You may remember my attempts to explain the mysteries of Aspect Ratio in my previous post essentially consisted of a link to a, frankly rather dry and confusing Wikipedia article? Well I have taken pity on you, or in other words stumbled across something that does the job better. So here, discovered via the auspices of the rather wonderful Boing Boing (bookmark them, it's worth it) is FilmmakerIQ.com's potted history and lucid explanation of the enigma inside the other thing that is 'The Changing Shape of Cinema: The History of Aspect Ratio'.
Above is a rather fuzzy handheld shot of 'Rembrandt' which I was about to begin when I wrote my previous blog post. I'll post something a bit sharper when I get the time and space to set the tripod up and get a decent shot, for now enjoy.
And so to 'Size Matters ... AKA... Let's Keep Things in Proportion ...'
Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will remember that last time out I offered a somewhat feeble and flippant excuse for why 'The Demi Paradise' was not painted in the correct aspect ratio. I'm not going to defend myself further, other than to repeat that in the case of that particular image the decision to crop the frame was justified (and I'm the artist, so there!). However it does beg the question as to what exactly do I mean by aspect ratio and why does it matter? As to what it is, wikipedia is your friend and has this to say on the subject. That ought to keep you quiet for a few minutes ... finished digesting? Okay, now you know what it is, why do I keep banging on about it to the extent that I have to justify myself when I muck about with it?
I suppose the answer is partly respect for the artistry (or craft if he or she prefers) of the cinematographer whose work I am shamelessly appropriating and re-contextualising. And secondly it is about the aesthetic of the format itself. Traditional painting may have made a vague distinction between what we know today as 'portrait' and 'landscape' formats. There was undoubtedly an adherence by some artists to the 'Golden Ratio' when planning their compositions (and a minor industry seems to have developed in 'decoding' the supposedly 'arcane' meanings of the internal geometry of some artist's work, Henry Lincoln and Nicholas Poussin, I'm looking at you!) however there have never really been any hard and fast rules regarding the proportions of the completed image on which an artist worked. Obviously size mattered when it came to sales, as it still does, and individual commissions would be very much on spec but I don't imagine that Pope Julius II told Michelangelo that his work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling had to 'look the business on a postcard as well as in Cinemascope'.
The point I'm essentially trying to make (in my long winded incoherent way) is that on the whole artists do not and have rarely had to, adhere to the prescriptive framing demanded by the film industry. Consequently my respect for the directors and cinematographers who have to make their ideas fit a particular format is increased by the knowledge of the restrictions they work under (and I'm not even considering other factors such as the budget, the demands of black and white or future TV broadcasts and home video sales here).
'It's lovely Johannes but could you make it much wider to fit the frame the we've already bought for it?' Yes, next up for your delectation will be 'Girl With a Pearl Earring' in aspect ratio 2.35:1 (and glorious colour, yes, colour, from me!).
Work in progress and other stuff that happens.