Aspect ratio/letterbox guide for beginners with free templates

In filmmaking, aspect ratios play a pivotal role in creating an immersive experience.

After the advent of television, people stopped watching movies at theatres as they didn’t have anything new to offer. The aspect ratios were the same as that of the TVs, and this certainly made people rethink their decisions.

So to make people come to the theatres, the filmmakers made the screens a lot bigger and started adopting widescreen aspect ratios to provide an immersive experience and to differentiate cinema from TV. That’s how aspect ratios changed the way we view films forever.

These days filmmakers use aspect ratios as a tool to tell the story better and to provide an engaging experience to the audience.

For instance, Writer-Director Robert Eggers shot his movie The Lighthouse on a very old aspect ratio of 1.19:1 to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. He used vintage lenses and camera equipment to achieve it.

This certainly gave the film an authentic 1900s look, which perfectly aided the story’s progression.

Here writer-director Xavier Dolan changes the aspect ratio of the film to convey the character’s feeling of comfort to the audience.

But to achieve a particular aspect ratio, we need specific lenses and camera equipment, and not all can afford those kinds of equipment as they are highly expensive.

For example, anamorphic lenses that are used for creating a widescreen aspect ratio costs around 10000$, which only pro filmmakers can afford.
And that’s where letterbox templates come into play.

These are images with black bars and can be used to convert your video to a specific aspect ratio. Many indie filmmakers use this technique to give their footage the look they desire.

Some of the widely used aspect ratios are listed below.

  • 4:3 Traditional TVs.
  • 1:33 Silent Films
  • 1.375:1 Academy standard aspect ratio
  • 1.85:1 Vistavision and US widescreen standard
  • 2.35:1, 2.39:1 Present-day widescreen standard
  • 16:9 Current TVs and monitors standard

We’ve attached the letterbox templates for you to download link:

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