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Intro to Widescreen

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Widescreen TV's

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Widescreen TV's

Widescreen TV's are display devices that have an aspect ratio of 16:9 (1.78:1). There is a good reason for this aspect ratio. TV shows have a ratio of 1.33:1 and Cinemascope movies have a ratio of 2.35:1. These are the extreme values usually found in a movie/TV show. 16:9 maximizes the display area of both of these extreme values and that is where the 1.78:1 ratio comes from.

Widescreen TV's have 3 major methods for viewing different video sources: Normal, Zoom (aka: Theaterwide [Toshiba]), Stretch (aka: Full [Toshiba], 16x9). A couple of minor methods are listed below under their parent functions.


Displays black bars on the side of images preserving the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 use this method to view standard TV like the news or VHS tapes that are not in a letterbox format. Also 1.66:1 is too tall to use the zoom method. The zoom method uses a 1.78 aspect ratio. Anything that is smaller (i.e. 1.66) would be cut (top/bottom). Now if you don't mind you can still use the zoom option with this but would matte it to a 1.78 aspect ratio.

Normal Mode: 1.33:1 ratio on a 16x9 screen Normal Mode: 1.66:1 ratio on a 16x9 screen


Zooms in on the image showing only the middle of the picture (cutting only top and bottom). This method is used for letterbox movies that are encoded with black bars on the top and bottom. When zooming in on a letterbox movie it would cut off the top and bottom, it depends on the actual ratio as to how much of black bars are still seen. This method can be used from 1.78 and up. On ratios that are smaller than 1.78 the top and bottom will be cut off look carefully at the 1.66 example.

Zoom Mode: 1.33:1, top/bottom cropped Zoom Mode: 1.66:1, top/bottom cropped
Zoom Mode: 1.78:1, no image lost, no black bars Zoom Mode: 1.85:1, no image lost, small black bars
Zoom Mode: 2.35:1, larger black bars, no image lost

Zoom mode 1.66

Zoom Mode 1.66, zooms a 1.66:1 image in only enough to remove black bars from the top and bottom, decreases the visible black bars on edge without removing information from top/bottom of image. Note this is zooming in less than the normal zoom function.

Zoom Mode 2.35

Zoom Mode 2.35, zooms a 2.35:1 image to remove black bars on the top/bottom. This method does crop the sides of image to fit on the screen. Note: this zooms more than the normal zoom feature.


Stretches an anamorphic formatted image to fill entire screen. Much more horizontal resolution is achieved over that of zooming in on the equivalent letterbox formatted movie. This can come in useful for old movies also. There have been several movies I've watched over the years where everyone in the video was very skinny because when they transferred the movie they just squashed it horizontally to fit everything on the video. These old videos would be considered anamorphic but until now where just a pain to watch. Just as shown with the Zoom above the 1.85 and 2.35 aspect ratio will still have small black lines on the top and bottom to compensate for the difference in aspect ratios. See the anamorphic section for more information.

Stretching the anamorphic image above gives you the properly formatted
image below, note in the anamorphic image above everything is skinny

Stretch Edges

Stretches only the edges of the screen. The Center of the image remains in the correct aspect ratio with the edges being stretched to fill the screen. This method makes the center of the viewing area look correct and edges distorted. The picture below is my best approximation, I don't know exactly where to start the stretch and if it is a gradual.

If you know of any other methods for a particular widescreen TV,
please drop me a note and I'll include them in the page.
Be sure to explain it so I can get the image right.
© Ethan Killian 2002 | Last Updated: