With so many places to debut your videos, getting the correct aspect ratio has become critical to your project’s success. But aspect ratio it can be tricky to understand.

Today we will define aspect ratio, and go over the different types of aspect ratio you can use to promote your work.  


Aspect ratio definition

The aspect ratio of an image describes the relationship between width and height. Aspect ratio is usually written as two numbers separated by a colon, as in 16:9. It can also be written with an “x” between the numbers.


Example 1: Netflix’s aspect ratio is 16x9.

Example 2: Facebook supports 16x9, 9x16, 4:5, 2:3, and 1:1 aspect ratios.

Your aspect ratio changes depending on where you put your content. Have you ever tried to load a video onto Instagram and had the best parts cut off?

Or are you old enough to remember what it was like watching movies on box TVs? The aspect ratio is incredibly important. 

It helps you literally frame your message for every viewer. A better framed message will result in a better connection with your audience.


Learn your film aspect ratio. 

When do I use an aspect ratio calculator?

When you’re editing or resizing images, it’s essential to have an aspect ratio calculator. Especially if you’re going from a widescreen aspect ratio to a full-screen aspect ratio.


The widescreen ratio explained. 

Aspect ratio calculators use an algorithm to make edits precise and help you to crop or expand images. When you get the correct formula, your resized image will not appear squashed or stretched. That will make your content look professional and polished.

How storyboards help your aspect ratio

When you set out to make a film, you need to think about how each image looks on the screen. To help plan, you should make storyboards. A storyboard allows you to actually take the images from your imagination and put them into real life. That way you can work with your DP to transfer those images into a shot list.

Learn how to storyboard in the correct aspect ratio!

If you use storyboards, you can make sure all the things you shoot match your aspect ratio. You don’t want to be on set and shoot 16x9 and then later edit to 4x3.

Gain more accurate insight into the shoot you're planning by using StudioBinder to choose from an extensive list of aspect ratios tailored to your needs.

How to Make a Storyboard Online - StudioBinder Storyboard Creator - 22

You can adjust your storyboards to fit your aspect ratio. 

What are some modern aspect ratios?

Nowadays, there are some common aspect ratios everyone should know. The most common film ratios used today in movie theaters are 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 as well as 16x9.


Movie aspect ratio is important. 

If you’re watching online or on a TV, aspect ratios can be 4:3 (or 4x3) (1.33:1) and 16:9 (1.77:1). We’ll break these down further a little lower in the post.

How did we get so many different aspect ratios?

The history of aspect ratios

Back in the days when film was projected, 4x3 was king. It was the standard size of the film strip, and everyone used it until the 1950’s.


It’s easy to determine image aspect ratio.  

4x3 Aspect Ratio

4x3 aspect ratio is known as “Full Screen.” It became the standard because it was the easiest to use because it mirrored the film stock.

Television companies fell in line and created TV monitors that mirrored this display. As computers rose to prominence, their screens also favored the 4:3 aspect ratio. 

After widescreen televisions evolved, many tv productions had to get their aspect ratio calculators out to edit their shows for the new aspect ratio. 

When you watch this scene the wide shots are used to bring you into Schindler’s mind. We’re constantly bouncing back and forth between a close up on his face and a wide shot where we follow the travesty and the little girl.


This image aspect ratio was changed later for the show’s re-release.


The Wire in 16x9 Widescreen. 

As time went on, technology got better. That brought larger theaters and the capability of bigger projections. Still, when larger movies were shown on television, they were shrunk down.  This could sometimes change the director’s vision, and even the scope of the movie.


Movie aspect ratios change depending on where you watch. 

The aspect ratio race

The widescreen aspect ratio craze started in the late 1940’s and continues today.

Cinerama took over the big screen in the 1950s. It was the most significant aspect ratio anyone had ever seen, 2.59:1. Executives needed to make money, so they wanted to get people into the theaters. Bigger was better.


This movie aspect ratio is massive. 

And they were even able to open theaters to specifically show things in Cinerama.


An entire theater dedicated to movie aspect ratios.

Along with Cinerama, a projection called CinemaScope rose to prominence (and is still used today). CinemaScope films are shown in 2.35:1. That’s pretty wide. It makes going to the movies feel like an event.


Image aspect ratio breakdown. 

The aspect ratio race heats up

Theaters and studios were in such competition in the 1960’s they wanted to outdo one another. That’s when 70mm film allowed studios to show things in 2.76:1. This became a calling card for the biggest movies. It helped attract fans and awards. 


What film stock do you need for your image aspect ratio?

Ben-Hur was shown in 70mm, and it became an event for people to see on the big screen. Ben-Hur felt as big as ancient Rome. The scope of the film was unparalleled at the time, and that was further supported by its aspect ratio.  

Ben-Hur, the way it was meant to be seen. Proper aspect ratio. 

The mission to get people into the theater is so critical that there’s been a rise in 70mm film and also IMAX in today's cinemas. These can be gimmicks, but the best filmmakers use larger formats to make their stories pop off the screen. 


Dunkirk in insane aspect ratio on film.

Dunkirk, The Master, and Hateful Eight have all utilized large format as part of their marketing campaign. They made seeing them in theaters an event.


Hateful Eight was shown on glorious 70mm Film, in a humungous aspect ratio. 

People are staying home more and more. It’s hard to even get them in the theaters even with IMAX and 3D.  Televisions got significantly better in the 1990’s and 2000’s.


Widescreen TV's changed aspect ratio at home. 

16x9 aspect ratio 

16x9 aspect ratio is also known as 1920x1080. 16x9 didn’t become the standard for televisions and computer monitors until 2010. A man named Dr. Kerns Powers came up with the ratio as a compromise to traditional broadcasting in the 1980’s.

Wide Angle Shot - Camera Movements and Angles- Lawrence of Arabia

Netflix prefers the 16x9 aspect ratio. 

Today, 16x9 is the preferred aspect ratio of Netflix. Netflix counts on people watching on their laptops and flatscreen TVs. If they’re watching a movie or show filmed in a different aspect ratio, Netflix will sometimes edit the program to fit their aspect ratio. 

There’s some controversy about it, so Netflix released a statement.


Netflix says...

“We want to offer the best picture and provide the original aspect ratio of any title on Netflix. However, unfortunately our quality controls sometimes fail and we end up offering the wrong version of a title. When we discover this error, we work to replace that title as soon as possible.”


Makes sure your home can handle the aspect ratios.

Cinema has struggled to keep up with the rise in home theaters. As Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu work to create more content, they’re also working to fix their aspect ratio problems so you can view anything you want at home without cropping.

That’s great news for creators, who can now switch up aspect ratios without feeling an obligation to the platform where it debuts.

How directors use aspect ratio

Technology now allows a director to pick whatever aspect ratio they want for their art. You might be hampered by where the movie is showcased, but you can now use aspect ratio to your advantage.

Take how Sean Baker used the iPhone to create an intimate portrait of the trans community in Tangerine. He understood that seeing the world through a lens and aspect ratio of an iPhone would paint an intimate picture.

This is a stunning work of aspect ratio art. 

Or what about Christopher Nolan’s choice to use IMAX cameras to make parts of Interstellar look like we were in the vast expanse of space? It felt big and scary. We were steeped in the unknown.

No one likes a large-format aspect ratio more than Nolan.

Recently, Paul Schrader used a 1.33 aspect ratio for his movie, First Reformed. It created a tinderbox of emotions and tension as the story progressed. We felt boxed in, like a caged animal ready to attack. That reflected the character’s story arc.

But what if you’re not shooting for the big screen? 

Paul Schrader knows how to work his aspect ratio. 

Understanding web aspect ratios

Most companies are producing videos for all kinds of content. They’re perfect for ads, tutorials, and to solidify your brand. So what are the aspect ratios for the most popular websites?

YouTube aspect ratio

Everyone wants to put videos on YouTube but only a few people know how. Lucky for you, we make a lot of YouTube content. So we know they work best with things shot in 16x9.

This is a 16x9 aspect ratio.

Instagram aspect ratio

Social Media is key to any advertising or video posting. Instagram shoots photos and videos in a square, but it supports four unique aspect ratios.

This means you can be flexible with what you post. 



Instagram's aspect ratio:

  1. Square (1:1 Aspect Ratio)
  2. Standard Horizontal (16:9 Aspect Ratio)
  3. Alt Horizontal (1.91 : 1 Aspect Ratio)
  4. Vertical (4:5 Aspect Ratio)

Facebook aspect ratio

Facebook supports 16x9, 9x16, 4:5, 2:3, and 1:1. That can help when you want to get your message across. You can upload phone videos, movie trailers, and fluidly share videos from all other social channels.


Your aspect ratio on Facebook is flexible.  

Twitter aspect ratio

When you tweet videos, you have to keep in mind that people will be scrolling when they see them. Twitter crops videos to make them fit their timeline. You may need an aspect ratio calculator to help you do the math.


Twitter's Format Guide says...

"Any aspect ratio between 2:1 and 1:1 is acceptable. For example, 1200 X 600 (2:1), 1200 X 800 (3:2) or 1200 X 1200 (1:1). After 1:1 aspect ratio (for example, 1200 X 1400) we'll crop to a 1:1 aspect ratio."


Up Next: Free Storyboard Templates!

So, you’re ready to make a new video project? Now that you’ve got the aspect ratio squared away, it’s time to plan your shots. We have some opinions on whose software is best for that, but we’ll let you decide.

We have a free storyboard template to help you plan your next masterpiece, and get it in the right aspect ratio. 

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