Where Movies and Home Theater Fail Math – How 2.35 = 2.40

In my Constant Image Height Refresher article the other day, I made a brief reference to the distinction between “2.35:1” and “2.40:1,” the two aspect ratio terms commonly used to describe “scope” widescreen movies. I didn’t have the time or space there to explain the actual difference between the two, or the mathematically-illogical reason that these two numbers somehow equal the same thing. To do so, it will help to take a brief look back at the history of widescreen cinema.

In the Beginning

In the earliest days of silent film, movies didn’t have a standardized aspect ratio, but were generally squarish in shape. A number of variances proliferated among a host of proprietary camera and projector formats. Once filmmakers started to form a genuine industry around their work, the first standardized ratio for silent movies was set at four sprocket perforations of height on a 35mm-wide strip of film. The usable image area between the perforations was 24.89mm x 18.67mm, for a ratio of 1.33:1 (also expressed as 4:3).

Upon the introduction of “talkies,” the amount of space that the photographed image took up on a film print was reduced in size to 22mm x 16mm in order to squeeze an optical soundtrack along the edge of the print. This left the picture with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. As defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this became known as the “Academy Ratio,” and remained the standard for motion picture photography and theatrical projection until the early 1950s.

When television came along, it mimicked the movies with a ratio of 1.33:1. Yes, technically, that was the silent film ratio, but the visible difference between 1.33:1 and 1.37:1 was so small that hardly anyone noticed, especially not after the significant amount of overscan that all consumer televisions suffered from until the recent HDTV era anyway. All things considered, Academy Ratio movies and TV screens made a good fit for one another.

Along Came CinemaScope

Filmmakers being creative people, some experimented with different screen shapes despite the industry’s standardization. As early as 1927, Abel Gance shot portions of his epic ‘Napoleon’ with the intention of projecting three strips of 35mm film side-by-side, for a ratio of approximately 4:1.

By the 1950s, competition from television drove the film industry to move away from Academy Ratio in favor of new, wider screen sizes in order to give audiences a larger, grander experience than they could get at home. Since human peripheral vision sees more on the left and right than on the top and bottom, a wider frame allowed movies to become more immersive, especially on very large theater screens.

The widest of the new formats was CinemaScope, developed by 20th Century Fox, which worked by placing an anamorphic lens with a 2:1 horizontal squeeze in front of the camera lens. This compressed a wider image onto the same space on a film negative that a traditional Academy Ratio movie used. Naturally, if you tried to project that without correction, the picture would suffer severe geometrical distortion. To restore the proper proportions, theater projectors were equipped with anamorphic lenses that had an opposite 2:1 horizontal stretch. Thus, the movie image would have the same height as an Academy Ratio movie, but was twice as wide.

Early experiments with CinemaScope yielded a photographed ratio of 2.66:1. However, in order to add an optical soundtrack to the film prints, that ratio was reduced to 2.55:1 by the time of the format’s debut in 1953 with Fox’s release of the Biblical epic ‘The Robe‘.

CinemaScope was sensationally popular. Audiences fell in love with the bigger, wider images on theater screens. Many more movies were rushed into production using the format, and other major film studios licensed the process from Fox for their own movies.

A couple years later, CinemaScope reduced the ratio slightly to 2.35:1 in order to fit an additional audio track onto the film prints for stereophonic sound. This became the new standard for “scope” widescreen photography, and was imitated by competitor products and knock-offs such as Euroscope (used in Europe, obviously) and Toho Scope (from Japan).

Other Widescreen Formats

CinemaScope was not the only widescreen format developed during the 1950s and 1960s. Other rival formats included VistaVision (designed for flexible projection at either 1.66:1, 1.85:1 or 2.0:1), ToddAO 65mm (2.20:1) and three-strip Cinerama (approximately 2.89:1, projected onto a giant 146º curved screen).

Eventually, the industry settled into employing two different standards that have remained to this day, one for scope movies (the focus of this article) and another for “flat” widescreen pictures photographed with spherical lenses (no anamorphic stretch) and matted on the top and bottom to a ratio of 1.85:1. The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of the Super 35 format, which allowed filmmakers to compose for a scope ratio using spherical lenses and matting. Modern digital photography and projection have adhered to the same aspect ratio standards as their 35mm predecessors.

When 2.35 Became 2.40

Fox’s CinemaScope itself didn’t actually last very long. The format suffered an optical flaw in its lenses that caused objects close to the lens to appear stretched differently than objects further away. This artifact was known as the “mumps,” and often resulted in close-up shots that overstretched actors’ faces. Rival firm Panavision developed superior lenses that corrected this problem. As a result, CinemaScope fell into rapid decline and Panavision rose to prominence with pretty much every studio other than Fox. By the late 1960s, even Fox was forced to abandon CinemaScope. Its final productions were the James Bond spoof ‘In Like Flint‘ and the Doris Day vehicle ‘Caprice’, both in 1967. Nevertheless, the term “scope” had become so popularized that it has stuck around ever since, applied to all anamorphic, Super 35 or digital photography that employs a similar aspect ratio.

At first, Panavision’s anamorphic process adopted the same 2.35:1 standard as CinemaScope. However, in 1970, the company slightly reduced the height of the image frame in order to mask a flashing artifact that sometimes appeared at the top and bottom of theater screens during splices. This resulted in a new aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Technically, it was 2.3942:1, which was later amended further to 2.3912 (and some change). Pretty much everyone rounds both of these numbers to 2.40:1. Whether you want to call it “2.39:1” or “2.40:1,” this new ratio has been the official standard for scope photography for over four decades now. All anamorphic, Super 35 or digital scope movies made since 1970 have been composed for and projected at 2.39:1/2.40:1.

And yet, many people in the industry continue to use the term “2.35:1” out of habit to this day, even though that actual ratio hasn’t been used in decades. What you have to keep in mind is that most filmmakers are creative people, not technical people. While cinematographers and camera technicians may speak in precise, accurate numbers, many producers and directors just like the sound of “2.35,” as do film critics and layman viewers.

So, we’ve wound up in a situation where the terms “2.35:1,” “2.39:1” and “2.40:1” are frequently used interchangeably to refer to the same thing (which actually falls somewhere between 2.39 and 2.40). No, that may not make a damn bit of mathematical sense, but that’s Hollywood for you. When you hear someone talk about a “2.35:1” movie today, they most likely mean one photographed at 2.40:1.

What We See on Home Video

With all that explained, you might expect that, by the time you purchase a DVD or Blu-ray disc, movies produced in scope formats before 1970 would be transferred to home video at 2.35:1 while those produced from 1970 onward would be transferred at 2.40:1.


Did you really think it would be that simple?

The plain fact of the matter is that, honestly, you never know what you’ll get. There is no practical standard for how scope movies are transferred to video. The precise ratio of a video transfer will depend on the calibration of the specific telecine machine used for the film scan. Sometimes you’ll get an accurate 2.40:1. Sometimes it will be set for 2.35:1. If the latter, that may mean that either picture was cropped off the sides, or that (if a Super 35 production) mattes were lifted to expose slightly more picture on the top and bottom.

Some studios, such as Sony or Warner Bros., are usually pretty good about preserving the precise 2.40:1 aspect ratio of modern movies. Others, like Fox, may be hit-or-miss from title to title, even on recently produced films.

The only thing that’s certain is that you should never rely on the disc packaging to provide accurate aspect ratio information if this distinction is important to you. The technical specs printed on DVD and Blu-ray case art are written by the studio’s marketing department based on boilerplate templates, not by technicians who have actually measured the active pixel count or screen area. Further, unfortunately, you probably shouldn’t trust most published DVD or Blu-ray reviews, unless the reviewer is known to be a Constant Image Height viewer. The difference between 2.35:1 and 2.40:1 is so small that it’s not very noticeable on a standard 16:9 HDTV or projection screen with letterbox bars, and most reviewers will just copy the aspect ratio specs from the packaging (which, as I said, are rarely accurate) unless they have a reason to go out of their way and measure.

What This Means for Constant Image Height Projection

For most viewers, this difference between “2.35:1” and “2.40:1” is largely a matter of semantics. Both ratios will look nearly indistinguishable on the majority of home theater screens. Honestly, do you see much difference between the following two images? The top is from ‘Licence to Kill‘, transferred to Blu-ray at 2.35:1, and the bottom is ‘Skyfall‘ at 2.40:1. (Click either to enlarge.)

When I point out to you that the aspect ratios are different, you may be able to see it by looking closely. However, if you weren’t told in advance, it probably wouldn’t cross your mind.

This issue is really only a concern to the niche of viewers interested in Constant Image Height projection, for whom even small letterbox bars will be visible around the edges of their projection screens. To that end, a common question among new CIH users is whether they should install 2.35:1 or 2.40:1 screens in their home theaters. All I can advise on that front is that it will come down to personal preference.

No matter which screen ratio you chose, not all scope movies will fit it perfectly. A 2.40:1 movie on a 2.35:1 screen will have tiny letterbox bars about 8 pixels high on the top and bottom.

Yeah, that’s it. Really. Do those stand out to you?

A 2.35:1 movie on a 2.40:1 screen will have tiny pillarbox bars on the sides.

In either case, you can compensate for this by adjusting the projector’s zoom lens to let tiny slivers of picture fall off the edges of the screen onto the masking material around the border, so that you’ll never see the black bars. While you’ll also lose a smidge of picture on either the sides or the top and bottom, the amount of picture information we’re talking about here is minuscule and will not affect the compositional intent of the photography. In fact, it’s well within the expected tolerances for variances in theatrical projection.

My personal feeling is that the difference between 2.35:1 and 2.40:1 is practically negligible. Because the electronic vertical stretch features built into in projectors and video processors to accommodate CIH viewers are programmed based on an expected target ratio of 2.35:1, not 2.40:1, installing a 2.35:1 screen and using the 2.35:1 presets is the path of least resistance, requiring much less complicated customization for what will ultimately not be noticeable to the eye in any case.

I chose to install a 2.35:1 screen in my home theater and have been very happy with it. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

More on This Topic


  1. Rich H


    Good stuff as usual.

    In regards to your rhetorical question about the tiny black bars left on the Skyfall 2:40:1 image: “Yeah, that’s it. Really. Do those stand out to you?”

    I’m one of those for whom they stand out enough to want to get rid of them. You are quite right that in the greater context, those bars are extremely subtle and I doubt many would ever care. But when you have that image bordered in pitch black (e.g. most home theater screen borders and the rest of a dark room, as opposed to the white border you have on your image) those little slivers are more noticeable.
    I’ve always found, using my Carada Masquerade masking, that edging the masking to get rid of them “snaps” the image into place, creates a more perfect black border all around, and is quite worthwhile.

    As you say, you can always zoom the image a bit to get rid of them (which can in some cases lead to seeing that little overspill on bright scenes, on your screen frame). Automated masking does service the obsession-for-perfection in us video geeks.

    Hey, we fringe-on-the-fringe folks have to have our say too 🙂


  2. Dave Mueller

    The good thing about this is that, in a light controlled environment, with projectors getting better and better the black border is much better than that ‘medium charcoal grey’ border that we used to have with older projectors-which really stood out against the border of your screen.

  3. Ted S.

    I too have a CIH set up, 2.35:1 ratio and I always notice the tiny black bars on top and bottom of my screen but they don’t bother me at all. Funny you mentioned that BD packaging are misleading, on The Indiana Jones Bluray package, it said Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is 2.35:1, but it’s actually 2.40:1. If you look at the Crystal Skull’s BD from 2008, it said 2.40:1, these marketing folks just don’t pay attention to their products.

    • Ted S.

      Meant to say, it doesn’t bother me when I watch 2.40:1 films on my 2.35:1 screen, those tiny black bars aren’t noticeable at all when my room is completely dark.

  4. Ok with that straightened out – could someone please tell Paramount that 16:9 is NOT the same as 1.85:1. I am getting angry with movies filmed in 1.85:1 getting 16:9 blu ray transfers.

    • Josh Zyber

      Both Warner and Paramount open up the mattes on all 1.85:1 movies to 1.78:1 as a matter of policy. Lionsgate and many indie studios are hit-or-miss about this. The difference between the two ratios is a few scan lines and doesn’t alter the compositional intent of the photography. It’s well within tolerances for theatrical projection variances. In the history of home video, no filmmaker has ever complained about his 1.85:1 movie being opened up to 1.78:1. It’s not a battle worth fighting.

  5. Pedram

    Another example of the ignorance of the powers that be causing the little guys to “suffer”. Oh well, it could be worse.

    Thanks for the informative article.

  6. I’m now meaning to go back and check if the differences I noticed between the version of 12 Monkeys (Laserdisc, DVD and HD DVD) were just down to 1.78/1.85:1 or just poor alignment in the film scan. Was this a known issue with this movie?

  7. Very interesting. Thank You.

    I think the tiny black lines may not be too much of an issue in a darkened HT but not having a CIH setup I am of course making an assumption!

  8. freakyguy666


    Based on your previous 2 articles, it seems like you are using the word “immersion” as a synonym for “total area of a screen”. There are too many misleading and disingenuous statements/implications to mention but here’s just one example: you wrote “When an episode of 2 Broke Girls is more immersive than Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Lord or the Rings, it’s time to re-evaluate how home theater is supposed to work.” Really, Josh??

    If you believe that a video is more immersive simply because it may take up more screen space then you really have no idea how important picture quality is, nor are you taking into account the importance of the DP and other visual aspects of filmmaking such as special effects and editing.

    It should also be noted that one of the most successful, and well-respected filmmakers of our time watched his most successful film ever, and decided that he liked it better in 16×9 EVEN THOUGH it was originally shown in most theaters in 2.4. The movie, of course, was Avatar. Other films are following suit such as Tron Legacy and the last 2 Batman films. With a CIH you are effectively going to reduce the size of the image of these films on your screen, which according to your logic will reduce the “immersive” quality.

    My solution? Just get an 8′ 16×9 screen and deal with the black bars on the top and bottom. If you have a dark room as you say, the bars will blend into the background anyway.


    • Josh Zyber

      Yes, size is a considerable factor in immersion. 2 Broke Girls should never be larger than Lord of the Rings. The act of shrinking a movie down and presenting it with letterbox bars on the same screen where other content is routinely larger will automatically reduce the immersiveness of the experience.

      While it’s true that a 2.35:1 screen requires a compromise for movies shot for the added height of IMAX, I can count the number of movies shot for the added height of IMAX on my fingers. There are literally thousands of movies photographed in scope that are compromised on a 16:9 screen.

      My solution? Just get a 2.35:1 screen and deal with the black bars on the sides of 16:9 content. If you have a dark room as you say, the bars will blend into the background anyway. 🙂

      • freakyguy666

        Seems like you missed the point. I wasn’t referring to IMAX. As you know, Avatar, for example, was not shot in IMAX–yet it was presented in 16×9 for the HOME. The AVENGERS was presented in 16×9 in blu ray. Les Mis, Zero Dark Thirty, and hundreds of other movies that are formatted in 1.85 for the home. I suppose you believe Finding Nemo isn’t intended to be immersive since it is in 16×9? In fact, I would bet a very high percentage of your highest rated movies on blu ray are NOT formatted in scope for the home.

        Again, If you believe size is the most important factor in immersion, then why would you effectively REDUCE the size of your screen by going to a 2.4? For example, an 8′ wide scope screen vs an 8′ wide 16×9 screen would still display a scope movie at EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE….However, any other aspect ratios would be SMALLER. So if you were to watch the Avengers or Avatar or Tron (NON OF WHICH WERE SHOT IN IMAX) then you would be losing out on your coveted “immersion”.

        Bottomline: a 16×9 screen has no disadvantages. The 2.35 does.


        • Josh Zyber

          I didn’t miss your point. I disagree with it. CinemaScope was invented specifically to be the same height but wider than other movies. Scope movies are supposed to be bigger than non-scope movies, not the other way around. Other aspect ratios are supposed to be smaller. That’s how scope was designed to work. That was the whole point and purpose of it. If a director wanted his movie to be large and immersive, he would shoot in scope. You’re not missing out by displaying non-scope movies smaller than scope movies. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

          Examples like Avatar are the rare exception, not the rule. And even with Avatar, James Cameron shipped copies of the movie in multiple aspect ratios to theaters and instructed them to project whichever version would be largest on their screen. In scope theaters, it was projected in scope. In smaller auditoriums with Constant Width screens, it was projected at 1.85:1. In IMAX theaters, it was projected in a special 1.44:1 IMAX crop (or 1.9:1 for digital IMAX). When it came time for home video, he settled on the 16:9 version because that would be biggest on 16:9 TVs. If we lived in a world where 2.35:1 televisions were the norm, he would have mastered the Blu-ray at 2.35:1. The point for Cameron was size, not aspect ratio. Again, this is an exception circumstance. When shooting the movie, he actually composed primarily for 2.35:1, and IMO the 16:9 framing looks quite awkward with too much empty space at the top and bottom (mostly on the bottom).

          Tron: Legacy may not have been shot in IMAX, but the alternating aspect ratio version was designed for the IMAX presentation and only played that way in IMAX theaters. In all non-IMAX theaters, it played at a constant 2.35:1.

          Avengers, Les Mis, Zero Dark Thirty and Finding Nemo were not reformatted for home viewing. They were all composed for 1.85:1 from the start, for reasons their directors felt comfortable with. Of these, the only one I’d consider an “epic” movie would be Avengers. The DP claims that it was framed for 1.85:1 in order to emphasize that the Hulk is taller than the other characters when they stand side-by-side. All of the other Marvel movies have been scope.

          In my home theater, I have an 8-foot wide 2.35:1 screen. I could not put an 8-foot wide 16:9 screen in here. I don’t have the height for it. I’m using as much height as will comfortably fit. If I’d wanted to put in a 16:9 screen, the most I could have fit is an 83-inch diagonal (6-foot wide). By going scope, I use the maximum height plus extra width, which is exactly how most (non-IMAX) professional movie theaters do it.

  9. Freakyguy666

    Thanks for the reply, Josh.

    Just a couple clarifications:

    A) I never said these movies were reformatted for the home. I just pointed out that this is the format they are available for the home in bluray. I hope the distinction is not lost on you.

    B) it appears that you admit that if you have the head room, it would be more immersive to go with the same width that you were planning for your 2.35 screen in a 16×9 instead. As such, my point about a 16×9 being superior is proven right.


    • Josh Zyber

      You don’t seem to be getting that point that, except for a rare few cases, 16:9 isn’t supposed to be more immersive than scope. Episodes of The Big Bang Theory shouldn’t be larger than all of Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Blade Runner, 2001 and Lawrence of Arabia. The small handful of 1.85:1 or IMAX movies intended to be projected taller and larger than scope are dwarfed by the literally thousands of scope movies intended to be projected wider and larger than 1.85:1. No director in the history of cinema has ever chosen to shoot in scope expecting or hoping it to be projected on a small screen. The purpose of scope is to be BIG.

      If I had more height in my theater, that would just give me room to put in a larger scope screen. I still have some extra width left on the sides. Even if I didn’t have the width, I still wouldn’t put in a 16:9 screen, for the same reason that (I assume) you wouldn’t put in a 4:3 screen just because you had extra height for it.

      “Oh man, those reruns of Match Game on GSN are going to be so EPIC on my giant 4:3 screen! Whoo-hoo!!!” 🙂

  10. Freakyguy666

    You are contradicting yourself, Josh. First, you established during our prior postst that the size of the screen is the primary factor in creating immersion. Then you say that even if you exhausted the width of your room with the screen you would opt NOT to take advantage of any additional headroom by going to a 16×9 (if you had it–and most people WILL have it because their HT is not in an early 1900’s basement), when according to your own logic it would serve to “immerse” you more during any non-scope content.

    And your reasoning was initially that there isnt enough “epic” content in non-scope format, which I completely disagree with. The Avengers and Avatar (2 of the wolrds most epic films) or Zero Dark 30, Les Miserables, MANY Pixar and Dreamworks animation (the ones in non-scope), Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises, Tron Legacy, and myriad other films ARE presented in formats taller than scope! But even taking them out of the equation, you still have many shows on cable such as Breaking Bad and Dexter. I would bet that the majority of people if given the choice to watch Game of Thrones would say they prefer the larger screen. And what about all of the documentaries like Planet Earth or the dozens of concert films shot in 1080p presented in 16×9, and the HD Sports broadcasts of NFL, NHL (try following the puck on a smaller screen vs a bigger one), NBA, and in-car views during Formula-1 Racing, not-to-mention pay-per-view events such as UFC. Give any fan a choice of screen size and I bet you the vast majority would tell you bigger is better.

    Your opinion assumes that modern HT’s are primarily recreations of old 1950’s cinema screens and ignores the reality of all of the content options that available in 2013.

    The only way to describe this blatant oversight on your part is that you have chosen a scope screen and are bending over backwards to justify it.

    Join us in the new millennium, Josh. It isn’t 1974 anymore!


    • Josh Zyber

      I’m not sure what part of this concept isn’t getting through to you. I’m going to list off to you the sum total of ALL Hollywood narrative feature films ever made in the history of cinema that were intended to be projected larger than scope:

      The Dark Knight
      Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
      Tron: Legacy
      Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (only available on Blu-ray in scope)
      The Dark Knight Rises
      Star Trek into Darkness

      All of these movies employed a variable aspect ratio in IMAX theaters so that selected scenes would be taller than scope. You can arguably add Avatar and Life of Pi (which were distributed in multiple aspect ratios) to this list.

      That’s it. That’s all of them. Maybe we’ll see a handful more in the future (Avatar 2?), but the number of movies shot this way will forever be dwarfed by the thousands of movies shot in scope over the last six decades and continuing to be shot in scope today.

      Avengers is not supposed to be larger than scope. Zero Dark Thirty is not supposed to be larger than scope. Les Mis is not supposed to be larger than scope. FFS, TV shows are NEVER supposed to be larger than scope movies, no matter how much you like them.

      If the directors of these movies had wanted the largest theatrical projection, they would have either shot in scope or IMAX. For a variety of artistic, budgetary or logistical reasons, they chose not to. In doing so, they knew that their movies would be projected on cinema screens smaller than scope movies. Because that’s how cinema screens work.

      This isn’t an outdated concept from 60 years ago. This is how things work right now. At this very moment, dozens of new movies are in production being shot in scope. Did the directors of these movies choose scope because they really want their movies to be presented smaller than PGA golf or Antiques Roadshow on their living room TVs? No, they chose scope because they’re making movies for theaters, and in theaters scope movies are bigger than non-scope movies.

      Again, this is the whole point and purpose of scope photography. Why do you think these directors continue to shoot movies this way?

      Maybe Constant Height isn’t for you. Maybe it’s super important to you that Wheel of Fortune be displayed as large as possible in your media room, to the exclusion of everything else. That’s your personal preference and your choice to make. But in doing so, you are compromising and subverting the artistic intent of movies photographed in scope aspect ratio. That isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s a fact.

      Those of us who employ Constant Height projection seek to restore the original artistic intent of how these movies were designed to be projected in theaters. This is, after all, home theater, not “home TV.”

  11. Freakyguy666

    I don’t disagree that many films are shot in scope. So what? If you had bought an 8′ 16×9 instead of an 8′ scope, you could still watch scope movies in the exact same size as your scope screen.

    The question, which you have yet to answer, is why would you would choose to watch the following content at home on a smaller screen if you had the room to put in a 16×9 screen of the same width? The Avengers, Jurassic Park, Avatar, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises, Tron Legacy, Zero Dark 30, Life of Pi, Les Miserables, MANY Pixar and Dreamworks Animation films like Finding Nemo, and shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Dexter, documentaries like Planet Earth or the dozens of EPIC concert films, and high definition sports broadcasts of NFL, NHL (try following the puck on a smaller screen vs a bigger one), NBA, and in-car views during Formula-1 Racing, not-to-mention pay-per-view events such as UFC.

    Why would you CHOOSE to REDUCE your immersion in the aforementioned content when the 16×9 option would still preserve your current Scope size?

    And let’s be clear; just because a film is not shot in scope does NOT mean that the filmmaker intends that the film be less immersive as your logic would imply. I’m sure Steven Speilberg would not say that he intended Jurasssic Park to be less immersive due to his choice to use 1.85. Same with the Avengers and the other content I highlighted above. On the contrary, I would bet they feel the aspect ratio they selected would provide maximum immersive effect.

    But again, I challenge you to take an 8′ scope screen and an 8′ 16×9 screen and have people watch both Scope and 16×9 content on both screens and ask them which screen they preferred. What do you think their answer would be? Do you honestly believe the majority would complain that Game of Thrones (16×9) was more immersive than watching Mud (2.40) on the 16×9? Or that Avatar was more immersive on the 16×9 screen than on the scope screen? All the while noting that watching Scope features on either the scope screen or 16×9 was identical on both screens.

    I’ve taken the test myself and it’s no contest: bigger is better.

    • Josh Zyber

      I feel that I’ve explained this concept as thoroughly as any human being possibly can. Yes, if I got a bigger 16:9 screen, I could watch scope content at the same size as I do now, but 16:9 content would always be larger, and that’s exactly the opposite of how it’s supposed to work. Under no circumstances do I EVER want The Bachelor to be bigger than Indiana Jones. The larger a 16:9 screen you install, the bigger and bigger and bigger Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills will get. On a 16:9 screen, Jerseylicious will ALWAYS be larger than Lawrence of Arabia.

      Spielberg shot Jurassic Park knowing that it would be projected at the same height but narrower than scope movies (and he’s shot many scope movies, so he’s keenly aware of how that works). That’s a decision he made, knowing the compromise it entailed.

      Breaking Bad is a TV show. No matter how good a TV show it is, it’s not supposed to be larger than a movie. If the makers of Breaking Bad had wanted a huge, immersive experience, they would have made a feature film, not a TV show. They knew what they were getting into when they chose to work in television.

      Constant Height may not be for you. That’s fine. Nobody is forcing you to do it. But your rationalizations to justify why 16:9 is superior don’t hold water, because that’s simply not how movies are made.

      • Freakyguy666

        You really seem stuck on these crappy tv shows as the crux of your argument, so here’s a solution for you: Now, I’m not a fan of Jereseylicious, Housewives, or those other reality shows….but if I were–and I were vehemently opposed to watching them on a larger screen than what I watch Larry of Arabia out of some misguided sense of respect for the “flimmakers intent”–then I certainly would have the option of watching them on your flascreen instead. But why would I want to limit myself to a smaller 16×9 experience when I have the room to watch Game of Thrones, Avatar, Jurassic Park, Avengers, Tron Legacy, Dark Knight, and myriad other content that your own website has deemed “highly recommended” on as large a screen as possible? Why limit myself?

        And I must point out that YOU YOURSELF essentially SAID in this thread, BIGGER IS BETTER. But NOW it seems you are qualifying it by saying SMALLER IS BETTER for non-scope films?…C’mon, you know smaller is not better for the content I’ve repeatedly listed here.

        Again, if you wanna watch your crappy reality shows just watch em on your flat screen. But for your non-scope content that your own site has rated “highly recommended”, why not use as large a 16×9 as possible? Don’t you want the maximum immersive experience possible? I guess not.

        • Josh Zyber

          You really seem stuck on not understanding that scope movies are supposed to be larger than non-scope movies. The fact that you consider respect for the filmmaker’s intent to be “misguided” pretty much brings this debate to a close.

          Yes, Avengers and Jurassic Park and other 1.85:1 movies have been rated “Highly Recommended” on this site. So have Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings and hundreds of other 2.35:1 movies. Why do you consider those inferior? Why don’t you want those to be displayed as large as possible? Don’t you want the maximum immersive experience possible for those, AS THEIR FILMMAKERS INTENDED? I guess not.

          The plain, indisputable fact that the directors of those movies chose to shoot in scope specifically because they wanted them projected LARGER and WIDER than 1.85:1 doesn’t seem to have broken through your skull yet. For some reason, you consider only 1.85:1/16:9 movies and TV shows to be worthy of filling your precious screen. Anything else, you might as well just watch on your iPod.

          • Freakyguy666

            You continue to ignore the question at hand: given a choice between watching non-scope films on an 8′ scope screen or an 8′ 16×9 screen which would you choose? It’s very simple.

          • Josh Zyber

            The question is irrelevant. I don’t just watch movies of one aspect ratio. I watch movies of all aspect ratios, and I watch them in the manner they were intended – same height, different widths.

            If you had a really tall room, would you put in a super-large 4:3 screen? If not, why not?

          • Freakyguy666

            If there were 4:3 content in HD equivalent to the content that I’ve mentioned (i.e. The Avengers, Jurassic Park, Avatar, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises, Tron Legacy, Zero Dark 30, Life of Pi, Les Miserables, MANY Pixar and Dreamworks Animation films like Finding Nemo, and shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Dexter, documentaries like Planet Earth or the dozens of EPIC concert films, and high definition sports broadcasts of NFL, NHL, NBA, not-to-mention pay-per-view events such as UFC.) then the answer is YES.

            But the reality is that the content DOES NOT EXIST. So why would anyone buy an aspect ratio screen for which there exists no content?!?

            I’ve answered your question, but it is clear you are in denial as you haven’t answered mine. Again, given a choice between watching non-scope films on an 8′ scope screen or an 8′ 16×9 screen which would you choose? It’s very simple.

          • Josh Zyber

            Sure there is. Go buy some IMAX documentaries on DVD (Blue Planet, Under the Sea, Space Station, etc.). Those are mastered for 4:3. (The Blu-rays are cropped to 16:9.)

            It seems that you finally admit that installing a taller screen just for the sake of having a taller screen isn’t always better. We’re making incremental progress here.

            If I had the height for an 8-foot wide 16:9 screen, I would put in 10-foot wide 2.35:1 screen. Because 2.35:1 content is supposed to be wider than 16:9 content, except the specific exception of IMAX content. (And no, Avengers, Zero Dark Thirty and Les Mis did not incorporate IMAX footage and are not among those exceptions.)

            You seem to be completely fixated on 1.85:1/16:9 content, and want to maximize Finding Nemo and basketball at all costs. What’s your hang-up there? Why do you feel that those are more important than maximizing scope movies? Do you believe that scope movies are unworthy? Have I not explained to you a hundred times now why directors shoot in scope in the first place?

            You probably zoom 2.35:1 movies to crop off the sides and fill your 16:9 screen, don’t you?

          • Josh Zyber

            You like The Avengers. Do you not like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor or Captain America? All of those movies were shot in scope aspect ratio. Why are they unworthy of being maximized on your home theater screen?

            You like Finding Memo. Do you not like The Incredibles, WALL-E, Ratatouille or A Bug’s Life? Those were all animated for scope aspect ratio. Why are they unworthy?

            You like sports. Do you not like movies about sports? Hundreds of movies about sports have been made in scope aspect ratio.

            You like Game of Thrones. Do you not like Lord of the Rings? You guessed it, scope aspect ratio.

            What you don’t seem to be grasping is that Constant Height isn’t about compromising 16:9 content. It’s about putting in as large a 16:9 image as you want and then going EVEN WIDER for scope content. Because you (presumably) have two eyes, human peripheral vision is wider than it is tall. Wider images fill our field of vision more naturally than taller images.

          • Josh Zyber

            I have answered your question, and have systematically deconstructed all of your arguments. Now answer my question: Would you rather watch Iron Man on an 8-foot wide 16:9 screen or a 10-foot wide 2.35:1 screen? Because that is the actual valid comparison.

          • Freakyguy666

            The record shows that your only direct response to that question was that “the question is irrelevant”. If that constitutes an answer then you are clearly dodging. I guess that tells readers all they need to know.

          • Josh Zyber

            I answered your question many times here. If I had the height for an 8-foot wide 16:9 screen, I would put in 10-foot wide 2.35:1 screen. If I had the height for a 10-foot wide 16:9 screen, I would put in a 13-foot wide 2.35:1 screen. And if I had the height for a 13-foot wide 16:9 screen, I would put in a 17-foot wide 2.35:1 screen. Etc. Etc. Etc.

            2.35:1 content should be wider than 16:9 content, not smaller. To repeat myself yet again: Constant Height isn’t about compromising 16:9 content. It’s about putting in as large a 16:9 image as you want and then going EVEN WIDER for scope content.

            You have not attempted to answer any of my recent questions. Don’t accuse me of dodging. Why do you believe that only 1.85:1/16:9 movies deserve to be maximized in your home theater, but 2.35:1 movies don’t? Would you rather watch Iron Man on an 8-foot wide 16:9 screen or a 10-foot wide 2.35:1 screen?

          • freakyguy666

            You ARE dodging, Josh. Let’s review the facts: The question was “Given a choice between watching non-scope films on an 8′ scope screen or an 8′ 16×9 screen which would you choose?” There are only 2 choices in this question. But you chose to alter the question to “If you had the height for an 8-foot wide 16:9 screen, which aspect ratio screen would you put in”. Unfortunately, that was NOT the question.

            Until you answer the question as posited, you are by definition DODGING.

            We may have to change your handle to Will C. if you keep it up! 😉

            I’m waiting for your answer, but something tells me I shouldn’t hold my breath.


          • Josh Zyber

            Your question is irrelevant because those are NOT the only two options. You have framed the question misleadingly in a transparent attempt to trick me into saying something that you know I don’t mean. Because I am not an idiot, I will not fall for it.

            An 8′ scope screen offers a smaller 16:9 picture than an 8′ 16:9 screen. This is not the correct comparison. The correct comparison would be an 8′ 16:9 screen to a 10′ scope screen. In this case, your 16:9 picture remains the same size, while scope goes wider. CONSTANT IMAGE HEIGHT.

            I have answered your question to the best of my ability. You have not even acknowledged that I’ve asked you any questions point-blank. The only one dodging here is you.

            Why do you consider 2.35:1 movies less worthy than 1.85:1 movies? If you think that The Avengers deserves to be viewed as large as possible in your home theater, why don’t you feel the same for Iron Man, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk or Thor?

            In my home theater, The Avengers is projected as large as it can be given the aspect ratio that Joss Whedon chose to photograph it. Iron Man is the same height but wider, as it’s supposed to be.

          • freakyguy666

            How is my question any different than the one that you posed regarding a 4:3 screen–which, by the way, I did NOT dodge and answered it directly.

            However, it is now clear given your flat-out admission that you are intent on avoiding answering my question directly at all costs, which casts a shadow of doubt over your entire premise and reinforces my position.

            Thanks for that.


          • Josh Zyber

            My question about a large 4:3 screen is designed to point out the absurdity of your position regarding 16:9 vs. scope. Aside from IMAX documentaries, which are a small minority of available content, 4:3 movies are not supposed to be larger than widescreen, so there’s no point in putting up a super-large 4:3 screen. Widescreen movies are supposed to be bigger in almost all cases. Therefore, you want your projection screen to be wider than it is tall.

            Likewise, 1.85:1 movies are not supposed to be larger than 2.35:1 movies. So why would you put up a 16:9 screen when you can put up a 2.35:1 screen and watch the movies the way they’re supposed to be watched?

            At this point, you’re just being a troll, and I’m fed up with it. I’ve explained this concept to you a hundred times, and I will not do so again. Either attempt to have an honest conversation and answer the questions I’ve posed to you, or stop posting in this thread.

          • Freakyguy666

            You may think my position is absurd, but at least I gave you the courtesy of an honest DIRECT answer to the question you posed–regardless of what your intentions were behind asking the question…..you on the other hand have bent over backwards and have resorted to writing a novella rather than answering the question truthfully and without prejudice. It should also be noted for historical accuracy that I posited the question BEFORE you asked me the question regarding 4:3–yet, I IMMEDIATELY answered DIRECTLY, while you continue to rant and rave without addressing the question as originally framed.

            THOSE ARE FACTS, Josh, and it makes your opinion seem disingenuous.

            Good thing I knew better than to hold my breath for an answer to such a simple question!


          • Josh Zyber

            Your question was a lame baiting tactic and intellectually dishonest. I will not fall into your pathetic trap. I provided you with the correct, honest answer, and wasted more of my time on you than this conversation deserves. You, meanwhile, have done nothing but act like a troll. Stop it.

          • Freakyguy666

            Why is it okay for you to ask a lame question about a 4:3 aspect ratio screen (for which there are no titles rated as ” highly recommended” on your own site), yet it’s “intellectually dishonest” for me to ask for a straight answer to my question regarding a 16×9 screen, for which there are tons of “highly recommended” titles?

            If it seems like a double standard…it’s because it IS.

            One would hope a writer for a site like this would answer directly and without prejudice, but the facts are proving that is too tall an order.

            Just a tip: You’re not doing yourself any favors by exposing this flaw.


          • Josh Zyber

            I have answered your question. You may not like the answer, but I gave it to you. You, however, have not even pretended to answer any of mine, and your prevarications aren’t fooling anyone.

            Why do you continue to ignore the “Highly Recommended” or “Must Own” ratings this site has given to hundreds of 2.35:1 movies? (Luke just gave another one to ‘Mud’ this week.) Why do you consider 2.35:1 movies inferior and unworthy?

            I don’t consider 1.85:1 movies inferior to 2.35:1 movies. I project 1.85:1 movies as large as they can be projected in my home theater. And then I project 2.35:1 movies the same height but wider. BECAUSE THAT IS HOW MOVIES ARE MADE. That is how movies have been made for the last 60 years. That is how movies are made today. That is how movies will continue to be made for the next 60 years or more.

            What is your mental blockage that you refuse to comprehend this very simple concept? It isn’t about shrinking 1.85:1 movies to be smaller. It’s about making 1.85:1 movies as large as you want them, and then making 2.35:1 movies EVEN WIDER. Just like their directors made them.

            I know that you’re just acting like this because you want to get a rise out of me, and have no other interest in the topic whatsoever. Mission accomplished. You must be so proud of yourself. You acted like an ass on the internet and made someone mad at you. Congratulations. What an achievement. Surely the annals of internet trollery will be writ large with your (fake) name.

            The joke’s on you, however. This is my blog, and if you continue to behave obnoxiously without attempting to answer the questions I’ve asked you, I’ll just block you and purge this entire stupid argument. Enough is enough.

            You have one more chance. If you want to engage in an honest conversation on this topic, answer this question: If it’s so important to you to project Finding Nemo or Toy Story as large as possible, why do you not feel the same way about The Incredibles or WALL-E?

            You can answer that question however you want, but you must answer it in your very next post in this thread, or you’re done here.

          • Josh Zyber

            Oh, and for the record:

            Citizen Kane
            1.37:1 aspect ratio
            Review rating: Highly Recommended

            It’s a Wonderful Life
            1.37:1 aspect ratio
            Review rating: Highly Recommended

            The Wizard of Oz
            1.37:1 aspect ratio
            Review rating: Must Own

            Gone with the Wind
            1.37:1 aspect ratio
            Review rating: Must Own

          • Freakyguy666

            Josh, I hate to say it but you suffer from “inferritice”: the act or state of inferring things that are not meant to be inferred. Please do yourself a favor and re-read my posts and take whatever prejudices you’ve built-up in your mind and tell me where I said that a 16×9 screen SHOULD be bigger than a 2.35 screen.

            Then, once you’ve done that, acknowledge that you have ADMITTED to still not answering my question directly but chosen to answer a completely different question instead for fear of being “baited” into some sort of “trap”–in other words, you’ve DODGED. And on top of that, you are threatening to throw a tantrum and purge the posts if you don’t get what you want like a spoiled child….when in reality, the record proves that it is I who answered your “lame” 4:3 question DIRECTLY, but you could not do the same with the simple question that I posed BEFORE you posited yours.

            If you can muster enough courage to answer my question without bias (and I promise you the intent is much less machiavellian than what you seem to have in mind) then I’d be pleased to continue the discussion cordially and acknowledge your other queries, but it doesn’t make sense to do so when you aren’t willing to demonstrate the same. After all, if your intent is to have these threads be a censored whenever a post disagrees with you, I’m sure many of your readers would love to know that.


          • Josh Zyber

            You didn’t answer the question. We’re done here. Anyone reading this can see that you’re just trolling to get a reaction out of me. I have better things to do with my life.

            All other factors being equal, if I had the choice of watching The Avengers on a screen that is 41-inches tall or a screen that is 54-inches tall, I would choose the screen that is 54-inches tall. But I would not limit myself to a screen that’s only 16:9 in width in either circumstance. Because The Avengers is not the only movie I plan to watch on that screen.

            If you had the chance to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on a screen of either 41″ or 54″ height, I sincerely doubt that you’d install a 6-foot wide 4:3 screen.

      • EM

        It may help to clarify that, according to photos I’ve seen, Josh has two eyes, approximately the same size as one another, both on the front of his head, lying on a horizontal axis, at least in the sorts of positions I presume he typically assumes during viewing.

  12. William Henley

    It seems that a 16×9 screen would be ideal for people who don’t want to mess with CIH. Just set the projector up, and never worry about it again.

    If I were sitting one up, though, it seems like it would be ideal to go with a 2.4:1 screen to stick with the concept of CIH (If you want to be a real stickler – for the few movies that were shot that way, you may want to go even wider – like a 2.8:1 or something). It just seems that, on a projector, I would rather have a few pixels of black bars on the sides than at the top and bottom. If it was really annoying, you could draw curtains around the sides.

    Of course, with the way things are going, it looks like I am going to be stuck with flat-pannels for the forseeable future. A true theater would be nice, though.

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