Returning the 4: 3 aspect ratio

You know what they say: it’s hip to be square.

First reformed 4: 3 aspect ratio


By Meg Shields ยท Released October 15, 2021

Welcome to the queue – your daily distraction of curated video content downloaded from across the internet. Today we see a video essay on what makes the 4: 3 aspect ratio so visually appealing.

First, for all my other number-challenged people out there, I hear you: remembering imagery is hard. So before we move on, let’s stop and make sure we’re all on the same page. Image formats use two numbers separated by a colon to describe the width (first number) and height (second number) of a screen or image.

The 1.33: 1 aspect ratio means that the width of that image is 1.33 times the size of its height. Because decimals are confusing, you can type 1.33: 1 as 4: 3 instead. It’s the same relationship, only multiplied by three.

The earliest films were presented in a 4: 3 ratio. And until the invention of wider formats, 4: 3 was the standard definition on television. All in all, until new technology came into being, 4: 3 was not an artistic choice. It was the only way to record a movie.

Today, 4: 3 is no longer a restrictive standard, but a separate, targeted choice. And in a cinematic landscape that seems to keep getting bigger and bigger in scope (* cough * Dune * cough *), the intimacy, intent and specificity of 4: 3 creates a fascinating resistance to the expansionist trend in blockbuster filmmaking.

And as the following video essay suggests, the recent revival of 4: 3 is much more than a visual trend for stylish arthouse types or an aesthetic marker for period pieces. It is rather an intentional storytelling that can tell us a lot about the country’s cinematic layers.

See “Why 4: 3 Looks So Good”:

Who made this?

This video about the visual appeal of the 4: 3 aspect ratio is off Karsten Runquist, a Chicago-based video essayist. You can check out Runquist’s back catalog and subscribe to his channel on YouTube here. You can follow Runquist on Twitter here.

More videos like this

Related topics: Cinematography, The Queue

Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor to Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How’d They Do That ?, and Horrorscope. She is also the curator of One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. I can find screams about John Boorman’s ‘Excalibur’ on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She her).

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