Building Your Own Home Theater
Evan Powell
ProjectorCentral.com


Choosing the Right Aspect Ratio

Part Two: The Cinemascope 2.4 Option

We just looked at a list of movies done in 1.78 and 1.85. But of course many movies are done in the wider screen 2.4 format. Most of them are dramas or the big action/adventure films as opposed to, say, romantic comedies, but 2.4 films are made in all genres. As examples, the following movies were filmed in the 2.4 format....
Lord of the Rings
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Bourne Identity
How to Train Your Dragon
Basic Instinct
L.A. Confidential
Departed
Transformers
Robin Hood
Iron Man
The Dark Knight
Star Trek
Inglorious Basterds
Ratatouille (Pixar)
Cars (Pixar)
The Notebook
Casino Royale
Quantum of Solace
Batman Begins
Gladiator
Black Hawk Down
The Aviator
The Matrix
Labyrinth
Terminator 2
Apollo 13
Total Recall
Braveheart
American Beauty
Moulin Rouge.

If you watch these films on a 16:9 screen, you end up with somewhat larger black bars at the top and bottom of the image. On a 120" screen, the image is 59" in height and 105" in width. A 2.4 film shown on this screen will have 7.6" black bars above and below the image. That is enough to cause many people to go with a 2.4 format screen instead of 16:9. (By the way, if you end up opting for a 1.85 format screen instead of conventional 16:9, the black bars on 2.4 material are reduced by about an inch, which is another minor advantage to this variant.)

All 2.4 format movies will fit the 2.4 frame of the screen perfectly with no black bars. But occasionally you will encounter variants that are not quite 2.4. Films like Battle of the Bulge, Bridge on the River Kwai, and Fred Astaire's Daddy Long Legs were done in 2.55, and they will have small black bars on the 2.4 screen. Movies such as Patton and South Pacific were done in 2.20, and they will appear on a 2.4 screen with small black columns on each side.

However, movies in these odd formats are the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, the vast majority of widescreen viewing material you are likely to have on your screen will be in 1.78, 1.85, or 2.4. So part of your choice of screen format will depend on the type of material you watch the most, and how you prefer to manage the black bars and black pillars. As an example, The Fifth Element was done in 2.4, and if you project it onto a 2.4 screen it would look like this:

The Fifth Element in 2.35

Meanwhile, when you put a 1.85 movie on a 2.4 screen, the picture will be reduced in size with black columns on the sides. The movie Chicago is a good example. Here is what a scene from Chicago looks like on that same 2.4 format screen:

Chicago in 1.78

And by the way, there is plenty of 4:3 format material still being watched today as well. Traditional (non-HD) television series on DVD like Friends and Northern Exposure are in 4:3, as are pretty much all classic movies made prior to 1953. All 4:3 images will be positioned in the center of the 2.4 screen, with larger pillar-boxing on either side. Here is how a scene from Gone With The Wind (which was done in the Academy aspect ratio of 1.375:1, or almost 4:3), would look on a 2.4 screen:

Gone with the Wind in 4:3

The Aesthetic Appeal of 2.4

One reason people like the 2.4 format is that it can have a more dramatic appearance compared to standard 16:9 widescreen. If a standard 16:9 picture is being displayed, and you switch to a wider 2.4 image, it looks even bigger and more impressive than the conventional 16:9 image. By the way, this switch is done either with movement of the projector's zoom lens or the deployment of an external anamorphic lens (a very costly alternative). But whichever way it is done, there is a certain WOW factor here, and many people find that it adds excitement to the home theater experience.

In addition, many people think that 2.4 films are the most important and/or most common type of material they watch. So they want to see them full frame, without black bars.

The Problem with 2.4 Screens

As exciting as the concept of a 2.4 screen is to many people, it has one big drawback that is discussed in Part Three of this article.

Continue reading Part Three: The Problem with 2.4 Format Screens




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