Tag Archives: Production

When is widescreen not really widescreen any more?

Think about this for a moment, when is the last time you saw a film on a screen that was wider than 16:9?

Typically cinema screens have become a default 16:9 aspect ratio and they are only matted or masked to show a 21:9 film. In fact most of them don’t even bother with matting or masking they just allow the natural darkness of the top and bottom bars to fall onto the screen. Gone are the days when you truly knew that a special film was about to start when the curtains slowly pulled back to reveal a wonderful widescreen aspect ratio from the original smaller 16:9 cinema screen. I remember those times fondly in Screen 1of my local Odeon. Yes, it was a long time ago and yes I’m as guilty as most of eulogising over the past but I think we have really lost something here.

There was a true sense of occasion when this happened,  the lights dimmed and combined with the associated hush of the audience and the striking up of the soundtrack led to a really special presentation, something that you really cannot get at home, unless you happen to live in a cinema.

21:9 televisions

Then when you consider home viewing of movies I would estimate that less than 1% of the population are actually watching a 21:9 film on a scope screen that is any wider than 16:9. these people are the true home cinema devotees with active masking on their projection screens or maybe even owners of the long discontinued 21:9 TVs by Phillips.

In the earlier part of the 21st-century it launched a TV that was brave by being different at the time but lots of people did not buy into that and they disappeared fairly quickly from the market.  A big problem here was price and the fact that this was a 2560 x 1080 screen so picture information from the 21:9 movie on Blu-ray was being interpolated in both directions to display fullscreen on this panel. In this day and age, is not a problem but back then upscaling was not what it is today.

LG ultrawide monitor.jpg

21:9 monitors such as this one from LG are available, but resolution and size is limited

Ok, yes there are widescreen PC monitors available but they really don’t work as displays for relaxed viewing, their resolution tops out at 3840 x 1600 and their size, once considered large enough for a TV, is limited to around 38”. Their price is more than even the smallest UHD TV and yet what you are paying for, from the point of view of using it for home cinema viewing, seems to be less height.

Now originally I was going to talk about anamorphic projection and it’s relevancy in the home but this is such a complicated subject that I think it deserves a piece all of it’s own, so keep an eye out for that one. I will add that several years ago I saw a film transmitted on a UK channel where the 21:9 image was transmitted anamorphically to fill a 16:9 raster, odd but there was a certain charm to this although I’m happy to say it was an isolated occurrence.


What has started to happen in the theatre and at home is the expansion of the 21:9 aspect vertically for films that are originated at least partially in the IMAX format. So widescreen films have become tall screen films at least in certain scenes. This can add a great deal to the spectacle, however some of these films are not shot on film but instead originated digitally in the IMAX digital format, which I think still suffers a bit when you compare it to the 65 mm original film format, and this is coming from a digital devotee.

If hardly any of us are watching widescreen films in the way they were meant to be watched then what is the point of shooting in this aspect ratio? Don’t get me wrong I love widescreen films and I don’t have any issue with artistic intent here. There is an artistry and a beauty to a 21:9 presentation but if it ends up not being viewed in the way it was intended then what’s the point? Widescreen films were meant to be viewed wide, hence the name, the bonus of a different aspect ratio and the ability to compose the frame differently came along as part of the package.

I don’t want the format to die off, I want more spectacle in the cinema not less. However if we’re only ever seeing it as a part of a 16:9 screen then how long is it until some studio bean counters decide that they are not paying for films with black bars.



facebook twitter pinit

Sony’s new a6400 is a 4K video powerhouse

With full sensor downsampling and snappy autofocus, this new camera from Sony is pitched at videomakers with small budgets

 Sony is on a roll. It’s sensors are used everywhere from smartphones to its own flagship Venice camera. Behind the scenes, the Japamese company has been developing AI-based object recognition. It’s almost as if it would strugge not to keep releasing really good cameras. Not that this is easy. It’s just that Sony is in a good place right now with still and video imaging.

The newly-announced is an APS-C camera that can shoot 4K downscaled from a full 24.2 megapixel sensor.

Here are the highlights:

World’s Fastest (0.02 seconds) AF acquisition speed plus 425 phase-detection and contrast-detection AF points covering approximately 84% of image area

Advanced Real-time Eye AF

New Real-time Tracking for object tracking

24.2MP[iii] APS-C Exmor™ CMOS image sensor and latest-generation BIONZ X™ image processor

180-degree fully tiltable LCD touch screen for self-recording

High-speed continuous shooting at up to 11 fps, mechanical shutter / 8 fps silent shooting with continuous AF/AE tracking

High-resolution 4K movie recording with full pixel readout and no pixel binning, plus advanced AF speed and stability

Interval recording for time-lapse videos

Despite the smaller size of the camera, it has inherited quite a few talents from its bigger siblings, including extremely fast autofocus, based on 425 Phase Detection and Contrast Detection points across the sensor.

On a practical note, there’s a 180 degree fully tiltable LCD touchscreen that’s ideal for self-operating videomakers. There’s no secret that this camera is being pitched at the new generation of video bloggers, who care about quality but are extremely conscious in their productions.

There’s a new generation of Bionz X Image Processing Engine that handles the downsampling and all other image-processing functions. Image processing is right at the core of modern cameras. In smartphones, it makes up for inadequate (although still quite remarkable for their size) lenses. In cameras like this, it makes a good camera even better.

It looks like it’s going to be a capable still camera. Lenses are E-Mount, and there’s very rapid autofocus and auto tracking, which makes use of the camera’s built-in AI. You should always be wary about products that claim to have AI, and it’s getting to be repetitive, but in Sony’s case, they have a good story to tell. I remember more than ten years ago seeing prototypes of software at Sony’s Basingstoke (Near London, England) headquarters that could recognise objects like a fish, a bicycle or a table. Today’s software, probably thousands of times more powerful, is probably descended from this.

It’s the ability of the camera to “know” what it’s looking at that allows it to track objects accurately.

Here’s what Sony says about it:

“The  introduces an advanced ‘Real-time Eye AF’, the latest version of Sony’s acclaimed Eye AF technology. This exciting new capability employs artificial intelligence-based object recognition to detect and process eye data in real time, resulting in improved accuracy, speed and tracking performance of Eye AF. In all autofocus modes, the camera now automatically detects the eyes of the subject and activates Eye AF with a half press of the shutter button, and when in AF-C or AF-A mode, the preferred eye (left or right) of your subject can be selected as the focus point. Choices include Auto / Right Eye / Left Eye, and a Switch Right / Left Eye function can be assigned to a custom function as well. This exciting new technology completely frees the photographer to focus solely on composition with full trust that focus will be tack sharp on the subject’s eye. Eye AF support for animals[vii] will be added in Summer 2019 via a system software update, ideal for wildlife photographers.”

Video recording is 4K (UHD) and we think it’s max 30FPS (it’s not clear from Sony’s information whether there are any higher rates but HD is up to 120 fps, which would equal the data rate of 4K at 30 fps, so this seems consistent).

The camera includes an HLG mode for “instant HDR”. The idea is that you can play your footage and see credible HDR on a suitable TV without any post processing. If you want to delve deeper into post, S-Log2 and S-log3 are supported.

There is a headphone output. It’s not clear what the audio input options are but we suspect it’s via the smart-shoe, which would support the normal range of Sony microphone options.

This looks like an extremely interesting and capable camera. It’s fascinating to see that Sony is explicitly aiming this at video bloggers. This is an already huge and growing category of users that need a small, inexpensive but high quality camera like this. We have quite a few unanswered questions, which we can answer as soon as we get a review unit.

Price (in UK£) is £950 for the body only. It will be available as a kit for £1,000 with the SELF1650 lens and for £1,300 with the SEL 18135 lens. Shipping is in Febuary.



facebook twitter pinit