Stretching 4:3 to fit 16:9 - a mini-rant

It depends on your tv. A lot of HDTVs have more than one “stretch” option. The one I like does make 4:3 fit the whole screen, however it does it sort of exponentially, so that the middle third or so is at normal ratio, with the sides gradually increasing in ratio. So generally the people or whatever the camera is focused on looks normal, and the stuff on the sides that doesn’t matter gets stretched unnoticably.

The thing I find kind of weird is that “widescreen” comes in more than the 16:9 flavor, so lots of widescreen movies will still have black bars after being stretched.

Often you can put it on “Zoom” and fix that, but you have to check to make sure you’re not losing picture.

Exactly. Any newer HDTVs don’t “stretch” the image, but resizes it. And yes the picture is a little grainy due to the distortion, but honestly, if the only 4:3 shows you’re watching are old Seinfeld reruns and Jeopardy, it doesn’t really matter.

The bars on the side are much more distracting than the (often unnoticeable) resizing.

I still don’t understand why it is so hard for the TV to detect whether the signal is 4:3 or 16:9 and adjust accordingly, automatically. Seems to me it should be simplicity in itself. The 4:3 with black stripes could be a bit more problematic, but even that shouldn’t be an issue for the TV to detect automatically. Its a black stripe on the top and bottom of the 4:3 signal… That is detectable.

My TV is set to display 4:3 footage as 16:9. This is because the majority of DVDs are in anamorphic format. That is: 16:9 footage squeezed into a 4:3 space. This unfortunately also means all 4:3 footage that ought to be displayed as 4:3 is assumed to be anamorphic, and is stretched to 16:9. I have to bugger about with my ratio button to get it looking right, then switch back again after I’m done.

My digital TV broadcast signals, however, are always displayed correctly. Presumably the TV signal has black bars in the anamorphic footage it’s sending me, but I’m not sure.

Our HDTV doesn’t automatically resize based on the incoming signal. I leave it set to 16:9 so that when watching the HD channels (as often as possible) the picture looks correct. When watching the SD channels, everything is stretched, people are chubby and various digital artifacts are obvious. I don’t like it, but I don’t have a button on the cable box remote that will switch the aspect. The TV remote does, but what a pain to try juggling them when lying down in bed. I moan and bear it. My wife dislikes the moaning about it since her eyesight is bad enough that she doesn’t notice.

Our TV has the Panoramic algorithm that Quartz describes, but the fisheye effect is disorienting to me. ie. when panning at a steady rate, the edges go zipping by, slow down in the middle and then zip off again.

hmmm…I wonder if I can program that aspect button on the cable box remote somehow…?

Wait, what? It can’t tell between 4:3 footage and anamorphic footage? This isn’t exactly new technology. (BTW, anamorphic isn’t always a 16:9 picture, it can be any ratio. I don’t get it either, but hey, it works…usually)

On the other hand, to be fair to the cable guy, I’d be willing to bet that if he didn’t do that, half of his follow-up visits would be due to calls from folks like ZipperJJ’s dad complaining about the picture not filling the screen. In my experience, there’s a high degree of correlation between the set of people who don’t care about aspect ratio and the set of people who are befuddled by the controls of their equipment. So if he sets things up this way by default, the ones who hate it will fix it themselves, while if he goes the other way, he’s visiting a lot of homes twice.

My beef is with the Turner cable networks (I’m looking at you TNT) who thoughtfully take 4x3 content and stretch it to 16x9 and then distribute it on their “high def” networks. Someone like ZipperJJ’s dad is in charge of network operations for Turner – that’s just wrong.

Well, the only way it could tell is if there was a code embedded in the signal itself, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen. Effectively, all it can do is what it’s told, and in my case I have set my (5 year old) TV to stretch all 4:3 footage to 16:9.

I assume that those instances are still 16:9 but with black bars, basically cropping it to the wider ratio. But I may be wrong on that one.

Unless you’re talking about during the filming of the 1:1.85 movies, in which case that’s out of my area of expertise. You’d have to ask someone who knows lenses.

They don’t bother me nearly so much any more - I just wanted to offer the perspective of a person who has been through the resize-to-fit phase, because I felt the motives of that group were not being adequately described in this thread.

Can someone explain why 4:3 programs show up with four black bars on my 4:3 television? The entire picture is surrounded by 2-3 inches of black space. I try to have it stretch the picture, but that only makes it distort the image as letterbox or pillarbox depending on whether the HD reciever is in 1080i or 420p format.

My tv displays all the HDTV channels in full screen glory and all the old stuff in 4:3 ratio with the black (0r gray if I choose) edges. I don’t ever have to adjust, or live with the stretch.

Take a 4x3 original recording, and distribute it over a 16x9 broadcast channel, retaining the original aspect ratio. You now have a 16x9 broadcast with black bars on the side. Now display that broadcast on a 4x3 device. To fit the entire broadcast on the screen, black bars now included, on a 4x3 device means adjusting the height so as to include black bars on the top.


I stopped by my parents’ house today and they asked me to “un-fuck” the tv. Well they didn’t put it like that but…they didn’t last a week with this shitty “full screen” nonsense.

Now, if I can only get them to vote for Obama I will have proof that I raised them right…