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Screen aspect ratio: 4:3 or 16:9 (wide-screen)

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  • Screen aspect ratio: 4:3 or 16:9 (wide-screen)

    I've seem that some of you use a wide-screen projection screen and others a 4:3. My old setup had a 4:3 screen and any 16:9 films or digital images had black bars top and bottom. This worked for me and both formats filled the width of the screen 60" screen. However now I have more options since I'm going to project directly to a wall (using screen paint).... I am debating whether to create a set sized masked frame on the wall or just leave it without a frame. Right now the image for both my 16mm films and digital projections are 80" wide and 60" high for 4:3. I don't want to go any bigger with the film...but the digital could go wider.

    Any comments or ideas appreciated 😀
    Last edited by Janice Glesser; December 14, 2020, 09:23 PM.

  • #2
    Janice, what you need is a very simple masking system. Make your screen wall an aspect ratio of 16:9 with black border all around it , then you mask off the width for 4:3 film projection. This is called a constant image height (CIH) set up. Your masking can be as simple as two very lightweight wooden frames ( made from 1.0ins x 3/4 ins wood strips) and covered with black felt cloth (not velvet) and attached to the frame using Scotch double back mounting tape, and then hung from a wooden strip positioned above the top edge of the screen. Then slide the masking by hand to the appropriate position for 16/9 or 4/3 projection in front of the screen.
    If you get ambitious later on you can motorize it.


    • #3
      Hi Janice,

      My main screen is 16:9. Being wider than academy and higher than 'scope, it works well in all all three aspect ratios. I project top to bottom in academy and side to side in 'scope. 16:9 goes from one corner to the other.

      My first screen was 48" wide. This...thing happened: I bought one of my very first prints from Derann and it showed up anamorphic! I talked to a more knowledgeable friend and he found me a 'scope lens! (I was on my way to Cinematic Nirvana!)

      -until I cinemascoped that film onto a 4 foot wide screen and saw the picture a mighty foot and a half tall! (I doubt 'scope has ever looked more underwhelming!)

      That film has cost me a lot of money!


      • #4
        Steve that way of showing anamorphic prints (1 1/2 ft high) is what got it the nickname of "Letterbox". Someone in a cine magazine had seen a demo projected like that and said it was like watching life through a letterbox. 🙄


        • #5
          All I know is I doubt I set up that way twice!

          -but that's what happens when you show motion pictures on what started out as a slide screen: a lot of empty screen area.


          • #6
            If you are happy with no masking then go for the white wall. If it's not to your liking you can always invent some form of masking.



            • #7
              Our film club meeting in a church hall built a proscenium, screen at rear and movable black masks. Probably a bit more than most will want but it was very impressive used for film and video.
              I'll upload a video of the build over christmas from 30 years ago in case it helps anyone with ideas.


              • #8
                Love to see it Lee.

                I think right now I am inclined to do as Maurice has suggested use no masks at all. After a while I may get another idea for the masking and the screen viewing size. I still would like to hear what others have done and their reasons for it.
                Last edited by Janice Glesser; December 16, 2020, 09:44 PM.


                • #9
                  Janice, i will restate what I have said in other posts, that correct masking makes a huge difference in the visual impact of projected films, particularly super 8mm. Even digital projection benefits as well. So you might want to take another look at possible masking options in the near future.


                  • #10
                    I'm not disagreeing with you at all Paul. If I could design and build a workable masking system...I would. It's just not something in my skill set. There is also an issue with showing 8mm films. My throw distance is not big enough to match the 80" width of my 16mm films and digital images. It's unfortunate...but something I'll have to live with. I like keeping the width the same it worked well on my old 4:3 screen. I might try using some adhesive-backed screen masking material and see how that looks. This way the 4:3 films will be masked on all sides...and the digital will be masked on the right and left sides. Unfortunately the 8mm films will project to the middle and have no masking (unless I can come up with a removable mask system

                    I'm ordering some special screen paint for the wall that's sold at HomeDepot. It's more of a grey color (better for ambient lighting settings) and it should make the projected images brighter with more contrast.


                    • #11
                      The opposite goes for me I can only get small pictures from 16mm but massive Super 8 ones with my 10mm lens.


                      • #12
                        Do you remember when nice big theaters were split many years ago?

                        some of the motorized masking in those days went taller for 185 and lower for Cinemascope but the width stayed the same

                        which defeats the entire purpose of why Cinemascope was invented

                        I understand your resources might be limited as well as finances but if we as collectors are trying to keep the hobby of film projection alive please consider it pride and joy to do it right

                        remember the height should stay the same and only the width of your image should change

                        food for thought!



                        • #13

                          You didn't suggest which 16mm machine you have. But perhaps a zoom lens would help you. I use the B&H series classroom machines model 2592.

                          The zoomavara will help make the picture bigger. It threads on to the current 2 inch standard lens that comes with the machines. However for my purposes I find the 38mm size (made by Sankkor) works really well that replaces the 2 inch lens.

                          Maybe you can contact Phil @ CHC he probably has lots of spare lenses kicking around at low prices.

                          So if you can find something like that for whatever machine you use, then your problem should be fixable.


                          • #14
                            Chip, mine is very similar a 2692. I have a couple of camera wide angle adapters but they are not of very high quality and give colour fringes so I rather gave up and, like Phil at his August events, put the screen in the garden if I want a 6ft picture. Though for a neighbour's party a few years ago I did go mad on picture size and use the (disused) railway signal box at the bottom of the garden. Next time I go to one of the CHC events I will ask, though I do have a plan to re-sleeve another lens for it.
                            Attached Files


                            • #15
                              Well...I appreciate the responses...but was hoping for more "real-life" examples. As much as I am thoroughly impressed with the creative masking examples...masking is not always an option and I would guess the majority of members here for one reason or another do not have a masking setup....or am I wrong about that? If you do then the 16:9 (or wide screen) screen ratio seems to be the preference....with masking on the sides. I can do this right now without any masking and so far my family and myself are perfectly happy with what it looks like. Whether you consider this the "right way" or not being happy is pretty much all that counts for me. It's not always feasible or practical to duplicate what you experience in an actual movie theatre in a home. I think compromises are part of this hobby.

                              My old 4:3 screen that I used for both film and digital projection worked great for over 11 years and I don't see where that same format wouldn't work projecting to my wall. The image is just bigger now (80" wide). All my 16mm films are flat 4:3 format...they look great projected to a 4:3 screen. My digital projection fit's perfectly at an 80" width which is plenty big. The only downside is my 8mm projection where my Sankyo 800 with a 15mm lens from 12ft. will not give me an 80" picture. ☹

                              Painting the wall is the first step. I'll determine any additional steps later.