A Look at the Most Common Aspect Ratios

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Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

As someone who is new to the field of filmmaking, you’ve obviously come across certain terms that leave you going “Huh?!”. One of those terms would be “Aspect Ratio”. If you’ve been wondering what aspect ratio is, don’t worry, we’ve come up with a basic guide to help you out. Keep reading.

The definition

Aspect ratio is nothing but the ratio between the width and the height of an image. That’s pretty much it. However, aspect ratios have changed a lot over the years, thanks to the development in filmmaking and viewing technology.

To give you a better picture, we’ll discuss some of the aspect ratios that have come and gone and ones that have stayed or just made their entry.

Types of aspect ratios

  • 1:1: As the ratio itself might indicate, this is a square aspect ratio. So, there are no portraits or landscapes possible with this ratio and its primarily used for high formal composition. The 1:1 aspect ratio became common in 1929, thanks to Rollei’s cameras. Even today’s smartphone apps tend to use this particular ratio. Instagram would be a good example.
  • 4:3: You’re likely to have come across this one on your media players or even your TVs. It’s a commonly used aspect ratio for the TV and broadcast industry. The typical resolution for this ratio would be 640×480.
  • 5:4: This ratio is followed for large format cameras and sheet film. Resolutions range from 4”x5” to 8”x10”. Your 8”x10” would be a good example of this particular kind of aspect ratio.
  • 3:2: This aspect ratio is commonly associated with 35mm film and it’s also the standard format for digital SLR film. The origin for the ratio goes all the way back to Oskar Barnack. He made a small camera that used cinema film rolls (4:3) with double frame, which led to the result being a 4:6 frame. When the 4:6 is turned 90 degrees, you get a 3:2 aspect ratio. This is how the 35mm film came into being.
  • 16:9: This is another aspect ratio that you’re likely to have come across if you watch a lot of movies. It’s the official aspect ratio implemented for High Definition TV. Though not used on still cameras, it is used to create images for a cinematic view.
  • 2.35/2.40:1: This is your widescreen aspect ratio, used mainly for feature films. It is extremely wide and therefore, not possible for implementation in still cameras.

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Image Credits: Flickr

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