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There is a question about the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy and the aspect ratios it was released in: Why the very different release formats for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

The crux of the question is an overlay of the 2.35:1 frame with the 4:3 frame. Normally (I think) for most films, if you were to overlay the two, you'd see something like this:

-----------* * * * * * * * * * * * *-----------
|2.35:1    * 4:3                   *          |
|(filmed)  * (cropped)             *          |
|          *                       *          |
|          *                       *          |
|          *                       *          |
|          *                       *          |
|          *                       *          |
|          *                       *          |
-----------* * * * * * * * * * * * *-----------

If I understand the typical process, the movie is filmed at 2.35:1 and later cropped for 4:3 and 16:9 TVs.

However, the 'evidence' in the aforementioned question shows the overlapping aspect ratios as such:

         * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
         *   4:3 (cropped)           *
-----------------------------------------------
|2.35:1  *                           *        |
|(cropped?)                          *        |
|        *                           *        |
|        *                           *        |
|        *                           *        |
|        *                           *        |
|        *                           *        |
|        *                           *        |
-----------------------------------------------
         *                           *
         * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Based on the above, it would seem that the film would have had to be shot with a frame both wider than 4:3, and taller than 2.35:1. If true, the question I have is:

Are some films shot at an aspect ratio larger than any one of the released aspect ratios?

In other words, are some films shot so that all of the various releases will be cropped in their own unique way, rather than just taking the widest release and chopping off the sides?

Alt theory/question: One theory is that IMDB is incorrect and the film wasn't actually shot at 2.35:1 and was instead shot at 16:9, and they ended up cropping both for wide screen and 4:3. If true, is that a common practice? If so, why? It feels odd that anyone interested in the widest screen formats would also be OK with the original frame being cropped.

  • 1
    Slightly related... many films are "cropped in"... trimming some chunk off of the frame in all directions but not changing the aspect ratio... this is often done to crop out stuff like lights, booms, etc... and often it's simply because the frame is bigger than the "safe zone"... but I don't think this is what you're asking about. – Catija Jan 20 '16 at 19:46
  • Might have been shot on standard [non-anamorphic, if that's a word… you can tell I'm not a camerman] 35mm, which would give a frame size sufficient to crop all 3 ratios out of - 2.35:1 16:9 & 4:3. It was made at a time when many people still had 4:3 TVs, so might have been a consideration right from the start. [I've no evidence to back this up, it's just speculation, so cannot be an answer] – disassociated Jan 20 '16 at 20:39
  • 1
    Yes, some are. TV sometimes is too, hence the HD release of Friends in 16:9 despite being originally broadcast in 4:3. – BCdotWEB Jan 21 '16 at 9:45
  • @BCdotWEB but was that merely wide screen cropped to 4:3, or did they use entirely different vertical croppings and actually film at a much larger frame than both 4:3 and 16:9 combined? – DA. Jan 21 '16 at 14:39
  • ah! Just saw the diagram linked to in that answer. Yes! That does appear it was filmed in a much larger frame and cropped separately for each release. Is there a standard for that particular frame size? (That's make a great answer, BTW!) – DA. Jan 21 '16 at 14:41
1

Maybe I'm misunderstanding your question but wouldn't this actually be a case of using open matte?

Using your formatting style it would look like this:

*********************************************
*  4:3 (for home release)                   *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*-------------------------------------------*
* 2.35:1 (theatrical)                       *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*-------------------------------------------*
*                                           *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*                                           *
*********************************************
  • Yes! I think so! It's not quite the same as the example (note that in the example film, they both lost width, but gained height in the 4:3 version) but seems to be along the same lines and is perhaps just a variation. Interesting that Kubrik used this technique. Do we know what the intent of using it is? I'd guess it's so film makers can focus on the full academy ratio when filming, but not have to worry about cropping for the 4:3 version (back when that was a common ratio for home released). – DA. Feb 4 '16 at 0:14

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