Monday, 28 December 2015

Aspect Ratios Explained - What Is An Aspect Ratio Anyway?

Aspect Ratios. Wikimedia Commons
Screen aspect ratios are one of the more technical aspects of our business - confusing when you don't understand it, but easy when you know how.

Why do our students need to understand aspect ratios? Because it's how we configure our work for the screen.  It's something that every film-maker needs to learn eventually, because it's what the audience will see.

When you render your shot, and when you edit your work in Premiere or Final Cut, you will have to make choices as to what aspect ratio to select.  So, to take the pain away,  below is a brief summary of how it all works.

16:9 - Image: Wikipedia
The main number is need to keep in your head is a simple ratio: 16:9Nowadays, almost all digital outputs follow this basic ratio. 

16:9 is now the universal standard for pretty much everything: your TV screen, your computer, and your local movie theatre.  In short, it has become the global standard.

A 16 to 9 ratio means 16 units across the top (horizontally), and 9 along the side (vertically). Stick to this standard ratio when you are rendering your animation - and you won't go wrong. It's the same size as your laptop, your TV, and also fits YouTube. In short - pretty much everything.
A 16 by 9 screen. Photo: Wikipedia
What is HD?
HD means "high definition", and it comes in two forms - Full HD, and Standard HD.

1. Full HD
Full HD is 1920 pixels across the top (horizontal) and 1080 pixels along the side (vertical). This is high-end broadcast quality, suitable for live broadcast.  Also known as "HD 1080", or "1080p". In the presets in Autodesk Maya it is called "HD 1080".

You can see more about Full HD at Wikipedia here.

2. Standard HD
Standard HD is 1280 pixels across the top and 720 pixels along the side, high enough quality to make a good image, but won't produce huge files that will take forever to render and massively slow down your work flow. This is the aspect ratio we recommend our students use for their renders.

Standard HD is also known as "1k", or "HD 720". In Autodesk Maya, you will find it as a preset in the rendering menu labelled "HD 720".  There is a good Wikipedia page about it here.

Quarter HD
Quarter HD is is a display resolution of 960x540 pixels, which is exactly one quarter of a Full HD (1080p) frame, in a 16:9 aspect ratio. It is popular for high-end smartphone displays. Also good for testing your work. In Maya the rendering preset is described as "540 HD".

SD, or standard definition, is an older ratio which is not to be confused with the modern Standard HD (above). It is 720 by 486 pixels and therefore conforms to the old 4:3 ratio which is now pretty much obsolete. 

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