Univisium (macaronic Latin for "unity of images") is a proposed universal film format created by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC and his son, Fabrizio, to unify all future theatrical and television films into one respective aspect ratio of 2:1.

The Univisium 3-perf film proposed format frame


The 2:1 aspect ratio was first used in the 1950s (April 1, 1953) for one of the two flat formats that Universal Pictures developed (alongside 1.85:1),[1] the RKO Superscope format,[2][3] and as an option in several other cinematographic formats.[4] Another predecessor is Toho's Toho Pan Scope, used in the 1958 kaiju film Varan the Unbelievable and the 1957 Japanese re-release of Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (which in turn was the American localization of 1954's Godzilla), using an anamorphic process similar to Superscope with film shot on monochrome flat 1.37:1 before being cropped to 2:1 during editing,

The main proposalEdit

In 1998, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro announced his plans for a new film format, originally to be called Univision,[5] in an interview with International Photographer magazine.[6] As Storaro stated in his written proposal, "Recently, any movie – no matter how big or small, successful or not – will, after a very short life on the big screen, have a much longer life on an electronic screen. Today the answer print is made for both of these two different media. ...Having these two different media, with essentially two different aspect ratios, each of us (directors, production designers, cinematographers, camera Operators, etc.) shares the nightmare of compromising the composition of the Image. Looking through a viewfinder, a camera, or a monitor, we are always faced with at least two images of the same subject."[7]

Storaro feels in the future of cinema, films will be photographed in either high-definition video for small, intimate digital projection theaters, or in 65 mm for "big audience... large screen" films.[7] In the cinematographer's opinion, as all films will be one of the two formats, he suggests that a common aspect ratio compromise of 2.00:1 (mathematical average of 65 mm 2.20:1 and HD 1.78:1) be adopted for all films, 65 mm theatrical, HD theatrical and television.

As he told American Cinematographer writer Bob Fisher, "I believe it is very important for audiences to see films exactly the way they were composed by the director and cinematographer. This is a solution."[8]

35 mm Univisium camera proposalEdit

A simulated strip of 35 mm film in the proposed Univisium 2.00:1 3-perf format with two digital soundtracks present. At far left and far right, outside the perforations, is the SDDS soundtrack as an image of a digital signal. Between the perforations (on the left side) is the Dolby Digital soundtrack (note the tiny Dolby "Double D" logo in the center of each area between the perforations).

Storaro recognized that ubiquitous HD origination was not yet viable and therefore proposed an alteration to standard 35 mm photography to create a 2.00:1 aspect ratio and economize on film.

By using a negative area similar to that of the Super 35 frame (which utilizes the full width of a 35 mm film frame "perf-to-perf" as opposed to traditional 35 mm which utilizes a smaller area of the 35 mm frame offset to the right to accommodate space for an optical soundtrack) combined with 3-perf frame size (as opposed to standard 35 mm photography which uses four perforations per frame). The Univisium camera would use an aperture opening of 24mm × 12mm (.945" × .472") and three perforations per frame,[7] which would eliminate the waste associated with 2.40:1 Super 35 mm photography (wherein nearly 50% of the frame is discarded)[citation needed] by creating a natural 2.00:1 aspect ratio utilizing the whole film area.

In addition to using the full film area, using three perforations per frame as opposed to four equates to using 25% less film for the same shooting time. With the traditional four perforations per frame, 35 mm film (at 24 frames per second) runs at 90 feet per minute (4 minutes 26 seconds per 400 feet of film), three perforations per frame runs at 67.5 feet per minute (5 minutes 56 seconds per 400 feet of film).[9] This would mean each magazine of film would have 33% more shooting time and a production that shot the same overall length of time as a four-perforation film would use 25% less film.

The proposal also points out that the 2.00:1 aspect ratio can be achieved using standard spherical lenses, which, compared to their anamorphic counterparts, are cheaper, faster (require less light), and have more photographic depth of field and less visual imperfections. There are also a greater selection of spherical prime and zoom lenses than there are anamorphic lenses.

3-perf also results in a quieter camera than 4-perf as there is less intermittent movement per frame.

The format also calls for shooting 25 frames per second, which eliminates problems associated with transferring film to video in the PAL and SECAM system and is still fairly simple to transfer to the NTSC video format.

35 mm Univisium projection proposalEdit

Storaro suggests a renovation to standard film projectors to present a 3-perf frame and eliminate the need for an anamorphic print to be made (to optically squeeze the 2:1 3-perf aspect ratio into a 1.33:1 4-perf frame). As the image will fill the full film area (perf-to-perf) there is no room for a traditional optical soundtrack and Univisium requires two digital soundtracks, one for backup (which reside outside of the perforations on the edge of the film; DTS, Sony Dynamic Digital Sound, Dolby Digital). The projectors would run at 25 frames per second, just as the cameras do.[7]

As a compromise to standard technology (for the time being), Storaro says an anamorphic print can be made and presented in 24 frames per second with a digital and/or optical soundtrack.

However, with the rise of the DCP (Digital Cinema Package), the 2:1 image can be projected from a flat (1.85:1) container in either 2K (1998 × 999) or 4K (3996 × 1998), with mild letterboxing.

Univisium in useEdit

Although no film has utilized the full aspects of the proposal, particularly with regard to the projection standards, Storaro has since used Univisium for nearly all of his films.

Technovision[10] and Clairmont Cameras have altered Arriflex 435 and 535B cameras for use on Storaro films that use Univisium and 3-perf pull-down. Technicolor laboratories in Rome, London and Los Angeles also have the means to support the Univisium format.[8]

Additionally, Storaro has reframed many of his earlier widescreen releases for the 2.00:1 ratio upon DVD release, including Apocalypse Now, Reds, and The Last Emperor.[13] This has proved controversial with many film enthusiasts, who believe that regardless of Storaro's attempt to unify all aspect ratios, films should be viewed in the ratio they were filmed in, without any cropping. Due to this backlash, Apocalypse Now and Reds use their original aspect ratios for Blu-ray release.

Other films that were reframed to the Univisium aspect ratio on DVD include the 1998 DVD release of Top Gun (1986), the 1999 & 2004 DVDs of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and the original DVD release of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997).

The HDTV version of Halloween (1978) is cropped to the Univisium aspect ratio.

Many trailers of upcoming films from 20th Century Studios that are shot in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio are cropped to this format when they play ahead of any movies that were shot in 1.85:1.

According to IMDB technical specification statistics, there are over 700 titles with 2:1 aspect ratios, and the number has been growing in recent years.[14] Most films and TV shows that originate on streaming platforms are shot this way, although a small number of theatrical feature films use it.

Netflix production and post-production requirements state that they prefer content up to 2:1 aspect ratio; anything wider must be evaluated and discussed.[15]

Aspect ratio used in music videosEdit

Aspect ratio used in devicesEdit

Some mobile devices, such as the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, LG G6, LG V30, Google Pixel 2 XL, OnePlus 5T, Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact and Xiaomi Mi Max 3, use the 2:1 format (marketed as 18:9), although the aspect ratio had been used previously in 2000s devices such as the Nokia 7710.

Aspect ratio used in video gamesEdit

The 2017 game Sonic Forces used the Univisium aspect ratio for its cutscenes, both in-game and pre-rendered. The 2013 game Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch also used the Univisium aspect ratio for select in-game cutscenes, though most of the in-game cutscenes were in 16:9, while the full motion video traditional animation cutscenes were in 1.85:1.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Widescreen Documentation - 3dfilmarchive". www.3dfilmarchive.com.
  2. ^ "Widescreen Museum - CinemaScope Derivatives - Superscope 1". www.widescreenmuseum.com. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  3. ^ "The Aspect Ratio of 2.00 : 1 is Everywhere | VashiVisuals". vashivisuals.com. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  4. ^ John. "Widescreen.org". www.widescreen.org. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  5. ^ Univision is the original format name used in the proposal document (see External links) and in early interviews. It was likely changed to Univisium to avoid confusion with the Spanish-language Univision broadcast network.
  6. ^ "3 Perforation - Same Image Quality at Lower Costs". Arri. Archived from the original on 2008-12-08.
  7. ^ a b c d Storaro, Vittorio and Storaro, Fabrizio (1998). Univisium.
  8. ^ a b Fisher, Bob (February 2001). "Guiding Light" American Cinematographer Magazine. pp. 72–83
  9. ^ Holben, Jay & Bankston, Douglas (February 2000). "Inventive New Options for Film" American Cinematographer Magazine pp. 105-107
  10. ^ Kodak In Camera Magazine. (July 2004). "Storaro discussed making of Zapata" Retrieved June 27, 2006.
  11. ^ "DISCOVERY Filming in "Cinematic" 2:1 Aspect Ratio". Trek Core. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  12. ^ "The Woman Who Fell to Earth", pp. 22–23, Doctor Who Magazine, Issue 530, October 2018
  13. ^ Stuart, Jamie. "Storaro Talks Shop", Filmmaker Magazine, 2007-06-08. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
  14. ^ https://www.imdb.com/interfaces[user-generated source]
  15. ^ "Cameras and Image Capture".
  • Calhoun, John. Live Design Online "Two to Tango" Retrieved June 27, 2006.

External linksEdit