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In recent weeks, there has been 2 different films released at 2:1 aspect in a Flat container.
This results in small letterboxing of the image on a Flat aspect screen.

A number of older independent cinema owners I know are quite concerned and are discussing the possibility of implementing Macros and side Masking to make 2:1 look the way is should.. (To them anyway.. Ie motorised masking moving to exactly the right place.)

DCI does not mandate Masking like the film days as digital masking and lens shift capabilities of digital has largely made that requirement obsolete. However, these older cinema owners consider this unprofessional/lacking in showmanship.

And it does lead to the question. Will this ratio become the norm? If so do we need a new name?
Flat, Scope and TwoOne?
I would like to follow up on this topic.

At the last ISDCF meeting, this topic was discussed in detail. I would like to summarise the discussion.

Yes, two different films came out recently in 2.00:1 and 2.20:1
These features resulted in extensive (e)mailouts to ensure exhibitors played them correctly. These features are based on putting the image inside a Flat container (1998x1080) with letterboxing (Top/Bottom) of certain amount of pixels to equate to the aspect the content was mastered in.

This was needed as many cinema owners, when seeing letterboxing may decide to switch to Scope, however, if doing so would result in cutting of top/bottom of image.

Many cinema owners where very disappointed in having to play a Scope type picture in a Flat image. Especially if side masking was used as it would result in a very reduced amount of screen real estate used.

This has resulted in many cinema owners asking if a new ratio may become common for exhibition.

The consensus was "NO". Flat and Scope are the only global Aspect Rations, and that these two features were anomalies not likely to happen again.

The story behind these aspects are as follows..
As you would likely know, Flat and Scope resolutions (2K) are
Flat - 1998x1080
Scope - 2048x858
(For 4K, simple double the numbers)
As you can see, the Scope image, usually the edge to edge or largest screen in cinemas, is actually a lower resolution than Flat. This fact is unpopular with some directors/Producers.
The use of these non-standard aspects where attempts to improve the situation.

However, in releasing these films in a non standard aspect has resulted in a large amount of errors and confusion. The result of which ended up being a far bigger issues than simply trying to make the image that little bit better.

The productions in question were strongly advised against this path by head technical experts from their connected studios. However, they decided to go against this advice.

After the resulting confusion when distributed, those productions have commented that in the long run, it was the wrong decision.

Considering this, those who spoke from a studio perspective, do not expect non-standard aspects to be nothing more than very rare/anomalies going forward. Especially now we have some experience in terms of the undesirable result when attempted.

There is no reason for the industry to implement other projector configurations over the current Flat/Scope in use today.

Comments or corrections please.
If filmmakers desire the biggest possible amount of pixels on screen, there is the "C" (like Complete area or full Container) full container, using 2048x1080y or 4096x2160y pixel resolutions with an aspect ratio of 1:1.9.

Many theaters nowadays have fixed size screens in the 1:1.9 ratio along with fixed lenses. The screens are masked down with curtains or similar to create the aspect ratios 1:1.85 for academy widescreen and scope 1:2.39. So in any case, the "C" container has more pixels and in these theaters and even more screen space.

However, in theaters with zoom lens or revolver lens projectors, the Scope format might get you a wider screen experience (typically having fixed height among all aspect ratios), but will not be more pixels as explained above (2048x858y scope vs. 2048x1080y full frame).

In any case, film makers should be reminded that the for later TV or BluRay release their material will need to be either cropped down or scaled to fit the common TV aspect ratio of 1:1.78 and the 1920x1080y HD or 3840x2160y UHD resolutions. Scaling images doesn't make them better, especially not if the scaling is just a few pixels. Please refer to the Nyquist Theorem to understand the technical details.

It is quite common that films are shot and framed for a 1920x1080y distribution. Either they are pillarboxed in 1998x1080y Flat container (39 pixels black on each side in 2K, 78 in 4K, 4% image width "lost"). Sometimes - if artistically feasable - they are shooting a wider image to fit the 1998x1080y cinema container and later cropping 39/78 pixels each side for HD/UHD distribution.
G'day all,
I came close to replying to Jan's email to the reflector (of 28th July), but opted to take the conversation to the forum instead.

Speaking from (just one) exhibitor's perspective, I'd like to make the following observations:
  • In DCI Spec v1.2 Section (Screen Characteristics) which was later moved to a SMPTE standard, masking is required to "tightly frame" the projected image and "is required to minimally include 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 image formats. Masking for other formats is optional." I'll confess that I haven't investigated the final SMPTE standard owing to the paywall, however the intention of the studios (in entering into VPFs underpinned by the creationof the DCI spec) was to recognise and preserve the existing and universal ratios, such that they could be assured of correct playback of content that was delivered to cinemas in those formats.
  • The DCI Spec has provided two ratios (Flat and Scope), as being the two options for film distribution. I'm open to discussion, but full Container should only be used as a means to deliver content that can be played in either Flat or Scope. Naturally due attention needs to be paid to relevant 'safe zones' (just as 16:9 video production erred on the side of caution for 4:3). Obviously, which sides will get cropped depends on which presentation ratio is used.
  • If studios (and the creative teams that they empower) wish to release feature films with bespoke aspect ratios, then they need remain aware of the down-stream implications when their content is exhibited in Flat (or Scope). The resulting letter- or pillar-boxing, and audiences' aversion to black bars, should to be part of the overall creative decision making process.
In an interview with IGN, Jurassic World's director Colin Trevorrow spoke of the merits of the 2:1 aspect ratio. Certainly one of the downsides of the format is that the film only takes up 72% of a Scope screen's potential projected image area, when taking into account the screen area lost to the side masking and letterboxing;the dinosaurs are only three-quarters as big as they could have been. However, that's a decision that was made by the Director, and thus a decision that the exhibitor needs to respect.

Perhaps I'm being petulant, but I don't believe that Studios have a mandate to create and distribute films in differing aspect ratios without taking into consideration how their work will be presented to, and perceived by, cinema goers. Certainly they're welcome to use Flat or Scope containers as they wish, and I look forward to ensuring that my team and I present it to audiences as best we can, within the guidelines laid down in DCI.

I should of course conclude by saying that these opinions are merely my own, and not necessarily reflective of those of my colleagues or employer's group of companies.

In any case, I look forward to further robust discussion.

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