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The Subtle Ways Aspect Ratios Can Affect Your Film Experience

Put very simply, an aspect ratio is the width and height of an image. As camera technology advances, most “standard” ratios have fallen by the wayside in favor of whatever new film ratio is fresh and exciting. Great filmmakers know how to pick from them in order to manipulate our viewing experience in wonderful ways.

The YouTube channel Now You See It gives us some fantastic examples of the deliberate use of aspect ratios in order to affect the audience. The first 40 years of film had the limitation of the 4:3 “academy ratio” until 16:9 was developed in the 1950s and pretty much became the go-to. There are also particularly wide ones like 1.85:1 or 2.35:1. With so many to choose from now, the aspect ratio can be used as an almost subliminal tool in the storytelling of the film.

The video rightly notes that the larger ratios are often reserved for more epic shots, particularly those of outer space, and that they would likely not have the same effect on viewers if they were shot any other way. It’s also keen to note that larger ratios aren’t exclusively used for vistas as they are sometimes used as lead-ins to action sequences. The slow transition to these larger ratios are a cue to the audience to be ready for something big.

What do you think of Now You See It‘s video? What are you favorite deliberate uses of aspect ratios? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured Image courtesy of deviantArt // artist: InfuzedMedia

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