The History of Aspect Ratio

In this 18-minute educational video by FilmmakerIQ, John Hess details the history of the cinematic aspect ratio, from 4:3 to 16:9, 1.85:1 to 2.39:1.

Here is a timeline of each aspect ratio as well as some notable films that utilized them.

  • Original Silent Film (1892) - 1.33:1
    - Established by William Dickson and Thomas Edison
  • Academy Ratio (1932) - 1.37:1
    - All sound films from 1932 to 1955 were shot in Academy ratio
  • Cinerama (1952) - 2.59:1
    - This is Cinerama, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
  • CinemaScope (1953) - 2.35:1
    - The Robe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Seven Year Itch
  • VistaVision (1954) - 1.85:1
    - White Christmas, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest
  • Todd-AO  (1955)  - 2.20:1
    - Oklahoma!, Cleopatra, The Sound of Music
  • MGM Camera 65 (1957) - 2.76:1
    - Raintree County, Ben-Hur
  • Ultra Panavision 70 (1957)  - 2.76:1
    - How the West Was Won, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Mutiny on the Bounty
  • Super Panavision 70 (1959) - 2.20:1
    - The Big Fisherman, Lawrence of Arabia, The Great Escape, 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 16:9 (1980) - 1.78:1
    - Proposed in the ’80s, still used as the industry standard today

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