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Old April 21st, 2007, 12:16 AM   #1
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Is HD Aspect Ratio meant for EVERY Production?

Over the years there have been video shoots I have done where we grappled with the limitations of the sides of the location we were shooting at. This means I was grateful we were shooting 4:3 because there was nothing more that I wanted to show beyond a specific location boundary.

I recall the video interviews I shot for "The Spirit of Comedy" (in the extras section) that NO WAY could I have tolerated any more room left for right. If I had to shoot that in HD, or in an HD aspect ratio of 16:9, I would have been forced to zoom in way too tight in an effort to create the same left right border that came naturally with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

There seems to be scant discussion about the superiority of shooting 4:3 for low budget interview shoots. It costs money to fill in the additional space of a 16:9 aspect ratio on both sides of a person being interviewed. You can lie to yourself if you want and shoot up their noses and zoom into their eyelids in the name of quality, but for my tastes, I want a choice as to whether I do a shoot in 16:9 aspect ratio or 4:3. Ironically, the additional HD resolution should allow me to stay wider, yet in reality I will probably have to zoom in more than necessary to help avoid stage left and stage right unwanted clutter!

The big winner in the 16:9 aspect ratio will be shooting live stage shows and sporting events, but the big loser in my opinion will be shooting interviews. Do any of you see the problem, everything is not meant to be shot 16:9, but I fear that a social stigma is going to be associated with using a 4:3 aspect ratio when for some productions 4:3 would actually would be the logical aesthetic choice.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 12:26 AM   #2
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Good point, but how about shooting or cropping your content to 4:3 and filling in the sides with black pillarboxing or subtle graphics for widescreen distribution? Just a thought...
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Old April 21st, 2007, 07:46 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Alessandro Machi View Post
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The big winner in the 16:9 aspect ratio will be shooting live stage shows and sporting events, but the big loser in my opinion will be shooting interviews. Do any of you see the problem, everything is not meant to be shot 16:9, but I fear that a social stigma is going to be associated with using a 4:3 aspect ratio when for some productions 4:3 would actually would be the logical aesthetic choice.
I'm not so sure I'd agree. If you frame your subject so the face and shoulders fill the frame vertically with the subject turned looking slightly into frame and position the near eye so it's interesection of a line 1/3 down and 1/3 into frame (the old 'Rule of Thirds'), I think 16:9 gives a very natural looking and relaxed composition. If the opposite side of the frame seems too empty, position the subject beside a table and lamp or a bookcase or a plaque with their corporate logo or whatever to add some visual interest there. And then there's the situation where the subject is describing something and you might want to green-screen a cut-out in that part of the frame and show whatever the interviewee is talking about.

We've had a 16:9 projection TV for our family TV for a number of years now and I find interviews on 4:3 to be cramped looking and confining in comparison.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 11:37 AM   #4
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I have to agree with Steve about this one. 16:9 is just natural... I also don't understand what you mean by it costs money to fill in the area around the person being interviewed if you shoot 16:9. don't take this the wrong way but if most people thought the same a lot of film makers would be fired.

I'll give you a good example when the today show went HD. Everyone was so excited about 16:9 because they had more room to play with.. they didn't need to go so wide in there lens choice just to frame 4 people getting interviewed. My producer and the crew were on flipin cloud nine that week.

Before they went HD. We spent alot of time trying to frame in a shot.. Change the Lens,,, Pull Back.. Move crap out of the way so you can pull back even more. Now the talents don't like the HD but thats a total different issue.

I only shoot in 16:9... BUT!!!!! I can understand what your getting at.

At the end of the day what ever you decide framing is key no matter what.

if you know how to frame you can do it in any ratio.

I know i was not a big help but this topic is going to lean on the more personal preference side.

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Old April 21st, 2007, 12:43 PM   #5
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Surely it's correct to say that 4:3 is just natural. That's why we used it for 100 years. Widescreen was first brought in by the film industry to compete with the evil new tv - huge screens across a huge cinema.. Whatever shape a tv is, it's just a box in a room for the large majority of people. If you like 16:9 shaped pictures you have always been able to just put some gaffer tape at top and bottom of the screen.

16:9 tv, no matter what people say, is smoke and mirrors by the manufacturers designed to make you buy more product - and they've succeeded!
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Old April 21st, 2007, 12:47 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Bernard Newnham View Post
Surely it's correct to say that 4:3 is just natural. That's why we used it for 100 years. Widescreen was first brought in by the film industry to compete with the evil new tv - huge screens across a huge cinema.. Whatever shape a tv is, it's just a box in a room for the large majority of people. If you like 16:9 shaped pictures you have always been able to just put some gaffer tape at top and bottom of the screen.

16:9 tv, no matter what people say, is smoke and mirrors by the manufacturers designed to make you buy more product - and they've succeeded!
I find it easier to watch simply because human vision has a wider-than-tall aspect. But yes, widescreen was originally developed after televisions became popular to give people reasons to go to the movie theater.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 03:18 PM   #7
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I have to agree with Steve about this one. 16:9 is just natural... I also don't understand what you mean by it costs money to fill in the area around the person being interviewed if you shoot 16:9. don't take this the wrong way but if most people thought the same a lot of film makers would be fired.

~Mike
I agree with your last statement about filmmakers being fired, but not every production has a filmmakers budget, and that is my point. 16:9 is an excellent starting point when there is money being spent. But that aspect (pardon the pun) flys directly in opposition to the idea that video production is getting cheaper and cheaper and more attainable for the masses.

In reality, the price points for the camera gear are dropping, but the cost requirements for making a good picture are being driven upwards specifically because I now have more space on either side of the interviewee that I have to now light and set dress.

When I lit the interviews I mentioned above, I went with two portable HMI lights so I could have a daylight look and also color up the background a bit more. I used a C-stand with clear diffusion gel to soften the two HMI lights. If I had been shooting 16:9, I would have had to put the lights farther off screen, and in essence compromised the way I felt the shot needed to be lit, and I probably would have needed more light as well.

For sure 16:9 will give the properly budgeted production more room to operate, but for the ultra low budget production I think the opposite will be true. Eventually, the "cheap" fix will simply be to zoom in more, which now actually can change the emotional projection of the interviewee. One technique used when a news story wants to make a subject look suspicious is to simply zoom in to close-ups so that the eyes look shifty. I can see that happening on low budget shoots, but not for that reason, yet the result will still be the same, shifty eyes.
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Old April 24th, 2007, 10:43 PM   #8
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I'm shooting an infomercial for a chiropractor that will play in the clinic on several CC TVs that are all 4:3. The video will be replaced before the TVs will, so there would be no point to shoot it in a format that wouldn't play well on the intended output devices.

I switch back and forth, based on the requirements of the job.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 03:08 AM   #9
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I find 4:3 to have only one situation that is beneficial. Talking heads work better with 4:3 as it would look really weird to zoom in enough on a person's face to fill the screen. Filling vertically with a person's body doesn't seem unnatural with the narrow format.

Our own field of vision is wider than it is tall. Widescreen is more natural. In our environment, we rarely need to look way up or way down, but lateral movement is something we must track frequently. Perhaps when we were arboreal the need to have a greater vertical field of view was important, but land-dwellers need better side-to-side vision.

Old televisions probably couldn't make anything but a squarish picture tube. Remember how long it took to get flat glass CRT televisions? Getting the electron beam to scan unequal distances to different parts of the screen is a newer technology.

TV sets didn't start out at 4:3 aspect ratio. They started out round.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 04:01 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
I find 4:3 to have only one situation that is beneficial. Talking heads work better with 4:3 as it would look really weird to zoom in enough on a person's face to fill the screen. Filling vertically with a person's body doesn't seem unnatural with the narrow format.

Our own field of vision is wider than it is tall. Widescreen is more natural. In our environment, we rarely need to look way up or way down, but lateral movement is something we must track frequently. Perhaps when we were arboreal the need to have a greater vertical field of view was important, but land-dwellers need better side-to-side vision.

Old televisions probably couldn't make anything but a squarish picture tube. Remember how long it took to get flat glass CRT televisions? Getting the electron beam to scan unequal distances to different parts of the screen is a newer technology.

TV sets didn't start out at 4:3 aspect ratio. They started out round.
Nice info Marcus...
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Old April 25th, 2007, 06:06 PM   #11
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I forgot to mention that while a straight-shot talking head works best in 4:3, it doesn't mean you can't have a single person interview. Just do what was suggested earlier and have the person sit at a slight angle and put them off center a bit so that they are facing the more open part of the frame. When a person faces open area, that area becomes less "dead". It becomes part of their personal space.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 01:21 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault View Post
I forgot to mention that while a straight-shot talking head works best in 4:3, it doesn't mean you can't have a single person interview. Just do what was suggested earlier and have the person sit at a slight angle and put them off center a bit so that they are facing the more open part of the frame. When a person faces open area, that area becomes less "dead". It becomes part of their personal space.
As long as that space has been dressed, which probably means more set dressing and lighting requirements. For low budget or do it yourself productions, that is not necessarily a good thing.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 01:31 AM   #13
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oops, double post, see below.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 01:37 AM   #14
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I have to agree with Steve about this one. 16:9 is just natural... I also don't understand what you mean by it costs money to fill in the area around the person being interviewed if you shoot 16:9. don't take this the wrong way but if most people thought the same a lot of film makers would be fired.

I'll give you a good example when the today show went HD. Everyone was so excited about 16:9 because they had more room to play with.. they didn't need to go so wide in there lens choice just to frame 4 people getting interviewed. My producer and the crew were on flipin cloud nine that week.

Before they went HD. We spent alot of time trying to frame in a shot.. Change the Lens,,, Pull Back.. Move crap out of the way so you can pull back even more. Now the talents don't like the HD but thats a total different issue.

I only shoot in 16:9... BUT!!!!! I can understand what your getting at.

At the end of the day what ever you decide framing is key no matter what.

if you know how to frame you can do it in any ratio.

I know i was not a big help but this topic is going to lean on the more personal preference side.

~Mike
But lets compare the haves and the haves less. When it comes to low budget shoots, the more people framed in the same shot, the more that can, and will go wrong, especially when one is dealing with first timers on camera, or people that just are never going to be as good as those who appear on national TV.

Common on camera mistakes by those less experienced included Nose scratching, looking at their wristwatch while someone else is speaking, looking away bored, sneering at a comment not realizing they are actually on camera, looking down at the table like they are asleep, sleeping, etc.... What a nightmare to have to cut around indescriminate performances. Yes there is also a close up camera, which can still easily fit TWO people, not one. Well, the mustache twitcher guy is starting to bug me so I'll zoom in extra close for an extra close close up of the one person in the group who is somewhat polished, but now I've made the one normal person look shifty-eyed because I had to zoom in so close to frame out the people sitting on either side.

Or, I can just add more distance between everyone. Now I need more lighting options, perhaps a larger backdrop, and audio just became a nightmare because my overhead drop down mikes now can't accomodate everyone.
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Old April 26th, 2007, 07:03 AM   #15
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I Don't understand why this is becoming such a big deal... it has nothing to do with budget if one knows how to frame and set up a set.. you can do it with no budget hell im sure 90% of the film makers in here have done a low to no budget of there own...

If im going to interview someone in a tiny room.. i can do it.. go look at my home studio video it's posted on this site... I took a tiny room and just set up a backdrop and bang done no issue with the 16:9 camera it works fine... and it was very low budget.. the reason why my wife gave me a free room, if you have a wife thats not easy todo.. and i did not want to bring all my equip from work and spooke her so i did alot of make shift backdrop rigging and such. the room is tiny and it is fine... of course it's only for a 2 camera set up and more in house green screening. but still if you know how to work a cam and you know the basics of film you can do it.

in film there is no such thing as a good budget... you give Spielberg 50 bucks or 50,000 he can pull of the same shots no matter what.( by the way his home movies must look flipin amazing)

It's not the camera, It's not the budget, at the end of the day it's the person working it.

Im sorry you wont see eye to eye with me... but this goes back all the way to film 101.
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