Television Screen Dimensions and Resolution
Widescreen vs Pan & Scan
Standard vs Anamorphic
- sometimes wrongly referred to as "Resolution"
Aspect Ratio can mean:
the aspect ratio of a TV screen is the relationship between the width and height of the screen.
the aspect ratio of a video is the relationship between the width and height of the screen displayed video.
The video's ratio may or may not be equal to your screen ratio. If you see black bars, then of course, the video ratio is not the same as your screen ratio.
Aspect Ratio = Width ÷ Height = Width/Height = Width:Height
The 3 common ways that aspect ratio is written
1) using whole numbers on either side of the colon. For example, 4:3 (some even display it as a fraction, as in 4/3 )
2) converting it so that the Height is "1" and the width is given as a decimal number. The advantage to this is that it tells you instantly how large the width is comparatively to the height.
3) as a single decimal number. This is a simple way of displaying method 2. Once the aspect ratio is converted to Height = 1, then the height is sometimes left out, and assumed as = 1
1) 4:3 is the standard NTSC TV screen aspect ratio
2) that can be converted to a height = 1 by dividing both the numerator and denominator by 3, or 1:33.1
3) using method 2 to convert the height to 1, we can then leave out the height entirely. Since it is 1, and this is so commonly done, whenever a ratio is given as a single decimal number, everyone knows that the height is = 1. So our example can be written in 3 ways:
4:3 = 1.33:1 = 1.33
Why Resolution ≠ Aspect Ratio - Resolution is a ratio but it is measured by dots, or pixels. The resolution may have a different ratio than the displayed picture, since many viewing formats include squeezing of pixels, skipping of pixels, doubling pixels, and even using non-round pixels (oval pixels). This is why it is a misnomer to call resolution, the aspect ratio !!
Widescreen vs Pan & Scan
Movies are filmed is a very wide format . . . much wider than traditional TV screens. Enter Pan and Scan . . . . and then later . . . Widescreen
Widescreen vs Pan&Scan . . . as always, it has become this controversy between purists of both camps. As always, each format has advantages and disadvantages ad the most honest approach is top simply be aware of both formats and select which one you prefer without going extreme about it
Here is an example of a flash animation from a Widescreen advocacy site . . . http://www.widescreen.org .
a Flash Animation from the Widescreen Advocacy
about the "horrors" of Pan & Scan, and the greatness of Widescreen
They forgot to mention that their favorite
method shrinks the movie way down !!
Which is why, personally . . . I like Pan and Scan !!!
Now that TV's are moving to HDTV format, the days of the 4:3 (Width:Height) screen ratios are numbered. But that conversion, originally planned by law to occur in 2008, will actually take quite a while. So for now the DVD's you rent come in a number of screen resolutions and dimensions, and your DVD player and/or TV must use a method to change it to fit your screen .
The screen ratio is defined as Width:Height. NTSC TV's are at 4:3 (1.33 to 1) and HDTV's are at 16:9 (1.78 to 1)
TV (green box), and two common film ratios (blue and red boxes) - HDTV not shown
TV = 1.33:1 (same as 4:3)
Film = 2.35:1 (CinemaScope or PanaVision) and 1.85:1
(HDTV = 1.78:1 which is the same as 16:9)
Pan and Scan - also called "Full Screen" - the typical way that a film is converted to TV. Information is encoded into the DVD tracks to tell the player where to place a virtual 4:3 window, and where to move it, should the action move off center. This 4:3 window is - by default - placed in the center of the wide movie, and whatever fill that window, is what fills your screen - the rest is chopped off. If the action moves off center, the pan and scan track tell the player to also move the window off center.
Now . . . as the viewer, you don't see the movement of this window because your TV is stationary. There are many ways of creating the pan and scan tracking data. That is done by the movie houses and finishing shops. If done right, it is a tedious process, where they try to keep the window in the center as much as possible, and they try to move off center as little as possible, and when they do move . . . as smoothly as possible.
Widescreen - also called "Letterbox" - you've all seen this . . . the hated black bars. Well some purists are crazy about preserving the film and they love the black bars !!! This allows you to see the entire, original movie content, but at a much smaller size. Letterboxing simply shrinks the original film way down in size, and keeps the same dimensions. Since it is wider than your 4:3 TV screen, the end result is a mat that the picture fits into. There are black bars on the top and bottom, enabling the wide center area to show the aspect ratio of the original theatrical presentation.
Black Bars even with HDTV
If you buy an HDTV, most modern DVD movies will fill the screen perfectly, at 16:9 . But some movies, called widescreen/anamorphic - are shot at an even wider ratio, and those will cause black bars on an HDTV. You may have noticed the effect on your standard TV, where most black bars are at a certain thickness, but sometimes you insert a DVD and the black bars are huge, while the movie seems really, really short and wide.
(16:9 Enhanced) - (from http://www.widescreen.org/dvd_anamorphic.shtml )In order to allow widescreen TV owners to see a movie on their widescreen TV without sacrificing image clarity, anamorphic (also called "16:9 Enhanced") DVDs were created.
Non-anamorphic display on a 4:3 TV
Anamorphic display on a 4:3 TV
(has an annoying squished look)