Aspect Ratios Explained

Posted by on February 6, 2010 4:55 pm
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Categories: Column 3

The aspect ratio is the width of a picture in relationship to its height. In the United States, TV always used a 4:3 ratio in the past, regardless of the size of the television screen. The three most common ratios are 4:3, 16:9, and 2.39:1 (Cinemascope.) The black bars top and bottom sometimes seen were introduced with letterboxing of 16:9 images on 4:3 screens. Letterboxing reduces widescreen images until they fit on a standard 4:3 ration screen, hence the feeling you are seeing the image through a letterbox slot. Some people think they are losing part of the image; in reality, the image is all preserved, but empty black bars are left on the screen. This image is from Videomaker magazine:

Now that 16:9 has become the new default format for widescreen TV, DVD and Hi-Def video, a new problem occurs. When viewing older 4:3 images on a widescreen, you will now have vertical black columns or pillars on both sides. The picture is all there, but many people find the pillars distracting. One solution is to stretch the image to fill the wide screen. This can cause distortion, and almost always makes people look fat on screen. Perhaps a new technological fix will be found. Time will tell, or Tim will tell you later. Enjoy whatever format you are watching. I personally enjoy the 1:1 ratio…real life!

2 responses to Aspect Ratios Explained

  1. Ilaina February 23rd, 2010 at 2:54 pm



  2. Haley March 23rd, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I think we should still use Aspect Ratios.


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