Perhaps one of the questions we hear most frequently from our customers has to do with the various aspect ratios that are currently floating around in the television world. Widescreen, 16:9, 4:3, 1.33:1 – these are just a few of the various ratios that denote the difference between various screen aspects. That being said, there are three aspect ratios that we typically deal with on a daily basis here at SoundVision. Here’s a little bit of information about each one.
Standard Definition – Also known as “four by three,” 4:3 or 1.33:1, this is the aspect ratio that was with television from the beginning. It’s what most of us are used to seeing when we see those old, large and heavy cathode-ray tube (CRT) televisions and monitors. It’s nearly impossible to find these TVs in stores anymore, as they’ve been largely rendered obsolete by the advance of much lighter and more energy efficient flat-panel plasma and LCD display technologies. Typically, programs produced in widescreen or movies in their original aspect ratios are severely letterboxed (black bars on top and bottom) when viewed on a 4:3 TV.
High Definition – Typically known as “widescreen TV,” high definition content is usually (but not always) distributed in a 16:9 aspect ratio and viewed on a matching widescreen TV. Nearly all television programs produced within the last five years are shot in a 16:9 high definition format. Widescreen TVs are also great for viewing movies in their original aspect ratios, as minimal letterboxing occurs. These TVs come in either the plasma or LCD varieties in a range of resolutions. 16:9 TVs display older content produced in a 4:3 ratio by surrounding the narrower image with black or gray sidebars. Alternatively, you can set your TV to either stretch the image to fill the screen, or zoom it to crop off the top and bottom of the image. For more information on that, check out our past TechNotes post all about video performance factors.
CineWide – While movies are produced in a variety of aspect ratios depending on how the movie’s director decides to show the story, most movies are produced in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Slightly slimmer than your HDTV’s 16:9, it still fills the screen nicely on a plasma or LCD HDTV with only slender black bars displayed on top of and below the image. These displays can also be set to fill the screen by zooming and cropping the image as necessary. In the past, CineWide movies have been released on VHS and DVD in “fullscreen” versions, where editors have used the pan and scan technique to crop the image to fit 4:3 aspect ratio TVs. Since the adoption of DVD and Blu-ray formats has increased, the practice of releasing “fullscreen” versions has fallen out of practice.