Time to call a halt to 4:3

A forum for sharing views on the art of film, video and AV sequence making as well as on competitions, judging and festivals.
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FILM THURSO
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Post by FILM THURSO » Thu Nov 22, 2007 7:23 pm

Eh gads,
Try not to assume anything about how we use film. I already said we widened the film gates in our cameras and projectors. (boil for 20 minutes and allow 5 minutes to sink in :lol: )
Never said anything about getting rid of 16:9 or speculate it's longevity. I don't get how you don't understand the use of an anamorphic lens.
We shoot for full CinemaScope on cine or video to be shown on cinema screens. To make a CinemaScope picture you start with a 4:3 standard frame into which the horizontally 2x compressed image is recorded.
16:9 only came into being because TV wanted to get nearer to CinemaScope format to compete with the movies. Eventually we might see both TV and cinema in full 2.35:1 but 16:9 is the first step in that direction.
American cinemas shown non-anamorphic films in 1.85:1 which is a very slim difference to 2:1 Panavision format also used in the states. Perhaps this is why the difference isn't obvious over there. Overall these are technical issues that audiences don't care about. All they want to know is that they are getting the whole picture and that nothing is cropped from top, bottom or sides.
Whether it is 4:3, 16:9 or 2.35:1 is more a concern for the film maker. 4:3 as a format has uses other than any anamorphic applications. There are plenty of genre themes people like to cover in movies that are only right in 4:3. If you get rid of it you'll find entries for competitions might turn up with the sides cropped off. I already mentioned "Seven Shades" which we made in 4:3, whilst the only project we have done this way, it won't be the last and we did commission another group to make a film for us in 4:3 last year. We work mostly with full 2x anamorphic and sometimes with 4:3. We just don't have a use for 16:9.
Most of you are using 16:9 simply because it has become the main format on video. Film Thurso has a nice set of seven 2x lenses and doesn't see the point in stepping back to a format with a narrower view especially on the Caithness landscape.
Whilst I'm sure we will eventually find something to do with 16:9 we can be equally sure that 4:3 will always be with us one way or another because there is just millions upon millions of feet of film and video in that format. Whether the format is used in production is not the point. We have to maintain the playability of the foundling format. :D

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Stu H
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Post by Stu H » Mon Nov 26, 2007 11:41 pm

My understanding of the timeline might go off the beam here and there (but I'm sure I can count on Film Thurso to correct me). Here we go:

The 4:3 (Academy) ratio comes about because it is the shape left after the inclusion of an optical soundtrack on a 4 perf 35mm negative.

TV come along and are 4:3 because that's what all the film stuff the can show is.

Movies feel threatened by soaring popularity of TV and go wide. Cinemascope allows, with the use of anamorphic lenses at each end of the production/distribution process, widescreen images on the same sized negative. Blockbusters propel the take up of the new standard in the same way as something like "Jurassic Park" drove the take up of DTS sound back in the nineties.

Now I'm going to show my ignorance, because it starts to feel a bit chicken and egg to me. Anamorphic productions tail off because of technical problems (surmounted by Panavision?) and cheaper "Flat Widescreen" formats that were shot in Academy but cropped when projected to give a ratio not far from 16:9.

...Actually, I'm running out of steam. I need my bed. Let's just say that the good folks at Film Thurso will no doubt work wonders in 16:9 if they decide to shoot on some kind of HD format (which is 16:9 by default). Whether they can use their lovely optics I am not clever enough to say.

14:9 is cropped from a 16:9 frame and presented with slight letterboxing to give that ratio within a 4:3 frame. No-one makes a 14:9 telly. It is a non-anamorphic, non-threatening, non-good pat on the head for the proletariat until the analogue switch off, when they will be forced to choose 16:9 or a 4:3 centre cut out from their set top box.

I'm off. Publish and be damned.
"Nobody knows anything." - William Goldman

tom hardwick
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Post by tom hardwick » Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:13 am

The good thing is that as amateurs and tinkerers we've been able to take a file our camera and projector gates as I showed in Positive Image a few years ago. Super 16 came about this way, and there have been systems whereby cameras are used at 45 degres to the vertical to use more of the 16 mm filmstock for wider and yet wider pictures.

16:9 is a luke-warm widescreen really - firstly there's the 4:3 rectangle cut from the image circle, then there's the 35 mm 2:3 (24 mm x 36 mm) and 16:9 is the logical mathematical progression on from that.

It always seems a bit strange seeing how 'square' IMAX is, yet few complain. But a cinema that showed 16:9 would look quaintly old fashioned, as we've come to expect 2:1 at the very minimum when we see the word 'widescreen'.

tom.

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Stu H
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Post by Stu H » Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:59 am

I seem to remember that TV channels used to (late at night or for important films) show movies in their original aspect ratio. But then that sort of petered out when the European Broadcasting Union started pushing 16:9 as the acceptable widescreen ratio. I clearly remember C4 having captions up saying that the presentation (in 16:9) was supported by the EBU. That meant that even C4, which up until then had taken a sort of purist tack on showing movies "properly", started pan & scan broadcasting, albeit in a 16:9 letterbox. Still I suppose it was better than 4:3 pan & scan.
"Nobody knows anything." - William Goldman

tom hardwick
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Post by tom hardwick » Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:39 am

But have you noticed Stu that a lot of the digital channels are putting out films in very wide 2.35:1. This of course letterboxes them quite noticeably on 16:9 sets, and lights but a few of the central scan lines acrooss the middle of my 4:3 set. Of course films on DVD have been this way for some time.

tom.

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FILM THURSO
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Post by FILM THURSO » Tue Nov 27, 2007 7:06 pm

4:3 quite rightly didn't exist until optical sound arrived, I think that was around 1930 although there were other exploritory sound-on-film formats prior to HiFi. We have an old original 35mm silent with full frame more like the shape of super 8 which is slightly wider than 4:3.
Television has been pushed by the competition from big wide pictures in cinema. Mainstream cinema drives all development in television because TV wants to be big like cinema. Every marketing strategy by tv has been by comparing the latest tv technology to how good it is up against cinema for whatever technical reason whether it be resolution or sound quality and now picture format. TV is clearly chasing cinema which has set all the bench marks over 50 years ago. To expect cinema to narrow it's wide screen so it could be the same as tv does not make marketing sense. Wide flat formats are only used for quibbling technical or budget reasons. Whilst mainstream movies get huge somes of money they are still held to strict spending plans.
Our resistance to 16:9 isn't a complete no-way. The main reason against is that if we feel a project should be made in a wide format then we are missing creative oportunity to only go halfway extra when a wider picture can be achieved by using 2x lens on a 4:3 plate. It's not that we haven't thought to do a whacking great Ben Hur and slap a 2x on the front of a 16:9 plate to yield a 3:1 frame. The problem with the latter in cinema is the same as 2.35:1 on a 16:9 tv screen- those damn borders that make the audience think they are missing something. They are detrimental to the viewers enjoyment of the picture.
Borders have the same psychological effect as a low raised kerb on a footpath- they make you want to pull back in case you trip over them.
We find films on DVD with borders extremely annoying, we'd love to be able to get them in full anamorphic format like 8mm movies. Home video projection is becoming more affordable to the average household with projectors under £500. There could be a better market for 1.5 or 2x anamorphics if tv pushed video projection. With 4:3 projectors and additional lenses a wider selection of correct screening formats becomes available.
As for Pan & Scan- it was never how the movie was intended to be seen. It didn't do anything for Ben Hur, Doctor Zivago, The Sound Of Music or anything else that was made really wide. Whilst it is a means to show the key elements of a film it takes a huge amount away from the intended enterpritation. In the same way, whilst viewing 2.35:1 on a 16:9 screen enable the full original frame to be seen, the fact that it is not about 25ft or larger in width has already removed 75% of the visual impact.
The way a movie is taken in by the audience is affected by so many things to do with the picture in it's presentation. From 4:3 to 3:1 all picture formats can be used to create amazing images to which their best effect is acheived on a big screen. This is where Imax has an edge that proves the usefullness of 4:3 where size relative to viewing distance becomes the key element to the visual impact.
Correct viewing of CinemaScope and other such formats is supposed to be set up so that the picture fills around 2 thirds of your horizontal field of view. If you take that as standard then drop back to 16:9 or 4:3 with all formats hitting the screen all the same height (as they are meant to be), whilst they don't have the width, they still have striking visual impact.
If you standardise the screen height then each format come into it's own. The nearest multiplex to Thurso is 110 miles away where only screen 5 shows films on a truely wide CinemaScope screen. The other six screens anamorphically flatten the image and crop the top off the screen thus giving the audience the wrong information about the different formats. Should we ditch Monochrome simply because we have color?

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Dave Watterson
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Post by Dave Watterson » Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:40 pm

Let me be clear: I love widescreen cinema. I want to have most of my vision filled with picture not curtains, pelmets, black lines etc. But all film makers have to consider their audience.

What we need to know is how many of our potential audience (which is a relatively small number in most cases) can view anything other than a 4x3 image ... without the dreaded black bars.

I suspect the majority of home tv sets are still "square".
I suspect the majority of club and general venue projection screens are still "square".
If my suspicions are correct we have to accept that we either continue to use "Academy ratio" or force our viewers to suffer the black bars for a while.

My guess is that Tom knows this well and started the thread to encourage us to push for a wider image. He wants us to lead the way.

But the destination of our journey still depends on what is available to the consumer. There are TV sets in 14x9 and 16x9. Most new video projectors can go up to 16x9. Some clubs and venues are fitting screens ... that are 16x9. Therefore it seems to me that practicality suggests we go for 16x9.

Film Thurso is unusual in gearing most of their work towards public screenings that are under their own control. They can, therefore, exercise artistic freedom to use whatever format seems appropriate to the subject in each case. That's great and an ideal for many of us.

The majority of us have little control over how our work is seen. It is sent to competitions and festivals. It goes into libraries. We send copies to friends. We show it at the club.

So here is an idea ...

Films entered in the IAC International Competition - which has no length limit - average about 11.5 minutes. That means we do not run short of space on standard tapes and discs. Many club and other competitions report even shorter average running times.

So why not shoot in 16x9 and on every tape or DVD put a "letterboxed" and a genuine 16x9 version of the film? Then invite users to choose the one they prefer.

Dave

tom hardwick
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Post by tom hardwick » Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:59 pm

Dave, what's with this, 'force our viewers to suffer the black bars' talk? With the lights down low to see the best CRT picture, my 4:3 Trinitron shows 16:9 just as if it was a 16:9 set, and no 'black bars' are visible simply because that part of the screen is unlit by electrons.

Maybe you mean during projection? I agree - we need wider screens, not narrower screens when we switch formats. But putting two versions on a DVD? Whoooah, that means twice as many chances to b*gger up the aspect ratio.

tom.

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Post by FILM THURSO » Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:22 pm

Two versions on the same disc, nice idea! Well actually we are kinda forced to do this and endure letterbox by dint of our own big screen which is 13ft wide (and with deep regret) happens to be 16:9 ratio! :shock: It was all we could afford at the time. :( But the thing is we have access to a real cinema so you better believe we want to make use of it. Our package feature, "Micro Trip" (and premiered in the real cinema :D ) was made from films in 4:3 and 2.35:1 so everything was formatted to 2x anamorphic leaving all the 4:3 with black sides. This meant that to show the film here in Thurso on our own screen we had to make criss-cross 16:9 recutting into sections and reformatting into 1.5 anamorphic. :? Hells bells and blooming ding-dongs! Until we have the hard chocolate coin for a 3:1 screen we must endure!

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Post by Brian Saberton » Wed Nov 28, 2007 10:18 am

As far as commercial films are concerned I prefer to watch them in the correct aspect ratio as filmed, and the black bars to either side, when the picture is 4:3, or top and bottom when it's 2.35:1 don't bother me because, as I've said before, anything else compromises picture composition.

As far as amateur videos are concerned I think that as more people buy widescreen TV's, anyone with a video camera will want to use the same format so we shall start to see more widescreen films entered into competitions. Where we start to get a problem with this is on the presentation side of things but just as clubs evolved from cine to video and from TV's to video projectors I'm sure that in the fullness of time the majority of clubs will make appropriate provision for widescreen. The decision as to what format to film in is a matter of artistic choice for the film makers but for me the future will be a wide one.
Brian Saberton

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FILM THURSO
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Post by FILM THURSO » Wed Nov 28, 2007 6:10 pm

That seems to be exactly it for the amateur world. We are very much in transition here but one which will not or at least should not put an end to 4:3 format. Whilst mainstream movies are commonly 2.35:1 (which doesn't have top/bottom borders when screened correctly) they are not entirely in that format. Holywood still makes plenty of stuff in 4:3 whether for budget, technical or artistic reasons. Poor Albert must be turning in his projection room with all this talk of ending 4:3 but whilst I don't agree with his view of the format I will happily stand up in favour of keeping 4:3 alive. This whole idea of ending 4:3 just because we have a new toy in town is silly. Certainly we will embrace the new technology but not at the expense of established and useful systems. Monochrome lives on, Mono sound lives on, 4:3 will be with us for a very long time. :D

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Post by ned c » Wed Nov 28, 2007 7:41 pm

I am deep into editing the African adventure and have become increasingly aware of two things. First, having spent 40 years shooting 4:3 on film and video I have a hard time composing for the 16:9 aspect ratio. Great for landscapes and "horizontal" events but a bit of pain with people in close up and as video remains a CU medium this is not easy. Second, I have learnt that I have over the years developed an editing style that is now ingrained. One of the short films is to entice students to sign up for the project and I decided to edit it "MTV Style" and discovered that I just cannot do it so have wiped two weeks work and started again in my traditional style, am now sleeping nights again!

ned c

Ray Williamson
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4:3 double (quadruple) cutoff!

Post by Ray Williamson » Fri Nov 30, 2007 3:32 pm

I do hate it when the TV companies show 4:3 footage with the tops and bottoms cut off.
The other day I saw the ultimate. Not only were the top and bottom cut off, but the sides were cut off with coloured bands to restore the 4:3 format!
Madness!
Bring back Laurel & Hardy, I say. Their producers knew what they were doing!
Ray Williamson, East Sussex.

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billyfromConsett
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Post by billyfromConsett » Mon Dec 03, 2007 3:36 pm

A lot of highly technical stuff about aspect ratios and special lenses that frankly, I won't even try ot understand, because of its lack of usefulness in my life.

I know:-
1) I can make movies in either 4x3 or 16x9. That's it.

2) They'll be shown either in clubs or on TV's.

Not all of my club members have computers and so never access forums. But I guarantee you, not all want widescreen. Some hate it, and feel they are being force-fed a gimmick if we show them widescreen movies.

Now maybe we should get those people to make 16x9 fims themselves!! Er no, I don't think they'll do it.

Guys, we need to give our audiences what they want to watch. I've learned that to my cost from my earlier film attempts.

At festivals like Biaff do what you like, but in our clubs we need to cater for the locals. We've also not got a wide screen.

I had the experience a few years back, of watching a 16x9 movie, and a good one at that, projected 4x3. I was annoyed for the film-maker as well as me! Being a junior member then, all I could do was ask why. The answer was 'it's tricky to get the projector to change'. Now I can project I would sort it properly.

Though just last week I projected a club roadshow, and one movie was maked 'widescreen'. So before the movie, I paused the DVD, went through the projector's menu, through into the AR section, and changed it. The movie was made widescreen, but already had the black bars present. So I re-paused the movie and projected it 4x3, where it projected correctly. So the problem of screw-ups exists here. (it's not a reason to dismiss the idea though)

Anyhow, we will need a club projector that, with a press of a remote, will go through the options, rather than playing with menus to do it.

My message is, we cannot abandon 4x3; and I make most of my stuff in it (for reasons of it being not easy to properly compose if I use 16x9).

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Post by tom hardwick » Mon Dec 03, 2007 3:55 pm

You're right Billy - make your films to suit the client. Which is why all mine are 16:9 these days.

The film you describe marked 'widescreen' was in fact made 4:3 but with 25% of it masked off to make it look 16:9. This is handy for club projectionists as one setting of the projector's aspect ratio will last all night.

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