What Is Aspect Ratio In Video? A Best Beginners Guide 2023

What’s up with all those different aspect ratios and what should you use. It is really confusing when you see people using different aspect ratios like 4:3, 16:9. 2,35:1. In this article, I will discuss what is aspect ratio in video and why you should choose one over the other and one uncommon question is “does aspect ratio matter” ?. So please stick around to the end of the article.

what is aspect ratio in video

What is aspect ratio in video?

Before beginning let’s talk about what is aspect ratio in the video. The online definition of an aspect ratio is the ratio of its width to the height of an image. Let’s take 1080p a full HD image as an example. The proper value would be 1920 * 1080. The image has 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically. Now if we go by the definition of aspect ratio which is the ratio of width to height we will get 1920/1080. Next, calculate the HCF of the numbers 1920 and 1080. The result will be 120. Now divide both the no 1920 and 1080 by 120, and you will get 16 and 9 as your answer. Well, that’s our ratio of 16:9. We can get further answers by dividing 16 by 9 but that will come out in decimal form. So that’s how you calculate an aspect ratio.

Note that the aspect ratio is different from your screen resolution. There is a distinctive difference between aspect ratio and resolution.  You can confirm that logic by simply following the above mathematical technique on different resolutions. Like 1280*720 (720p), 1920*1080(1080p), 2048*1152 (2k). You will find that all of them follow an aspect ratio of 16:9 but has different pixel value in both height and width.

aspect ratio and resolution

In Hollywood now, most movies are shot in either 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 aspect ratio. But in the past when films were used in movies most movies had an aspect ratio of 4:3. That’s why most of the older TVs looked like boxes, almost square in size because they had an aspect ratio of 4:3.


4:3 , 1.37:1(academy ratio), 2.59:1(cinerama), 2.35:1(cinemascope/panavision), 1.85:1(vistavision), 2.20(super panavision), 2.76:1(MGM 65), 1.43:1(IMAX).

which aspect ratio is best

16:9 is more common and why it is important?

Since 2009 16:9 became the most common aspect ratio for television, digital television, computer monitors, etc. If you have any modern laptop or monitor then there would probably be a good chance that it is of the aspect ratio of 16:9. So why it is so important?

If I consider the aspect ratio of a video, then the different filmmaker has a different taste or use of aspect ratio as per their project. Because we know that an aspect ratio can play a part in expressing mood and emotions, time, experience, etc. Filmmakers also wanted to include more scenery and backdrops into the scene so they leaned towards the 16:9 aspect ratio, and in this case, they started avoiding 4:3 aspect ratio.

Earlier 4:3 aspect ratio was used widely but now LCD monitors with an aspect ratio of 4:3 are getting hard to find as most of the manufacturers stopped manufacturing 4:3 LCD monitors and now they are shifting their focus to manufacturing 16:9 LCD panels for monitors.

In short, it is the shape of this new generation as all new devices and social media follow dominantly this aspect ratio. Like when you see television like HDTV, FullHD TVs, 2k, 4k they all follow 16:9 aspect ratio.

Cinematic aspect ratios :

People often consider wider aspect ratios as cinematic aspect ratios. Because when we see a movie having an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor two black bars, one at the top and another at the bottom appears in our video players. And wider aspect ratios are popular for more dramatic, adventurous movies. So now as we are used to this, certain things have changed in how we see a video.

 Letterboxing is often associated with being cinematic. Letterboxing is a practice of transferring or illusion of making a video wider by giving black bars on both the top and bottom. Although I would never recommend this approach as it is not very feasible when it comes to adapting to different screen sizes. Sometimes in wider screen size, it can create additional black bars on both left and right sides making it an unpleasant experience.

Different aspect ratios feel :

Which aspect ratio is best?  There is no such thing as the best aspect ratio. So why there are so many aspect ratios and why do filmmakers deliberately use different aspect ratios in their feature films or commercials etc.  Aspect ratios make an impact on our brain unconsciously which directors and filmmakers take advantage of.

For example, a video with a 4:3 aspect ratio feels like video from old times. This is because we are used to considering square video format to the old movies as old movies were filmed in films which were in 4:3 aspect ratio. And wider videos can give a sense of a more modern, adventurous, and cinematic vibe to the video.

If the film has taller elements in it like buildings then using the 16:9 aspect ratio makes more sense. And when you want to include more landscapes into one scene then choosing a wider aspect ratio over a narrower aspect ratio is better. A wider aspect ratio is used when there is drama to give you a feel of aesthetic moods.

Aspect ratio is one of the settings or establishments in creating a mood. Color grading also plays an important role in emphasizing moods in a scene. The aspect ratio is a crucial element of visual storytelling.

Vertical Video trends in social media :

So when you want to make videos for social media platforms, sometimes it can be very confusing as to which ratio you should be using and what common size should be your video so that it fits all smartphone devices perfectly. So in this article, I will demystify the common video ratio that will fit your social media platform. 

As mentioned above there can be different aspect ratios for different video styles, but when we talk about social media, nowadays vertical videos are in trend. In Platforms like Facebook feed, TikTok, Instagram reels, YouTube shorts, and WhatsApp status people excessively use vertical videos. Although in my view it suits videos with very short stories or messages. Making a whole movie or feature film is not feasible. 

You can use a 1:1 or 4:5 ratio for Facebook.

The aspect ratio for Instagram feed is 1:1 or 4:5 ratio.

For IGTV and Instagram stories 9:16.

We should avoid the 9:16 aspect ratio because it is often cut off in many new feeds.

Conclusion :

Now that we have an understanding of what is aspect ratio in video? You may be confused about what aspect ratio to use. But before that please read the following.  As you can see there are so many aspect ratios available, and you can also experiment with your own aspect ratio. So choosing an aspect ratio may be difficult only if you are not sure about what you want to tell your audience. First, be sure of what story you want to show your audience then choose an aspect ratio. Because the aspect ratio is only there to emphasize the mood and feel of the story. Only the story and direction of the movie will make the audience feel WOW.

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