Understanding Video Aspect Ratios and How It Can Affect Your Video Quality
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, DVDs came with the option for users to select between widescreen and full-screen. If you choose the wrong format, part of the screen was either cut off or thick black bars appear around the screen.
As standard television screen size went for a wider format from a 4:3 width-to-height ratio, filmmakers began to create movies that are compatible with both screens.
Today, video aspect ratios have become more standardized. Broadcasters and content creators pay extra attention to the screen width-to-length ratios for their videos, also known as the video aspect ratio.
In this article, we will discuss in detail what video aspect ratios really are, and the commonly used ratios and video resolutions. [U1]
Video Aspect Ratio Explained
In simple terms, video aspect ratio refers to the width of the video or screen in relation to its height, which is typically measured in pixels (px). The numbers indicated in the ratio do not necessarily represent the height and width in terms of pixels. A video with a 16:9 aspect ratio, for instance, doesn’t mean it has a width of 16 px and a height of 9 px. Logically, you won’t be able to view such a small video. A resolution that uses the 16:9 aspect ratio format is, in fact, a 1920px by 1080-px (Full HD) video.
Video Aspect Ratio and Video Resolution
Video aspect ratio and resolution go together. As such, every aspect ratio has several recommended resolutions to go with.
When you multiply the width by the height, you’ll get the video aspect ratio. This is how you’ll know the number of square pixels available on the screen. On the other hand, dividing the width by the height of the video will give you the resolution. The higher the resolution, the higher the quality of the video.
If you want a smaller file size for your video, having a lower video quality will give you this result. The best way to do this is to shoot the video at the highest HD streaming quality and make copies with lower resolution using encoding software.
Different Aspect Ratios and Their Uses
No aspect ratio is compatible with all video platforms. Different platforms have specific aspect ratio requirements. Videos that are published on social media differ from movies or trailers that are being shown in theaters. There are also standard aspect ratios for modern television. This is why it is important to understand the platform requirements, how the video will be viewed and what purpose will it serve before choosing the video aspect ratio.
Custom aspect ratios are not widely used since most videos are broadcasted through standard online video platforms. However, broadcasters are free to use any aspect ratio that works best for their content and target audience.
Here are a few examples of aspect ratios that are typically used for live streaming and other video creation:
This ratio is known as the “widescreen” format. A video with a 16:9 aspect ratio is a wide rectangle and is often referred to as 1.71:1. Mathematically, this ratio is the most simplified format.
The 16:9 aspect ratio is considered the international standard format for television, theater and major online streaming channels. This is the reason why most video creators use the 16:9 aspect ratio when creating videos and hosting a live stream. Many video sites also adopted the 16:9 aspect ratio as their standard live streaming format.
The 16:9 aspect ratio is the most common size for video players and also the usual default setting in most video capture devices, whether professional- or consumer-grade. The best resolution you can get with the 16:9 aspect ratio is 4k or 4096 by 2160 pixels.
The 16:10 aspect ratio used to be the international standard. However, since 16:9 screens provide a higher resolution, it became the most popular aspect ratio, replacing 16:10. Video producers are able to save time and money in research due to the standardization of both televisions and computer monitors. It has also become more cost-effective to create screens that are compatible with the 16:9 aspect ratios.
Back when square television sets are popular, the 1:1 video aspect ratio had typically been used due to its perfect square dimension. As digital innovations advanced, the 1:1 aspect ratio lost its popularity as devices that support it were no longer in production.
Some social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, still utilize this aspect ratio. Also, many cameras still feature this perfect square setting.
The 4:3 aspect ratio is also known as the “Academy” format, which was commonly used in most films produced before the 1950s. Before 16:10 and 16:9 aspect ratios became the standard, the 4:3 aspect ratio was the international standard for traditional television and computer monitors. However, when 16:10 and 16:9 aspect ratios allowed greater video resolution for HDTVs, 4:3 started becoming obsolete even as early as the 1950s.
In the past years, however, the movie industry has seen a resurgence of the 4:3 aspect ratio as more filmmakers embrace it in feature-length stories.
Originally, the 3:2 aspect ratio was used for classic 35-mm still photography. With the advancement of video technology, broadcasters rarely used this aspect ratio in today’s standards.
The 3:2 aspect ratio setting can still be seen in most micro- to medium-sized cameras. Some laptops, tablets and portable game consoles also utilize 3:2.
The 21:9 aspect ratio is known as the ultra-widescreen or cinematic widescreen format. It is considered to have one of the best pixel-to-pixel resolutions in terms of screen real estate.
Films with an anamorphic format commonly use this aspect ratio to create an optical illusion that provides an ultra-wide 360-degree view. Filmmakers nowadays aim to make their viewers feel like being in the video rather than just watching it from the outside looking in. By using the 21:9 aspect ratio, video creators allow viewers to have a more immersive experience.
Since the successful release of smartphones with video capabilities, tall videos have become popular. This eventually gave rise to the 9:16 aspect ratio as it provides greater height rather than width.
Most smartphone camera settings can record video footage in both 9:16 and 16:9. This is why the optimal measure for Instagram stories, or even in other “story” features supported by other apps, is 1080 px by 1920 px, reflecting the 9:19 aspect ratio.
Choosing the Best Aspect Ratio for Videos
The most commonly used aspect ratio is 16:9. Since almost all devices support 16:9, broadcasters find it easier to format their video contents using this aspect ratio. More importantly, using the 16:9 aspect ratio can support the highest resolution.
However, this does not imply that 16:9 is the best aspect ratio. To determine which aspect ratio best suits your video, it is important to first consider its purpose and the platform where the video will be posted.
Choosing the Best Aspect Ratios for Live Streaming
The lack of post-production editing in hosting a live broadcast makes it extra challenging. As such, proper planning is required since your content will immediately be consumed by your audience the moment it is created. To ensure the best video quality for your live stream, it is recommended to use a video aspect ratio that follows the standard video streaming protocol. This demands two important things, namely universal playback and relatively small file size. Using the 16:9 aspect ratio allows you to cross out both.
Since 16:9 is the international standard for aspect ratio and resolution, there is no need to worry about it not being compatible with other video players or devices. It is also highly important that when broadcasting live, the video aspect ratio you are using with your recording equipment must be compatible with the streaming platform you are using. Since you won’t have the chance to edit or reshoot your live broadcast, you wouldn’t want anything to be cut out of the screen.
Video aspect ratio plays a crucial role in providing excellent video quality. Hence, broadcasters need to select the correct video aspect ratio for their content.
Let’s recap what we have discussed in this article:
- Video Aspect Ratio Explained
- Video Aspect Ratio and Video Resolution
- Different Aspect Ratios and Their Uses
- Choosing the Best Aspect Ratio for Videos
- Choosing the Best Aspect Ratios for Live Streaming
Do you have any other thoughts about video aspect ratios? Let us know in the comments below!