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Why The Old-School 4:3 Aspect Ratio Is Coming Back With A Vengeance Right Now

For years, the classic 4:3 (or 1.33/1.37) aspect ratio has been on life support. What was once the standard aspect ratio of motion picture film, began to fizzle out as early as the 1950’s when various widescreen formats were introduced, such as cinemascope.

But even as film moved away from 4:3, television still hung on to the aging format long after. For decades, the wider formats (1.85 and 2.35) were seen as “movie formats” and 4:3 was seen as a “TV format”. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that 16:9 (1.78) televisions hit the market in masses, and changed the aspect ratio game forever. No longer was widescreen a format only for film, but now it was a television format too.

This of course didn’t immediately make the 4:3 aspect ratio extinct, as there were plenty of legacy systems still running 1.33 programs (some still are), and not every consumer jumped on the widescreen/HDTV bandwagon right away. As the years went on though, it became less and less popular to shoot 4:3, and by the early 2010s it was practically seen as a taboo.

But something has changed in the last couple of years… We’re seeing a resurgence of the classic 4:3 format, with more filmmakers embracing it on feature length narratives. This is something we haven’t seen on a large scale for ages.

Personally, I am (and always have been) a fan of 4:3. Maybe it’s because so many of my favorite films were old classics shot on 35mm or 16mm in 1.33, or maybe it’s the way in which the square-ish frame can inspire unique framing choices. Whatever the case, it’s always caught my attention – so much that I plan to shoot my next film in 1.33 as I think it will be the best choice for the story.

As I’ve been doing some homework and seeking out inspiration for my next film, I couldn’t get over how many contemporary films have turned to 4:3. Obviously 2.35 is still the gold standard, but there’s been a mini explosion of filmmakers that are now embracing the once-taboo format, which I find quite fascinating.

American Honey, Son of Saul, and First Reformed are a just a few of the many features that have recently utilized 4:3/1.33 –

And it’s not just feature films that are benefitting from the format. Television content, music videos, commercials, and even digital projects are using 4:3 in numbers we haven’t seen for many years. So what exactly is it about this aspect ratio that is causing it to have a resurgence right now?

In my opinion, it can be boiled down to a few key factors –

The Democratization of 2.35

It goes without saying that the most popular aspect ratio in cinema today is 2.35. It’s a gorgeous ratio with anamorphic roots, and will continue to be the most common aspect in film for the foreseeable future.

When 2.35 (or 2.39) was first introduced, the technology was reserved for the largest scale motion pictures. This gave the format a certain je ne sais quoi that to this day is associated with bigger budget, higher-end productions. But over the past couple of decades, it’s become accessible to the masses thanks to higher resolution digital cameras (that can easily be masked/cropped to 2.35), cheaper anamorphic lenses, and the general democratization of filmmaking as a whole.

Today, practically every film we see – whether it’s a $200MM blockbuster or a $2,000 micro-budget indie – is finished in 2.35. And while this clearly doesn’t diminish the format in any objective way, I do wonder if the “allure” of 2.35 has worn out with some independent filmmakers. What was unattainable for so long, has now become commonplace… On some level this must be at least one of the (many) factors that’s leading filmmakers to experiment with other aspect ratios.

2.35 used to stand out from the crowd, but now it is the crowd… Which brings me to my next point –

4:3 Differentiates The Work

Around the same time 2.35 became accessible to the masses, so did filmmaking as a whole. Thanks to cheap/free editing software and inexpensive cameras, today the indie film market is flooded with so much content it’s almost impossible to fathom. Everyone with an iPhone and a laptop can (and is) making short and feature films… And while this is incredible in so many ways, it also makes it a lot harder to cut through the noise.

Consider the amount of submissions to film festivals in years past as a representation of how the industry has changed over the years –

According to the graph above (from the Guerrilla Rep), back in 1992 you had about 1 in 2 odds of getting into Sundance with only 250-ish films submitted. That’s a 50% chance! This year, Sundance received over 13,500 submissions, leaving filmmakers with less than 1% odds of getting in.

With such an abundance of content on the market, it’s become harder than ever for filmmakers to differentiate their work. It’s no longer enough to have a good story and strong production values. That may have launched your career back in 1992, but not today. In order for an indie film to stand out in 2018, it needs to be extremely unique, and special enough to rise above the crowd.

So is it any wonder that so many filmmakers are now going against the grain and working with formats (such as 4:3) that were once near-extinction?

Certainly an aspect ratio on its own will never make any film great, or help any film get into a festival. But it does represent the larger notion of doing things differently. This is something that is on every up and coming filmmakers mind right now, so in that respect, it’s no shock that 4:3 is getting a second look.

Vintage Is In

Another big variable right now is that the vintage look is very “in” at the moment. In a recent blog post, I wrote about how motion picture film has seen a resurgence in recent years, so much that pricing on film stock and processing has gone up nearly 30% based on the increased demand. And it’s not just professional celluloid – even Polaroid cameras are back and practically more popular than ever.

Whatever the reason may be, the vintage/throwback/nostalgia look is extremely popular at the moment, and its effect is certainly being felt by filmmakers… Many of whom are employing all sorts of tactics to make their digital footage look a little less 21st century. From the careful use of LUTs to pairing digital cinema cameras with vintage glass and Pro Mist filters, we’ve tried just about everything to get our clinical digital footage to look more filmic.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the 4:3 aspect ratio has become a part of this conversation. It’s impossible to deny the nostalgic qualities of the format, which are hard-wired into us after decades of consuming content. In some ways, 4:3 has come full circle – starting out as a motion picture format, later becoming a TV standard, and now returning to its origins in narrative feature filmmaking.

There Is No Better Way To Frame a Face

So far, we’ve touched on some of the superficial qualities that may be drawing filmmakers to 4:3. But at the end of the day, even if a filmmaker is enticed by the vintage look, or the format’s ability to differentiate their work from the next filmmaker, that’s simply an entry point.

What ultimately gets most filmmakers to actually commit to the 4:3 format are the aesthetic benefits – namely framing options. I could write an entire article about how framing is affected by various aspect ratios, and the merits of each format, but for the sake of this post I will focus on just one key factor: Framing faces.

Movies are about people, not landscapes. And unlike epic landscapes (which call for a wide aspect ratio), people – or more specifically, faces – beg for 4:3. The reason is quite simple: A human head fills up more of the frame at 1.33 when compared to 2.35. A normal closeup at 2.35 is going to leave a lot of empty/negative space on the opposite side of the frame. This could of course be an excellent artistic choice for a specific project, but it won’t highlight the actor’s micro-expressions the same way a 4:3 frame will.

There’s something about 4:3 that helps us connect more intimately with the characters. It feels more naturalistic in a sense, and for character driven pieces it can offer an effective gateway for the audience to zero-in on the subtleties of the performances.

There are countless other aesthetic benefits to 4:3 too, not the least of which is how powerful it can be for creating a more boxed-in/claustrophobic look… But we’ll save that for another article.

Final Thoughts

Do I hope we continue to see an increase of 4:3/1.33 films? Absolutely. Do I think for a second it will ever dominate the way it once did last century? Not a chance… 4:3 is definitely having a moment right now, but it still only accounts for a small fraction of the films made today. Even still, I’m happy it’s no longer being seen as taboo, and is yet another creative tool filmmakers feel comfortable pulling out of the toolbox.

The Internet and social media has also opened the floodgates with respect to formats and aspect ratios. Who would have thought 10 years ago the vast majority of home video footage would be shot in portrait mode? Or that the square 1:1 aspect ratio would make such a comeback? Certainly not me… But there is no question that the delivery medium is now influencing the content itself, and 4:3 is a case in point.

I think this has been eye opening for content creators. While many once felt they needed to adhere to certain guidelines (format, aspect ratio, etc.) in order to conform to “professional standards”, we’ve now realized there is no such thing. Sure, most of us will continue to shoot the majority of our work in 2.35, but when a film like A Ghost Story rolls out in a square aspect ratio with rounded corners, we can’t help but find ourselves enamored.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts 4:3 in the comments below…

And for more content like this, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

76 Comments

  • Tom Kelly
    May 31, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Really nice blog here that has made me think about how I might frame my feature project.

    Thanks

    Tom

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:45 am

      Glad to help, Tom! And best of luck on your feature.

      Reply
  • Peter Xiong
    June 1, 2018 at 3:09 am

    I see that you also mentioned social media influencing aspect ratios. What are your thoughts on shooting a film in 4:3 with the intention that it would most likely be seen on a cell phone? Like, for example, the increasing regularity of people using their phones to watch Netflix or scrolling through Instagram.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:49 am

      I think it’s definitely a viable option to consider – especially if the film were to be distributed through a social media platform that has a native 4:3 frame. If it were hosted on YouTube or Vimeo, a standard 16:9 ratio would work too, since most phone screens are approximately 16:9.

      Reply
    • john morris
      December 31, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      Why not go all the way: shoot it in black and white and in mono. Hey, and filter the audio so it has that 200 – 7 000 hz 1940’s cinema sound..

      A guess if it’s an art film then anything goes. But doing a 1.375:1 movie in 2019 is silly. Back in the early 50’s they went to wide screen aspect ratio, multi channel sound and 3D to compete with television. For example: The First Super wide, multi channel movie – The Robe in 1954. Imagine how incredible that 2.55:1 ratio would have seen back in those days. And it wasn’t long before the wide 1.85:1 ratio became the new Academy Standard. The only reason the old Academy ratio of 1.375:1 stuck around was because every television set was that ratio. (Before 1954 pretty much every movie was that ratio so the television sets were the same.)

      I suppose if you are doing a movie in the style of an old Joan Crawford movie from the 30’s or movie like a 50’s TV show then I suppose in those circumstances using old Academy ratio would make artistic sense.

      Funny, you have this strange push for all televisions going to a 21:9 ratio. (2.3:1 ratio) which would severely crop and shrink thousands of 1.375:1 (Any movie before 1954) and the European Standard 1.66:1 ratio movies and television shows.

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        January 17, 2019 at 1:18 am

        Haha – Thanks for this, John. Of course I agree, we’re not going back to 4:3 as an exhibition format, but as a creative tool it’s great. Many shows are now shot in unusual aspects. Take Homecoming (on Amazon) for example!

        Reply
      • Brian
        March 19, 2020 at 9:11 am

        Televisions were 1.333:1, not 1.375:1.

        Reply
  • Talia
    June 1, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    As a matter of fact, In Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt, Fritz Lang says that Cinemascope is not meant to film people, but to film snakes and funerals, referring to the Western movies when the 2:35 became widely used. Western are also about showing the natural monuments North America has, since it does not have European century-old architecture (Hence “Monument Valley”).

    When it comes to a 4:3 format, interestingly enough The Contempt that was shot large format, features dozens of shots where characters are put into a 4:3 format within the 2:35 (a frame within the frame), and it always happens when something happen on the human intimate level.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:51 am

      Ha! Never heard that before, but will need to look it up now…

      Reply
  • Ingerson
    June 6, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    I actually just completed my first short film, I shot it in 4:3 B&W 🙂

    https://youtu.be/rsXdjH4I5YA

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:51 am

      Awesome! Will check it out some time soon.

      Reply
      • Ingerson
        June 19, 2018 at 6:33 am

        Thanks Noam 🙂

        Would be great to know what you think, you and your site has been a great resource for me and an inspiration for me 🙂 Looking forward to “Shadows On The Road”!

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          July 13, 2018 at 3:15 am

          Thank you so much! Can’t wait to share it with you too.

          Reply
    • Sofia
      August 23, 2018 at 1:12 am

      Hi Ingerson,
      just wondering which camera did you use to shoot 4:3?
      Or did you just crop the image on post?
      cheers

      Reply
      • Ingerson
        August 30, 2018 at 3:19 pm

        Hi Sofia

        DVX200, cropping in post. using camera’s built in guide lines for composing.

        Reply
  • […] Why The Old-School 4:3 Aspect Ratio Is Coming Back With A Vengeance Right Now […]

    Reply
  • Jacob
    June 12, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Can’t echo this enough!!!

    Reply
  • Daniel
    June 14, 2018 at 3:35 am

    Great article. We just wrapped our first feature film and the director and d.p. went with a 4:3. The producer fought against it but the director ultimately won out.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 13, 2018 at 3:04 am

      Awesome! Would love to check it out some time.

      Reply
  • Jeroen
    June 17, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    May I add another reason? Not so much the film presentation itself, but social media short films and marketing require a square aspect ratio or even portrait to work well on a Facebook timeline or Twitter feed. These platforms are portrait focused and these formats don’t require people to awkwardly rotate their device as they jump in and out a video.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 13, 2018 at 3:14 am

      Great point – I think more square content is inevitable for that very reason.

      Reply
  • Nathan
    July 4, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Thanks for writing such thoughtful articles Noam, one of the only film blogs I actually pay attention to!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 13, 2018 at 3:31 am

      So nice of you to say, Nathan! Really appreciate that…

      Reply
  • Jan
    August 1, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Not to mention “Cold War”, big sensation of the last Cannes festival, which fits perfectly to the “4:3 on path of vengence ” family 🙂

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 21, 2018 at 9:29 pm

      Haven’t seen that one yet! Will need to check it out.

      Reply
  • Sofia
    August 23, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Hi Noam, how are you?

    I was actually doing some research on how to shoot in 4:3 and 2k (regarding cameras).
    I found out that the Arri Alexa mini has an option for 4:3. Somehow everyone talks about using anamorphic lenses when shooting 4:3 with this camera and I’m a bit confused about that.
    I’m guessing if I don’t use anamorphic lenses i’ll get a different angle of view?

    Is it gonna raise my production budget up too much if using this set-up?

    Do you have any insights to share about this?
    Thanks, Sofia

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 14, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Hi Sofia! You could technically frame for 4:3 on any camera (even 16:9) and then just crop the image with a pillar box in post. That said, when people use anamorphic lenses on 4:3 sensors, they end up with a 2.39:1 widescreen image once it is de-squeezed in post.

      Reply
  • Jay Batchelor
    September 3, 2018 at 6:21 am

    A new film called “Cold War” was framed on the 1.37:1 format as well. I like that vintage format too.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 14, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      Very cool to hear. Will need to check it out!

      Reply
  • Jay
    September 3, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Let’s not forget 1.66:1

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 14, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      The one and only.

      Reply
    • john morris
      December 31, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      Yes, the European wide standard. Well, it use to be.

      Reply
    • Bengt Freden
      March 2, 2019 at 3:30 am

      I agree! That is the most beautiful film aspect ratio of all! Many German movies in the mid 70s and later (e.g. Werner Herzog’s) were shot in that glorious aspect ratio. It is a very photographic format, where everything balances beautifully, especially landscapes involving trees or mountains. Like “Herz aus Glas”. 🙂

      Reply
  • Bradley
    September 5, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Noam,

    I have a short we shot on 16mm b & w filmstock. A 2K scan, we intended to finish at 1.37. What in your opinion is the best way to crop the footage accordingly in Adobe Premiere without losing image quality and while also maintaining a consistent framing across mediums and platforms (DCP, YouTube/Vimeo, Blu-ray, etc.)? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    BP

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 14, 2018 at 8:35 pm

      Hi Bradley – great question. I would create a 1.37 timeline, and then copy your edit into it. That will allow you to avoid having to letter box/pillar box, and you can output all your deliverables straight from there. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • Kevin
    September 7, 2018 at 5:42 am

    Hey Noam,

    Would you know if a film submitted in full 16×9 would be ruled out or for some reason be unable to be played/projected for a film festival? We’re making out first feature, learning as we go, and while the aspect ratio seems to be a creative choice I’ve read some things saying that 16×9 won’t play right. We rather like using 16×9, even if it isn’t considered to be as cinematic or filmic, but don’t want to run make an entire movie that gets ruled out because of its format.

    Most all submissions are required to be 16×9 format, but if your film is selected it looks like it gets exported to a different type of format for screening. It’s all been a bit confusing.

    Thanks for creating this resource here; it’s been a big help!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      September 14, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      Hey Kevin! It definitely wouldn’t be ruled out for being shot in 16:9. If anything, I think we are now working at a time when aspect ratios are more flexible than ever. You could theoretically get into a film festival even with an iPhone video shot in portrait mode, so 16:9 is certainly not going to be an issue. Best of luck!

      Reply
  • a
    October 3, 2018 at 8:37 am

    the best ratio is the golden ratio. 16:10

    Reply
  • Jack
    October 20, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    As a consumer, I’m not that concerned with aspect ratios. Whatever an artist wants to do, they should do.

    But if an artist cares at all about making a little extra money, they should consider filming in at least 16:9 width. They can always crop to the smaller size for the artsy-craftsy crowd. But if it’s ever released for the masses, it’s nice to have 16:9 available. There may be nothing of much significance on the sides, but it looks better on modern wide screen TVs than black bars. At least for the average consumer. The only time it might not hurt sales is for a truly vintage look in black and white. But Young Frankenstein has a nice vintage look, and without resorting to 4×3.

    The Steven Spielbergs of the world may not overly concern themselves with money, but novice filmmakers need whatever they can get!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:34 am

      I bet there will be lots of projects in the future framed for multiple aspect ratios… It’s bound to happen!

      Reply
  • Sway Molina
    October 25, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    This was a great read. The beauty of this coming back is that the viewer will once again enjoy movies of all colors and aspect ratios a like. And going back to what you said – and I agree 100% – there’s no better way to frame the face.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:38 am

      Thanks so much for the note. Glad to hear we’re on the same page!

      Reply
  • James Davis
    November 25, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    I think it depends on the narrative.

    A vast in scope film or blockbuster movie looks better at 2.35.

    A comedy/rom com or period drama 1.85

    4:3 is more Art House avant-garde and experimental IMHO. I just can’t see a space opera being shot in 4:3 unless it’s trying to emulate the old school 30s and 40s Sci-Fi/Serials.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 16, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      For sure! It’s nice to have different options, depending on the creative needs of our productions.

      Reply
  • Kevin Mullarkey
    December 18, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Unfortunately when viewing on a consumer WS 16:9 TV, your average user will simply stretch the 4:3 image to fit the screen resulting in an incorrect distorted image, much like they do with the ‘zoom’ feature when hiding the black bars of a 2.35:1 image. For me as a viewer 16:9 or 1.77:1 or even good old 1.85:1 are the best ARs that fit a standard WS TV, although i’m perfectly happy with 2.35:1.

    Just don’t get me started on the ‘mobile phone portrait mode’…..OK I have!!….

    As far as film/video archives go a lot of material that resides in National film archives is sourced by amateurs and enthusiast and we have some dome wonderful and consistent (as far as AR is concerned) movies all the way and up to the home video boom of the 80s/90s, i.e. everyone held their camera in landscape mode. Fast forward to the mobile/cell phone era an now we see a lot shot in the DREADFUL portrait mode that takes up just a very narrow slot on ANY TV ‘great’ additions to the national archives these will be along with their artefact, pixelated image that I seven worse than VHS! When will people realise that shooting in landscape mode gives you the best of both worlds and will look better when viewed buy historians in years to come

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 17, 2019 at 1:09 am

      All cool points, Kevin. Thanks for your 2 cents!

      Reply
  • Ricardo
    December 25, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Noam,

    I have some technical questions, have you seen Mid90s the movie, How do you thing this was shot? What kind of camera?

    Also which cameras has a 4:3 format?

    This is a great blog.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 17, 2019 at 1:13 am

      Hey Ricardo! I loved that movie. It was probably shot on an Arri 416. Many cameras can shoot in 4:3! The Blackmagic URSA or Arri Alexa are two cameras that can do it natively. On other cameras, you can just crop the image in post.

      Reply
  • Mark
    December 31, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    Mid 90s is in 4:3 too

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 17, 2019 at 1:18 am

      Sure is. I’m listening to the soundtrack for that film right now, by the way!

      Reply
  • Martin
    January 1, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    My choice for video is 16:9, and with the proper lens and composition.
    16:9 has more width than 4:3, but without the often unnecessary panorama effect 2:35 and
    wider ratios provide.

    4:3 has a great inherent feature, height. With height the tops of actors heads are seldom sliced off, and
    scenes do not look as if viewed through a raised venetian blind slat. 2:35 and wider look great for panoramic scenes while the non panorama scenes often look overly cropped vertically.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 17, 2019 at 1:28 am

      All great points. Each ratio has it’s strengths!

      Reply
  • Alexander Parkhomenko
    February 20, 2019 at 2:47 am

    I do not fully agree with this point of view.
    Maybe 4:3 is surely getting more popular (as a fact) but it doesn’t make it the “right” way of doing things.

    – VINTAGE LOOK. I see a lot of people throwing a vintage look on their pictures and videos with no justification to it. I think all vintage looks should be reserved for films that tell vintage stories…
    If you making a film about the modern world, it would be weird to throw a vintage 4:3 ratio. At the same time, I can see it being used for stories about the past century.
    But here comes the question – Chicken or Egg? Is 4:3 used because it is actually good, or is it used just because that’s how people used to see their media, regardless of good or bad?

    – TECHNOLOGY. Unless you making a film specifically for a movie theater, you have to consider all kinds of media devices people may watch this film on. And the fact is our modern screens are getting wider and wider.
    Netflix is most likely to be viewed on wide screen TV. Youtube is often widescreen PC or even wider phone screen.
    Will 4:3 look that great with black bars on both side of TV and phone?

    – FRAMING. There is plenty of ways to have a good framing on pretty much any aspect ratio. Even for the face. In fact, 16:9 isn’t that much of a difference from 4:3 – all you get is a bit of empty space on both sides of an image. So, really, the face will look about the same way in both frames.

    – HUMAN EYE. Widescreen was created for a reason – it was an attempt to emulate human eye experience. Our vision is panoramic. Achieving this effect at home was not possible for a large market so it was reserved for film theaters. A film, in its basics, is an attempt to dip viewers int alternative reality, as close to a real experience as possible. A panoramic view is part of it. Today we are finally able to get this kind of view at home and even in our hands – should stop for a moment and appreciate it.

    – SOCIAL MEDIA. Social Media format is going towards vertical and square frames. 4:3 has very little to do with it. The vertical format is native for any phone – that’s how you usually hold it. Its great for portrait shots, which is very popular with talking heads on social media. Snapchat even makes short series in vertical format.
    Square, on the other hand, is the best alternative for vertical if you want a smaller “horizontal” frame. Square is perfect because you are not losing any space with it. 4:3 provides less viewing space on a phone compared to square…

    – WHEN TO USE? I am sure the best example of using different aspect ratios would be Grand Budapest Hotel which uses aspect ratio based on the context of the story.
    Another way of using 4:3 would be when dealing with old media. I can see the documentary being shot in this format because it uses many materials shot in that format. However, that’s more of a compromise, rather an improvement.

    After all, I am very skeptical about going with weird aspect ratios. Many people are using them in order to be distinctive, while their story sucks… Media Devices should be considered when making decisions on film aspect ratio. Is it vertical Snapchat? Is it TV? You have this large canvas at home, that happened to be 16:9. Why not fill it with the image completely?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 5, 2019 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks for sharing this! Great perspective…

      Reply
    • Mike
      October 24, 2019 at 4:20 am

      “– HUMAN EYE. Widescreen was created for a reason – it was an attempt to emulate human eye experience. Our vision is panoramic. Achieving this effect at home was not possible for a large market so it was reserved for film theaters. A film, in its basics, is an attempt to dip viewers int alternative reality, as close to a real experience as possible. A panoramic view is part of it. Today we are finally able to get this kind of view at home and even in our hands – should stop for a moment and appreciate it.”

      This is false!

      It was promoted by production head Darryl Zanuck, and it is actually worse for movies about people!

      Reply
  • Mister Widescreen
    March 24, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    Let’s face it. All of that is explain it away nonsense. The REAL reason 4:3 is making a comeback is because TVs ditched the format to be more like film. That was the number one reason film went to wider formats in the first place to differentiate it from television (lest cinema be destroyed). Now they’ve got the same problem they had in the 1940s and 1950s. People can watch widescreen at home.

    Why BOTHER to go to the movie theater anymore with mega-high prices on both tickets and snacks, people kicking your seat and the occasional lunatic that starts shooting in a crowded theater? Why bother when even a UHD 65-75″ screen is now not only commonplace, but DIRT CHEAP compared to the 1980s and 1990s when a large screen was rare or at least uncommon and a quality CRT projector could cost $25k or more. I just bought a 4K/3D projector with power memory zoom for $1600 and a 115″ 2.35:1 tensioned electric screen for $960. For $2560 (plus sound system), I can watch 2.39 and 2.35:1 movies at home with no or almost no black bars at a distance of 9 feet (thanks to HD and UHD) that looks INCREDIBLE and 3D movies fall into my lap. With my 11.1.6 Atmos/X/Auro-3D sound system installed and with super comfy power reclining massage chairs for every seat in three rows, WHY ON EARTH would I want to go to the cinema??? I wouldn’t and I don’t.

    Sure, not everyone can afford to do that and dollar theaters (which are typically now more like $3-4, which used to be the regular matinee admission price when I was younger) are still popular, but I can easily imagine some new theaters opening like the movie houses of old with GIANT 4:3 screens and less width with more rows and a balcony (what good is 4:3 in a theater optimized for 2.39? It looks just as ridiculous as it does at home now). How many movie theaters have balconies nowadays with the advent of stadium seating? Fancy theaters with “outdoor decor” and stars on the roof used to be commonplace, but are now a true rarity. What is old is new again. Next you’ll be seeing a remake of Casablanca in 4:3 for authenticity and it’ll need an authentic 4:3 theater to view it in.

    Sadly, this will put home systems right back into the hell hole of 4:3 we finally escaped and yet people like YOU want MORE of it. Screw 4:3. Until I grow a single cyclops eye, 2.39 and even 1.85 will make far more sense to my feeble brain. If I want to watch M.A.S.H., Night Court or Cheers reruns, I’ll tolerate 4:3. Otherwise, good riddance.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 17, 2019 at 9:51 pm

      LOL. I don’t think 4:3 is taking over… Just being seen as another creative tool that we can use. Just like Anamorphic.

      Reply
  • Sheridan
    April 9, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    One thing you’ve forgotten to add, Noam, was that aspect ratios affect your choice of lenses too. This is INCREDIBLY overlooked when discussing aspect ratios. You wouldn’t use the same lens for a 16:9 image as you would for a 2:39.1 one.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 17, 2019 at 10:02 pm

      Thanks for this, Sheridan! Definitely a great consideration to take into account.

      Reply
  • Crash & Burn Specialist
    April 12, 2019 at 2:14 am

    Hey Noam, I appreciate your perspective on this.

    I’m a TV news and Long format Video Editor. I have to say, that despise this 4:3 resurgence with every fiber of my being! I feel like we’re taking a step backwards by trying to squeeze our vision, after it’s been broadened, back into a square box.

    I just spent a week editing a promo for a Show in 16×9. I was later informed that we had to re-edit the promo for Square video for social media. I ended up butchering the promo because I wasn’t simply allowed to resize the video, but in fact had to cut out chunks of video to just focus on the host. To say I was pissed is an understatement.

    Using 4:3 as an artistic tool in movies in fine. In terms of social media, I feel like catering to people who are too lazy to turn their phones on the side to get 16:9 video.

    I apologize for the rant, but I thank you for you insight into this resurgence.

    Reply
  • Tim
    May 7, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Hi Noam,
    Interesting read. Do I need anamorphic lenses to get the 2.35: 1 aspect ratio or when filming, you use guide lines for composition and framing and then add black bars in post. When doing it in post, does this not affect the final resolution of the image?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 17, 2019 at 10:30 pm

      Thanks! You don’t need to shoot anamorphic for 2.35. That’s definitely one way to do it, but you could just crop the top and bottom in post if you’re using standard spherical lenses.

      You don’t lose resolution by cropping, but you do kind of “gain” resolution by using Anamorphic lenses… Hope that makes sense!

      Reply
  • Mike
    October 24, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Wide screen (ratio greater than 1:1.66) is an abomination dreamed up by the movie studios (particularly 20th Century Fox) in the early 1950s to try to draw viewers to theatres and away from their comfy homes and TVs. I have always hated it. It’s great for movies about snakes, submarines, whales, pencils, etc.

    It’s so stupid!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 22, 2019 at 9:31 pm

      Haha!! Love your take on this.

      Reply
  • William Thomas
    December 14, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Interesting article – I’ll watch out for those 4:3 films. I’m glad I didn’t throw out my Sony Hi8 camcorder. You mentioned films are about people, and 4:3 fits the human face. But stories are about people interacting, and 16:9 or wider permits a relationship between two faces. Incredible how filmmaking has suddenly become accessible. I predict it will lead to a craze in re-cutting classic movies starring oneself. We will all become actors just as we have all become photographers.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      March 3, 2020 at 12:52 am

      Fascinating take, William. Thanks for sharing this.

      Reply
  • Luca
    March 30, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    I am ignorant on the matter, really. Still for me this format seems just like a “creative tool” with the only purpose of doing something “creative”. I can’t understand what’s the point, to me (an ignorant on the subject of filmmaking) it just look like “why the hell do I have 2 black bands there? Couldn’t they just shoot it on the size of my screen which is the actual standard?”. What I would like to understand is: filming exactly the same scenes, but including whatever is in the sides, would make such a difference? Would that be somewhat distracting? In my opinion I think it wouldn’t.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 5, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      You’re right, Luca. It is totally subjective – for some creatives it can be an excellent tool to work with, but not all audiences even notice the difference.

      Reply
  • Michael Monagan
    April 14, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Well, I hope I’ve stumbled into the right place. I’m transferring 45 Compact VHS Tapes I made starting in the early 90s (yes, that’s when our oldest child was born..) and the video transfer program (Elgato) asks me to choose between 4:3 and 16:9. I have 2 questions- 1) Is the camera, a JVC GR-AX64OU, filming in 4:3? 2) If it is filming in 4:3 then wouldn’t I want to transfer it(keep it) in 4:3? I want to make sure I get off on the right foot! THANK YOU!!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 5, 2020 at 3:40 pm

      Yes, I would recommend scanning at 4:3 since your source footage on VHS would have originated in 4:3. Good luck!

      Reply
  • gregory battaglia
    July 5, 2020 at 10:01 am

    It would be great if those of us with lots of 4:3 content on DVD and 1080p BD would post their requests for a 4:3 OLED TV, 50″ to 55″ size, here Jaed Arzadon, Corporate Communicationsjaed.arzadon@pioneer-usa.com Or here among the leading Chinese OLED TV brands, who unlike Sony, LG and Philips all welcome consumer feedback. https://www.sharptvusa.com/contact/
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    https://support.tclusa.com/contactus?contact_query=Please%20enter%20your%20question

    Reply

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