What's an Aspect Ratio and Why Should You Care?

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What is an aspect ratio?

What's an Aspect Ratio and Why Should You Care?

If you've ever watched a wide-screen movie on a standard TV, you already know about the problem of "aspect ratios."

In TV terms, the "aspect ratio" is the ratio of screen width to screen height. Analog televisions have an aspect ratio of 4:3. Movies are shot for a more horizontal screen, with a ratio of 16:9. Converting one of these for a TV screen means either showing it with black bars at the top and bottom (letterboxing) or going through scene by scene and choosing which side of the screen to show the viewer (pan and scan). Neither of these gives the at-home movie viewer the same experience the director had in mind.

If you buy a flat screen TV today, it will almost surely be 16:9. Now the opposite problem occurs -- differences in the size of your screen and the aspect ratio of standard programming. The solution has been moved into your hands. With a touch of a button on your TV remote, you can watch in a letterboxed format (with the black bars now on the sides), a "stretched" format (fills the screen, but causes some distortion), or a "zoom" format (fills the screen but cuts off parts of the picture).

   

Comments

1/28/2009 5:23:00 AM
ss said:

is there a way to "fit" the aspect to your television? if we watch it at 16:9 it's too big, if we watch it at 4:5, what's the point of the 32 inch screen? And if we watch it at a zoom choice still the fore heads of the people are usually cut off. Any suggestions?




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