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Widescreen Shot

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People Sit on Chairs... in CinemaScope!

Widescreen films relying on wide Aspect Ratio shots to show themselves off. At first, these were largely landscape shots, but as they didn't give people headaches, they were a lot more successful than 3-D films, and have become an integral part of Scenery Porn.

Later on directors such as David Lean and Akira Kurosawa used the format for more artistic shots, to the point where their widescreen films actually lose a lot in being cropped to 4:3 ratio.

Although landscapes are still some of the most common forms of widescreen showing shots, others include people far apart from each other or showing a huge crowd of people.

One definite gimmick form of this is showing a shot in normal screen ratio, and then having it spread out to widescreen.

Film studios also marketed their respective widescreen formats in the early days (since they each used tech that could be patented), even if most were essentially the same result (a wider camera and screen), except for Cinerama (which utilized three synchronized projectors and a deeply curved screen).


Compare Letterbox, Visual Compression (both are ways to try to fit widescreen into normal ratio), 3-D Movie, Shoot the Money.

Contrast Pan and Scan.

Notable shots in films:

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  • Widescreen actually dates to the beginning of the sound era, where a few movies such as The Big Trail were made in the widescreen format. But all of those movies were bombs, and Hollywood reverted back to 4:3 for another 20 years, until widescreen came back as a way to lure viewers back from the new medium of television.
  • The desert shots in Lawrence of Arabia
  • Peter Jackson is famous for these, often placing important elements at the far ends of the screen.
  • Wes Anderson is the exact opposite, often placing characters dead-center with huge amounts of colorful space surrounding them.
  • One of the few memorable images in Pearl Harbor was the shot of the Japanese planes flying in from behind the camera.
  • The Star Destroyer shot in A New Hope. The Fullscreen version still shows the Rebel cruiser as far smaller than the Star Destroyer.
  • In the 1996 film Evita, director Alan Parker milks the widescreen format for absolutely everything it's worth. The filmmakers even managed to get their hands on the widest-angle anamorphic lens ever made in order to fit everything in.
  • The Sandlot is full of this, and uses some very wide lenses.
  • Kurosawa was fond of shots of Samurai standing far apart from each other, and was referenced at the end of Kill Bill part 1.
  • The final graveyard scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Harold Ramis joked that when Ghostbusters (1984) is shown in a cropped version he's cut out of every group shot since the film can only fit all the actors standing in a row in widescreen.
  • Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? has a brief intermission where the Cinemascope screen shrinks down to a tiny square, for those in the audience who are accustomed to watching television. The screen can scarcely show Tony Randall in full view, and he has to crouch down to get his head in the shot.
  • The Girl Can't Help It had a similar opening trick.
  • Several tournament shots in A Knight's Tale.
  • 1956's Around the World in Eighty Days begins with a small, square introduction, matching the old footage of A Trip to the Moon used therein, and then the screen widens out dramatically to show off the 70mm format.
  • Two Oscar-winning movie musicals that Robert Wise directed, West Side Story and The Sound of Music, begin with aerial pans across the landscape of the respective movie's setting (either Manhattan or Austria).
  • Galaxy Quest has an interesting version of this. The opening shots of the film is footage from the (fictional) television series, and shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Then the first quarter or so of the movie is the flat aspect ratio (1.85:1), before opening up the the scope ratio of 2.35:1 on a sprawling space vista.
  • The same thing is done in The Horse Whisperer, with the widescreen not being used until the film gets to Montana to make the landscapes even more impressive.
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets starts off with grainy old NASA footage in 4:3, then widens out to a CinemaScope vista of the International Space Station - in perfect time with David Bowie's Space Oddity.
  • River of No Return, Otto Preminger's first movie in CinemaScope, uses wide-screen composition effectively in two scenes: one where Kay is singing "One Silver Dollar" while Matt circles the stage around her tent, and one where Weston carries Kay ashore in medium shot as her abandoned suitcase floats down the river towards the right of the screen.
  • The final reel of Disney's True-Life Adventure feature Secrets of Life was filmed in CinemaScope.
  • Logan makes extensive use of wide shots of the landscape, where the focal point of the action (such as cars driving along a dusty road) is almost an incidental detail in the distance. Logan Noir, the black and white edit of the film released on the Blu-Ray, even has a Logo Joke using the old CinemaScope title card.
  • Similar to Galaxy Quest and The Horse Whisperer, The Hindenburg (1975) starts out in standard Academy Ratio (4:3), as it opens with stock newsreels. It then suddenly switches to a CinemaScope shot of the titular zeppelin sitting in front of its hangar.

     Live-Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show did a sketch where a widescreen film was being shown on TV with the Pan and Scan being done as it was being broadcast, resulting in missing just about every action of note.
  • Some episodes of Cheers, when remastered for high definition and the 16:9 aspect ratio, reveal the curtain on the left side of the of the bar set, which was not visible when episodes originally aired in 4:3.
  • Joss Whedon deliberately put several of these in the Firefly pilot, to force the studio to broadcast the show in widescreen format. The network's response was that they would broadcast the pilot (at the end of the series) in widescreen, so long as he never pulled this stunt again so they could air the rest of the series in 4:3. (A good example of how short-sighted the executives who cancelled the show were: less than a decade later, the series thrives exclusively on widescreen DVD, and all broadcasting is done in widescreen.)

     Web Animation 

     Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in the Classic Disney Short "Grand Canyonscope", where Ranger Woodlore encourages a crowd of visitors to the Grand Canyon to spread out because they're in Cinemascope.

  • The 1973 Belmont Stakes managed to pull one of these off by pulling the camera as far back as humanly possible when Secretariat — who would go on to demolish the competition with a 31-length win — rounded the far turn and began roaring down the backstretch. In fact, race caller Chic Anderson originally called the race as a 25-length victory, and it took careful analysis of that very widescreen shot to confirm the actual numbers.
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "Tom's Photo Finish", Tom is resting on the left side on the screen and does a Wild Take where his head pops off his body and goes to the right side.
  • On occasion, Disney movies will start in one aspect ratio, then switch to a wider one once the story takes off. Brother Bear and Enchanted begin in a 1.78:1 ratio, while Oz the Great and Powerful begins in the 1.33:1 Academy Ratio (as a homage to the classic MGM Film). The intended effect is lost somewhat on home video as these opening ratios are windowboxed into the 2.35:1 frames the movies eventually expand to.
  • The 2013 Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse! begins with a small 1.33:1 screen showing a black-and-white cartoon. Once Mickey bursts through the screen into color, the lights turn on to reveal that the theater's stage in 2.35:1 ratio. In addition, Mickey pulls back the stage curtains, turning the 1.33:1 theater screen (with rounded corners) into a 16:9 screen (with sharp edges).
  • The Gravity Falls episode "Not What He Seems" has several, from the whole newspaper headtitle to Stan's zero-gravity fight, but the best should be the scene in front of the portal with Stan in one side of the room and the kids and Soos on the other. If you have a 4:3 TV you would only see an empty rocky wall.


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