10 Movies That Change Aspect Ratio While Running

Technology is constantly evolving, and this includes the display technologies used in viewing feature films.

At the time, 4:3 (1.33:1) was the standard aspect ratio for most movies. Then, in 2009, the 16:9 The widescreen aspect ratio (1.77:1) has grown in popularity and has become the international standard for HD and UHD displays.

And don’t forget the anamorphic 21:9 (2.35:1) ultrawidescreen format, sometimes referred to as CinemaScope, which came out in the 1950s and has had its popularity ups and downs over the years.

Most films these days are shot in 16:9 format, with 4:3 usually delegated to arthouse films and 21:9 reserved for epic productions. But who says you have to stick to one aspect ratio for a movie?

Sometimes filmmakers have taken the bold step of using not one but two (or even three or four) different aspect ratios in a single film. Here are some of the most iconic examples of what gets done right.

Oz the Great and Mighty revert to original The Wizard of Oz through its cinematography and aspect ratios.

At Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz, the color palette shifts from sepia to Technicolor when Dorothy (Judy Garland) arrives in the glittering land of Oz. Likewise, when Oscar (James Franco) lands in the Emerald City, the black-and-white film shifts to vibrant color.

Along with the color injection, director Sam Raimi expands from 4:3 to 16:9 widescreen, depicting how Oscar’s entire world expands from the limits of reality to the magical possibilities of Oz.

Oscar remains a trickster in both worlds – 1905 Kansas and the uncharted Land of Oz – but here, witches and flying monkeys make his magic tricks all the more illustrious.

Using a square aspect ratio to conjure up old home movies is quite a common technique in modern cinema, but what about conjuring up a porn movie?

Director Paul Thomas Anderson is a master of filmmaking techniques, from dialogue structure to editing. In his semi-biographical comedy boogie nights (based on real guy John Holmes), he uses grainy film footage to show his 70s star in action.

The flickering images and blurry images echo those of 35mm film, taking us away from the reality of what is happening. When we return to real-life Dirk Diggler (played by Mark Wahlberg), it’s a more familiar 2.39:1.

Outside of his 4:3 performances, Diggler has a glamorous lifestyle minus the glamor – drug overdoses, court battles, bankruptcy and prostitution.

500 days of summer strikes a good balance between indie and mainstream, featuring famous faces in funny and sometimes heartbreaking drama.

Part of the reason Marc Webb’s sleeper hit remains so beloved to this day is its willingness to stray from the usual rom-com path – the protagonist doesn’t get the girl at the end – and it scorns our trend. to romanticize memories and people.

Although the plot errs on the realistic side, Webb keeps the visuals artistic and inventive. Not only do the characters turn into drawings, but we even transition between seasons via an animated timeline.

Although the aspect ratio does not move as much in 500 days of summer as is the case with some of our other picks, we’re including it because the movie’s most famous scene adopts two squares in a fun split-screen.

The home movie-style imagery depicts the stark contrast between the “expectation” and the “reality” of life, and it’s gut-wrenching because it’s so relatable. Webb also uses square Polaroid-style clips to represent memories and childhoods, because why wouldn’t he?

Christopher Nolan is no stranger to mixing up aspect ratios in his movies, but it’s rarely done for symbolism. Instead, it’s because the director is an avid fan of IMAX and how it allows him to achieve the full scope of his themes and stories.

IMAX is, of course, a full aspect ratio in itself (1.435:1) as it is usually shot on 70mm film and intended for large screens. Nolan embeds IMAX in the standard 16:9 format for an otherworldly viewing experience.

Nolan’s most famous use of IMAX is in The black Knight, which opens with the infamous Joker heist scene in full IMAX glory. Car chases and explosions are all filmed with IMAX to capture the full weight of their power, and it was the same in Nolan’s last Batman movie, The dark knight rises (2012).

Nolan’s next biopic Oppenheimer will be the director’s sixth film to use IMAX, which is now a hallmark of the authoring director.

The Incredibles wasn’t the first film to use a square aspect ratio to denote the past, but we love this example! It proves that animation can also get smart with proportions, as director Brad Bird showed us back in 2004.

The Incredibles opens with a film reel as the superheroes prepare for an interview, test microphones and mumble to each other. After all, Pixar loves a candid good time.

It’s hard to tell what year these interviews take place because the characters seem to live in a hybrid world of the 1960s with modern technology (read more about this crazy fan theory). But each time it does, it takes 15 years before the superhero relocation program bans the spandex-wearing vigilante.

The “supers” talk about their experiences as heroes, joking that they always have to fix everyone’s problems. Man, does it come back to bite them…

mom was so cutting-edge that it wasn’t enough to film in a 4:3 aspect ratio – most of it was filmed in a perfect square 1:1 aspect ratio.

A few called the 1:1 choice pretentious, but director Xavier Dolan described it as a “humble and private format, a bit more suited to these lives we dive into”.

The French-language film focuses on a hostile mother-son relationship in Canada, where Bill S-14 allows parents to hospitalize their troublesome children. Freedom is a key theme in Dolan’s award-winning drama, best exemplified by the mid-run aspect ratio change.

Anguished teenage protagonist Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) literally pushes the square ratio with his hands, creating physical space and release from his impending straitjacket.

The majority of Pi’s life plays out in the widescreen format we’re used to. That said, you might spot the odd scene that deviates from the norm.

The most striking example is when the fish start jumping out of the sea…and out of the screen! Their bodies fly over the black letterbox as if it were a 3D movie without the glasses, shot in 2.35:1 to capture the grandeur of the scene.

Everything about this film is expansive and immersive. He wants viewers to feel how huge, scary, and beautiful the ocean is to Pi (Suraj Sharma) when left to his own devices. The different aspect ratios are used to evoke various feelings, but they all feed into this idea of ​​vastness.

Even when director Ang Lee uses a tight 4:3 ratio, it’s to focus more on the top and bottom – the sky and the sea – rather than the sides as he captures the massive whale beneath. Pi’s boat.

Pi’s life is as much a visual experience as it is a brilliant story, which Lee showcases through every tool at his disposal.

There are a lot of special effects in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Worldand that’s not unusual considering it’s filmed in the style of a comic book, as it’s based on the comic books by Bryan Lee O’Malley).

The combination of live action and animation makes Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World one of the most fun, hilarious and sensory experiences in cinema. But one of the special effects you probably won’t notice so much is its subtle but effective change in aspect ratios.

Dynamic director Edgar Wright switches from a standard widescreen to a much finer 2.39:1 ratio to emphasize certain elements or themes.

For example, when Scott (Michael Cera) enters “a silly dream,” the screen tightens to a more cinematic letterbox for added drama as he drops to his knees. All sorts of things happen on screen during big matchups, and characters even hit black spaces sometimes.

Trey Edward Shults directed Wavesa revamped sports drama that turned into something no one expected.

Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a competitive high school wrestler whose father barely gives him room to breathe. As the pressure mounts, Shults gradually lowers the ratio to 1.85:1 for a claustrophobic feel.

Shults himself described it as “an expressive way to bring you closer” – a method that was also used in his previous film from 2015 Krisha.

Here, it’s so important that the script itself specified that compression of screen space that continues through to the climactic party scene. At this point, the movie could have plausibly ended, but instead it shifts to a whole new story with Tyler’s sister, Emily (Taylor Russell).

Emily then has her own journey of ratio modifications, building a unique grammar for Waves which guaranteed its success.

Wes Anderson is best known for his distinct and satisfying cinematography. The author works alongside Robert Yeoman for all of his live-action films, bringing us the poppy colors and precise symmetry we all love.

The Grand Budapest Hotel doesn’t just use Anderson’s standard visual tropes (e.g. fixed shots, matching bright colors, etc.), but a fluid aspect ratio on top of all that. In fact, the film films between three screen sizes, to be precise (because everything about Anderson is precise).

Simply put, Wes Anderson uses a different aspect ratio for each of the eras depicted in the film:

  • The 1930s are represented in 1.37:1
  • The 1960s are represented in 2.40:1
  • The 1980s are displayed in 1.85:1

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing to switch between these sizes non-chronologically, it’s also handy for keeping track of the narrative!

About Monty S. Maynard

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