Movies Tech

1:1 is the New 4×3

In the past few weeks, square crops of movie trailers have been showing up, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. They were clearly created for the benefit of viewers using a phone in portrait orientation.

People in my extended Twitter circles noticed and expressed their displeasure:

You know what, I’m totally fine with cropping a 2.35:1 trailer to 1:1. You are marketing your motion picture in a different medium. Conform to that medium. Watch the whole movie 1:1 on a phone? No. But a trailer, solely meant to generate interest in a film. Sure.

And this from the aspect ratio guy.

Most of the square videos are straight, center crops of the trailer, with some shots reframed to focus on the action within the frame. Spider-Man: Homecoming adds a pan-and-scan to some shots as well. I stacked the regular trailer on top of the 1:1 version for comparison:

The biggest surprise for me was that the shot compositions are mostly not horrible when cropped to a square. Not great, but not the worst thing ever. The post-pans, though…ugh.

For marketing The Fate of the Furious and Ghost in the Shell, the studio cut custom ads for the 1:1 format instead of just cropping the trailer:

I think we’ll start to see more clips like these that were conceived of, and designed for 1:1 from the beginning.

In this clip from the excellent Netflix series, Abstract, stage designer Es Devlin talking about the effect of Instagram on composing images for concerts:

So, I’m ok with square ads for rectangular movies the same way that I was ok with non-letterbox ads for Back to the Future on TV.

It’s fine. It’s an ad, not the movie. 1:1 in your Twitter feed is the new 4×3 pan-and-scan commercial on your tube TV.

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