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Old July 15th, 2005, 08:35 PM   #1
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Pseudo Widescreen and 16:9 Televisions

Iíve noticed a number of films on DVDs are encoded in pseudo widescreen. I.e., the film, while being in a widescreen format, is placed in a 4:3 frame so that the black bars on the top and bottom are encoded into the picture.

Pseudo widescreen also seems popular in the DV video world, where a lot of people take 4:3 footage and matte it with black bars. Iíve noticed DV Info members mentioning they do this. While such videos appear to be widescreen, in reality they still retain a 4:3 aspect ratio.

So why do I bring this up? Well, itís important to consider what happens to this footage when it plays back on a true widescreen 16:9 display.

While such pseudo widescreen footage looks okay on a traditional 4:3 TV,

http://www.jesusredeemed.us/c_linked...ed-to-16x9.jpg

a 16:9 TV will see it as the 4:3 aspect ratio it actually is, and will have to add black bars on the sides to keep it at the correct 4:3 shape. Presto, your masterpiece will be floating in the middle of the screen, surrounded by a sea of black on the TV,

http://www.jesusredeemed.us/c_linked...en-on-16x9.jpg

Pseudo widescreen 4:3 footage shape outlined on true 16:9 display,

http://www.jesusredeemed.us/c_linked...en-outline.jpg

Many of you may not have realized how this pseudo 16:9 would look on a widescreen TV. I didnít, until I read a review of the one the aforementioned fake widescreen DVDs that mentioned how it displayed on a widescreen TV. In the past I myself had even made a couple short matted ďwidescreenĒ videos (which I have subsequently converted to true widescreen).

We video producers need to be aware of this issue. I believe it will be an increasing problem as more and more people purchase widescreen televisions.
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Old July 15th, 2005, 09:01 PM   #2
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Not sure if I missed your point. I have a 37" Panasonic plasma screen and a couple widescreen LCD panels. They all have a "zoom" function which addresses this exact issue. It will enlarge matted widescreen to fill the full frame. Surprisingly, it looks pretty good when viewed this way. For example, right now I was watching Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief on TCM, and I zoomed the matted 1.85:1 widescreen to fill the plasma screen. It looked pretty good.

In fact, I've taken to leaving my plasma screen set this way almost all the time when watching 4:3 content. I absolutely refuse to use the "stretch" modes which fit 4:3 into the 16:9 frame. Makes everyone look short and fat. I don't like to pillarbox 4:3 unless I have to. For one thing, there are concerns about burning in the plasma screen. Quite a bit of the 4:3 content (especially movies) which is broadcast seems to have been shot to protect the center 16:9 area (or maybe it's just a happy accident). And as a bonus you don't see all the annoying logos and text crawls at the bottom of the 4:3 screen.

Also, if you have a VX-2000 as your signature indicates, the built-in anamorphic 16:9 setting is pretty awful (I have a VX-2000 also and have done tests). I think you are actually much better off to matte 16:9 on a camera like this and let the widescreen TV do the scaling. The results are much more pleasing.

So - if I understand your thesis - I must disagree. If you have a camera that shoots in true 16:9 (like the XL-2, PDX-10, FX-1, etc) then by all means shoot anamorphic. But if you have a PD-150, VX-2000, XL-1s, etc. then you are probably better off with matted 16:9. People who own widescreen TV's should already be familiar with the "zoom" button on their remotes.
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Old July 15th, 2005, 10:54 PM   #3
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What Boyd said. My 16:9 TV has several modes for dealing with letterboxed video including the zoom/crop where it blows it up and cuts out the black bars. While it does a good job, I know it isn't as good as true 16:9 footage in full frame mode.

Still, I'll live with it.
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Old July 16th, 2005, 09:09 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
if you have a VX-2000 as your signature indicates, the built-in anamorphic 16:9 setting is pretty awful
I know, which is why I don't use it.

As for saying people who own widescreen TVs should be familiar with all the different modes for squeezing, zooming, etc. I would hope so, but I believe those of us who are technically proficient overestimate the extent to which many people are familiar with or understand all the features on modern electronics. My mom, while I dearly love her, would be one of those. Further, the DVD review I cited earlier is a case in point: Evidently either the reviewer didn't know the TV had a zoom feature, or the zoom mode didn't give a good picture (unlike on your TV).

So I believe this is still an issue that should be considered.
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Last edited by Christopher Lefchik; July 16th, 2005 at 09:53 AM.
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Old July 16th, 2005, 04:39 PM   #5
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Well then I'm not sure exactly what you're proposing. If you shoot anamorphic widescreen on your VX-2000 it will look worse than letterboxed 4:3 zoomed to fit on a widescreen TV. Is that what you want? I'm assuming you don't have a widescreen TV at home, because cycling through the options with the aspect ratio button on the remote is something that you constantly end up doing as you watch programs in different formats. As soon as I see something letterboxed I immediately zoom it to fit.
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Old September 10th, 2005, 06:49 PM   #6
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So basically, if we want to cut a true 16:9 movie, you should film it in 16:9, and then it will appear letterbox on 4:3?
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Old September 10th, 2005, 07:42 PM   #7
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Yes -- as long as you burn it to an anamorphic DVD, and if your audience has properly configured their DVD players to match their screen proportions.
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Old September 11th, 2005, 12:18 PM   #8
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Boyd,

Sorry I never responded. Somehow I missed your reply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
If you shoot anamorphic widescreen on your VX-2000 it will look worse than letterboxed 4:3 zoomed to fit on a widescreen TV. Is that what you want?
Do I detect a little frustration? :-) But again, I don't shoot anamorphic widescreen on my VX2000 because of its poor resolution. As to the perfomance of zoomed letterboxed 4:3 on widescreen TVs, I'll refer to what I wrote in a previous post. "The DVD review I cited earlier is a case in point: Evidently either the reviewer didn't know the TV had a zoom feature, or the zoom mode didn't give a good picture (unlike on your TV)."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
I'm assuming you don't have a widescreen TV at home, because cycling through the options with the aspect ratio button on the remote is something that you constantly end up doing as you watch programs in different formats.
We don't have a widescreen TV, but we do have a 4:3 HDTV. Changing aspect ratios is still something to be dealt with. Unless I had taught my mom how to do it, I doubt she would have figured it out.

Considering this matter I'm not sure that there is a good, one size fits all solution. Your reply to Justin illustrates this. Either way, people have to have their equipment set up correctly, which I believe all to often we who are familiar with electronics take for granted.

I can see your point about preserving resolution on 4:3 content by matting it to 16:9. Still, with all the variables in the equation there is just no ideal solution to this problem.
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Old September 11th, 2005, 06:49 PM   #9
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Unfortunately there are quite a few widescreen TVs that don't have a zoom function which will properly format letterboxed 4:3. I have one widescreen TV and two portable widescreen DVD players. Not one of these will play back letterboxed 4:3 DVDs properly. Of course you can always render a letterboxed 4:3 project as a 16:9 anamorphic project. I do this with Vegas all the time, but I understand FCP does a good job of this as well.
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Old September 11th, 2005, 07:05 PM   #10
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Laurence: I guess our experiences are just different.... I have a 6 month old 37" Panasonic plasma screen, a year old Samsung 22" 16:9 LCD screen, and a two year old Sony 17" 16:9 LCD screen. They all have zoom functions which work very well. Pressing a single button on the remote cycles through all the options so you can easily pick the one you like best depending on the source material.

Christopher: yes I agree, many people don't know how to properly setup their TV's or use all the functions. Same goes for computers, stereo systems, and just about every other form of household technology. Maybe this stuff will get more "idiot proof" as time goes by, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

But if you just want to aim for the lowest common denominator you'll always be limiting yourself. I guess you need to define your audience before making these choices. Or play it safe and just make everything 4:3. Then the people with widescreen TV's will watch it in "stretch" mode that makes everyone look short and fat.... ;-)
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