'Guardians of the Galaxy' Will Have Shifting Aspect Ratios in IMAX 3D

Look, it's like it's coming right at you!

Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy
Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy
Photo: Disney / Marvel

James Gunn revealed in a Facebook post his upcoming film, Guardians of the Galaxy will include shifting aspect ratios during the IMAX 3D presentation of the film, almost certainly in an effort to improve the look of the 3D, in an attempt to give the audience a more immersive experience.

Just got out of working on the Guardians cut for IMAX 3D and I'm unbelievably excited about it. Guardians of the Galaxy has been planned as a 3D film from its very inception. Yes, if you see the film in 2D, you'll get a full experience. But the 3D experience promises a little something extra. Unlike many directors, I've been actively involved with converting every shot to 3D, making sure it works perfectly for the story and the film, making sure it's spectacular and immersive without being silly, distracting, or overly showy. 3D conversion was once far inferior to shooting in 3D, but over the past couple years new technology has allowed us incredible control over the 3D effects, making it equal to or in some cases greater than shooting in 3D.

As an EXTRA benefit for those who see the film in IMAX 3D, we will be changing aspect ratios throughout the film in a way that makes the experience even fuller and more encompassing. I've personally chosen all the places where the changes occur and, again, I love how it's coming along. The changing aspect ratios in this case are actually a part of the storytelling.

Just wanted to share some of this stuff with you guys since I haven't had a chance to talk about the 3D much. Hope you're all having a great day. Hi!

I have to assume Gunn and cinematographer Ben Davis (Kick-Ass) shot the film in 1.85:1 and the shifting aspect ratio will bring it down to 2.35:1 for the selected IMAX 3D sequences, though IMDb lists the film as being shot for 2.35:1, which I have to assume is a guess considering all Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been 2.35 except for The Avengers. I don't know, just a guess.

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  • Shane O’Neal

    I saw a trailer for it when I saw Maleficent in IMAX 3D and it featured a shifting aspect ratio for brief scenes. Based on seeing the trailer also in the consistent 2:35 ratio, the "IMAX" scenes definitely look like they're opened up to 1:85:1 with information gained, so I guess it's kind of an open matte style to achieve both ratios.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      So it was a consistent 2.35? I would assume it would be a consistent 1.85 and shift to 2.35 to take advantage of the negative space at the top and bottom of the frame.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/chewbaca38/ Baca

        Yeah it's strange but the native ratio on this is 2:35. Probably just opening the frame to make the depth a little more apparent as opposed to having things come at the audience in the letterbox. Either way, going to see it in 2D.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          If they aren't going to open it to 1.44 or bring it down to 2.35 from 1.85 then I don't see the point.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/chewbaca38/ Baca

            Haha yeah I would say the only point is to put it in the marketing and get more people to buy 20 dollar Imax tickets.

          • Shane O’Neal

            It's hard for me to say if it went to 1.44 or not. It filled up the whole IMAX screen, but I was at one of those smaller, digital IMAX screens. I don't know if that makes a difference.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/chewbaca38/ Baca

              I think those digital screens only go up to a 1:78 but I could be wrong.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

                Max

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

              Yeah, then that's just 1.85.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

            The only IMAX screens that have a 1.44:1 ratio are the 70mm screens. Digital IMAX screens have a 1.78:1 ratio (basically the same as 1.85:1). And since I highly doubt Disney is cutting 70mm prints, there'd be no point.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

              Exactly

              • G1GACANN0N

                Sounds like they are doing the same thing as what they did with Skyfall (opening the frame to 1.9:1) to advertise that you're seeing "26% more picture, ONLY in IMAX" I doubt they are framing anything for the true full IMAX ratio of 1.44:1. At least Transformers: Age of Extinction has full frame true IMAX sequences!

              • Drew Sandoval

                G1gacannon, they aren't shooting in true 70mm Imax 1.44, The articles that came out prior to shooting, Michael Bay is the first to use the Phantom65 cameras (a 4k digital image) that the Imax company has retrofitted to be their digital camera. These cameras are all built to completely use the "full container" 1.9 pixel-readout and color space of the Imax digital projectors. These cameras aren't built to create 1.44 images with enough megapixels to fill the whole 80ft x 60ft film Imax screen.

              • G1GACANN0N

                Ah thanks for the correction Drew. What a shame they filmed Transformers with 4K and 5K cameras (they used Red Epics for some of it) and yet we have to watch it in 2K. Really wish Paramount would've opted for 70mm DMR prints of this movie so we could get some decent resolution!

  • Drew Sandoval

    To add confirm Baca's assesment, the movie was shot in anamorphic, so the native ratio for the film is 2.35. They would have to pillar-box to bring the image to 1.85 or 1.44.

    My personal guess is they are going to do the Star Trek 2/Dark Knight route, where interiors play out in 2.35, and for exteriors/larger set-pieces they will use more of the top/bottom of the screen and expand the height.

    Another point I wanted to bring up, is this is most likely being mastered for the digital Imax screens, not the massive 6-story 1.44 screens we all love so much. The perceived quality of a 1.44 screen is somewhere around 25 megapixels (6k at 1.44 aspect), and GOTG (shot on Arri Alexa) was shot around 6 megapixels (2.8k at 1.33 aspect for anamorphic process), so by the time you pillar box to 1.44, you could only have slightly over 3 megapixels to fill that enormous screen.

    Of course, GOTG will still show on the big 1.44 screens, just pillarboxed to 2.2 (Imax slightly pillar boxes 2.35 movies). Even pillar boxed to 2.2, on the 1.44 screens I think there is still 10=20% more image than on a digital Imax screen.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

      If it was shot anamorphic (per IMDb it was) then the expanding picture is actually a massive cheat. It's actually a narrower image, just blown up. Unless he planned it ahead of time and shot those scenes without the anamorphic lenses (regular 1.78:1 digital). Or perhaps anamorphic somehow works differently for digital than for film? I'm not sure to be honest. The difference with Star Trek and the last two Dark Knight films (as well as Catching Fire, M:1-4, and I think Transformers 2 and maybe 3) is that all of those had sequences actually shot with IMAX cameras, so the taller image was captured naturally. So yeah, this has been done before so it's really nothing new.

      • Drew Sandoval

        Yeah Ian, digital anamorphic operates on the same principle as film anamorphic, these new Alexa XT cameras actually have 4:3 sensors in them (not 16:9), and in post each pixel is stretched to give the native 2.35 aspect ratio. All those movies you mention (except Transformers 3) did have sequences in them shot on actual 1.44 70mm IMAX film.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/JohnW.Creasy/ John W. Creasy

    Um . . . translation, please? For those of us who don't equate 2.35 and 1:85:1 etc. into what we actually see when we watch the movie, what does that stuff mean? I apologize for the ignorance, but could someone provide a couple examples of famous movie shots filmed in different ratios for some context for the layman?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Best examples are to look right here.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/JohnW.Creasy/ John W. Creasy

        Okay, so during the movie, the geometry of the visual rectangle will suddenly change, like in The Dark Knight when it went to the I-Max shots (like the Joker's entrance and a few of the China wide shots) and the screen image was suddenly closer to a big-ass square than the usual narrower rectangle.
        Thanks!
        (I love movies, but I don't know much about the technical side.)

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          Yup, though that's what we've been debating here, just how will it change and why? if it goes from 1.85 to 2.35 that would suggest more negative space (letterboxing) at the top and bottom of the frame, which would allow the digital 3D images to go into that space adding additional depth to the image.

          • Drew Sandoval

            You know, I was just thinking, it could also mean the image in GOTG goes the other way. The digital Imax screen I just watched Maleficent on was a 2.35 screen, it went wall to wall, top to bottom, filled up the whole space. On that screen, a 1.85 from would be pilarboxed out of the maximum 2.35 frame to appear "smaller." It would also mean that in standard cinemas where you get the 2.35 frame though out, you would be getting "more image" throughout the whole movie.

    • ☢ Major Omniscient ☢

      2.35:1 is what most action films are shot in because the extra width allows you to see more of the action. 1.85:1 is much squarer and is the approximate ratio of your widescreen TV (assuming you have one - the exact ratio is 1.78:1). That's why if you're watching an action movie on your TV there are typically black bars above and below. Some movies go as wide as 2.40:1.

      • Drew Sandoval

        I can appreciate alot of what you write here Major, but I take umbrage with "the extra width allows you to see more of the action." You actually point out later in your comment that on a 1.78 tv you have to add black bars to get the 2.35 frame, so all that wasted space on a tv means you are very definitely seeing less.

        Also, in terms of actual photography, you are often seeing less in the 2.35 aspect ratio. Their are two processes to achieve 2.35, one is the anamorphic process, where the lens has what is essentially a magnifier as a element, and it squeezes a larger field of view onto the 1.85 film/sensor (when projecting the movie back their is a reverse magnifying glass that unsqeezes the image back into the 2.35 aspect ratio). The other process is super35, where you shoot a 1.85 frame, and then chop off the top and bottom to achieve 2.35. If you leave our hypothetical camera in the same place looking at an object, anamorphic 2.35 allows you to see horizontally more of the object than than 1.85, but for super35 2.35 you are actually seeing less of the object (vertically) than 1.85.

        Lots of filmmakers love the super35 process over the anamorphic process (it is easier to work in super35, also up until the last few years nobody manufactured new anamorphic lenses, so shooting on those lenses meant you were using lens technology from the 70s). Spielberg gave up anamorphic in the 90s to only shoot super35 (he did return to anamorphic for Indy4 so it could better match the look of the earlier films), Cameron loves super35, noted dp Roger Deakins only shoots super35.

        Also, to continue on this tangent, although most people will carelessly describe 2.35 as "more cinematic," there are many very cinematic movies shot in 1.85 (probably the most gorgeous movie I have ever seen, The Fall, is 1.85, along with Jurrasic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Aliens, Back to the Future, etc etc).

        1.85 is able to create a vertical scale that is much more difficult to achieve in 2.35. Compare the presentation of Hulk in Avengers (1.85) to Incredible Hulk (2.35). When doing a full body shot of Hulk, he will take up a much larger portion of the frame than in 2.35, which makes him feel much bigger, and less like a piece of the landscape (which I find is a problem in the 2.35 Transformer movies, Bay often has a hard time presenting the robots as tall because the framing often keys into the horizontal over the vertical).

        Also, as another quick tidbit, the Burton/Schumacher Batman films, the first Raimi Spider-Man and Hellboy movies all chose to shoot in 1.85 because the frame allowed from to closer mimic the page size of a comic book panel.

        Also, 2.35 doesn't necessarily mean you are getting a more immersive experience as a viewer. Theaters have different rooms to show different ratio movies, so that in the theater, the aspect ratio will take up as much of that silver screen wall as possible. But you can never really be sure you are getting the best experience. I have been in screening rooms where they play the previews in 1.85, and then the screen mechanically widens out to reveal the 2.35 frame. "Great," I think. "An even bigger screen!" But I have also been in theaters where the screen will play a trailer in 1.85, and then mechanically the screen letterboxes itself to 2.35. And in an informal search on the internet, I think that a 2.35 frame being spatially smaller an a 1.85 frame in a theater is more common than the reverse. 2.35 doesn't promise a "bigger" experience for the viewer.

        I guess which brings me all back to the OP's comment. There are many creative and technical reasons filmmakers choose a 2.35 frame over a 1.85 (or 1.33, as is starting to become popular on indie screens), but it is almost never about seeing more action, either during production or during the theatrical experience.

        • Drew Sandoval

          I may have written to much on this subject so far, but I wanted to add a few more notes I have found in recent internet searches...

          Yes, there was a point in time when the 2.35 aspect ratio was truly a larger image (measured by square feet) than 1.85 projected in the same movie theater (this was due to the anamorphic glass element actually stretching the projection wider than 1.85). Those times are over.

          New digital movie theaters are all built on a 1.9 aspect ratio standard. A 4k digital projector has a maximum image ratio ("full container" to those in the know) of 4096×2160. This full readout is rarely used however.

          For movies in 1.85, a 4k projector projects 3996×2160 (8.6megapixels) of its pixel readout, and for 2.35 the pixel readout is 4096×1716 (7 megapixels).

          In a very real sense, comparing 1.85 to 2.35 on the same screen, with digital projection the 1.85 will take up much more 22% more silver screen than 2.35. In a very real sense, these new digital projectors render 1.85 as a bigger, and more immersive (it will take up a larger portion of your field of view) experience than 2.35.

          Of course, if your want the most immersive experience possible by modern digital projector technology, you would shoot your movie in 1.9, and use the "full container" pixel readout of the digital projector.

          It is worth noting, when Skyfall did it's special Imax release a few years back, 1.9 is the ratio Imax presented the movie in to make the most of the digital projectors (as well as the most of the captured image, which was actually captured on a 1.78 digital sensor and letterboxed to 2.35 for general release).

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

    I'll take the easy route and go 2D.