Widescreen and Ultra Widescreen
Having recently upgraded to a larger TV, I've had to re-examine some of my ideas about screen sizes and picture quality.
Video formats and aspect ratios
Video content comes in several different formats.
· Old movies and standard TV: aspect ratio = 4:3
· Widescreen TV: aspect ratio = 16:9
· Most widescreen movies: aspect ratio = 21:9
Today's flat TVs have an aspect ratio of 16:9. When showing content that has a 4:3 aspect ratio, the TV screen shows black bars in the unused areas on the sides.
In order to show widescreen movies (aspect ratio 21:9) without cropping, the TV shrinks the picture until it will fit on the screen and shows black bars at the top and bottom.
I still watch a lot of old video, and that sets a limit on screen size: The bigger the screen, the blurrier that old video looks. My new TV is larger than my old one, so I was surprised that old video looks as good on it as it does. Still, to keep that blur tolerable, my new TV is still smaller than the recommended size for my viewing room.
Maximizing the movie screen
I'd like to have a bigger screen for viewing movies without making the screen too big for viewing old video. One way to do that would be to get an ultra widescreen TV — a TV with a 21:9 aspect ratio.
An ultra widescreen TV fits widescreen movies just right, but both standard TV and widescreen TV get black bars on the sides, as shown here.
If the screen of my hypothetical 21:9 TV were the same height as my present TV, my 4:3 content would look the same as it does now (as shown above), but widescreen movies would be larger, as indicated by these two pictures. (The first matches the 16:9 TV picture shown earlier; the second matches the 21:9 picture.)
Ultra widescreen TVs have been announced — one model even has the same screen height as my present TV — but they're like concept cars at auto shows:  Not for sale (not in the US, at least not yet).
Copyright © 2011 Allen Watson III