Aspect Ratios in Cinema

Here’s something I hadn’t thought about until the day I went to watch Men in Black: International on P[XL] instead of IMAX. Regular screens we watch a movie on have the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which is what most movies use too. But, many times, directors find that the ratio that’ll fit their camera work better for sequences needs to be less rectangular than 2.35:1. So, they go with 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. You can easily identify what aspect ratio a movie has through it’s trailer.

So, how does it matter to you? Why am I talking about something so technical? Because this plays an important role in the immersive view we have in a theatre. P[XL] has a wide screen, wall to wall, but during both Men in Black: International & The Lion King, there were vertical bars on either side of the screen which displayed no image. This was a distraction. Gladly, the P[XL] screen was huge enough that I could still enjoy the film, but whenever I see a trailer in a regular small screen of a film which has an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it just doesn’t fit. You can’t enjoy that.

Now, what’s the solution? IMAX theatres. Um, more specifically, the Digital IMAX theatres, or also called, LieMAX. They have an aspect ratio of 1.9:1, which fills the entire screen for such movies. And, ofc, the way the screen is placed in an IMAX theatre, you can’t ever be slightly distracted during any film.

Now, most of you must’ve heard that IMAX has 26% extra picture. Let me explain that. Now, certain movies which have a regular 2.35:1 aspect ratio, they expand some scenes to 1.9:1, or sometimes entire film, for the IMAX viewing. All Marvel Movies do that with their action scenes, while the last 2 Avengers movies were shot entirely in 1.9:1, but keeping in mind that they’ll be cutting it down to 2.35:1 for the regular screens. Hence, there wouldn’t be any key details in that extra IMAX frame, except they make the viewing experience even more beautiful. Whereas, the movies which have an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 to begin with, there are shot in a way that they can’t be cutdown to 2.35:1 for the regular screens.

I personally prefer 1.85:1 ratio for action movies, they are able to capture more in a frame. 2.35:1 usually results in a lot of waste of space. But, again, it depends on what director feels is best for their movie. Lately, a lot many movies have started to release with the 1.85:1 ratio. Upcoming Joker is 1.85:1, so was DC’s Justice League back in 2017. The Lion King (2019), Dora: The Lost City of Gold, Men in Black: International, all these were 1.85:1, hence resulting in a vertical distracting bars in a regular theatre, along with taking away the immersive experience on a small screen. So, for such films, I’d recommend you to go to the IMAX theatre ONLY, even if the movie is 2D.

For movies with 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, read my article on how to choose between IMAX & 4DX and what PVR’s P[XL] is to decide where you want to visit for the best experience.

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