iTunes HD movie aspect ratio

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by rlogan814, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. rlogan814 macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2012
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    Can anyone direct me where to look for a movie's aspect ratio in iTunes prior to purchasing it? I get HD tv shows through iTunes and their picture always takes up the full screen on my tv, but I've purchased 3 movies from iTunes - two older movies on sale and Drive. The two older purchase had the letterbox bars and barely "DVD" quality for an HD movie download. I wasn't upset or surprised by this due to them being older releases, but it did make me want to not stop buying blu ray copies of my movies to get the best quality available.

    Then, out of complete laziness I purchased Drive through iTunes because I didn't feel like driving to best buy. Anyway, that movie looked great through iTunes whether I watched it straight off my Mac or through apple tv, and the picture took up the whole screen, no letterbox bars. I'm assuming this has to do with the aspect ratio of the film, but I'm unable to find that in iTunes prior to purchase, it just says "widescreen" for all the movies. I've tried looking up the aspect ratio on imdb, but no joy since for all the tested movies it said 2.35:1.

    There has to be a way to tell through iTunes if a HD movie will take up my whole 52 inch widescreen HDTV or be in letterbox form. Any suggestions would be great, thanks.
  2. chenks macrumors 6502a


    Oct 23, 2007
    what difference does it make though.
    you'll get the movie in the aspect ratio that it is intended to be in, and no matter which aspect ratio it is, it's still HD.

    your TV is 16:9 which is just one of many different aspect ratios that are used by directors when creating the movie.
  3. rlogan814 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2012
    I understand that it is in HD regaurdless of what aspect ratio it was in, I'm just curious because it looks pretty damn good in 720p when the picture takes up the full screen and not in letterbox. I would be more likely to purchase a HD movie that is not letterboxed than is, and just curious if there is an easy way to figure it out.
  4. strider42 macrumors 65816


    Feb 1, 2002
    I don't know where you can find the aspect ratio information, but it probably won't matter. I doubt they sell two different wide screen aspect ratios. At most, you might see a full screen version (4x3 for older TV's, getting pretty rare nowadays), or a wide screen version that is hopefully the aspect ratio it was shot in. if they change the aspect ratio to fit your screen, then they have to cut off part of the image. Letterboxing means you are seeing the entire image.

    Your TV probably has an option to zoom in on the image so you can get it to take up the entire screen. But again, this will require that it cuts off part of the image. Or yoru TV might stretch the image to fit into the screen. Some TV's do this better than others. Some look horribly distorted with the stretching, some do a decent job so it doesn't make that much of a difference.

    In short, letterboxing is actually a good thing. It means you are seeing the entire picture with no distortion. I think most movies are shot in 2.35:1 which is NOT 16x9 and will result in some letter boxing if its not being modified by the TV in some way. TV shows are usually 4x3 or 16x9. iTunes content may be set up for 16x9 all the time,s ince thats the ratio of most TV's. but I'm not sure on that.

    My advice is not to worry about it and just enjoy your content.
  5. redfirebird08, Mar 1, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2012

    redfirebird08 macrumors 6502


    Feb 15, 2007

    Drive was shot in 2.39:1 aspect ratio, so it definitely should NOT be taking up your entire HDTV screen unless you have a zoom function enabled. Below a Blu-ray screenshot straight from the disc:


    And here is what it looks like when you crop the sides of it for 1.77:1 HDTV aspect ratio:


    Why would you want to give up the visual integrity of the presentation just to have your HDTV screen filled? Filmmakers will use framing to make it pretty much impossible to crop something and have it look right. If you shoot in a really wide aspect ratio and put two very important visual pieces on each side of the screen, the viewer gets screwed when some of it is cropped for either HDTV or (even worse) SDTV.
  6. MarkG21 macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2010

    The quality of the film has nothing to do whether or not the picture is 1.78(16:9) or 2.40(12:5).
  7. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    That's right, iTunes 720p has nothing to do with aspect ratio of the material. The movie can be offered at OAR (original aspect ratio) or cropped to various other shapes. OAR could be in 16:9 like your widescreen HDTV or it could be wider (yielding black bars above and below) or thinner (yielding black bars to the left & right). That it's in 720p or 1080p or 480p has nothing to do with aspect ratio.

    If you are seeing something shot wider than 16:9 and it is filling your screen, you either have an HDTV that is wider than 16:9 (very, very unlikely though a few exist), you've purchased a version that has been cropped down to fill a 16:9 television screen or you do indeed have a zoom function working on your HDTV (which is artificially cropping the image so that it can fill the screen).

    The purists usually want OAR (and thus black bars) for video not shot at 16:9 because they want to see the whole picture as the director intended. Others want no black bars, which is why options like zoom & stretch probably exist. For a long time, the market for "full frame" DVDs was fairly hot because people with 4:3 TVs didn't like the black bars. Now all those full frame DVDs played on 16:9 TVs show the black bars on the left & right.
  8. obsidian1200 macrumors 6502


    Jun 19, 2010
    Albuquerque, NM
    You can always look up the blu-ray or DVD edition of the film in question on Amazon, since Amazon usually lists the aspect ratio of the film there. I imagine the aspect ratio of the physical media would match that of the digital. Bear in mind that a small handful of listings are inaccurate, as some DVDs include both the widescreen and fullscreen editions, and Amazon, for some reasons, favors listing the fullscreen ratio instead of the widescreen (or both).

    Honestly, though, I wouldn't worry about it. If you want a movie, go ahead and get it, since the movie is what matters, not the aspect ratio (unless we're talking fullscreen DVDs, but that's another issue).
  9. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    Redfirebird, I just found this thread after starting to watch Drive from iTunes and noticed the aspect ration was not 2.35:1. Im curious as to why this is because most all movies on iTunes are in the correct aspect ratio.

    Also, if that is a screen capture of the actual 2.35:1 footage, the iTunes transfer is open matte. It does not look cropped like the second picture you posted, but it looks as if the mattes in the first picture were removed, so it is not quite as bad as it may seem. The composition between the two lights is still there for example. I wonder if this was the director's intention for home release?
  10. rlogan814 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2012
    Download and watch Drive. It's 16x9, takes up your whole tv screen. I should know I've had it and enjoyed it for several months.
  11. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    The theatrical version is 2.35:1.
    The Blu-Ray version is 2.35:1.
    The UK version on iTunes is 2.35:1.
    The US version on iTunes is 1.77:1.

    Some people prefer filling their screen with image no matter the cost. Some people prefer the film's original composition. Im of the latter group.
  12. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    I also checked the Netflix version, and Netflix is notorious for presenting movies in their incorrect aspect ration, and even they have Drive in 2.35:1.

    The iTunes version is the only exception so far.
  13. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    Many films are shot like this and then matted to achieve the desired aspect ratio. It does not mean the 1.77:1 is intended way for the viewer to watch Drive.

    This is mainly evident in the every presentation I can find, theatrical to home video being presented in 2.35:1 with the one exception of the US iTunes version.

    I did not know of the Lodgenet version, but many times movies will be "open matte" or cropped to fit the screen for TV networks. Some people prefer this just to have their TV screen filled with image, whether or not it compromises the director's composition of the shot.
  14. JoeBlow74 macrumors regular

    Aug 2, 2012

    Some older movies, no matter how you rip, encode, and manipulate it, will never look good on a big HD TV. Most older movies that were edited with letterbox bars will keep those bars even in Itunes. If nobody digitally remakes the movie from the original film reels, the movie will be stuck with the black bars. I know it sucks spending money on a product, only to be let down when you actually see it. But, if you only paid a few $$ for the old movie, who cares. Some of the older movies are rare and due to the damage or missing film reels, the movie will never be digitaly re-made. Remember, HD TV's are a new technology. Some HD TV's produce such a crystal clear razor sharp image, not many movies look good on the screen.
  15. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    A movie cannot be digitally remade to remove black bars unless it was filmed with a soft matte. It can be cropped though, where you lose image, but your tv is filled with a zoomed picture.
  16. MarkG21 macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2010

    What??? If a movie has black bars, then it just means that the TV is not wide enough (assuming the bars are on the top and bottom). The movie is not stuck with black bars. It's there so you can see the whole picture.
  17. bluewooster macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2007
    Like the original poster, I prefer the full screen. I don't get swept up in the "majesty" of the "artist's vision" with black bars - I just wish the picture was bigger and more detailed.

    I'm curious though about the statement that it makes no effect on picture quality - while I agree this is the case if you zoom in after the film has been encoded (and would result in degradation of picture quality), would you not actually have more detail if it is cropped prior to encoding? I. E. you are now getting 720p/1080p detail of a smaller area (assuming the detail is there to begin with - a high quality source)

    Sorry in advance if that is a stupid question - aspect ratio has always confused me!
  18. Hammie macrumors 65816


    Mar 17, 2009
    Wash, DC Metro
    You need to look at it in two steps.

    The first is how the movie was digitally encoded.
    - Was it converted using a 2K, 4K, or 8K process (right now most films have been converted using the 2K since this will satisfy the current 1920x1080 pixel ration of current TV's)?
    - What aspect ratio was it filmed? There are a number of options. The most common are 2.40:1, 2.35:1, 1.85:1, and 1.77:1. 1.77:1 is the size of current 16:9 TV's. All other ratios will have black bars on the top and bottom.

    Next will be how it is cropped.
    - Will they crop to the top of the aspect ratio (right to the black bars) or will they go in even closer?

    These two steps matter a lot.

    Let's look at this in a different media format... Photography.

    I'm sure we all have experience with taking a picture with a digital camera (maybe some even with scanning old photographs).

    In the first step, we look at the camera's pixel capability and sensor. On a camera with larger sensors such as a DSLR, you will get the best picture resolution due to pixel density. An 8mp picture on a DSLR will have a better resolution than an 8mp point and shoot or camera phone. Think of this being a 2K, 4K, 8K process with the DSLR being a 4K or 8K and a point and shoot or camera phone being 2K.

    When we take the photo from the first step and crop it, you being to see the pixels quicker and the resolution diminishes quicker with the point and shoot/phone camera (2K) versus a crop of the same picture taken with the DSLR (4K/8K).

    So, basically I just confirmed your original statement. However, if the movie was shot on film, they will most likely NOT crop the film prior to encoding. They would always do it post conversion.

    Also, someone mentioned that a film that had black bars will always have black bars unless it was encoded again. This is not necessarily true. If the film was shot in widescreen, then the original scan of the film should be in its native format. Post production work would have cropped the sides to add the black bars if they converted it for a 4:3 screen size.

    When a lot of DVD's were being sold in the 80's and 90's that were widescreen, many were cropped to the 1.77:1 or 1.85:1 format. It was not until the late 90's and beyond where the OAR was becoming more available. this was catapulted to the availability of widescreen HD TV's and the consumer response for movies to be released in their original format.

    Sorry this is so long and hope I don't ramble too much. I was trying to get this post done prior to me having to get to a meeting.
  19. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    I think that's the main problem because that's subjective. How much is too much? How much open matte is ok? Only to the point of booms and equipment being seen? How much cropping is ok? What if one character or other element is cut from the picture? What that important to the story?

    This is why original aspect ratio is important. It was filmed that way for a reason.

    It can be!
  20. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    A bunch of responses were cut from this post which I think is because it went way off the rails for this film.

    To answer the OP ... the original filmed aspect ratio can almost always be found at

    it shows Drive was originally shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, anything else will crop the sides of the movie. Like was just said it might include cropping parts of scenes that are pertinent to the movie.

    fwiw, cropping a movie to just fill your whole vertical picture dimension is sad and blasphemous imo. It was shot the way it was usually for a reason. Also, films are shot much wider than tall because the human eye scans horizontally much better than vertically.
  21. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    Actually, the non-2.35:1 version of Drive is open matte so there is additional information in the top and bottom of the image. I think it throws off the composition though and am totally for original aspect ratio.
  22. slothrob macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2007
    Uncropping open matte films can be really ugly. In many scenes it just replaces the black bars with overhead lighting and floor tiles. It may look like you've gained image size, but the size of the actual meaningful film hasn't changed and it's uglier.
  23. Starhawk macrumors regular


    Jul 9, 2008
    I could not agree more. I was just comparing shots in Drive between the two versions and this is exactly what I was thinking.

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