How to stop people from putting widescreen TVs in stretch mode

(Note I have a simpler article for those just looking for advice on how to get their Widescreen TV to display properly.)

Very commonly today I see widescreen TVs being installed, both HDTV and normal. Flat panel TVs are a big win in public places since they don’t have the bulk and weight of the older ones, so this is no surprise, even in SDTV. And they are usually made widescreen, which is great.

Yet almost all the time, I see them configured so they take standard def TV programs, which are made for a 4:3 aspect ratio, and stretch them to fill the 16:9 screen. As a result everybody looks a bit fat. The last few hotel rooms I have stayed in have had widescreen TVs configured like this. Hotel TVs disable you from getting at the setup mode, offering a remote control which includes the special hotel menus and pay-per-view movie rentals. So you can’t change it. I’ve called down to the desk to get somebody to fix the TV and they often don’t know what I’m talking about, or if somebody comes it takes quite a while to get somebody who understands it.

This is probably because I routinely meet people who claim they want to set their TV this way. They just “don’t like” having the blank bars on either side of the 4:3 picture that you get on a widescreen TV. They say they would rather see a distorted picture than see those bars. Perhaps they feel cheated that they aren’t getting to use all of their screen. (Do they feel cheated with a letterbox movie on a 4:3 TV?)

It is presumably for those people that the TVs are set this way. For broadcast signals, a TV should be able to figure out the aspect ratio. NTSC broadcasts are all in 4:3, though some are letterboxed inside the 4:3 which may call for doing a “zoom” to expand the inner box to fill the screen, but never a “stretch” which makes everybody fat. HDTV broadcasts are all natively in widescreen, and just about all TVs will detect that and handle it. (All U.S. stations that are HD always broadcast in the same resolution, and “upconvert” their standard 4:3 programs to the HD resolution, placing black “pillarbox” bars on the left and right. Sometimes you will see a program made for SDTV letterbox on such a channel, and in that case a zoom is called for.)

The only purpose the “stretch” function has is for special video sources like DVD players. Today, almost all widescreen DVDs use the superior “anamorphic” widescreen method, where the full DVD frame is used, as it is for 4:3 or “full frame” DVDs. Because TVs have no way to tell DVD players what shape they are, and DVD players have no way to tell TVs whether the movie is widescreen or 4:3, you need to tell one or both of them about the arrangement. That’s a bit messy. If you tell a modern DVD player what shape TV you have, it will do OK because it knows what type of DVD it is. DVD players, presented with a widescreen movie and a 4:3 TV will letterbox the movie. However, if you have a DVD player that doesn’t know what type of TV it is connected to, and you play a DVD, you have to tell the TV to stretch or pillarbox. This is why the option to stretch is there in the first place.

However, now that it’s there, people are using it in really crazy ways. I would personally disable stretch mode when playing from a source known not to be a direct video input video player, but as I said people are actually asking for the image to be incorrectly stretched to avoid seeing the bars.

So what can we do to stop this, and to get the hotels and public TVs to be set right, aside from complaining? Would it make sense to create “cute” pillarbars perhaps with the image of an old CRT TV’s sides in them? Since HDTVs have tons of resolution, they could even draw the top and bottom at a slight cost of screen size, but not of resolution. Some TVs offer the option of gray, black and white pillars, but perhaps they can make pillars that somehow match the TV’s frame in a convincing way, and the frame could even be designed to blend with the pillars.

Would putting up fake drapes do the job? In the old days of the cinema, movies came in different widths sometimes, and the drapes would be drawn in to cover the left and right of the screen if the image was going to be 4:3 or something not as wide. They were presumably trying to deal with the psychological problem people have with pillarbars.

Or do we have to go so far as to offer physical drapes or slats which are pulled in by motors, or even manually? The whole point of flatscreen TVs is we don’t have a lot of room to do something like this, which is why it’s better if virtual. And of course it’s crazy to spend the money such things would cost, especially if motorized, to make people feel better about pillarbars.

I should also note that most TVs have a “zoom” mode, designed to take shows that end up both letterboxed and pillarbarred and zoom them to properly fit the screen. That’s a useful feature to have — but I also see it being used on 4:3 content to get rid of the pillarbars. In this case at least the image isn’t stretched, but it does crop off the top and bottom of the image. Some programs can tolerate this fine (most TV broadcasts expect significant overscan, meaning that the edges will be behind the frame of the TV) but of course on others it’s just as crazy as stretching. I welcome other ideas.

Update: Is it getting worse, rather than better? I recently flew on Virgin America airlines, which has widescreen displays on the back of each seat. They offer you movies (for $8) and live satellite TV. The TV is stretched! No setting box to change it, though if you go to their “TV chat room” you will see it in proper aspect, at 1/3 the size. I presume the movies are widescreen at least.

bq. Do they feel cheated

[textile]
"Do they feel cheated with a letterbox movie on a 4:3 TV?"
Yes, yes they do. These are the people who buy pan & scan "full screen" DVDs instead of widescreen.

Well strictly

You are cheated with a letterbox movie on a 4:3 TV since almost all 4:3 TVs are low resolution, and as such letterbox movies lose a lot of detail. I understand the attraction of pan and scan. It is a trade-off between what is lost to the crop and what is lost to the poor resolution. It’s not always true that one is right. Some “full frame” DVDs are not pan and scan, however, they are the same as the letterbox with more stuff at the top and bottom — stuff that’s not vital to the shot, but not necessarily detrimental either.

What I always thought would have made sense would have been for the DVD format to support pan/crop done by the DVD player. When playing on a 4:3 TV in pan mode, the stream would include information on what vertical position to start the frame. This would not have been very hard for DVD players to introduce. The editor who makes the pan version would just record that stream, and the DVD player would have cropped out an appropriately moving 4:3 box from the widescreen image.

This would have allowed there to be just one DVD, instead of having to release both a widescreen and a pan/scan. It would also be easy with today’s player to allow zoom and crop, so that you could zoom in a bit if the user enabled it — since most 4:3 TVs don’t present the full 480 lines sharply you could do this a little bit.

Were DVD players not so locked down, this sort of functionality might well have been put into them, saving the producers, the video stores and the customer money and hassle. Not as much point now that we’re making the transition to HDTV on DVD, though it could still apply to the many movies that are made in wider than 16 by 9.

After home video became a big part of the movie market, movie directors started shooting for it, in particular filming for the open matte style where the normally invisible top and bottom of the shot are revealed, or composing important elements into a 4:3 frame.

I expect as HDTV becomes standardized directors will be told to definitely compose for that aspect ratio, even if they plan to project at 2.35:1 in the cinema. I expect however that more than 1.85:1 will become uncommon.

They do

The DVD specification does allow this, but no manufacturer implements it.

They do

Most DVD players have this feature. At least they do here in the UK, and I'd be surprised if they don't in the US. (Look for a 4:3 Pan & Scan option in the player's setup menu.) But the feature is useless because DVD makers never put the necessary "vector" data on the DVDs.

I should have written

I should have written "hardly ever" instead of "never". I've heard of a few DVDs (here in the UK) that are suitably encoded for pan-and-scan.

Oh how I hate when people stretch it

I can't stand it, but you know what. Most people don't even notice that it is stretched. They don't know, and can't see it, and even if you tell them, they can't see it. This is weird, coz I notice imediately and can't watch it.

What is even worse is that tv-stations do it too. It usually happens when they are sending a program in 16:9, in which they show clips (like in the news) from programs in 4:3, and then stretch those 4:3 pictures to 16:9.

Sometimes they will even send a 16:9 program, letterboxed into 4:3, and then again letterboxed into 16:9, so you on a 4:3 tv will have black borders on all 4 sides.

My LG

I have a 32" LG LCD wide screen that has an automatic detection mode which seems to do a fairly decent job, but then I have never been bothered by having part of my screen not in use. This is only the 3rd wide screen I have become very familiar with, the other two were Samsung. Those did not have any such feature.

yes

It's significantly what always happens to me when I "install" the new lcd flat to my friends and/or relatives; I always put the default option at 4:3, and when I come back then they always have changed it to 16/9 and see people fat and streched! The amusing thing is that they notice something is not good in the view, but don't understand what, and when you teach them the matter they say "yeeeeeeees" and seem to understand, but after few hours they again put in the 16:9. It's disturbing.

I very like the zoom feature and I use it when I can for my television. Almost always the crop is unimportant, if it's important I don't use it, perhaps when I watch a soccer match where the whole field is important... Obviously you MUST use it when there are the blanks above and under! And noone uses it! LOL

That's something technology wasn't able to manage. A bit strange in my opinion. It seems they don't care if the bodies you see on television respect their propotions.

I always see at the SUPERMARKET television settled in 16:9 on the news and they look so bad that I wonder who'd buy that tv-set! But people buy it! Maybe, if they at the supermarket would have decided to set up it correctly, people would end up wondering "why those blanks?" "it's defective?" "I won't buy it" and so on.

Maybe we are wrong.

I was looking for a related article regarding my pc video card, and found yours; I'm happy to see someone that comes crazy like me for this thing. Sad... ^_____________^

Alessandro

Streeeetch

A couple years ago I delivered Chinese food to help get through the winter. Without exception, every home I went to where the home owner had a wide screen TV in the living room they were watching SDTV stretched to fill the screen .. I can't stand it! There seems to be a whole lot of confusion about hi def, digital and aspect ratio. My mom just bought a 20" wide screen monitor on the assumption it was 'bigger' then her old 17" CRT. She had the screen resolution set on 600 X 800. It looked just fine to her.

I think stretching 4:3 ratio broadcast to fit a wide screen might be a physiological thing to make short fat people feel better about themselves

I see your point, but I

I see your point, but I would rather watch the screen stretched than watch those damned black bars. My incredibly stupid Samsung has gray bars! I really wish everything would start adapting to 16:9 and just get it over with. I don't know why we have to wait decades to change things like this. How much you want to bet 20 years in the future someone is going to decide on a new aspect ratio and we have to start all over again?

Everybody looks obese...............

My girlfriend's 32" Phiilips CRT widescreen does not detect what the ratio is and she leaves it in 16:9. It looks awful!! I wish here TV could auto set the format. Does anybody know how to fix this??????? The model # is 30pw9110d/37. Please help! :-(

Ugh, my DVD player has an

Ugh, my DVD player has an automatic detection mode which I can only stop from working if I choose gray bars instead of the less noticeable black bars, and I can't even find a menu that will let me switch it out for DVD's, meaning that whenever I pop in a movie that I really love that isn't widescreen (which for me is basically only Tarkovsky's Stalker, my favourite movie ever looks-wise) it just ruins it by stretching it as soon as it detects that the input is 4:3

DVD detection mode?

A DVD player knows what the DVD is (either anomorphic widescreen or 4:3) with certainty. What it can’t know is what sort of TV you have. In any modern DVD player there will be a menu item where you can say “I have a 4:3 TV” or “I have a 16:9 TV.”

If you tell it 4:3, it will display fullscreen normally, and it will letterbox the widescreen movies onto the 4:3 box (losing resolution.) If you tell it 16:9 it will pillarbox the fullscreen movies and output the widescreen movies to fill the screen.

No need to detect.

Now it is true that if your DVD player outputs to your TV over DVI or HDMI, it can detect the TV (almost all TVs with this are 16:9 though)

Anyway, once set you should never get a mistake.

Here in the UK the official

Here in the UK the official DTG guidelines for manufacturers of digital TVs and digiboxes say that the default (factory set) mode should display all material in the correct aspect ratio. But manufacturers ignore this and make the default mode one which displays 4:3 material in "stretchyvision" (as some of us like to call it). The unfortunate fact is that this is what most people prefer. If the default was to show side bars, suppliers would probably be inundated with calls from purchasers of TVs complaining that their new set was faulty!

Having said that, it's becoming less and less of an issue here, because almost all new TV programmes are now made in widescreen, and have been for the last few years. Although we're behind you in implementation of HDTV, most people already have widescreen TVs because widescreen was implemented for SDTV, without waiting for HDTV.

My last comment wasn't quite

My last comment wasn't quite clear. I should have said that most TV being watched here is broadcast in widescreen (albeit in standard definition) and watched on widescreen TVs.

widescreen in stretchyvision

The problem is that if you have a widescreen program on SDTV, done in letterbox, and you watch it in the stretchyvision, it’s still no good. The right mode for these is usually called “zoom.” I’ve seen a lot of TVs claim they have an “auto” mode, which I have always presumed is supposed to look at an SDTV signal and figure out if it’s letterboxed or fullscreen, and pick the right display mode. I have yet to see a TV where this works, though I have not searched a lot as my own TV is always computer driven.

It gets complicated because of the tv station logo that usually is in the bottom right corner (though smart software can detect this), the animated ads they now show in the bottom left, and of course the fact that commercials and shows vary in aspect ratio and switching in the middle of watching is not pleasant either.

I should have been clearer.

I should have been clearer. Here in the UK most people are now watching digital TV broadcasts. (I seem to remember a figure of about 20% for people still watching analogue TV, and analogue broadcasts are being switched off, area by area, over the next few years.) Standard definition digital TV is mostly broadcast in full widescreen (anamorphic), not letterboxed.

With digital TV, a flag is broadcast which tells the TV or digibox whether the picture is 16:9 (anamorphic) or 4:3, so the picture can be adjusted accordingly. In fact, some channels (including all BBC channels) have a more complicated system, based on "Active Format Descriptors", which tell the TV/digibox more precisely what the format is (e.g. 16:9 letterboxed, 14:9 letterboxed, etc) and how the broadcaster intends it to be displayed. The TV/digibox should then display the picture accordingly.

TV "auto" modes don't follow the official guidelines. They use a variety of different tricks to make the picture fit the whole screen, regardless of the original aspect ratio. For example, my sister's Sony TV makes a 4:3 picture fit the 16:9 screen by means of a combination of zoom and crop, so you get a bit of stretch and a bit of cropping (of the top and bottom) but not as much of each as if it used only one technique. Many other TVs stretch the edges of the picture more than the centre, as they reckon the centre is the focus of the viewer's attention and that any distortion is more noticeable there. Some TVs can recognise letterboxed pictures by means of a black bar detection system.

To get (mostly) correct aspect ratio handling on my Panasonic TV, I have to ignore the "auto" mode and put it in "4:3" mode. In this mode it will display a 4:3 picture with side bars unless it detects a 16:9 signal, in which case it switches to widescreen mode. Unfortunately, in this mode it won't automatically zoom letterboxed 4:3 pictures (which I ggenerally only get with DVD extra features). If I was using "auto" mode, these letterboxed pictures would be automatically and correctly zoomed, based on a black bar detection system.

Ah, that's more interesting

In the USA, digital broadcasts will come in one of 4 modes — 480i and (never seen) 480p, as well as 720p and 1080i. The first two are 4:3, the later 2 16:9. There is not, as far as I know, a 16:9 mode with 480 lines, not even anamorphic. If there is it’s never used. However, for OTA digital TV — which very few people watch — it normally comes out right. If you find yourself watching a 4:3 channel with a letterbox movie in it, you can manually zoom but as I said the auto mode does not seem to work on most TVs.

However, as I said, people who watch OTA digital TV are rare. I don’t really watch it, I just record it into my MythTV recorder to watch it later. In general, I never record letterboxed programs on 4:3 channels, because usually you can find the program on an HD channel. Even if it was just recorded at 720x480 it still looks much better there. On U.S. airwaves, the 480i channels are usually low-res versions of the HD ones, or sometimes supplemental channels with reruns or weather or kids programming, and a bunch of foreign language programming. On the cable systems the channels that show lots of movies now have HD variants, mostly. Sometimes the HD variants will show 4:3 movies and DVD quality movies.

The real stretch problem is almost exclusively TVs that are connected to cable, either to cable boxes or to analog cable still sending NTSC broadcasts. This is where people set their TVs, or sometimes their cable boxes, to stretch the image to fill the screen. In most cases these TVs are in fact hooked up to old style cable without HD, which requires an HD cable set top box. While cable companies do broadcast the local TV channels in QAM format which the TV can tune, and you can even get a cablecard decrypter card to get the others, this is quite rare — set top boxes are the norm. And they are the only choice for satellite.

So what you usually see is somebody bought a widescreen TV not because they had a source of widescreen programming, but because they wanted a flatscreen. That’s what you see in lobbies, airports, and hotel rooms. They hooked it up to the same old 4:3 cable they always had, and made it stretch because they didn’t want to waste real estate on the new screen they bought.

Interesting. By the way,

Interesting. By the way, there's a particularly egregious (because I'm pretty sure it's unnecessary) example of stretchyvision in the health club I use. Their TV pictures are always stretched, even when a full widescreen picture should be available. I think they simply omitted to switch their satellite box from 4:3 (centre cut-out) output to 16:9 output when they replaced their 4:3 TVs with 16:9 TVs a few years ago! I've tried pointing this out to the manager, but he didn't seem interested. Fortunately for me, I have no desire to watch TV there anyway.

"I don’t really watch it, I just record it into my MythTV recorder to watch it later."

I do that too, though with a branded DVR, not MythTV. I hardly ever watch anything live any more.

autodection of the proper format

I have a 16:9 conventional (i.e. tube, not LCD or plasma) television set from
Philips, purchased about 6 years ago (when the best picture---at least for
standard resolution---still came from a good tube). I'm in Germany, so factor
that in. One can select from 10 or so formats (including things like extra space
at the bottom for subtitles), but almost always it is in "auto" mode and it does
the write thing, almost always. A 4:3 signal is pillarboxed, 16:9 signal is
full-screen and wider formats are appropriately letterboxed. On those rare
occasions when I watch commercial television, the commercial ads are sometimes
in a different format. Then, and when switching channels, it takes it a couple
of seconds to figure out the correct format (the darker the picture, the longer
it takes).

When I was in the hospital, I bought a portable (like a very small notebook-style
computer) television with a 16:9 screen, also from Philips. (It also has a DVD
player in it.) When it is set to 16:9, 16:9 signals are of course correct but
4:3 signals are stretched to fit the screen. When it is set to 4:3, 4:3 signals
are of course correct (i.e. there are "permanent" pillarbars) and 16:9 signals
are letterboxed inside the pillarbox.

It has a DVB-T receiver and at home I have (analog) cable. Occasionally, it can
pick up something I want which is not on cable. So, I connect it to the big television
via 3 cinch plugs. To get this to work, I have to set the small television to 4:3,
whatever it is receiving. 4:3 signals then come out properly (pillarboxed) on the
big television. 16:9 signals are at first letterboxed insided the pillarbox, but
are then zoomed by the big television so that they are correct on the big television.
Setting the small one to 16:9 will stretch 4:3 signals which won't be de-stretched
by the big television; 16:9 signals will show up as a letterbox in a pillarbox which
won't get zoomed automatically (though I can select the correct format via hand).

A question: since widescreen signals need to be visible on 4:3 screens, presumbably what
is broadcast is a letterbox which a 16:9 television zooms. This must result in a loss
of information, right? Presumably a 16:9 DVD won't suffer this problem, as long as the
connected appliances know what they should about each other.

Is there any way (digital?, HDTV?) to broadcast a 16:9 signal so that nothing is lost when
viewed on 16:9 television?

Analog TV

Analog TV signals, be they NTSC over-the-air or simply coming over a composite video, component video or s-video cable, do not transmit information about the aspect ratio of the signals, nor does the TV transmit back its aspect ratio to the device sending it.

When the link is digital, the sender provides the aspect ratio, and the digital display device understands it and uses it. When the link is digital (or VGA) the EDID system lets the sending box know the parameters of the display, and again all will work properly.

However, when all is analog, with no back channel, there is no real concept of how long a scan line is. In particular, in an SD signal (480 lines or 576 in PAL that are visible) each line just gets 1/480th of the time for the whole visible frame. If a line is longer it doesn’t get more time, it just has to pack more information into that time.

The TV’s decision is how to take that raster line and put it on the screen, to make it match the whole width, or just put it in the middle (pillarbox.) A widescreen TV set to a normal mode will fill the screen with it. Give it a 4:3 signal and it will stretch it.

However, if the sending box (cable box, dvd player) knows the aspect ratio of the TV, and the mode the TV is in, it will do it right, though in fact displaying pillarbox 4:3 will waste resolution. But there is usually resolution to waste.

Any time your 16:9 signal is filling the screen, and you didn’t have to zoom, nothing has been lost.

Brad, the situation here in

Brad, the situation here in the UK is different. (But I don't know about Germany.)

First, standard definition video equipment here is usually connected by SCART cables. One wire in the cable is used (by DVD players, digiboxes, etc) to signal whether the picture is 16:9 (anamorphic) or 4:3, and a widescreen TV can automatically switch modes accordingly.

Aspect ratio information can also be carried within an analogue PAL signal. This information is digitally encoded into raster line 23. (I believe the encoding method is similar to that used for teletext.) For more info see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widescreen_signaling

This line 23 WSS is used by DVB-T boxes to signal more detailed aspect ratio information to the TV, information that it gets from the broadcast AFD (which I mentioned in a previous post). It can also be used in analogue TV broadcasts. For example, analogue Channel 4 uses it to signal when it is broadcasting a 16:9 letterboxed movie, and a widescreen TV should then automatically zoom the picture to fill the screen.

Should be rare

I had not seen that. Supposedly it is also defined for NTSC. The reason it’s rare, here, is that widescreen TVs were fairly rare before the advent of digital. Oh, they made them, but they were only bought bars and people making fancy home theatres to play DVDs on. The vast majority of the TVs you see in stretch mode here are digital HDTVs connected to analog signals from older boxes that were also not expecting to be connected to digital TVs and thus don’t send that widescreen signal. Or so it must be or they would not be getting it wrong so often — I have not looked at the vertical intervals to check.

Yes, SCART never caught on here. Aside from being bulky, I guess it was an idea ahead of its time, bit being VGA with some data pins and a composite video pin (with the ability to use some of the RGB pins for S-video.) When U.S. DVD and other higher-end video sources became popular, they went with component video (which SCART did not officially support) even though it means 5 cables.

Hate looking at the Teletubbies stretched onto a widescreen.

I agree that I HATE watching TV images stretched to widescreen. I complain about it ALL the time!!! And I'm always thinking that it's going to make everyone feel OK about being fat as they see it on TV all the time.

One thing though (haven't read all the entries so someone else may have already said it) is that plasmas can burn pixels if the same image stays on it so maybe the blank bits would damage the plasma screens???

Plasmas

Correct, plasma TVs would either have to have something that changed to avoid burn-in, or stick to black bars.

Hotels still don't understand the problem

Twice in the past four months I have stayed in hotels where the widescreen TV was set to 16:9, resulting in the stretched-out look. Both times I complained to the desk and they sent up their "engineer" to deal with it. But both times the "engineer" did not understand the problem and was no help at all! The first time I was able to fix it myself after the guy left, but the second time this was impossible, as the remote I had to work with had virtually no functionality, just as Brad said. Ablsolutely maddening!

We need a master remote

Perhaps they already do it, but it would be cool to have one of those remote control programs for phones and PDAs (or laptops) which have an infrared LED on them, and have the program include the codes to control hotel TVs and in particular to fix their aspect ratio.

Not getting widescreen

Something is very odd. Please can anyone help?
I hav just followed in the footsteps of my friend next door by buying a 32" LCD Samsung.
On my tv, it seems that (apart from the occasional American prog) Channel 4 is all widescreen. In a 4:3 ratio, it is a small rectangular picture so that, on "Auto Wide", it fills the screen with normal proportions. Great.
But all the other channels are only ok in a 4:3 ratio ~ I refuse to watch them stretched & so, yeah, sometimes I put it on "Wide Zoom" so I miss the top & bottom, if I feel like watching the full screen.
BUT !! And here's the thing .... my neighbour receives most channels (apart from US ones) in a widescreen format ~ BBC1 &2, ITV ~ the lot ! A programme on his tv in a 4:3 ratio is squashed thin so that on widescreen the proportions are right ~ makes sense. But on my tv the same programme in 4:3 is NOT squashed.
Is it because he is Freeview & I am Virgin cable? Why would my channel4 be ok then?

Drives me nuts

I really hate it when people get the aspect ratio wrong (either way). And other posters are right - they can't even see it after you point it out!!! Why can they not see that everyone is the wrong shape!!! That things (including people) change shape as they rotate on screen? Do they not know what people actually look like? Is there not a club for people like us!!!

I think I need to calm down...

I have a WS TV in my living

I have a WS TV in my living room and everyone in this house prefers the image to be stretched but me. I hardly ever watch TV, but still, every time I look at the TV and see it stretched it just bothers me. If only TV's were always WS to begin with and everything was WS.

Or, if only they didn't make the "aspect" button on the TV remotes so it shows everything in their right aspect.

When it's FS (set to 16x9 ratio) people look stretched out and on both sides of the picture (when the camera or something is moving) you can see like a wave in the picture (kinda like what looks like water on a dry road on a hot day). No one else notices this but me.

It's the fault of DVDs

DVDs are made either in widescreen anamorphic or in 4:3 mode. But the TV does not know what sort of DVD is playing, and the DVD player does not know what sort of TV you have unless you go into the menus and tell it.

So to fix that, and the fact that older dvd players did not have a way to be told what sort of tv you had, the tvs needed an aspect ratio switcher, since for an anamorphic widescreen dvd (the best sort of dvd) the stretch is the right thing to do. However, that is the only time it is the right thing.

The other mode that is handy is zoom mode, for use when watching letterbox movies on TV or DVD. In that case you want to zoom (perhaps) to make them fill the screen. The TV could detect that on its own but they often don’t.

Today, when every dvd player can be told what sort of tv you have (and could make that easy to do in the setup) there is no need for an aspect ratio button.

This wave effect you're

This wave effect you're seeing: my PC's player (PowerDVD DX) calls it "CLPV", and the other option is "letterbox", in the settings where it asks what to do with a 4:3 frame on my widescreen monitor.

It is noticeable any time a camera pans or zooms (mostly panning), and I leave it off.

Good To Know I'm Not Alone!

Thank goodness there are others that cannot stand the proliferation of "stretched" TV screens besides me! I'm in a hotel room as I type this that has a nice, new, large LG flat screen monitor. When I first turned it on, sure enough, stretched screen. I more or less expected it because it's so common these days. Luckily, I was able to use the sets' menu buttons on its side to access the setup and change it from "16:9" to "Set by Program". Then I discovered that when you turn the set off, it reverts back to 16:9, requiring me to do the setup gymnastics every time I turn it on. I guess I should be happy that at least I can change it.

My wife and I went out to dinner last night that had flat screen TVs all over the restaurant. Of cousre, every one of 'em had a stretched screen! Help! Let me outta here!

Clearly what's going on here is precisely what's already been identified in this blog: Many people don't even "see" the stretched nature of the picture. Their mind just doesn't get it. And they feel "cheated" if all of the screen's real estate isn't getting used. There are even people that do see it and still prefer the use of all of the screen than the pillarboxed picture, even though the former is distorted and the latter is not. I was trying to explain this to a guy in a sports bar once and he just didn't get it until, during the football game that was on, one of the cameras grabbed a shot of the full moon and it was oval shaped! "Okay, now I see what you're talking about!"

I hate WS TV's that are

I hate WS TV's that are stretched. I hate FS and hate the fact that many channels still broadcast like this but I live with it. Having a stretched image I can not live with or ever get used to. It looks fuzzy and people like stretched and distorted and I hate it. My Mom and Dad and sister both prefer it and don't see a difference. I always laugh at them because of it. I'm very observant and I noticed it the first time I saw it.

What about the black bars when watching WS in a SDTV/CRT TV? Too bad there wasn't an option for to stretched the image vertically, I would love to see it, LOOOOOL.

I keep changing setting to normal and they keep changing the setting back to panorama.Worst thing about TV's like that, is having an option to change the resolution to fake WS. Why can't people just except it and watch it in the format it's supposed to be in?

~Midna

Yea I absolutely do feel

Yea I absolutely do feel cheated by those cursed black bars. I paid good money for a big TV and it is frustrating to see that the whole screen is not in use. It makes me feel as if I could have bought a smaller TV and gotten the same size screen. In fact, the old TV we just replaced with a sony Bravia DOES have the same size screen when I put the aspect ratio on "normal", feels like a ripoff to be honest.

really?

Are you really that stupid?

Wow

So I'm not losing my mind? My roommates insist on watching stretched TV. It drove me so insane that we compromised on my mentioning it, to make a little joke out of it. Each calendar week I am allowed one opportunity to comment on how fat/squished/effed up everything looks, and I make sure to really savor it. Of course when I'm watching something 4:3, I suffer the *incredible torment* of the diabolical pillarbars. Note to the dim: that's sarcasm. And your stretched picture is leotarded!

Different version of Stretched - slightly more palatable

I also hate watching a 4 x 3 image stretched out to fill a 16 x 9 screen. Recently I have noticed that some TV's have a (slightly) better option. The "stretching" is done mainly at the edges of the screen. The center of the image is "normal" and the distortion gradually occurs as you move left or right.

I still don't like it, but it is certainly more tollerable to watch.

What also bugs me is that I recently upgraded my cable box to HD, and now I find that some channels that broadcast a SD show will stretch it out on the HD version of the channel :-((

Yes, especially with

Yes, especially with animated shows. Apparently it's okay to stretch out cartoons. Nope, sorry, even animated people look like football heads when stretched out.

At the moment I'm stuck with a hotel TV that not only stretches out the 4:3 signal, but it's zoomed in past 16:9 so it's painful to watch.

Rubik's Cube

I thought for such a long time that this was just a South African problem. I'm actually kinda horrified to learn that that's not the case. I used to say that giving a widescreen tv set to a South African is like giving a Rubik's cube to a slightly dim two-year-old. The pretty colours are great but they'll never quite get what it's for.

To the earlier commenter who feels cheated - that's what you get for going out and buying something you don't understand. Yes, you could've gone to a pawn shop and got a giant Cathode Ray Tube from the seventies, set your set-top box to crop wide content (most still seem to do that by default anyway) and all your stories would be nice and big and fill up the entire screen. And the really sad part is you'd be happy.

I think people should have to pass a license exam in order to be allowed to purchase widescreen sets.

Yes, this topic brings out the angry sarcastic misanthrope in me.

It would be nice if we could

It would be nice if we could just arrest and lock up people who have their TVs displayed incorrectly. It would definitely cut down on the amount of stupid people in the world. Pretty much everyone who pays for cable should be locked up too.

I got a new tv last christmas

I got a new tv last christmas, and and wait to see all the channels I wanted to watch. But when I turned it on, there was something off, the whole thing was streched and the sides are cropped off(the shows are 16:9 but thinks my screen is 4:3) and the only person that can help is my dad. He did not know about the problem and 6 months went by until I showed him the sports channels and he notices that he hates it because its wierd(In other words, "Streched") and fixes it. You know what, show some people their favourite channel, the ones that they watch all day, that are either 4:3 or think your tv is 4:3 and they will not love it.

The real problem - and what

The real problem - and what bugs me more than incorrectly set TVs - is that so many people can't even see the distortion even when they're staring at it. Is everyone really unable to tell what a circle should look? Something must be done industry wide so that ALL signals carry a code that tells ALL monitors how they should be displayed, including going into zoom mode for 4x3 letterbox. This is the only solution since we now have ample evidence that putting aspect ratio management in the hands of the end user has been an epic fail.

Stupid

Watching 4:3 television content, stretched to 16:9, is stupid!
Watching 16:9 web content, smooshed to 4:3, is stupid!
Watching smooshed or stretched hd content is wildly stupid!
Watching a state of the art tv, with a set top box that robs you of all its fantastic features is absolutely the stupidest!!!!

Most people don't need televisions with options. Most people are just stupid and want to be told what they like and want. You cant teach stupid!

So, I set my TV to... or...

In a nutshell, can anyone summarize:
1. If a station is broadcasting in widescreen, would old 4:3 tv's not show the sides, or would they show the full picture with black bars at the top & bottom?
2. How do I know what picture I am getting from broadcast station or cable or DVD other than by trying to tell if people look fat?
3. If I leave my Sony LED widescreen TV in "Normal" mode, will it show both types of cable channels (5:4 & 161:9) correctly?

People who are TRULY too

People who are TRULY too stupid to live are those who somehow take a 4x3 letterboxed picture and the put THAT on stretch mode on a widescreen TV, so you have a super-wide stretched picture and still have those "black bars" everyone hates on the top and bottom! Apparently the sports channels have standard-def feeds like this, as this happens at almost EVERY restaurant I go to that has TVs! If they can't get an HD feed they could just put them on Zoom, but they're too dumb to figure that out. (Of course, I've never thought too highly of people who watch sports, or pay for any type of ad-supported TV anyways.)

It doesn't always bother me...

It doesn't always bother me...sometimes I like a 4:3 pic stretched, sometimes pillarboxed, sometimes zoomed in, or sometimes with the ends stretched. It's just preferences. Really.

Anamorphic DVD's

A few DVD's I've purchased are already stretched when I use the Dot by Dot mode. I've tried adjusting the display from my DVD player (Panasomic DMP-BD60 Blu-ray) and only when I set it to zoom can I get it not to stretch the image. But this zooms the whole picture so I'm missing the full picture. The only other adjustments on my Sharp LC-46D64U would either zoom or stretch the picture further. I can't stand the "fat heads" but it seems it's the only way I can display these movies. The DVD's are usually of old TV shows, old movies that were in 4:3 aspect ratio to begin with or some independent low budget recent movies. Does anyone have suggestions that I haven't explored?

I have a slightly different problem

I agree with all those who are aghast at 4:3 being stretched ("fat screen mode") or 16:9 being squished ("skinny screen mode") but I have a slightly different problem.

Our TV is about 41 inches, HD, a few years old. (I won't mention the brand name because I'm not sure that's permitted on these forums.) We don't have a DVD player hooked to it, and we watch over-the-air TV (without cable) in the Chicago area.

My problem is that our TV ignores the aspect ratio that I assume is broadcast by all digital channels. It works right on HD channels but messes up the SD channels.

In Chicago, some SD channels (9.2, 11.3, 11.4, 38.2 to name a few) are intended to be viewed 4:3, so I need Normal mode or Zoom mode to render them properly. Other channels (such as 5.2, 50.2, 11,2, 38.5) are designed for 16:9, so I need Wide mode or Panoramic mode.

But the silly TV doesn't know the difference! Every time I switch channels, I need to change the aspect ratio by hand.

Is this just the brand, or will most other brands recognize the difference and display appropriately? How can I get a list of brands which work properly in this regard?

I know the TV stations must be broadcasting the aspect ratio, because all channels display correctly on our older (CRT) TVs connected through digital-to-analog converter boxes. No problem there!

Bad brand

You can mention any brand unless you are spamming it.

Does sound like it’s broken. Most TVs have an “automatic” aspect ratio setting that will just adjust to each channel. Search for that

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