Sunday, 14 December 2014

Aspect Ratios Explained

Standard aspect ratios: SD, HD and super HD
Aspect ratios are one of the more technical aspects of our business - confusing when you don't understand it, and on the face of it a bunch of random numbers.  It can all be pretty hard to fathom, with lots of geeky acronyms and odd terminology.  That said, a basic understanding of aspect ratios is necessary for all digital artists - it's how we configure our work for the screen. When you render your shot, and when you edit your work in Premiere or Final Cut, you will have to make choices as to what aspect ratio to select.  So, to take the pain away, here's a link to an excellent blog post - aimed at digital editors - to explain all these confusing terms and what they mean.  And below is a brief summary of how it all works.

16:9 - Image: Wikipedia
The Main Thing To Know - 16:9

The main number is need to keep in your head is a simple ratio: 16:9Nowadays, almost all digital outputs follow this basic ratio. It is described by Wikipedia as "universal for high-definition television and European digital television".  In short, it has become the global standard.

A 16 to 9 ratio means 16 units across the top (horizontally), and 9 along the side (vertically). Stick to this standard ratio when you are rendering your animation - and you won't go wrong. It's the same size as your laptop, your TV, and also fits YouTube. In short - pretty much everything.
A 16 by 9 screen. Photo: Wikipedia
For most purposes, you can render at HD, or "High Definition". HD is 1280 pixels across the top and 720 pixels along the side. This is broadcast quality - suitable for broadcast on TV, and good enough for us at Bucks. It is high enough quality to make a good image, but won't produce huge files that will take forever to render and massively slow down your work flow. This is the aspect ratio we recommend our students use for their final renders.

If you want to get fancy, you can render at 1920 by 1080, also known as "2K", which is generally used for theatrical release in movie theatres. It is very high quality - but very slow. 

If render time is short, and you are only planning on showing your work on YouTube or some other small screen, try rendering at 720 by 486, also known as "1/2 k", "SD", or "Standard Definition". This will give you a quick result, especially useful if you are doing a test render, and just want to see how your work will come out.

For more detail, follow the blog post here:

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.  

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