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Is The Golden Ratio In Design BS?

By Blog, Video Editing One Comment

In design, there’s something know as the “Golden Number,” the “divine number,” and a myriad of other mystical names. I’m going to ignore the math behind it and state plainly that it’s 1.618033987, it is based on some simple algebra/trigonometry, about which I have no problem. Very nice. Supposedly it is a mathematical concept that nature obeys.  As the visual learner I am, let’s take a look at the Golden Number in design. Here it is applied to the ratio of a rectangle:


(Image Source:

Now let’s look as some of its implications in nature/human history.

mona-lisa-golden ratio

(Image Source: in2visualdesign)


(Image Source:


(Image Source:


(Image Source:

The Mona Lisa painting reminds me of a Dan Brown novel, but the takeaway is that certain designers/videographers believe that through our built in appreciation of the Divine Number, paintings like Mona Lisa have greater affected us. It could easily be assumed that this “Golden Number” is rampant throughout nature, and thus must be the key to making good design. However any logical person must question the existence and presence of a Golden Number. There are two fundamental flaws:

Is this number really as prevalent throughout society and nature as people say it is, or are the connections forced?

Even if this number exists in nature, is it really better for design? Does nature really affect our design preferences?

“Forced Associations”

To answer the first question, let’s look at a “Lincoln-Kennedy Coincidence” plaque I have. Let me show you:


John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre and ran to a warehouse. Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and ran to a theatre. Interesting! However, if you read through many of these connections, such comparisons could be made between any two people. While at first it seems intriguing, this plaque is in fact the compilation of specific, random facts that support an argument. It’s quite convincing, but what if you look at all the things they didn’t have in common? The amount of things they don’t share is overwhelming compared to this small list of carefully assembled things they do. Let’s take a look at one, for example. “The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters.” Guess what? So do lots of names!

My Own Magical Number

The reason I bring up this example, is to show that while this pretty looking spiral certainly matches a galaxy and the plant above, it’s all too easy to find 10-15 applications of it in nature and assume that it’s omnipresent throughout nature. Guess how many plants/animals/phenomenons aren’t able to be mapped with this ratio? Probably at least 99% of them. Also, many of the applications are “iffy.” The ancient temple above? Does it really fit that good? To prove my point, let me come up with my own number: 1.522.

In order to make my number have a more logical appeal, I will show you the math behind it:

CodeCogsEqn (1)

Our number: 1.522. The significance of the numbers in the equation you might ask? Easy. On the integral, there’s 12 months in a year. 365 days in a year and 24 months in two years! We have five fingers per hand, there’s 28 days in February, (sometimes) and one fifth of Americans don’t believe in a god.

I expect you will doubt my carefully calculated mathematics, but to that I say: look at these pretty pictures! (Credits go to As you can see, my ratio of 1 : 1.522 matches these nature photos perfectly. Coincidence? I think not!

best_photo_of_national_geographic_05 copy

coelacanth-living-fossil-fish-long-life-span_36320_600x450 copy

matterhorn-full-moon-cloud-trails_60409_600x450 copy

ugly-dog copy

Not sure how that last photo got in there, but as it goes, the evidence is unsurmountable. Not only does my ratio occur in nature, but it exists in photos that have won National Geographic‘s photo of the year. Therefore, my number 1.522 is the epitome of good design! I’m not so much criticizing the number 1.6 as I am the methodologies used to obtain and defend it. Hands down, an aspect ration of 1.6 and it’s use in design is stellar. But Mona Lisa and Ancient pyramids to defend it? Well…

As witnessed above, (I didn’t even do that great of a job) it’s fairly easy to apply a certain number to “nature.” All you have to do is find certain situations that do fit your criteria, maybe cut a few corners and you have a perfect match. In my opinion, my square matches the fish just as well as the spiral matches the Mona Lisa, although perhaps not quite as elegant.

Now that we’ve looked at the “Golden Number” in nature, let’s take it to design.

Reason In Design

I’m not making the argument that the Golden Ratio doesn’t look good in design, because it most certainly does. It is appealing to the eyes. But what about my number? 1.5 and 1.6 are not all that far off. What about 1.777? 1.413? Could you really tell the difference? People who praise the Golden Number will tell you that there is insurmountable evidence that humans are, so to say, “tuned in” to the Golden Ratio, that we are attracted to it and it resonates well within us. Despite claiming that sound scientific studies prove that the Golden Number is more attractive, (of which I have not been able to find any, please leave a comment if you can find some) I highly doubt that someone while watching a movie would undergo a different experience if it were presented on a 1.6 ratio screen vs a 1.5 one. Hell, even in the old 4:3 ratio, (corresponds to 1.333) if the cinematography, composition, and scene were constructed correctly, the final product can be stunning. It is my opinion that things like lighting, dynamic range, the use of depth of field and the angle of capture to name a few are ever more important than adhering to the Golden Rule.

The rule of thirds, which is “derived” from this Golden Number is a commonly accepted guideline in photography especially. However, if you’ve ever done photography, you know that a lot goes into getting a good shot, and often times this guideline is broken. As opposed to something that can be explained by a number or a principle, I believe photography, cinematography, and design is an art— something where the creative visualization of an idea is key. The Golden rule is a great guideline for good design, but the part I most enjoy about design is the ability to leave the realm of numbers and strive to express new emotions and ideas in a personal way, something that can never be dictated by a “divine” mathematical term.

If you would like to learn more about the Golden Ratio, please try THIS SITE.



Learn Video Editing by Paying Attention

By Blog, Video Editing No Comments

If you want, there is a plethora of video editing books out there, explaining techniques on how to professionally edit video. There are all sorts of rules, J-cuts, L-cuts and much more. In our opinion, these are a waste of time. Why? Because you already know most of them from watching YouTube videos, movies, and commercials. By making a note of paying attention to the composition of videos, you can master them even more, until you have a gut feeling, which will allow you to creatively arrange your videos into something that is enjoyable to watch.

Trust Your Guts

Even if you’ve never edited video before, or are just a beginner, it’s usually easy to tell if a cut between two clips doesn’t look right. Maybe the angle on the subject is too close between the two or it looks jumpy. Rather than memorizing rules, (that are often broken) it’s important to be able to use your gut feeling to determine if it looks good. After you’ve edited for a while, you will develop a knack for how to organize your clips together into something that flows and smoothly directs the viewer through the video without confusing them. To help expedite this process and make your video look more professional, pay attention to the composition of and patterns you notice from commercials and movies.

Get Inspiration

Most video editors have some sort of inspiration, someone who’s videos they can look up to and get ideas from. Analyze all of the videos and get ideas… How is the music interweave into the video? How long/short are individual clips? What is the order/organization of the video? Questions like this, along with just paying attention to the editing of a piece will allow you to begin to emulate them and create professional looking videos, using proven techniques combined with your own creativity.

Try this one: here is a video that consists of very professional, but creative editing.

THE SUMMIT TRAILER 2 from Nick Ryan on Vimeo.

THE SUMMIT TRAILER 2 from Nick Ryan on Vimeo.

The deadliest day on the worlds most dangerous mountain.

Trailer for the feature documentary ‘The Summit’

In August 2008, twenty-four climbers from several international expeditions converged on High Camp of K2, the last stop before the summit of the most dangerous mountain on earth. Forty-eight hours later, eleven had been killed or had vanished, making it the worst K2 climbing disaster in history.
In a century of assaults on K2, only about 300 people have ever seen the view from the planet’s second highest peak. More than a quarter of those who made it didn’t live long enough to share the glory, or to tell the tale.
At the heart of The Summit lies a mystery about one extraordinary man, Ger McDonnell. By all accounts, he was faced with a heart-breaking dilemma— at the very limit of his mortal resources, he encountered a disastrous scene and a moral dilemma: three climbers tangled up in ropes and running out of time. In the death zone, above 8,000 metres, the body is literally dying with each passing second. Morality is skewed 180 degrees from the rest of life. When a climber falls or wanders off the trail, the unwritten code of the mountain is to leave them for dead. Had Ger McDonnell stuck to the climbers’ code, he might still be alive.
The Summit is about the very nature of modern adventure. Those who survive carry with them a commodity to sell— The Story. This one remains contentious and fiercely debated.
Produced and Directed by Nick Ryan
Written by Mark Monroe
Edited by Ben Stark
Music by Nick Seymour
Director of Photography Robbie Ryan & Stephen O’Reilly
Executive Producer John Battsek, Pat Falvey, Darrell Kavanagh, John McDonnell


Keep editing in the back of your head when watching anything, and you will find your own skills rapidly increasing!

The Best of Video Camera Formats Explained

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Today, HD cameras come in all shapes and sizes, from $150 HD cameras at Best Buy, to Red and Arri cameras. While factors like lenses, sensor size, and frame size are extremely important in determining the camera for you, looking at the formats they are encoded in is important for post production, and should be an important factor in your purchasing decision. Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common formats, and see what they’re all about.


In terms of quality, RAW is your best option. Raw means that it’s the raw data from the camera, bit for bit. Some cameras will apply a lossless data compression to save space, but no quality is lost. The big advantage of shooting RAW comes when color correcting. With Raw video, it’s much easier to change the white balance, bring out the shadows and tone down the highlights, simply because there’s more color information. The disadvantages to raw is the larger file size, it is going to take up the most information both on your camera and on your computer. For example, 12 bit Red Raw takes up almost 2GB/min. So, should I use Raw? If you have a capable computer, enough room on the camera, and especially on your computer, then go for it. While it certainly takes up more information, you are getting more data out of Raw then any other format mentioned, which will give you more flexibility in the post-production process.

Example Cameras that shoot in Raw:

  • Blackmagic Cinema Camera


  • Vision Research Phantom

  • Silicon Imaging SI-2K


Red ONE – Source:


HDV is the format for recording HD on DV cassette tapes, such as Mini DV. It comes in two main formats: HDV 720p and HDV 1080i, however can be shot with a variety of frame rates. HDV has a maximum data rate of 25 mbit/second, so compression is needed to fit an HD frame at such a low data rate. It uses MPEG-2 compression, which removes redundant information in and between multiple frames. HDV is popular because it is affordable, easily portable and its quality is considered acceptable for HD productions, however not optimal because of the large amount of compression.

Example Cameras that shoot in HDV:

  • HVR-V1

  • Sony HVR-S270



AVCHD, developed jointly by Sony and Panasonic, is common in pro-sumer cameras. It uses AVC, or H.264 encoding to reduce the file size, which gives video a bitrate ranging from 6 mbit/sec to 24 mbit/sec. Since many AVCHD cameras use variable bit rates and different quality settings, it’s difficult to find an average size per minute of video. Compared to HDV, AVCHD uses 1920 x 1080, vs 1440 x 1080 for HDV. HDV has a higher data rate, but uses MPEG-2, which doesn’t do as good a job as the H.264 in AVCHD.

Example Cameras that shoot in AVCHD:

  • Sony HDR-AX2000

  • Panasonic AG-HMC40PJ



There are actually 2 different XDCAM formats for HD:


Released in 2006, XDCAM HD allows HD recording. It is stored on a 130mm
disc, similar to a DVD disc. There are 4 different quality options:

As you can see in the table above, they all use a variation of the MPEG-2 standard for encoding. CBR means a constant bit rate, so throughout a whole minute of the video the bit rate would always be the same. Variable bit rate means that the bit rate changes depending on what your filming, so during one minute of video, it could go from 25Mbps all the way to 35 Mbps. HD422 is by far the highest quality of the above formats; it has the highest bitrate, the largest frame size (1920 x 1080 vs 1440 x 1080) and it has the highest quality color sample rate.

Read here for more information on Color sample ratio:
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XDCAM EX, released in 2008, records videos on SxS solid state drives. It comes in two different qualities:
The (HDV) in the SP format means that is compatible with HDV 1080i. Just like XDCAM HD, MPEG-2 compression is used. Sony later released SxS-1 cards, which are more affordable. SxS cards commonly come in 16gb, 32 gb and 64 gb, ranging from about $100 to $1500.
The XDCAM format is very popular with Sony cameras and has great compatibility with many NLE’s. We recommend XDCAM HD4:2:2 because of it’s high quality while still relatively low data rate.

Example Cameras that shoot in XDCAM:

  • SonyPMW100

  • SonyPMW350K



DVCPro HD was developed by Panasonic in 2000. It is almost always only used by professionals, and is actually still a DV format, because it is an extension of earlier DVCPro formats (Four parallel codecs are actually used). It supports frame dimensions of 1280 x 1080, 1440 x 1080 and 960 x 720. At 1080, it supports frame rates up to 30, while at 720 it can go up to 60 frames per second. It supports a bit rate of 100 mbits/sec. DVCPro HD also down-samples from the native resolution, making it not our first choice.

Example Cameras that shoot in DVCPro HD:

  • PanasonicAJ-HDX900

  • ?Panasonic AG-HVX200K


? HDCam SR:

HDCAM SR was developed by Sony in 2003; the SR stands for Superior Resolution. It can record in 10-bit 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 RGB. Incredibly, it can capture data rates of 440 Mbps in SQ mode and 880 Mbps in HQ mode. The MPEG-4 Studio Profile is used for mild compression. HDCam SR is a format commonly used in cinema cameras, delivering extremely natural looking video, with the option of no color subsampling (4:4:4 means no color subsampling) and is often used for commercials.

Example Cameras that shoot in HDCam SR:

  • SonySRW-9000

  • SonyHDWF900R


What It Comes Down To

Do what works best for you. If you just want to make a short video where quality doesn’t matter, it makes no sense to purchase a RED EPIC and shoot on raw. It all boils down to how you want your videos to look, how much work you’re willing to put in and how big of a budget you have.