Filmmakers have more tools than ever at their disposal to convey themes, emotions, and other narrative elements of their films. One of the most subtle and frequently ignored by audiences is the use of the aspect ratio. Usually it’s not noticed unless the filmmaker draws specific attention to it, like in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. In that film, each time period in the story within a story within a story with a story is represented by a different aspect ratio in keeping with the time period or type of camera that would be used in that instance.
YouTube user Now You See It goes into great detail about the different aspect ratios possible for use by filmmakers, along with the history of each and what they can mean within the film’s context. For example, wider aspect ratios for space scenes make the cosmos appear even larger in scale while smaller aspect ratios represent either an older time or a character who is constrained by something (internal or external). It’s a fascinating and educational look at filmmaking and the decisions directors make in order to better convey their stories.