House of Hugs Productions

Julia Radochia's blog for her films, film festivals, and film in general, among other things...

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Missing 1:33

Stacy Marr in my 8mm film, Another Day. If this were widescreen
there would be a lot more empty space on the left side here.

I actually like the 1:33 to 1 aspect ratio. I'm sad to see its decline.

It took film school for me to appreciate the TV screen proportions. I didn't know until I took my film history class that widescreen movies didn't come out until the 50s. The movie studios were afraid that television would keep people at home, so they felt compelled to find new ways to bring in movie audiences. So they introduced widescreen. Sure, you could stay home and watch your little square/circular box, OR you could go out to the movies and see MORE!

The thing is, "more" was really less. The screen was wider, but the actual film that it was shot on, wasn't. The academy aperture on film is and was 1:33 to 1. To make the wider aspect ratios, 2:35 to 1 and 1:88 to, the very same film is used but cut off on the top and bottom and then blown up in size. So you don't actually see everything that was captured on film, and what you do see is a grainier, lower resolution film.

When we watched old pre-widescreen 35mm films up on a big screen in film class, the difference was obvious. The picture had more clarity and more vibrance to it. It was like I finally discovered a missing piece of something.

It wasn't just the picture quality that grabbed me. I found that I really liked the narrower ratio itself, and preferred it, in many cases.

OK, I like Star Wars, Indiana Jones films and anything showing great landscapes to be widescreen.

When it comes to more "human" films, I want 1:33.

Robert McCullar in my 16mm film, That Guy.

I like people. I like close ups. 1:33 works much better for a person's face because it brings you in closer. The 1:33 close up fills up more of the screen than does 2:35 or 1:85. (I mean, usually -- I'm always open to exceptions.) Not only does the camera have to be further out to get the whole face, but you end up with half the screen empty, or with something else that you don't really need.

So, we have widescreen televisions because people now want the movie experience at home. (Funny how movies changed because of TV and now TV has changed because of movies. ) But it parallels the course of technology's taking away the human touch. The way computers and cell phones, make things less personal, so does widescreen. There's more opportunity for something else to distract you from the person on screen.

I know widescreen has been around for half a century, but, we still had the 1:33 to 1 aspect ratio on TV. Now as more TV shows shoot widescreen I realize that my beloved screen proportion is dying everywhere. And shouldn't TV be more intimate?

Maybe I'm a sucker for lost causes. I've actually emailed Dunkin Donuts asking them to bring back fountain soda. I don't enjoy having my chocolate chip muffin with soda from a bottle. I want that fountain freshness in a cup with ice.

I understand why my desire goes unanswered. Since people go to Dunkin Donuts for coffee and donuts, not soda, I know it doesn't help their bottom line to listen to one weirdo like me.

And I may be one of a mere few weirdos who want to save 1:33.

RIP, you sweet little ratio.


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