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Aspect Ratios: A Primer

January 29, 2010 5 comments

I have a pet peeve, and it has to do with aspect ratios.  I’ve been wanting to put together a lesson for my faithful readers.  For those who don’t know, aspect ratios are the shapes that TV/movie screens and the programs they show have.  There are 3 standard ratios in my mind:

CinemaScope

This is the ratio that a lot of movies are shot/rendered in.  It’s the wider screen you get at the theaters.

SDTV

This is the ratio of standard definition TVs.  Most TV programming was done in this ratio, and still is for the most part.

HDTV

This is the ratio of HDTVs and some movies.  This was chosen as a good medium between CinemaScope and SDTV.

My examples are going to be from Star Wars, because its awesome, and Adywan’s color-corrected version, because its more awesome.  I chose this particular image because it was the scene I saw in theaters where I first noticed the difference between aspect ratios.

Star Wars and other movies are filmed like this:

This is what was seen in theaters.  But how do you see Star Wars at home?  There are two ways: “widescreen” or “fullscreen”.

Read more…

Star Wars Saga Viewing Order

December 16, 2009 3 comments

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a few people ask me what order to watch the Star Wars movies in.  I’ve thought about the different options for a while now, and I think I’ve come to a decision.  There are two main options, plus one that may seem pretty radical.

SPOILERS FOR THE STAR WARS MOVIES (not like you wouldn’t know them anyway)

Option 1: Numerical (Episode) Order

This would seem to be the way Lucas wants you to see them: starting at the beginning.  However in my opinion, there are several flaws with this idea.  One being that it seems like the prequels weren’t written with this in mind at all.  There is no introduction to the galaxy or the Force in Episode I (which there is in Episode IV), it just goes by the assumption that everyone knows all this.  Also, there are several jokes/references to the Original Trilogy that one simply wouldn’t get watching them in order.  The big deal, at least for me, is that the Prequels spoil all of the surprises one might have watching the Original Trilogy (who is Yoda, is Vader really Luke’s dad, siblings?).  Watching them in numerical order ruins some of the best parts of the Saga.

Also, starting a new viewer off with Episode I probably isn’t the best idea quality-wise.  One really should start with the universally acknowledged “good” movies before getting into the, at the very least debatable, “new” movies.  Which leads us to:

Option 2: Release Order

As I just said, its probably better starting off with the good ones before going back to the Prequels.  Doing this also eliminates the effects jump you get going from a movie made in 2005 to one made in 1977.  This is the most logical order to watch them.  But I found a radically new order:

Option 3: 4-5-1-2-3-6

That’s right.  Probably the best order for a brand-new watcher of Star Wars is the following:

Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

A user named “cap” on the Star Wars board I’m on proposed this. At first, I scoffed.  But then I realized how good of an idea this is.

Think about it.  You start off with the two best movies, the one that introduces the galaxy and the one that has all of the surprises.  Then, when you’re wondering if Vader is telling the truth about his fatherhood, you go back and watch what happened to Anakin Skywalker.  This also brings the “Redemption of Anakin” arc closer together instead of having a two movie gap where Anakin is barely mentioned (IV and V).  The same with “Palpatine’s Rise to Power”.  The order also spaces apart the Death Star attacks, “bookending” the series, as cap put it.  You feel for the celebration more, as you’re more invested in the galaxy after watching all of the movies before VI than after just watching IV and V.  Perhaps the best part is watching them 4-5-1-2-3-6 is that RotJ’s drastic drop in quality from ESB is lessened by having the entire Prequel Trilogy separating them.  It also makes ESB’s cliffhanger ending a cliffhanger again, as you haven’t seen any of the Original characters for 3 movies!

It seems weird, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.  Read the post I already linked to for some more in-depth analysis of this idea.

Let me know what you think!