Time to call a halt to 4:3

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tom hardwick
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Time to call a halt to 4:3

Post by tom hardwick » Tue Nov 20, 2007 11:30 am

It's time to call a halt to 4:3 I feel. Certainly ok to have pillarboxed footage inside the 16:9 screen, but all these squashed, stretched, pulled, distorted and 'smart' image formats are a right pain.

Surely there can't be many camcorders out there that can't do a 'letterbox' shoot these days. For those that complain about the 'loss of quality', remember that TVs that pull and stretch lose you the 4:3 quality you were struggling to maintain. You can't win. Ergo, you must join us.

For my spot on stage at last Saturday's North West Film Festival I had the video projector set to 16:9 and all looked well. But following me up on screen a 2D Dave Watterson and his wife - both stretched sideways throughout their (very good) chat to camera about audio. Simply because Dave had shot in the ancient 4:3 ratio.

I'd stepped off stage extolling the virtues of the MiniDisc recorder for filmmakers and Lo, Dave popped up on screen saying exactly the same thing. One filmmaker did come up to me afterwards saying his MD didn't hold sync on the timeline, and he blamed 'tape stretch'. I don't go along with that, but then I can't find another excuse either.

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stingman
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Post by stingman » Tue Nov 20, 2007 11:40 am

I totally agree with you. 4:3 looks like it came out of WW2! I`m going to do 16:9 all the time now unless if i`m doing a film for someone and they say that they want it in 4:3 then so be it. 16:9 wins hands down now.


As for `Tape Stretch` That Dog`s Bollocks`! (Can I say Dogs`?!) If the tape had streatched then surly the camera/player would either compensate or you would get the dreaded blocks. If i`ve got the wrong end of the stick then I say sorry. If he was talking about Minidics (MD) then discs dont streatch. So he is either soo dim or he was talking about tape and not Minidiscs.

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Dave Watterson
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Post by Dave Watterson » Tue Nov 20, 2007 5:03 pm

I had the video projector set to 16:9 and all looked well. But following me up on screen a 2D Dave Watterson and his wife - both stretched sideways
Didn't you know Jan and I are really short and fat?
his MD didn't hold sync on the timeline
Ian may be right in thinking it is what programmers call "a digital problem" - i.e. the user's finger pressed the wrong key! But I wonder if the problem might be to do with how his editing program handles sound recorded at different frequencies. Unless the differences were very great it should be possible to compensate with a little judicious squashing or stretching of the soundtrack (run it at 102% pr 98% normal speed).

Glad Jan and I did not make vastly different recommendations than Tom as North-West's guest of honour!

Dave

tom hardwick
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Post by tom hardwick » Tue Nov 20, 2007 6:02 pm

I'll go along with the missmatched frequencies theory, Dave.

As to your film, it was as if we three had planned it all up front. Your talk of cheap mics up close, Minidisc recorders and so on near had me yelling from the darkness, ''See? I told you so!"

tom.

Michael Slowe
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Time to Call a halt to 4:3?

Post by Michael Slowe » Tue Nov 20, 2007 7:13 pm

For shooting yes I agree and all new cameras will shoot 16:9 anyway. But we must still be able to show 4:3 surely, most of my stuff is in that aspect and frequentnly have to show them. Tom, you should have re set the projector when you had finished and Dave was following, unless you assumed that his film was in 16:9 (rash that, don't forget Scotland might well be coming around to that next decade).

A 4:3 frame within a 16:9 screen will have to be smaller and have black borders on the sides and that would be OK BUT I don't think you will get that with the projector set to 16:9, the picture will just be sqashed as Dave & Jan were. We don't want to take all our old 4:3 productions into the computer to crop them, that would be a real bind so projectionists will just have to make sure the aspect settings are right for each film.

I'm sure Tom will correct me if I'm wrong on this.

tom hardwick
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Re: Time to Call a halt to 4:3?

Post by tom hardwick » Tue Nov 20, 2007 7:45 pm

Tom, you should have re set the projector when you had finished.
Had I been the projectionist Michael, you could be sure I'd have done this. But then again, only if Dave and Jan's film had made it plain that their film was shot in the 1925 aspect ratio.

In fact 4:3 projection filled the NW Region's screen - my 16:9 wasn't widescreen, only narrow screen. And still it looked better - 16:9 is a far more aestheticly pleasing shape in my view.

Black borders L & R of the screen (pillarboxing) is fine when showing 4:3 material, and I've no quarrel with that. When I used the Z1 as second cam alongside a PD170, I set it to SD 4:3, whereapon the image in the v'finder was pillarboxed. Of course in this mode it's only using a small central portion of the chips, so wide-angle coverage is much reduced.

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Post by Dave Watterson » Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:09 am

The 4x3 issue is not quite so straightforward as Tom and Ian suggest.

Yes, our camcorder can shoot that way.
Yes, I think it is a much nicer shape of picture to look at.

But the vast majority of tv sets and projection screens (and a number of older video projectors) are designed for Academy ratio. For the moment it is still the de facto standard.

We are experimenting with 16x9 a bit and it will surely become the norm eventually. Tom wants to hurry the process.

One question: why are we promoting 16x9 when most TVs are geared up for 14x9. Someone called that a bastard format, but it is a very widely adopted one. Are we just being bloody minded in shooting wider? Or do we shoot in the expectation that many people may either lose the left and right edges of our images or show them slightly squashed?

Dave

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Post by tom hardwick » Wed Nov 21, 2007 8:34 am

TVs are geared up for 14:9 Dave? It's but one option in my 16:9 TV's menu, that's all. It's there as a half-way-house compromise, where 4:3 material can be zoomed so that more screen is used albeit with the loss of top and bottom of the image and reduced picture resolution.

The best TV in my house is a Sony Trinitron 34" 4:3 CRT. It's old (17) but very good indeed. It has no aspect ratio options at all, yet it shows 4:3 full screen (naturally) and 16:9 (my DVDs and digital broadcasts) as letterboxed. If something's broadcast as 14:9 then of course the black bars top and bottom are simply slimmer.

So answers to your questions:

We're promoting 16:9 as a new standard. No, we're not being bloody minded in shooting 16:9. We never expect people to 'lose the left and right edges'. This never happens.

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Post by stingman » Wed Nov 21, 2007 11:33 am

Dave Watterson wrote:The 4x3 issue is not quite so straightforward as Tom and Ian suggest.

Yes, our camcorder can shoot that way.
Yes, I think it is a much nicer shape of picture to look at.


One question: why are we promoting 16x9 when most TVs are geared up for 14x9... Dave
I think all Widescreen tv`s are native at 16x9!
When the BBC go to local BBC, Our region BBC South - And there news programme South Today, a small border comes up at the sides. This, i`m sure is a 14x9 tv picture!

As for filmmaking. 16x9 is so much better to frame shots and give better leaway with a moving subject.


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Brian Saberton
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Post by Brian Saberton » Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:18 pm

I think 16:9 is the way forward but it will probably take some time before everyone has access to cameras, TV's, screens and editing software that will handle it. As far as 4:3 is concerned, because stretching to wide screen distorts the picture and cropping compromises picture composition when it comes to anything on 4:3 I prefer that it is shown in that ratio. As I've said on another thread I hate to see films shown in the wrong aspect ratio hence my plea for authors to label their films correctly for projectionists. I like Michael Slowe's suggestion that when submitting 16:9 films to competitions it's best to letterbox them into the 4:3 frame. For my personal films I'm going to shoot all future material on 16:9. Funnily enough in my cine days I was a member of the Widescreen Association and made a couple of films using a 1.5x anamorphic lens which gave me roughly the equivalent of 16:9. It's so much easier now!
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Post by FILM THURSO » Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:55 pm

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Stop right there ladies! ( :D ooplaa!)
There are those of us shooting ANAMORPHIC on video as well as cine. For correct frame ratios in projection we need 4:3. Do you know how hard it is to find a decent priced 1.5x anamorphic, nevermind one in good nick?
We shoot our films for cinema screens so we need to match the formats in the cinema. 16:9 is a format we have never had any real use for and have only made one film in that format. In fact it was made from 4:3 material and was originally cut in 4:3 but then adapted to 16:9 because it showed the multi images (2 shots at the same time) better. We feel if you're going to go wide why go halfway?
Our feature film, "Microtrip" contained 10 short stories not all of which were wide but because we had 3 sections in Cinemascope the movie was fully formatted for anamorphic with all the 4:3 pillar-boxed.
All three formats, when correctly shown, are meant to be screened the same height with only the width varying. When we cut our programmes no matter what format the source is, they are reset to meet the needs of full width cinema screens.
4:3 must stay because there is still a need for it with anamorphic users.

One more thing, it's not always appropriate to shoot films in 16:9 or 2x Anamorphic- always remember your story dictates the needs of the production. Our film, "Seven Shades" was designed in the style of early silent movies and it would have been wrong to make it in a wider format. Just because we have wide formats, color or stereo sound doesn't mean every movie should use them!

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Post by tom hardwick » Wed Nov 21, 2007 10:23 pm

I'm slightly confused Film Thurso because (although you don't say so) it sounds as if you're shooting film, not video.

If so then attaching a 1.5:1 anamorphic to the 4:3 film frame gives you a 16:8 image (2:1) as against our 16:9 (1.78:1) video image. That's fine - your films can still be shown on widescreen TVs and will be shown letterboxed with slim masking top and bottom. Many films are broadcast this way now, and of course feature films on DVD are almost invariably shown this way.

If you want 16:9 from your 4:3 video camera you need a 1.33:1 anamorphic, and these are made by Panasonic, Optex and Century. I agree 4:3 must stay but it should be formatted so that when projected 16:9 (TV or screen) then it'll be seen in the correct aspect ratio. Nobody here is saying otherwise.

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Post by FILM THURSO » Thu Nov 22, 2007 12:08 am

:shock: Oh dear, here we go.
We use video more than cine.
We don't use 16:9 ratio or anything like it.
We generally don't use 4:3 unless it's appropriate or excepting that a 2x anamorphic is fitted in front.
We shoot most of our films with 2x anamorphic.
We only show our films on cinema screens.
We never show our films on TVs of any format. (except youtube)
We are generally not interested in 16:9.
We detest borders of any size top and bottom.
All formats from 4:3 to 3:1 are meant to be screened the same hieght as the idea is only to expand the horizontal view.
Panasonic, Optex and Century lenses are waaaaaayyyy out of our price range and as stated we don't want 16:9 so we won't be using 1.5 anamorphics. (except the one on my own projector for watching Doctor Who)
Our super 8 ratio is 1.66:1 on standard frame or 2.75:1 with 2 x anamorphic.
Does this answer your question? :D

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Post by tom hardwick » Thu Nov 22, 2007 7:43 am

I didn't pose any questions Film Thurso, but maybe others did in this thread.

I like your line that says, ''All formats from 4:3 to 3:1 are meant to be screened the same hieght as the idea is only to expand the horizontal view''. That's the way, widescreen, not narrowscreen.

You say, ''Our super 8 ratio is 1.66:1 on standard frame or 2.75:1 with 2 x anamorphic''. But a Super-8 frame is 1.33:1 so fitting a 2x anamorphic will give 2.66:1, so are you masking down the original frame?

tom.

Michael Slowe
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Time to Call a halt to 4:3?

Post by Michael Slowe » Thu Nov 22, 2007 12:04 pm

All these numbers bandying between Tom and Thurso! As far as I can see they are only fiddling around at the edges of the frame surely? We know that cinema screens are not in the same aspect as modern TV's but no one is going to notice when 16:9 video is shown on a cinema screen and feature films on a modern TV. I recently had a 16:9 video shown in a cinema in downtown New York and it looked great. The image filled the screen and I noticed no distortion whatsoever and I know the images well enough to tell. Off topic I know but there was a slight loss of sync. due to the fact that the projectionist was converting on the fly a DVCAM PAL tape to NTSC!

Is Thurso saying that 4:3 for video should be retained because they are adapting it with various lenses? 16:9 is here to stay and it looks perfectly good on cinema screens and modern TV's. By the way my edit system allows for conversions to 14:9 as well as 16:9 because (as has been mentioned) the BBC want 14:9 but as I asked, will any difference be noticed?

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