John Hess provides an 18-minute history lesson on the shape of modern film and TV projection, explaining the shape of what we see and how it has varied so widely since the first arbitrary decision of William Kennedy Dickson in the Edison Laboratory back in 1889. Includes the 1932 Academy Ratio, Paramount Pictures' VistaVision from 1954 (in which The Ten Commandments was filmed), and the 16:9 aspect ratio devised by Kerns H. Powers in the 1980s, which now governs the screen size of all HDTV sets.
The Changing Shape of Cinema: The History of Aspect Ratio from FilmmakerIQ.com on Vimeo.
Film: Dickson Greeting, c.1891
Film: Fred Ott's Sneeze, 1894
Film: Patton (George C. Scott's opening speech), 1970