4:3 aspect ratio on the comeback in film?...


Recommended Posts

The other night I watched First Reformed (upfront, as a side note, I thought this was a great film, with a brilliant performance by Ethan Hawke, but please don't get into discussions about the religious content/subject matter of this film on this thread or anywhere on the forum, as, by its very nature, it's a possible minefield for denigrating comment--that's not allowed for starters, and it's not what the point of the thread is - thanks!) : )

That said, the first thing that struck me as I started to watch it was the 4:3 aspect ratio... what the...? I said aloud, thinking I had stuffed up my settings somehow. But no. A little investigation revealed the format to be making a comeback! Again, what the...? 

Here's a great article on it: http://noamkroll.com/why-the-old-school-43-aspect-ratio-is-coming-back-with-a-vengeance-right-now/

Has me wondering if anyone here has any knowledge of other films/directors going this way? Who prefers it over widescreen? (I certainly don't!)

Also, if this is indeed going to be a thing, it has me wondering where my old CRT tv is... ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Prior to the modern era, there were a bunch of aspect ratios that were commonly used.  The director and DP would pick the format depending on the film and how they needed it to be composed based on what they were trying to do.  It just so happens that 16:9 was the widest of the formats and the aspect ratio screens needed to be in order to show all films properly.  Somewhere along the way, 16:9 just became standard and then TVs started going widescreen, and shooting in anything but 16:9 was frowned upon.  

But with tablets, a 16:9 iPad just feels awkward in your hands; 4:3 is more in line with the aspect ratio of most paper and much more comfortable.  So as more and more people watch movies on tablets, I expect 4:3, and others, to make a come back.  

As an aside, being a professional, I loath 16:9, and even 3:2.  They are harder to compose and you often have to include extraneous information on the edges in order to ensure that the full height of your subject is recorded.  4:3 to a much more forgiving aspect ratio to work with and just frames most subjects better.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In regards to First Reformed, the director Paul Schrader (who wrote the screenplay for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and co-wrote the screenplay for Raging Bull) did the film in 4:3 because First Reformed is an homage to Ingmar Bergman's 1963 film, 'Winter Light' which was also shot in 4:3 and shares very similar themes. Similarly, the modern movie that really 'hit it big' with a 4:3 aspect ratio was the silent film, 'The Artist' and that too was an homage to silent film in the 1920s.

I personally don't think 4:3 as an aspect ratio will comeback beyond the odd film here and there. Wes Anderson's 2014 film, 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' utilised 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio in accordance with the different timelines in the story (1930s was 4:3 or 1:33:1, 1960s was 2:35:1, 2000s was 1:85:1). Alternatively Steve, didn't the great Quentin Tarantino use 70mm film for 'The Hateful Eight' in 2015 as an homage to ultra widescreen films? (The Hateful Eight uses the same widescreen aspect ratio as Ben Hur - 2:76:1)

Finally, there is some further history here to cite in regards to aspect ratio and cinema versus television. In 1953, the major Hollywood movie studios invested in widescreen film as a consequence of the popularity of television in the USA. To protect their market, movie were branded as offering a different viewing experience to watching films on television in 4:3.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 minutes ago, Kitchen said:

4:3 to a much more forgiving aspect ratio to work with and just frames most subjects better.

Concur on the framing of a subject. But my eye loves the splendour of a gorgeous widescreen shot. With stills I'm not bothered, but cinema belongs on widescreen for mine. That said, I fully enjoyed the visual of First Reformed. It would be interesting to see it shot in widescreen and compare the two. 

I still think widescreen would win out. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

41 minutes ago, JohnS said:

Alternatively Steve, didn't the great Quentin Tarantino use 70mm film for 'The Hateful Eight' in 2015 as an homage to ultra widescreen films?

Ultra Panavison 70. Yeah. Those gorgeous scenery shots! The opening pan of Christ on the cross... 

Ultimately, though, it was used in order to get all of Kurt Russell's moustache in frame. :rotfl:

  • Haha 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find widescreen, 2.35, the most natural format for viewing. 4:3 the most difficult, particularly on large screens. Eye sees the widescreen easiest. Again, from the viewing perspective.

 

Can certainly understand the choice to use different ratios as an art/production preference.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, ayepatz said:

Been revisiting the original Star Trek, and it is absolutely glorious in the old 4:3 format.

Do you have an old CRT tv handy for that, Iain? You know, enhance the experience to the max... :yes:

Love the old CRTs. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

Community Software by Invision Power Services, Inc.