For example: A square image or video would have an Aspect Ratio of 1:1 wherein the width and height of the image would be the same; (300px) x (300px), or (500px) x (500px).
Camera makers have noticed that photographers and cinematographers often want to operate in various aspect ratios, so the new digital cameras allow you to adjust the aspect ratio using the menu of the camera. In post-production, you can even crop an image to another aspect ratio.
The normal aspect ratio was for decades 1.37:1, or the Academy Ratio. It wasn't until big production houses began to deal with television sets ads that they started playing with fresh, innovative aspect ratios to give the viewer everything they couldn't get at home — bigger, broader displays that thrust the viewer further into the video.
What are the different kinds of Aspect Ratios that are being used in the industry?
Standard Aspect Ratio and Standard-Definition Video; 1.33:1 or 4:3.
Aspect Ratio used for most European Theatrical Showings; 1.66:1
Standard Aspect Ratio for High-Definition (HD) Video; 1.78:1 or 16:9. This is one of the most commonly used aspect ratios at the moment.
Aspect Ratio used for most U.S. Theatrical showings since the 1960s; 1.85:1. This is also called as widescreen.
Aspect ratio of current anamorphic widescreen showings; 2.39:1.
Aspect ratio of Ultra-Panavision 70; 2.75:1.
At first the issue of aspect ratios that seem banal, Tony Northrup explains quite well in the video below how critical aspect ratio is and how many different possibilities you need to schedule in advance to ensure your files are scalable for a number of uses.
The importance of calculated Aspect Ratio
Aspect ratio calculations are generally important while cropping and editing images or videos. The right aspect ratio can ensure that the final product does not appear to be ‘stretched out’ or has important elements cropped out. The aspect ratio is equally important as the benefit and content from the projector. That is the proportion of a picture projected onto the projector for the width and height of it. It is usually represented as numbers like 4:3, but those figures ARE NEVER the screen size. The very first films were shown over a century ago in the ratio mentioned above: 4:3. This meant the image was four perforations high on your standard perforated film strip. The ad posted below that Cinemagic created for Salony, is a 4:3 ad.
Why is it that aspect ratio matters so much? It's all about the relationship between the main subject and the sides of the picture, and the amount of empty space you end up with around the issue. Awareness of the functionality of your specific camera's aspect ratio will allow you to create better pictures. It also allows you to understand the structure of the picture while cropping to a particular aspect ratio. Now, you might think the disparity between aspect ratios isn't a big deal, so far. And often the difference is minimal when you use the landscape format (i.e. the camera positioned in such a way that the frame is horizontal). Working within either of the above aspect ratios isn't as complicated. Some aspect ratios have become so associated with film, TV, home video, etc., that even the average person may remember the historical importance of each without a complete comprehension or awareness about aspect ratios. The classic Academy Ratio can create an "old-time" feeling. As you may notice in the ad below that was created Boubyan Bank in the classic 16:9.
On the other hand, the super-wide anamorphic screen creates a sense of blockbusters and epic fantasy or adventure films. Such as in our ad below which was created for Swim America. The ad was shot in Anamorphic.
Filmmakers may take advantage of this anytime they choose to immerse the viewer in a specific time or making the atmosphere more dramatic. At the end of the day, the ratio should decide whether the director composes each and every shot in their video, irrespective of the historical or cultural importance of specific aspect ratios.
As we are a media powerhouse, we are meant to create content that is launched across different platforms, all of which have a different requirement of aspect ratio - such as TV, Smartphones, Tablets, etc. As regards formats and aspect ratios, the Internet and social media have also opened the floodgates. Who may have imagined the vast majority of home video videos in portrait style will be taken ten years ago? Or that the aspect ratio of 1:1 square will allow such a comeback? The rise of social media over the years has brought back and also given birth to various kinds of aspect ratios that need to be taken care of while producing cross-platform content. We hope that this guide has made it easier for you to understand the basics of aspect ratios to be able to visualize an idea and tell a better story.