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We watch Star Trek: Picard in our film room on a nice modern UHD TV. I just noticed there is a thick black bar top and bottom of screen implying it's shot in a wider, cinematic format.

Is this typical and if not, why was it chosen given this is released on streaming services?

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    Note that the way a show is shot is only partly responsible for the aspect ratio it is presented in. – BCdotWEB Feb 15 at 23:34
  • I guess I'm more focused on the presentation, sorry for confusion – Mr. Boy Feb 16 at 2:13
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From Wikipedia:

After becoming sole showrunner of Star Trek: Discovery, Alex Kurtzman signed a five-year overall deal with CBS Television Studios to expand the Star Trek franchise beyond Discovery to several new series, miniseries, and animated series. One of these [is Picard].

Season two of Discovery was the first to be presented in the 2.39:1 ratio, and Kurtzman is the reason for that:

TREKCORE: At first it seemed perhaps just the trailers were updated for this year, but it looks as if – now that the first ‘Short Trek’ is out – that the series has been changed to a 2.40:1 aspect ratio this year.

ALEX KURTZMAN: We have, yes. I pushed that decision. I’m in love with the anamorphic frame. I just think it’s glorious and beautiful and every great film experience I’ve had has been shot anamorphically.

It somehow does two things: it broadens the scale, making everything bigger, but it also somehow increases the intimacy. I don’t know why, it’s just the magic quality of anamorphic filming. But it has allowed us to shoot, essentially, a film now, and to eliminate the line between television and movies.

That’s really fun for us, so you’ll see it feel a lot more like a movie this season.

The same explanation most likely applies to Picard as well.

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    If you watch Black Mirror, you'll find that different episodes are presented in a variety of different aspect ratios (at least 3). There's no apparent logic to why a given episode is presented in the aspect ratio it is other than that it appealed to the aesthetic sense of that episode's director. – Anthony X Feb 16 at 22:26
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    The magic of anamorphic filming is that everything's a wide shot. Instead of two hours of just talking heads, you actually have to build a set, or do that horrible thing: go outside. – Mazura Feb 17 at 3:06
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    @Mazura In other words, more distraction when all I care about in a Star Trek series is typically the talking heads. Oh wait, it's about this knew Action Trek. Then I get it^^ – Frank Hopkins Feb 17 at 4:03
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    "But it has allowed us to shoot, essentially, [Star Wars.]" – Mazura Feb 17 at 4:03
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A more cynical point of view: Product positioning.

  1. A theatrical release is considered a "higher league" in mass consciousness (eg: Oscars being more prestigious than Golden Globes).
  2. Wide screen format is associated with theatrical release.

Therefore many shows, both films and series, which are meant solely for streaming/TV are filmed in wide format to give an impression of "cinematic experience". This is done to invoke connotations to a "more premium" product. While technically it seems counterproductive (given that amount of ultrawide consumer screens is negligible) but psychologically it makes many viewers feel better. Especially on paid streaming services - spending money on subscription feels more justifiable if you get in return a theatrical film (which "costs ticket money") rather than a TV production (because "TV is free").

Similar thing keeps filming in 24fps alive. There is no technical reason to stick to choppy movement, but we (the viewers) are simply used to feeling that choppy = good and smooth = soap opera. Even being aware of the conditioning doesn't change the fact that watching 60fps makes you think "it feels cheap".

Of course, filmmakers tend to invent lots of excuses to explain either marketing department decisions or their own (often subconscious) ones. But it's quite a coincidence we rarely hear artistic arguments proposing filming in uncommon formats. It's always "TV screen vs cinema screen". The reasoning hasn't changed since when TV was 4:3 and cinema was about where 16:9 TV is now :)

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  • The 60 fps thing isn't just about what we're used to. It makes it a LOT harder for VFX artists to hide imperfections. There are plenty of analysis videos on YouTube talking about this exact thing. – Logarr Feb 17 at 17:19
  • @Logarr It's certainly an argument for movies that have VFX, but there are plenty of films without, yet they're still shot in 24 fps. IMHO the "being used to so audience wants it" argument is so big that everything else is of little relevance. – Agent_L Feb 18 at 10:22

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