On The Rocks: A Few Words On The Aspect Ratio

Hey everyone this is Sam Reid here with a quick blog entry! A big thank you again to all those who have supported us on this movie, we are grateful for all your help on this. I figured I’d give you all a little write up on one of the things we are doing with the look of the movie; shooting in the aspect ratio of 2.00:1 and why we chose it!

Back in April of this year I worked with Justin Cauti, Justin Brunelle and Carlee Ryski on a one-day project. It was a short demo scene we shot for Carlee that was an excerpt from a screenplay by Cauti. That project was the first time I tried shooting with the Canon C100 using only natural light. We did something else new too; we framed with the 2.00:1 aspect ratio in mind.

I’ve seen this ratio used before, mainly on all 3 seasons of House of Cards and more recently Jurassic World. But my first knowledge of it came way back when Apocalypse Now! was released on DVD and the film’s cinematographer decided to crop the film from 2.35:1 to 2.00:1. I don’t know if cropping a masterpiece like that was a good idea (it’s the original 2.35 ratio on Blu-ray) but I’m no Vittorio Storaro.  

Early in pre-production Justin Kueber and I talked about shooting On The Rocks in this format. What I liked about it was that I would get the benefit of framing for wider shots but at the same time have a little extra frame space at the top and bottom which would allow us to fit more of the tall mountains and hills of the badlands. 

Even though we are framing for 2.00 we are still shooting in 1.78 so this allows us in post to shift the frame up or down if needed to slightly reframe the shots or stabilize them.

Below is an example of a shot we did featuring the Drifter character as photographed in 1.78:1 and then properly matted to 2.00:1. For fun I also made an example of what it would look like in the more traditional 2.35:1 format. 

Full open matte 1.78:1 aspect ratio as photographed

Full open matte 1.78:1 aspect ratio as photographed

Final matted 2.00:1 aspect ratio as intended

Final matted 2.00:1 aspect ratio as intended

2.35:1 version for comparisons sake

2.35:1 version for comparisons sake

I like how the 2.00:1 format is a comfortable middle ground between the two. It gives that wider, more cinematic feel to the movie and crops out some of the dead space in the shot. But it also allows for some breathing room to the frame and preserves more of the sky. 

For this shot in particular we wanted to draw a visual comparison between the Drifter and the mountain which I hope has an impact on the impression the audience has towards this character. Every project is different though and it's all about choosing what works best for the story you're trying to tell and the characters within it.

That's all for now though! I hope this gives a little insight into the thought process behind the visuals of On The Rocks. I can't wait for next week when we travel back to Drumheller for two more days of principle photography!

Sam Reid

Posted on August 22, 2015 and filed under On The Rocks.