This is topic Screen ratio at cinemas. in forum General Yak at 8mm Forum.

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Posted by David Park (Member # 123) on October 20, 2012, 09:26 AM:
When I go to the cinema I get the impreesion the size ratio is same as my TV 16x9. But when I watch a film on TV which is shown as letterbox with black bands at top and bottom the ratio is about 1:2.25.
Am I getting the wrong impression of wide screen at the cinema?
Posted by Bill Brandenstein (Member # 892) on October 20, 2012, 11:35 PM:
David, there are multiple options for theater screen ratios, grouped around two basic principles: anamorphic stretch (e.g., classic cinemascope 2.33:1; and the rare Super Panavision 70 approx 2.76:1, etc), and "flat" ratios, which is just a matter of masking the film - or enlarging the desired portion to fit the screen - (Academy ratio 1.33:1, wide formats 1.66:1, 1.78, and 1.85; native 70mm comes off at about 2.2:1).
Posted by David Park (Member # 123) on October 21, 2012, 03:20 AM:
Appreciate the history over the past years but I'm talking todays films on 35mm in widescreen why when I see them in my cinema do they look less wide than when letterboxed on TV?
I guess your 1.78 or 1.85 is what I see in the cinema and looks like a TV ratio of 16/9.
Posted by David M. Ballew (Member # 1818) on October 21, 2012, 04:29 AM:
David, the answer to your question may come down to the way your local cinema projects movies.

Modern-day movies, whether projected on film or digitally, tend to have aspect ratios of either 1.85:1 (often called flat) or 2.35:1 (often called ‘Scope). There is a bewildering array of other aspect ratios, but these are very rarely used in theatrical exhibition nowadays and will only serve to clutter up our discussion.

A film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio will look very, very similar to your home TV screen which, being 16x9, has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. These two aspect ratios, 1.85 and 1.78, differ only by about 7/100s of a unit, which I think is too small a number to be perceived by the unaided eye of the casual cinemagoer.

Now, historically, cinemas have always presented 2.35:1 films at the same screen height as 1.85:1, treating that “1” as a constant. Therefore, a ‘Scope film looked equally as tall as other films, but perceptibly wider—a sweeping panorama.

This just isn’t possible on your home television, where both width and height are fixed, so the tradeoff is that ‘Scope films on your TV will have black bars at the top and bottom to preserve the correct proportions of the image.

To be honest, you probably already know all this. What you may not know is that a lot of recently built cinemas handle ‘Scope films exactly the same way your TV does, by holding width at a constant and truncating the height so as to get the entire 2:35:1 image onto a piece of screen fabric that is only wide enough to handle 1.85:1 pictures.

Just to add to all the confusion, keep in mind that with 35mm film projection, there may be very, very slight differences in aspect ratio from one screen to the next. To cite one extreme example, I worked in a cinema once upon a time where the aperture plates and lenses in the projectors were specifically chosen so that all films played at an aspect ratio of about 2:1!

Even in honest cinemas which respect both films and patrons, other things can happen to make aspect ratios imprecise. Aperture plates in film projectors are often filed by hand to give a sharp, beveled edge to the metal. There may be slight irregularities in the installation of screens and masking owing to simple human error on the part of the contractors and laborers hired to build the place. Or aging ‘Scope lenses may be slightly out of true. But now we’re talking about theoretical circumstances that might lead to only slight differences in aspect ratio—numbers like 1.87:1, say, or 2.44:1.

Don’t know if any of this helps, but it sure felt powerful good to sit down, think it through, and type it out! Thanks for indulging me.
Posted by Graham Ritchie (Member # 559) on October 21, 2012, 05:17 AM:
David has pretty much summed things up, one thing though with aspect ratio, is the term "Widescreen". I still refer to 1.85:1 as "Widescreen" as this was given to it years ago, but is now known as Flat [Roll Eyes] the other main one is CinemaScope with its 2.35:1 ratio.

Whats sad about todays cinema presentation, is the way CinemaScope is presented in many cinemas as described above by David. CinemaScope is meant to give you the big picture with top and bottom masking being fixed, with only side masking moving outwards to make use of the full screen 2.35:1 ratio..the big picture. I call that the "Da Da" factor which is sadly disapearing. [Frown] If poor old CinemaScope is being presented at your local with the top and bottom masking moving then its just the as you would see it on your was never meant to be presented that way.

Posted by Joerg Polzfusz (Member # 602) on October 22, 2012, 08:17 AM:
BTW: 2.35:1 isn't used for modern films any more (as long as the cinema's projector fulfills SMPTE 195-1993):
Posted by Michael O'Regan (Member # 938) on October 22, 2012, 08:37 AM:
This explains my recent cinema experience. Though I vowed never again to attend, I was lured in by the one-off Led Zeppelin movie, Celebration Day.
The film was excellent but the sound was no better than I have at home and there were indeed those black bars above and below the image, a constant reminder that I was watching no better than a DVD.
Posted by David Park (Member # 123) on October 22, 2012, 09:07 AM:
I'm more puzzled now if what i call widescreen IE Cinemascope or similar is not used in projection.
This is a current film being shown at my local and thier trailer for it.

I have not seen either but what you are saying is that I will see a TV sized ratio and not a letterbox widescreen as in the above trailer.
This of course goes back to my orginal post of why am I seeing TV ratio pictures at the cinema.
I'm not happy with this situation and feel cheated.
Of course when TV show them on a dedicated film channel they are like the trailer letterboxed.
Is the material the cinemas recieve in this ratio 1.8 'ish or are they masking the sides off?
Posted by Joerg Polzfusz (Member # 602) on October 22, 2012, 11:32 AM:
Please read the wikipedia-article: 2.35:1 isn't used for projection any more as it has been replaced by 2.39:1 in 1970 (with a minor modification of the corresponding SMPTE-standard in 1993). The format 2.39:1 is sometimes incorrectly called 2.40:1 (rounded values).

As for the Led Zeppelin movie "Celebration Day": According to imdb the "film" really has only been released as a video (D-Cinema) in 1.78 : 1 (alias 16:9) which explains the black bars on the cinema's screen:
Posted by David M. Ballew (Member # 1818) on October 22, 2012, 12:35 PM:
Joerg, I want you to know that I am well aware of 2.39:1 versus 2.35:1. I merely hoped to keep my end of this discussion as simple as possible, to avoid getting bogged down in myriad details or "dying the death of a thousand caveats." [Smile]

Most respectfully, let me point out that the difference between 2.35 and 2.39 is 4/100ths of a unit. For a five-meter high screen, the width for 2.35 would be 11.75 meters; for 2.39, 11.95 meters. I believe that the average moviegoer will never discern that .2 meter difference on screens of that scale without direct comparison.

It staggers the mind to imagine a cinema patron eyeballing a naked screen and saying, "By gosh, that's not 2.39, it's 2.35!" I've known confirmed film geeks-- and place my name at the top of that list-- who could not do it.

So I respectfully submit that the difference between the two numbers is of great importance to you and me and others who share our interests, but to a casual moviegoer, the difference means practically nothing.
Posted by Bill Brandenstein (Member # 892) on October 22, 2012, 04:26 PM:
David B, thank you for your excellent explanation. Though this doesn't help David P's original question, it might be worth noting that I've also seen scope movies truncated at the sides due to a small venue or wierd layout, the worst being around a 1.9:1 ratio (by eyeball estimate) resulting in credits lettering slightly cut off.

But it looks like the real issue at hand is how TV viewing and local venues handle the differences between 2.39 and 1.85.
Posted by David Park (Member # 123) on December 14, 2012, 01:15 PM:
Went to see the new James Bond "Skyfall" yesterday and the preceding 20mins of adverts./trailers were in a TV ratio with most full screen but some with a blank band top and bottom.
When the main movie started the height of screen narrowed and the sides went wider and a proper cinema letterbox presentation was made.
It was of course a digital presentation most was ok but darker scenes were not film like they just lacked something, a good film though the action never stops, a long film but does not seem as long as it is.
Posted by Hugh Thompson Scott (Member # 2922) on December 15, 2012, 04:54 AM:
David's explanation of the different ratio's used is one of the best
I've read and put's it in a nutshell.
Posted by David M. Ballew (Member # 1818) on December 16, 2012, 03:58 AM:
Thank you for the kind words, Hugh. I really appreciate them.

In the weeks since I last posted on this topic, one thing has occurred to me: Even a casual observer would be able to discern 2.35:1 versus 2.40:1 based on the "flashing frame lines" that the former ratio is sometimes plagued with, specifically at shot changes. That alone would be a dead giveaway, not to mention a major annoyance!

I worked at a cinema 20 years ago where this was a particular problem. It may have been that the aperture plates were filed out a little much at top and bottom. We in the booth had to make a special point of letting the picture spill over into the black masking around the screen. I seem to remember John McTiernan's films being especially susceptible to this problem, in particular The Hunt for Red October.

But I want to underscore, it's not uncommon for movie folk to use "2.35:1" as a kind of verbal shorthand for any aspect ratio within hailing distance of that number. [Smile]
Posted by Jeff Missinne (Member # 3373) on December 16, 2012, 02:39 PM:
I can remember going to comedy "kiddie matinees" in the early 1970's and watching the headless bodies of Laurel & Hardy and the Three Stooges on screen as the result of filling a 1:85 or similar screen by width with a 1:33 picture, thus chopping off the top and bottom of the image. It bugs me almost as much as video viewers watching a 1:33 image s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to fit a 16:9 TV screen, resulting in (for example) an apparently a 300 lb. Janet Leigh, and they claim they can't tell the difference!

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