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Thread: In praise of 4:3

  1. #1
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    Default In praise of 4:3

    I have been watching lots of movies recently - old and new.

    I now mourn the passing of 4:3 - in my opinion it's slavish and near total rejection is a mistake. I think the assumption that wider is better needs to be challenged.

    Have you got any nice pictures hanging around your house? They may be photogrpahs or paintings - go look or bring them to mind, all in different ratios arent they, and for a dam good reason. The aspect ratio used is chosen deliberately to suit the composition and subject.

    Check out 2 rather well known paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci - the mona lisa is far narrower than 4:3 forcing us to concentrate on her visage and not the setting. The obverse is the last supper where the suject benefits from a panoramic aspect ratio.

    I argue that the same rational should be applied to film.

    Intimate close shots are better in 4:3 - generally and long shots are better in wide.

    Who decided you cant swap between cuts? Where is the tablet of stone it is written on ?

    Wide screen was a fifties invention to get audiences back to cinemas cos of the threat of TV and the marketing hype seems to have stuck as people always assume wide is better when manifestly it isnt.

    Wide is really just narrow....
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  2. #2

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    Reminds me of Harry Nielson's 'Land of point'
    My opinions are just that . . . Mine. It's not personal, but is based on my emotional and professional reaction to requested critique. If you choose to ignore constructive comments, I'll just assume you're a vanity poster and not posting to improve your filming and editing skills.

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    So your natural conclusion to this is that aspect ratios should switch various times within a film? so that when there us a close up on a subject, the screen morphs into a narrow aspect ration, and similarly a wide aspect for panaramics? Wouldn't that be confusing to the viewer? In my opionion, a close up doesn't gain anything from a narrow aspect ratio.

    However, if something is shot with a particular aspect ratio in mind for final presentation, then this is the logical presentation format. Clearly something shot in 4:3 should be presented as such. And something shot in a wider format equally presented in the same format. Otherwise the wole world will be in uproar, and you'll get websites set up purely to display the appalling consequences which ultimately end up in some of Star Wars being cut off the screen.

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    I must say that I'm very much a fan of widescreen.

    Historically widescreen is the traditional format. Over thousands of years artists have "discovered" that the golden ratio is about 16:9. One reason is that this approximates to the sharp area of the human eye. It was the original limitations of film which changed this ratio to about 3:2. When sound came along the frame had to be compressed even more and we ended up with the academy format of 4:3.
    When television started, cathode ray screens had to be made circular which meant that edges had to be blocked out. You "lose" a lot less in the 3:4 format than you do in the 16:9 and thus television got stuck with the square picture at first.

    The point is not the format, but how the pictures are composed. The old b/w films were restricted to 3:4 and the cinematographers composed for that. I would also say that the "old" cameramen were geniuses of composition and created pictures to die for. I feel that this art of picture awareness is hard to find in current movies where gimmickry and wow-effects are more important than a beautiful composition. I would even go so far as to claim that TV drama has more cinematic "artistry" than many feature films (with some obviously noticable exceptions).

    I have to agree though that it's a lot easier composing a close-up in 3:4 than in widescreen.
    Last edited by Rembrandt Rob; 02-22-2009 at 11:15 AM.

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    D W Griffiths was one the fathers of modern cinemaphotogrpahy and was one of the first to use wide and did mix it with narrow - I read on him and that made me think about it. Tho it clearly never caught on I think he was befor his time with the wide thing.

    As for being disconcerting i would argue that it may be a ' word ' in the ' language ' that may work in the right 'sentence ' - (* class bs there huh ? )

    Rather than disconcerting if used well it could grab the attention.

    However - I am sure my 4 3 love is cos my cam is 4 3 and my monitor and my projector - lols. A 4 3 pic is near on 9 ft across and then wide just looks too thin.

    To be fair many films use the width well but often to me it looks a bit laboured.

    I just wrote a 5 min ish script that has obvious wide and ovious not wide bits - if I ever shoot it I may give it a try. I think there was a bit of aspect fiddling in the seventies too as a coraollary to the split screen thing that was big then - I think that is really cool too and works seemlessly when used well.

    I just think that all this wide is better and dont fiddle hegemony is interesting to question. Seems like a tool that hasnt been explored.

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    One thing tho that is surely not moot - very wide films are a joke unless you have a really big telly - on my 32 inch sony tv 2.35 to 1 was a pain.

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    Oh yeah, gotta go with that, watching a 2.35 ratio film with thick black bands top and bottom is a pain.

    Like the idea of switching ratios in a film though.

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