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Old July 11th, 2019, 11:28 PM   #1
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How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

There are so many choices and when shooting an entire movie, I feel I could use a certain aspect ratio for one type of a shot, and a different one for another, and it's tough to decide.

It seems to me that the best aspect ratio would be somewhere around 2.20:1, but how does one decide though, which one in that range, is best?

It seems that most filmmakers prefer 2.39:1 to the point where it has become a popular default. But is there a reason why most choose that?

Do cinemas prefer it, projection wise? Is the decision based on film festival requirements, or can the filmmaker choose any they want, purely based on artistic reasons?

How do you decide?

I was told by one filmmaker that unless you know for sure your movie is going to theaters, just shoot in 16:9, but I feel that I should probably decide based on what serves the story best, rather than what media platform it's going to be shown on. Would that make more sense?
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Old July 12th, 2019, 12:48 AM   #2
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

You can use whichever aspect ratio you want, but you will need to fit it inside a film and TV industry standard aspect ratio,

For 2.20:1 you would probably need to have black pillars on either side of 2.39:1 , just as 4x3 aspect has on a 16x9 screen

This question was more or less answered when you asked about using a 2.1 aspect ratio, so you're going over old ground.

The dynamic screen was used back in the silent days.

If you're going to sell your film, chances are it's going to be shown on a 16 x 9 screen, odds on getting a theatrical release are very small. However, you can letterbox scope or 2.20 for a 16 x 9 screen,

Most indie feature films are probably 1.85:1, rather than scope. I would read your old thread i suspect the answer lies in there.



Again, the choice is up to you,
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Old July 12th, 2019, 02:03 AM   #3
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

There are many choices:

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Old July 12th, 2019, 07:30 AM   #4
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Oh right, sorry I wasn't thinking of that previous post before, sorry. You said before that it's probably better to just stick to one of the standard aspect ratio for film festivals.

So out of the two standard ones, I can't decide which is better between 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 since they have their pros and cons.

One reason I read why a lot of microbudget filmmakers go with 1.85:1, is that you don't have to fill in empty space with set design.

However, I feel that this doesn't help 1.85:1 in a lot of cases. If you have four or more people in a mastershot for example, you won't be able to fit them all in the shot at 1.85:1 as well as 2.39:1. So you will have to still back up the camera therefore in 1.85:1. So if you back up the camera to fit everyone one, wouldn't you still have the same amount of deadspace still then to have to fill?
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Old July 12th, 2019, 08:09 AM   #5
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

They managed to frame 4 or more people when they were shooting in 4 x3 for the cinema, I don't get your point, You block out your action for the framing that's being used, there's no such thing as dead space, the environment is all part of the mise en scene.
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Old July 12th, 2019, 09:46 AM   #6
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

A filmmaker decides on aspect ratio based on expected distributions. If 2.39:1 and 16:9 are expected, the shots should be composed so that they fill the screens and look good in either format.

This is about creating a viewer experience. Success in festivals or other distributions comes with understanding the viewer experience of our works. IMO planning for pillar boxes or letterboxing is a waste of screen area that could be used in creating that experience.
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Old July 12th, 2019, 05:15 PM   #7
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Oh okay, I thought that I had to decide based on what was best based on viewer experience.

But if I have to know what the distributor expects, what if I am shooting a feature film and I don't have a distributor yet, so I don't know what one will expect later on, depending on who picks it up? What then?
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Old July 13th, 2019, 01:45 AM   #8
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Don't reinvent the wheel, a strange aspect ratio is just another reason for a distributor to say no.

16 x 9 is the most sensible aspect ratio, because odds are that the film is going straight to video, with, at the very most, a very limited showcase theatrical release.

In reality the festival circuit is most likely to be the only theatrical screening for your film.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:38 AM   #9
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Oh okay, well when it comes to choosing between the three standard ones 16:9, 1.85:1 and 2.39:1, I thought I was suppose to choose based on what tells the story best, rather than based on what size screen people will see it on.

Is fitting the screen size, more important than what best tells the story?

Plus, I thought maybe a distributor would just as likely say no to a 16:9 movie, cause they could look at it and say, that too many movies are being shot in 16:9 and it doesn't look cinematic enough as a result. So I thought they could just as well see it that way too maybe.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 09:57 AM   #10
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

A distributor will be more interested in who's in the film and factors other than the aspect ratio, Chances are they'll put it out on 16:9 regardless of which aspect ratio you finally shoot it on.

They're only interested in making sales and they don't want anything to reduce their chances. Many audiences want their screens filled and don't want it letter boxed.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 10:08 AM   #11
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Oh okay, well if say a movie is shot in 2.39:1, and a distributor wants to zoom in, to make it 16:9, that would mean they are loosing resolution, if they have to zoom in, so would they be okay with that?
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Old July 13th, 2019, 10:16 AM   #12
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

They do it all the time, just you may lose control of the final composition, since it may be someone further down the chain doing the work.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 10:28 AM   #13
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Oh okay thanks, that gives me some things to think about. Thank you very much for all your information :).

I have another question when it comes to distributors wants if that's okay. When it comes to doing the sound mix I thought I would go for the 5.1 mix, since that is what most distributors want I was told, if that is correct.

However, I also read that a lot want a stereo mix in addition. I was wondering if that's true, and if it's worth doing two sound mixes therefore? Or why is it that they would want a stereo one as well, when they already have a 5.1?
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Old July 13th, 2019, 10:34 AM   #14
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Many outlets don't have 5.1 and distributors don't want to spend money in creating a stereo mix.
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Old July 13th, 2019, 10:44 AM   #15
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Re: How does a filmmaker decide which aspect ratio to shoot in?

Okay thanks, but I thought that 5.1 still sounded good on other outlets. For example, at home I usually watch movies on a TV with two speakers, and some movies on DVD have a 5.1 mix only. But they still sound good coming out of my two speakers, so I thought 5.1 sounded good, no matter if it's coming out two speakers, or even one, unless I am missing something?
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