If you’re shooting a commercial video, expect to deliver it in a few different formats. “In the age of new media, very rarely are we asked to create something in just one size,” says Kavanaugh. “One of my first questions when we sit down with a client is, ‘Where is this going to play?’ Ninety percent of the time, the answer is ‘We want it all. We want it to play on a variety of formats.’”
How to switch aspect ratios.
You can fix a lot in post-production. If you’re shooting in 4K or higher, that high resolution will allow you to use any portion of the frame. You can change the aspect ratio of any video in Premiere Pro by creating a new sequence, clicking on Settings, and then adjusting the frame size.
Reconciling various formats.
There are many ways to change format type. If you have 16:9 footage, but you want all of your video to show up on a 4:3 TV, you can insert black bands above and below your image.
You can also avoid letterboxing by panning and scanning. In Premiere Pro, click Settings, and set the vertical frame of your sequence to match the vertical frame of your 16:9 footage. This will crop the edges of your widescreen video, so, to ensure you keep the important action in that smaller frame, you may have to pan left or right.
Problems arise when your video has a lot of action. “If you’re working in a very dynamic environment where things are moving and you need that movement throughout a horizontal frame to tell the story, figure out a strategy for how you’re going to keep enough of that information in that portion of the frame,” Kavanaugh says. Panning and scanning can be time-consuming, but it’s the easiest way to solve that problem.
Mixing things up.
Some filmmakers work with various aspect ratios in the same project. Wes Anderson did this to great effect in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He used the Academy Ratio for most of the film, since it takes place in the 1930s, then switched to 2.35 ratio for action that took place in the 1960s, and switched again to a 1.85 ratio for its “present-day” action of the 1980s.
If filmmakers like Anderson inspire you, try varying aspect ratios in your own work. When you import assets, Premiere Pro preserves the frame aspect ratio, pixel aspect ratio, and frame dimensions whenever possible so the asset does not appear cropped or distorted. Create different sequences and manually adjust the aspect ratios to ensure that you don’t accidentally crop any footage.
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From feature films to sizzle reels, think about how your video will be viewed before you start shooting. If you know most people will watch it on their phones, you can avoid editing room headaches by constructing your shot list with a square or vertical aspect ratio in mind. If you want your work to play on various formats, and you want it to look great on all of them, you might just have to shoot some scenes twice with different types of shots. As with most creative decisions, the key is to think ahead and think through the tough questions: Which aspect ratio fits with how people are most likely to view your work? Which ratio will serve your story? Can you reconcile the two?