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Cinematography

07

Jun
2017

One Comment

In Cinematography

By vashi

The Aspect Ratio of 2.00 : 1 is Everywhere

On 07, Jun 2017 | One Comment | In Cinematography | By vashi

In more and more prestige TV series, an odd aspect ratio is popping up on some of the most popular and well-reviewed shows.

The 2.00:1 aspect ratio has stealthily wormed its way into our viewing experiences without any of us knowing it.

Here’s how and why it was created.

Technically, the first use of the 2.00:1 aspect ratio was in the RKO SUPERSCOPE format for the 1954 production of VERA CRUZ.

 

click to enlarge

Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster in VERA CRUZ (1954)

 

In 1998, DP Vittorio Storaro proposed UNIVISIUM as a new film format with an aspect ratio of 2 to 1. He felt that the rise of electronic screens (TV, computer, portable…) needed a new format that could enhance and future-proof the visuals across all viewing platforms and situations. Vittorio has shot his last 10 feature films in the 2:1 ratio including his latest film Cafe Society for Woody Allen. Vittorio has even reframed several of his most famous films (Apocalypse Now, Reds, The Last Emperor) and released them in new DVD and Blu Ray editions.

 

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

 

In 2013 the 2.00:1 ratio also known as the 2:1 or even 18:9 aspect ratio became a very common format on TV.

It falls right in-between the common 16:9 and classic widescreen aspect ratio.

 

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click to enlarge

 

 

Here’s the recent chronological history of 8 popular TV shows that use this aspect ratio:

 

House of Cards (2013)

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click to enlarge

 

Marco Polo (2014)

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click to enlarge

 

Transparent (2014)

Transparent aspect ratio

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The Crown (2016)

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click to enlarge

Stranger Things (2016)

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)

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click to enlarge

 

Fargo (Season 3 – 2017)

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The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)

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click to enlarge

 

 

There has been a resurgence of the 2:1 aspect ratio in the feature film world as well.

It turns out that this aspect ratio is a logical middle ground between the 2.35 and 1.78 ratios.

Even the new Samsung S8 and the LG G6 smartphones have embraced the 2:1 aspect ratio in the consumer device market.

 

pictures courtesy of THE VERGE and SAMSUNG

pictures courtesy of THE VERGE and SAMSUNG

 

 

Some of the most recent feature films also utilize this aspect ratio including:

JURASSIC WORLD
CAFE SOCIETY
THE GIRL WITH THE ALL THE GIFTS
20TH CENTURY WOMEN
THE BOOK OF HENRY

In one of my most popular posts…I documented every aspect ratio in the history of film.

With so many options for the framing of TV and feature films and no industry standard anymore…the visual parameters belongs to the content creator and we can choose our own frame.

I will be adding a video to this page to dig deeper into the history of the 2:1 aspect ratio so check back soon…

 

Until next time…

vashivisuals.com

@vashikoo

Comments

  1. I don’t think you can talk about the ascendency of 2:1 without talking about the decline of 1.85:1 :). 1.85 is just plain awkward on a 1.78:1/16×9 screen, where the vast majority of content is consumed. That little sliver of letterboxing just doesn’t look good. Do we all agree on that (interested to hear other viewpoints)?

    Obviously, for content _originated_ in that format the original AR is the only AR (esp. when projected). But for new content (new films, streaming content), can we say that 2:1 is the new 1.85? It’s wide enough to look “grander” than normal – close to Todd-AO (and cropping it to simple 16×9 would do some amount of damage) – but tall enough not to be confused with ‘scope. It _is_ kind of perfect when you think about it. Was Vittorio right all along?

    1.85 was an _Academy_ AR, even if the broad strokes were inherited from VistaVision. We’re waaaay beyond Academy aperture now.

    So, I’m a fan of 2:1 – on the basis of Chef’s Table S1:E3 alone.

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