Yes, The Sandman on Netflix is supposed to look like that

Tom Sturridge's Dream stares into the camera as he traverses a path in the Hell Dimension in Netflix's The Sandman TV show
(Image credit: Netflix)

Does the aspect ratio of Netflix’s new fantasy series, The Sandman, look a little off to you? If so, you’re not alone. 

Several viewers of the long-awaited comic book adaptation have taken to the internet to voice concerns about the show’s distorted – or “stretched upwards” – image format, which makes characters in certain scenes appear elongated and unnatural (see the headline image above as case in point). 

Netflix has now responded to the confusion, clarifying (per Variety) that the decidedly unconventional aspect ratio used throughout The Sandman is a deliberate artistic choice intended to emphasize the dream-like quality of creator Neil Gaiman’s fantasy setting. 

For those not in the know, aspect ratio refers to the proportional relationship between an image's width and height. Typically, TV series employ a 16:9 ratio, while movies are often produced in 21:9 – though the figure varies between filmmakers and mediums (The Lighthouse, for instance, bears an almost-square 1.19:1 ratio). 

We’re not entirely sure what aspect ratio is at play in The Sandman. Although, Variety notes that, if vintage lenses were used in its production alongside more modern cameras, the combination of old and new could result in image distortion. In any case, the series looks exactly as its creators intended, despite the frustration of certain viewers.

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Having lumbered through big and small screen development hell for more than three decades, The Sandman finally hit Netflix on August 5. Based on Gaiman’s beloved comic series of the same name, it tells the story of Dream, one of the seven Endless – a group of superhuman beings more powerful than gods – who escapes capture after 105 years and sets out to restore order to his magical kingdom. 

Tom Sturridge, David Thewlis, Jenna Coleman and Game of Thrones alumni Charles Dance and Gwendoline Christie are among the show’s stellar cast, and the series is expected to run for several seasons, should its debut crop of episodes prove popular enough with audiences. 

In our review, we said The Sandman’s “fascinating cast of characters, expansive universe and deeply human themes” make it “worthy of Gaiman's dark fantasy comic book series.” We also spoke with the shows’ cast and crew to find out how they finally brought this high-concept story to life. 

For our money, then, The Sandman is definitely worthy of follow-up entries, especially given how much more of Gaiman’s universe is yet to be explored on-screen (the author penned 10 volumes between 1989 to 1996). And, what with it sitting at the top of Netflix's popularity rankings in its first week of release, we'd anticipate that streamer feels the same way, too. 

Axel Metz
Senior Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.