Understanding Aspect Ratios
What is an aspect ratio?
• Have you ever wondered why some
things you watch on television have black
bars around the picture? Do you want to
know why the image on your television
looks stretched out? The answers to these
questions include the term aspect ratio.
What is an aspect ratio and how does it
affect you? It is the ratio between the
width and the height of a film image.
Simply stated, it is the size of the picture.
The Most Typical TV Aspect Ratios
The only two you really need to know
• 16:9 (also written 16x9 and said “16 by 9”)
– This indicates that the display dimensions are
16 units wide and 9 units high.
– This is also known as widescreen.
• 4:3 (also written 4x3 and said “4 by 3”)
– This indicates that the display dimensions are
4 units wide and 3 units high.
1
2
3
4
5
16:9
6
7
8
1
2 3 4 5
6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
1
2
3
1
2
3
4:3
4
Why are there different Aspect Ratios?
• Old Analog Formats are nearly all
4:3
4:3 since this was the standard
television ratio from the beginning.
• Standard Definition (SD) television
continues to be 4:3 although SD can be
recorded to appear 16:9 or “widescreen.”
• High Definition (HD) television is always
16:9.
16:9
Why is this an issue?
• Material in 16:9 format needs to properly
fit on a 4:3 television (or 4:3 material on a
16:9 television) without changing its
aspect, meaning without stretching or
squishing the material.
16:9 on a 16:9 display
16:9 on a 4:3 display without
adjustments
4:3 on a 4:3 display
4:3 on a 16:9 display
without adjustments
Converting
Material
16:9 Material on a 4:3 Screen
• In order to avoid a stretched or squished
picture the material must be converted.
There are several different ways to achieve
this.
– The techniques to fit 16:9 material on a 4:3 screen
include:
• Letterbox
• Edge Crop
• Pan and Scan
16:9 Material Converted to a 4:3 screen
16:9 Material
If a program is
letterboxed it will
appear with a black
bar above and below
the picture.
16:9 Letterbox
16:9 Material Converted to a 4:3 Screen
16:9 Material
If a program is edge
cropped the picture
fills the screen and
the right and left
edges are lost to
view.
16:9 Letterbox
4:3 Edge Crop
16:9 Material Converted to a 4:3 Screen Using Pan & Scan
16:9 Material
If the main focus of
the picture is on the
right a program can
be panned right with
the left edge being
lost to view.
Panned Right
16:9 Material Converted to a 4:3 Screen Using Pan & Scan
16:9 Material
If the main focus of
the picture is on the
left a program can
be panned left with
the right edge being
lost to view.
Panned Right
Panned Left
Converting
Material
4:3 Material on a 16:9 Screen
• In order to avoid a stretched or squished
picture the material must be converted.
There are several different ways to achieve
this.
– The techniques to fit 4:3 material on a 16:9 screen
include:
• Pillar Box
• Full Screen Zoom
4:3 Material Converted to a 16:9 Screen
4:3 Material
If a program is pillar
boxed it will appear
with a black bar to
the right and left of
the picture.
16:9 Pillar Box
4:3 Material Converted to a 16:9 Screen
4:3 Material
If a program is
zoomed in the
picture fills the
screen and the top
and bottom edges
are lost to view.
16:9 Pillar Box
16:9 Full Screen Zoomed
What happens when you want to watch
something on television besides circles?
16:9 Source Material
Awww! The children at Disneyland!
How do we put them in 4:3 space?
Squeeze?
Edge Crop?
Letterbox?
How do we put them in 4:3 space?
No!
Probably Not.
Letterbox!
4:3 Source Material
Oh, look! Now they’re at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
How do we put them in 16:9 space?
Stretch?
Zoom?
Pillar Box?
How do we put them in 16:9 space?
No!
Acceptable.
Acceptable.
Why are we telling you this?
• Here at Eleven we currently broadcast in SD (with
plans to switch to HD soon). Most of what we air is
4:3 format. However, if we receive material in a 16:9
format we convert it (usually by making it
letterboxed) before it gets to your television set.
• If you are watching Eleven on a 4:3 television then
the programs will appear just as we are
broadcasting them without any adjustments on your
set.
• If you are watching Eleven on a 16:9 (or high
definition) television then you may have options
concerning how you see the picture. If you have not
chosen the aspect on your set, your set will choose
for you. This means that the best option may not be
selected. (Keep reading.)
Eleven on a 16:9 Television
• Since we broadcast in 4:3, your television
must convert the picture. Most high
definition televisions give the viewer the
option of choosing the aspect. It may be a
button on the remote labeled “aspect” or
in the menu under aspect. Consult your
user’s manual for information on your
specific television.
Following is an example.
Why does everything on my television look
stretched out and fat?
This is what we are broadcasting.
Your television is set to stretch the picture.
(This may be labeled “wide” or “16:9.”)
A Couple of Options
A matter of preference
You can choose to zoom in on the picture. Or, you can choose to have it pillar boxed.
(This may be labeled “normal” or “4:3.”)
(This may be labeled “zoom.”)
In Conclusion
• If you are watching Eleven on a 4:3
television…
4:3
– the programs will appear on your screen just
as we are broadcasting them without any
adjustments on your set.
– you may see black bars above and below the
picture if the program has been letterboxed.
In Conclusion
• If you are watching Eleven on a
16:9 or high definition television…
16:9
– you have options for viewing the programs.
– you can change the aspect usually with a
button on your remote or in the menu.
Stretch
Full Screen Zoom
Pillar Box
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Understanding Aspect Ratios