TV & movie screen ratios

I used to think that movie screens and TV screens were the only two sizes, or ratios, out there. Now, with either the purchase of a flat screen TV a couple of years ago, or a new cable provider, or HD vs LD (and I haven’t a clue), we seem to have about four different options and selections for screen ratios on TV. Why is this and is there any move afoot to standardize this?

Old TVs are normally 4:3 or 1.33:1. HDTVs are 16:9 or 1.77:1.

But movies are shot in different formats. Part of it is due to the camera technology used, or one preferred by the filmmakers. These might be 1.85:1, 2:39:1, etc. (movie formats don’t tend to find the smallest whole number). Sometimes 1.66:1.

Wikipedia on aspect ratio.

As for the actual picture settings on your TV, it seems most people put it on “stretch” and then get used to it so that they don’t notice that humans are oddly proportioned.

16:10 is also used with some computer monitors. That annoys me. Should be 8:5, but that’s neither here nor there.

Maybe the OP is thinking of resolutions rather than ratios? 480i 720p etc?

It’s a long and complicated history.

16:9 is popular because it is the best compromise between the most extreme aspect ratios (4:3 for TV and 2.35:1 for film).

Most new TVs on the market will be 16:9 with a smattering of 2.39 (2.35):1 for home theater enthusiasts who want to watch wide screen movies without letterboxing. I can’t imagine they still sell 4:3 format TVs…

As for aspect ratios of media, broadcast tv has pretty much standardized its programs to be shown at 16:9 in accordance to the now standard TV dimensions. Older SD programs will be shown in their native 4:3 format with pillarboxing.

Movies on the other hand can have a variety of ratios, although the two most common ones are 2.39:1 (sometimes 2.35:1) and 1.85:1. To understand why there are different movie aspect ratios, you have to follow the history of filmmaking but basically, the widescreen format was the film industry’s answer to combat a decreasing audience to television and in developing this format, several competing “standards” arose.

The reason why movie aspect ratios haven’t been standardized is because directors like choices and it gives them creative control over the look of the film and how the story is told. To give you a recent and simple example, Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson uses three different aspect ratios to depict different eras within the movie. Another reason is people like the widescreen format at the cinema, (wider than HDTVs 16:9) because of the visual immersion.

They’re becoming less common in favor of 16:9 (for example, they are often much more expensive, and only 24" or smaller in my experience). Shame, as I like 16:10 much better compared to 16:9.