There is a project in development (a documentary) to be broadcast
at our station that is supposed to be "different"
than our regular programs. I proposed that we shoot in letterboxed
16:9. The producers vetoed the idea saying that "TV is
supposed to be full screen…why should we have less area
There is a lot of interviews with couples(making composition
in 16:9 a lot smoother) and I feel that 16:9 is a more "natural" composition.
Is there a scientific argument to this preference to a wider
Any thoughts on good argument points to change their minds???
I find it's just plain easier to compose stronger compositions.
The square format doesn't really emphasize verticals or horizontals
that well, because it emphasizes everything equally well.
Circles, squares and other shapes with equal sides do very
well in the square format. But rectangular frames emphasize
rectangles and other shapes whose sides aren't equal, shapes
that are perhaps more dynamic.
Horizontal and vertical lines really stand out in 16x9 because
they contrast against or emphasize the shape of the frame.
It's also easier to emphasize space between objects, and easier
to compose in depth because you can see past objects in the
Diagonals are probably stronger in the square format, but
you can also make them work in 16:9.
It's also easier to do the negative space framing that's in
vogue right now in interviews.
All the aspect ratios have strengths and weaknesses. I like
16x9 just because it's different. I do find it much easier
to compose interesting shots in 16:9 than 4:3.
Another argument you can use is to find out what percentage
of viewers in your transmission area have already bought wide
screen TV's. If the number is significant, ie over 40% you
could argue that it would greatly favour your audience to
shoot in 16:9! Even if you broadcast in 4:3, most sets are
switchable or zoomable to fit a 16:9 picture broadcast in
4:3 nicely into the screen. (At least, over here it is).
Switchably In Paris
Good point. If the show will ever air in Europe or Japan,
it will do better in 16:9. That's probably a better argument
Someday I hope the U.S. will catch up.
Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"
I don’t know about scientific, but its always been my
thought that wide formats are more natural because of the
way we humans see. We have peripheral (sp?) vision that seems
to show our brains more side to side than up and down. Some
people see 16:9 as a more high-end production look. Then again
a ton of regular non-production people think that the top
and bottom of the image is being cut off! And they hate that,
they feel cheated.
2) The present is moving towards and the
future will be widescreen.
3) If you shoot widescreen but protect for
"full screen", you can have both, but I really hate
working this way, personally.
4) A lot of productions are shooting widescreen
as a way of "future proofing" their material. That
is, they realize #2 (above) so when they pull their programs
out of the archives when widescreen is here for good, they'll
Keep in mind that shooting widescreen anamorphic is different
from simply letterboxing the image. If your program will ever
play on a true widescreen TV/monitor, you'll want to shoot
anamorphic. If it will only ever be played on a
currently standard "full screen" TV, then you can
just letterbox the image. (In post! Don't do it in the camera.)
>Is there a scientific argument
to this preference to a wider composition?
You could try arguing that wide-screen formats conform better
to the way we humans naturally see (horizontally wider)
On the lighter side, here in the Philippines our colleagues
joke around that we cinematographers of Chinese descent have
an unfair advantage: we *already* see everything in letterbox,
so it's easier for us to compose for it...
Paolo A. Dy
Director / Cinematographer
Ask them to check out PBS where many shows are letter boxed.
The interviews on American Experience (The Second Civil War)
were a pleasure to watch.
IA 600 DP
>Someday I hope the U.S. will
PBS seems to be airing a lot of letterboxed material and setting
a good example. National Geographic went down in quality in
my opinion, but Nova and Frontline are excellent shows. Personally
I prefer everything letterboxed.