What is Aspect Ratio and which one is right to choose


In this tutorial, we will help you understand what is aspect ratio and how to choose the right one to apply to your video projects.

In video industry, aspect ratio is a number that’s used to describe the shape of a screen.

In simple words, Aspect Ratio in mathematical terms can be defined as vertical breadth over horizontal length or:

Aspect Ratio = Length of the format or sensor/ Breadth of the format or sensor.

Generally, the camera sensor use to have a fixed dimension in rectangular shape thus length and breadth stays fixed. Selection of right format for presentation of images and videos is much important to have a quality delivery.

Part1: What are the most widely used aspect ratios for videos?

The three most commonly used aspect ratios are discussed as below:

Aspect Ratios Uses
4:3 or 1.33:1 akn standard screen or classic TV format Traditional television, classic movies, Todays’ IMAX film production
16:9 or 1.77:1 akn as widescreen HDTV, UHD, Youtube, Blu-ray
21:9 or 2.35:1 akn as ultra-wide screen Modern films, Cinema
1.85:1 / “Spherical”, Cinema
2.39:1 / Cinema, “Anamorphic”

  1. 4:3 or 1:33:1

When we talk about the image with aspect ratio equal to 1:33:1 or 4:3 then the value of breadth use to be 17.8 and length stays to be 23.76. The very first films in our history were projected in 4:3 format but when the mixing of audio to videos were started then a little shift in aspect ratio was desired to incorporate audio information properly in the same strip of film. Hence a slight change from 1:33:1 to 1:37:1 was made by professionals and with time. This ratio was approved in 1932 by Academy of Science and motion picture arts with a little modification to name as Academy Ratio.

The most common applications of 4:3 or 1:33:1 aspect ratio are observed to be as classic TV formats, traditional Televisions, classic movies and the current IMAX film product also use to follow the same aspect ratio standards.

  1. 16:9 or 1.77:1

In 1980s, it was desired to switch to some other dimension in order to fit the shape of high quality pictures into screen. At that time; the new aspect ratio was settled to be 16:9 with total length of 2880 and width ranging up to 1620. The observations say that 16:9 aspect ratios offered an acceptable compromise for screen resolution and hence slowly most of the TV shows started following this aspect ratio.

The 16:9 or 1:77:1 aspect ratio is being used till now for wide screen presentations that includes some of the most popular sources of videos as like YouTube and Blu-ray with UHD and HD Television.

  1. 21:9 or 2.35:1

With time, the aspect ratios were subjected to so many changes as per improvements in technologies. Slowly filmmakers shifted to a new frame box with an aspect ratio 21:9 where quality of image was also improved. This widescreen ratio was popularly used before 1970s but slowly it was shifted to 2:39:1 or more precisely to 2:40:1 aspect ratio.

Most of the modern filmmakers use to prefer this particular format for their films due to its amazing ultra wide screen resolution that adds more clarity to all information containing pixel.

Other than this, when we talk about spherical videos then an aspect ratio of 1:85:1 is utilized and while shifting to anamorphic style of film production; professionals recommend usage of 2:39:1 aspect ratio.

Part2: Which one to Choose?

The selection of aspect ratio is done as per delivery format or the type of screen over which you have to show your video or image. In most of the cases; professionals shoot films with an idea to present them on movie theatre so they prefer Blue-ray made but with time they may need to present it on TV screens so it is advised to choose most suitable delivery format at first that can be served to all types of viewers without any loss of information.

Part3: What’s Youtube’s Aspect Ratio?

YouTube follows 16:9 pattern of aspect ratio and it automatically adds two black bars to right and left side of videos in order to fit it to other video players format so that information do not appear to be stretched or distorted. An important notice was made with time by BBC that all program producers must take care of keeping 16:9 box information in such a range that it can be fit perfectly to 4:3 aspect ratio devices so that audience of both 16:9 and 4:3 TV can have views without any major loss of information.

Preferred settings for YouTube videos are: 240p: 426×240; 360p: 640×360; 480p: 854×480; 720p: 1280×720; 1080p: 1920×1080; 1440: 2560×1440 and 2160p: 3840×2160.

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