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Thread: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

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    Default widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    I'm visiting a friend last night who has a new modern wide screen 16:9 HDTV. We are watching regular TV over that however, in particular Survivor. It was very obvious, a regular square screen video was being squished down into the 16:9 format as the people were fat and short.

    So tonight I'm at my dad's watching Man vs. Wild on a really old square screen TV and there are top and bottom horizontal black bars on the video. This makes me think ok, this is filmed in 16:9 format and they are preserving aspect ratio by adding the bars. Except it seemed Bear's head was being cut off in certain scenes.

    So I don't know what is going on here. Most new TVs are of the 16:9 wide screen format yet I don't want to buy one if broadcast aspect ratio is being compromised to fit the image on the wide screen format.

    Maybe somebody can tell me what the deal is here.
    I live in a van down by the river

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    most hd is wide screen
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    Flashaholic* LukeA's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Quote Originally Posted by geepondy View Post
    I'm visiting a friend last night who has a new modern wide screen 16:9 HDTV. We are watching regular TV over that however, in particular Survivor. It was very obvious, a regular square screen video was being squished down into the 16:9 format as the people were fat and short.

    So tonight I'm at my dad's watching Man vs. Wild on a really old square screen TV and there are top and bottom horizontal black bars on the video. This makes me think ok, this is filmed in 16:9 format and they are preserving aspect ratio by adding the bars. Except it seemed Bear's head was being cut off in certain scenes.

    So I don't know what is going on here. Most new TVs are of the 16:9 wide screen format yet I don't want to buy one if broadcast aspect ratio is being compromised to fit the image on the wide screen format.

    Maybe somebody can tell me what the deal is here.
    Almost all HD programming is natively widescreen. And lots of TV is being shot in HD. Probably more than you would think. (more than I thought, anyway)

    You can stretch or crop 4:3 video to fit the screen using the sat/cable box's remote or have the video play on the screen with columns on each side. On every box that I've encountered, the reverse is true as well. If the box is hooked up to a 4:3 TV, you can letterbox the video, or stretch or crop it.
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    Flashaholic* elgarak's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Quote Originally Posted by geepondy View Post
    I'm visiting a friend last night who has a new modern wide screen 16:9 HDTV. We are watching regular TV over that however, in particular Survivor. It was very obvious, a regular square screen video was being squished down into the 16:9 format as the people were fat and short.

    So tonight I'm at my dad's watching Man vs. Wild on a really old square screen TV and there are top and bottom horizontal black bars on the video. This makes me think ok, this is filmed in 16:9 format and they are preserving aspect ratio by adding the bars. Except it seemed Bear's head was being cut off in certain scenes.

    So I don't know what is going on here. Most new TVs are of the 16:9 wide screen format yet I don't want to buy one if broadcast aspect ratio is being compromised to fit the image on the wide screen format.

    Maybe somebody can tell me what the deal is here.
    My Polaroid WS TV does not allow changing the aspect ratio on HD channels (it does on the standard tuner)-- I don't have cable and get only over-the-air HD channels, and the consistency varies wildly. Most main network (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox) HD broadcasts are correct, and look stunning. Some other channels, and 'minor' broadcasts, are often squished. The 'cheap' local channels which basically just transfer the standard 480i resolution are all squished, though AFAIK this is a wrong setting on their part. But there's nothing I myself can do about it (I don't watch those broadcasts anyway, so no big loss). Some other channels obviously pay much more attention, and broadcast correctly always, even if they only broadcast 480i or p.

    I don't know if the behavior of my TV (not allowing aspect ratio changes on HD) is standard or not. This may be something you should specifically ask for and investigate into when you shop for the TV.

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Both our cable box and the TVs themselves allow changing the format. The common ones are standard, fill (which distorts the image), and zoom (which doesn't but cuts off the top parts). Fact is you can't fit 4:3 video on a 16:9 screen. Because of all the format changing (sometimes programs are fine but commercials are distorted), and differing standards among channels, I can't wait until everything is HD in early 2009. We were supposed to have converted already, but too many people complaining pushed the date back.

    Just in case anyone thinks the sole reason behind the switch to HD is to get everyone to buy new TVs, I gave myself a dramatic demonstration otherwise. I hooked my mom's new 42" 1080p TV with built-in HD tuner to our roof antenna just for kicks. Not only did the broadcast stations have digital channels in addition to the normal analog, but I was stunned at the difference in picture quality. I'm not just talking about the difference between analog and HD. I'm talking about cases where the TV barely picked up the analog station, such that the picture was all fuzzy. However, the digital stations coming from the same location were crystal clear. Not all were in 1080i or even 720p, either. Even the 480p digital channels were much clearer than the analog when reception was fairly good. Where reception of the analog station was lousy, the digital stations were still crystal clear. Enhanced immunity to noise is what the changeover to digital TV is all about.

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    There is another "wide screen" option called (on some TV's) "Panoramic". Selecting this on regular 4:3 selectively widens the screen by leaving the center third (or so) of the picture un expanded, but only expanding the left and right 1/3'rds of the picture. So people in the center have good aspect ratios--but those to the sides get "really plump".

    I too have a wide screen HD TV (really an HD monitor with analog receiver) with an add-on Digital Receiver. The picture quality is much better with HD, and I can get stations that used to be very fuzzy too... But, I have found, that the antenna has to be pointed very exactly at the station or the picture and sound just die. But, to be honest, it is hardly worth the effort on most shows (for me) to even turn on the HD Digital Receiver--I just stick with basic cable (frequently the Discovery Channel or Food Network) as the camera work in most shows seems to be pretty average.

    Also, you will see some differences because (as far as I know), right now, all HD channels are UHF--there are none that are on the (lower frequency) VHF (2-13) channels. I have heard that the FCC/Government wants to free 2 thru 13 so they can resell the frequency spectrum--and the broadcasters don't want to give up any bandwidth at all (bandwidth=potential profit).

    -Bill

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Great Subject!!!!!!

    One of my BIGGEST pet peeves....... I'm just gonna let it flow out..... It may get messy.

    Example- Hey.... You should come over and check out my new 60" TV.... Yah, cost me a fortune......HD, Flat screen, plasma dah di dah di dah, Yah, spent another small fortune on a audio surround system XXX and than I had to get hundreds of dollars in cables. Had to upgrade my cable service. (I know I'm not the only who has heard this story) Yah, the whole system cost me about 10 grand.

    You go over to check it out and ..... The freaking picture is all outta whack! And people are watching it like nothing is wrong!!!!! Most wide screen TV's have the ability to show the proper perspective, but the picture may get a little smaller.

    So there have to be millions of (dumb) people out there spending big money to watch big, clear out of perspective television!!!

    Football looks like a whole different game! Basketball players don't look long and lean...... Looks like a bunch of linebackers playing basketball!!! Car racing looks like Japanese Anime. Super models look normal!

    I don't get it.........

    I'm thinking this guy spent 10 grand to watch huge, stretched, scrunched TV is not so smart!!!

    Like taking 5 steps forward to take 10 steps backwards.

    I guess it's just not TV..... Technology in the wrong hands can be dangerous!

    Sorry to vent..... But I just don't get it!

    frisco

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    Flashaholic* BIGIRON's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    The other side of coin on the unwatchable $10K units.

    When my vision got to the point that I couldn't read the "crawl" on CNN or Bloomberg (as good an excuse as any), I bought a 55" plasma on sale for less than $2k. It was a moderately priced set at year end markdown. Very adequate sound thru the tv for "voice" shows and ran it thru my existing good quality stereo for movies or music stuff. The small difference I've noticed in other guys surround systems is not worth $$ or hassle to me.

    The Dish HD package, for like 40 HD channels (including my most watched ones) was about $30 month additional (had Dish anyway) with some additional promo discounts. Our major local broadcast channels are all available as digital onair, which if routed thru the Dish DVR/HD box are all on the Dish on screen menu, and produce excellent quality reception - there's no partial reception on digital broadcasts - you either get enough signal for a full picture or nothing.

    The TV has 5 different aspects, including a "partial zoom" that works pretty well for the nonHD but looses a little of the top and bottom (but not nearly as much as the full zoom on other sets) but the display can be moved - I can move it upward slightly to catch all the bottom "crawl" by losing a little more of the top.

    Worth it? You bet, even without my vision loss considered. Produced for big screen HD, "CSI Miami" is awesome visually (if you can stand the dialog!). Some of the nature shows, produced in HD, have to be seen to be believed.

    I'm not pimping DishTV - it's just what I already had and, depending on the promo packages, was competetively priced or less than cable.
    Last edited by BIGIRON; 11-24-2007 at 03:47 AM.

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Quote Originally Posted by BIGIRON View Post
    Some of the nature shows, produced in HD, have to be seen to be believed.
    Did you watch "Planet Earth" in HD? That completely blew me away.
    A little madness never hurt anybody.

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Ha! "Supermodels look normal" -- just got it. Good one, Frisco.

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Other than the HD visual quality, which is indeed great, I agree that there can be a problem with the perspective and the cropping.

    Basically, different shows/movies can be broadcast or played back from DVDs at different ratios, so it's as if you can't win. Either the regular 4:3 or the WS formats will at times seem to lose some area, either as bands on the top, or vertical columns on the sides and sometimes even both.

    Best solution is to have either a good enough TV, or (the solution in my case) good computer HDTV tuner plus software, which automatically switch any program to the best solution so the actual filmed perspective is preserved. This does have the cost that you keep losing variable bits of your TV screen, but at least you don't get short and squat basketball players!

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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    There is still an enormous amount of content that's been shot in SD, so we're going to be dealing with out-of-whack aspect ratios and SD "stretch-o-vision" for a long time. Television has been around for over half a century now and we're still running across old shows shot in B&W, so all of that legacy programming will always be around to goof up our aspect ratio settings.

    Mind you I'm not complaining. I just have realistic expectations.

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    DirecTV HD has more than anyone I believe. I get my Local channels, as well as all the sports channels. Not to mention Discovery, Food Network, TNT, TBS all the HBO's and Showtimes, I hardly EVER have to watch "regular" TV anymore


    Tim

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    So the format information is not present in the digital broadcast so that your nice new TV could decode that (or cable box) and auto size the picture correctly?
    I live in a van down by the river

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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Well, sort of. An HD set is capable of looking at the sync rate and determining whether the picture is SD or HD, or for that matter, 1080i or 720p (SD is 480i). So the set can adjust the edges of the display area automatically if you set it up that way, and y0u can usually configure how it behaves with an SD signal in terms of auto-stretch or pillarboxed display. What's confising is that sometimes during an HD program, a piece of SD material will be shown using HD sync (so the set thinks it doesn't need to stretch) and you wind up with pillarboxed SD on an HD channel. This often happens with SD commercials inserted in an HD program. I watched one show that had live concert footage (HD), backstage stuff (SD stretched) and archival footage (SD non-stretched *and* letterboxed). So the display kept switching between full HD, SD pillarboxed and SD postage-stamped (letterboxed AND pillarboxed), and then back to HD again. What a confusing mess!

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    What's really fun is when the original signal is converted back and forth between 16:9 and 4:3 several times. You can get picture distortion and/or black bars in the horizontal and/or vertical axes. It's like repeatedly translating between English and Chinese.

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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    And somewhere in that mess Ted Turner might've colorized sump'n.

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    And what sucks too is the TV's that don't have good processors in them and the SD content looks WORSE than on a standard TV. It stretches it so you get all these blocky pixelations and then it blurs it a bit to soften the edges so you get something that looks like an old Nintendo game with a blur filter applied. Makes reading text near impossible on some content. And since the stores demo's are all in HD you don't get to test out the SD content processing on the TV's...
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Quote Originally Posted by IsaacHayes View Post
    And what sucks too is the TV's that don't have good processors in them and the SD content looks WORSE than on a standard TV. It stretches it so you get all these blocky pixelations and then it blurs it a bit to soften the edges so you get something that looks like an old Nintendo game with a blur filter applied. Makes reading text near impossible on some content. And since the stores demo's are all in HD you don't get to test out the SD content processing on the TV's...
    Frankly - the best SD performance I've seen is on CRT HDTV's. Unlike discrete-pixel sets, they can simply "downshift" to SD standards, or some simple integer multiple thereof, so there's no interpolation needed.

    The downside of CRTs is as they ever were - bulky and heavy, though (IMO) they still have the best overall picture quality.

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    Flashaholic* BIGIRON's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    My limited research suported FurrBear's post that CRT's have some advantages in HD.

    We want to replace an older TV with a HD set. To get a HD widescreen that would fit the existing location (furniture) we'd have to get one so small as to be unseeable, so I've shopped for CRT HD's and they are scarce. (I know, that's like buying a peice of art because "it goes with the couch".)

    I'll keep looking, but as time goes by, there will be less and less CRT HD's.

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    Flashaholic* greenlight's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    I was watching the ASU/USC football game on Thanksgiving, ESPN. The host was showing off his new 42" LCD. I suggested watching it in native 4'3' mode, but the other two preferred the stretched out version, even when compared to the zoom mode which cuts off some of the border. Fortunately it was time for my football nap.

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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    +1 on CRT displays. They still have important advantages over the others -

    No motion artifacts
    Extremely wide viewing angle
    Excellent brightness
    Beautiful color fidelity

    They are limited in terms of maximum screen size; I have yet to see a 60" CRT. However if you don't need a theater-sized screen, a CRT is still a good deal, especially as an entry-level HD set.

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    Flashaholic* LukeA's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonWrangler View Post
    +1 on CRT displays. They still have important advantages over the others -

    No motion artifacts
    Extremely wide viewing angle
    Excellent brightness
    Beautiful color fidelity
    Good-quality LCD panels share all of these qualities.
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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Quote Originally Posted by LukeA View Post
    Good-quality LCD panels share all of these qualities.
    I beg to differ, LukeA. While LCDs have improved vastly over the past few years, they're still not as good as CRTs.

    LCDs currently use a fluorescent backlight which is (slightly) deficient in reds, so the color rendition is not quite as good as CRTs.

    LCD crystals have measurable mass, and even with the current 5ms response time, I can still see a little bit of the smudgies on fast motion.

    Viewing angles have gotten much better on LCDs. In this area the good ones are virtually as good as CRTs.

    Of course LCDs use a fraction of the power of CRTs, generate little heat and they can fit in tight spaces where a CRT can't.
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    You really think so? Last spring I bought a top of the line Viewsonic 19" LCD monitor (VP930b) based on reviews and user opinions and while the viewing angle is improved, it still doesn't even approach that of my CRT TV.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonWrangler View Post
    Viewing angles have gotten much better on LCDs. In this area the good ones are virtually as good as CRTs.
    I live in a van down by the river

  26. #26
    Flashaholic* sunspot's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    I bought a plasma last year after viewing the store displays vs. a LCD because of the greater viewing angle. I do believe the LCD's are getting better as the LCD I bought recently for the bedroom has a decent view angle better than the models I saw last year.
    I receive my HD content from Dish but Direct has now got more HD programs.
    BTW, use an upconvert DVD player to improve your DVD picture if you have a HDTV.
    Dana

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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Sunspot, does your plasma have the "orbiting" (de-burn) feature?

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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    What's really fun is when the original signal is converted back and forth between 16:9 and 4:3 several times. You can get picture distortion and/or black bars in the horizontal and/or vertical axes. It's like repeatedly translating between English and Chinese.
    Yeah, that has bothered me as well. What usually has happened in those cases was that a movie was originally filmed in 16:9, but in order to show it on a 4:3 screen, the network actually broadcasts a 4:3 signal that contains letterboxing as part of the "image" rather than broadcasting the original signal and properly identifying it as 16:9. When the 16:9 set receives this, it treats it like any other 4:3 signal and pillarboxes it.

    The set I have (42" LG LCD) actually has a user selectable "zoom" mode which will scale content like that so that it fits properly.

    The only gripe I have about the set (which is true of all HD Tvs that I've seen) is that if I try to use it a 1920x1080 computer monitor (using a DVI -> HDMI cable), the TV automatically "overscans" and crops off the edges of the desktop! The TV will only display my desktop without overscan or distortion if I set the computer's resolution to 1370x768.

    However, If I use a regular VGA cable instead, the TV simply leaves the incoming signal alone and displays it at the proper resolution, although things like fine text tend to be a bit blurry due to the slight lossyness in the VGA cable.

    Example- Hey.... You should come over and check out my new 60" TV.... Yah, cost me a fortune......HD, Flat screen, plasma dah di dah di dah, Yah, spent another small fortune on a audio surround system XXX and than I had to get hundreds of dollars in cables. Had to upgrade my cable service. (I know I'm not the only who has heard this story) Yah, the whole system cost me about 10 grand.

    You go over to check it out and ..... The freaking picture is all outta whack! And people are watching it like nothing is wrong!!!!! Most wide screen TV's have the ability to show the proper perspective, but the picture may get a little smaller.

    So there have to be millions of (dumb) people out there spending big money to watch big, clear out of perspective television!!!
    I have never understood why so many value a slight increase in the size of the image over preserving a show's original content and aspect ratio. Even before the days of wide aspect-ratio TV, I was annoyed that so many chose to watch pan and scan widescreen format as opposed to letterboxing. Now people are stretching 4:3 shows out to 16:9 which is much worse.

  29. #29
    Flashaholic* sunspot's Avatar
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    Default Re: widescreen vs. "square screen" TV questions

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonWrangler View Post
    Sunspot, does your plasma have the "orbiting" (de-burn) feature?
    Jeez, I have no idea. I don't think "burn in" is a problem with the newer sets. I'll check the data sheet.
    BTW, It's a Panny 50" TV. $1999 at Costco. I think they can be had for 1500 now.
    Dana

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