The new film adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights opens in the U.S.A. in October of 2012 – most notably the use of Academy 4×3 ratio.
Landon Palmer covers some of the history of Academy ratio and how it’s seeing a resurgence in modern cinema including the use for Oscare winning film, “The Artist”
Though never seen in studio filmmaking today, the Academy Ratio is an important piece of Hollywood history. Variations on aspect ratios were experimented with through the silent era and into the early sound era, especially in non-Hollywood filmmaking. Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) even experimented with what we would deem today “wide screen.” However, while their exact measurements varied, most early films employed some form of square-shaped aspect ratio.
Officially standardized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1932 as the ratio used for Hollywood films, this square provided the exclusive framing through which Hollywood movies were seen by audiences until the 1950s when, in an effort to compete against television (whose images were captured and broadcast in a similar ratio), studio technology experimented with new means of making bigger screens to emphasize the unique spectacle available in the theatrical filmgoing experience. These new, wider aspect ratios then became standardized as the primary frame through which mainstream films are captured and seen, and Hollywood hasn’t looked back since. However, Academy Ratio’s influence on the shape of television screens and computer monit ors was maintained until fairly recently, when wider LCD computer screens and HD televisions became the standard framework for other modes of viewing since the early 2000s.
However, with a few newer films employing the Academy Ratio, the square frame is making a quiet but welcome comeback, and its newfound rarity makes a convincing case that the Academy Ratio offers particular ways of experiencing images that can’t be replicated by other aspect ratios.
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