This is a call out post.
There are many very small things in this world that make me very mad. Lack of respect for the aspect ratio on televisions is one of those things. In the next few scrolls I will try and make sense of an issue that has been driving me mad for years, and hopefully help prevent people like you from seeing warped, stretched out images.
Now if you have a television, it is likely that it is one of these two types:
Yes, there are even wider screens now, but for the sake of simplicity on an already complicated topic, I shall stick with these two. At some point in time that Wikipedia refuses to reveal, television sets began a transition from 4:3 to 16:9 because people like to see things wider, apparently. This is fine. Change happens. Most people have 16:9 televisions now. Unfortunately, a lot of broadcasting channels didn't get the memo. Like the physical screen in your home, television channels broadcast their channel in one of these two forms. New channels have transitioned to broadcasting in 16:9, whereas stubborn channels with the soul purpose of bothering me have stuck with 4:3
With any television package, including public television, there will be a mix of both of these kinds of channels. When you have 2 sizes of televisions and 2 sizes of channels, things start to get mixed up. Especially when there can be 2 sizes of program on those channels.
So, say you're me and you're watching an episode of "Friends." "Friends" was originally shot in in 4:3.
An old channel doesn't have to do anything to reformat this 4:3 program. The program that was shot is in the same size that they broadcast. A new channel has to work a little bit. They will add a two black bars on either side of the 4:3 program to make it fit their size of broadcast. This effect called "pillarboxing" is when the boxes are vertical like pillars. (However, the term is actually named after this really weird kind of mailbox in the UK). Unfortunately broadcasting companies neither know, nor care what size television you have, so your television also has to do a little bit of work.
A 4:3 television receiving a 4:3 channel that is showing a 4:3 program is all happy and well. All the original items are in place and there are no boxes or distortion. A 4:3 television receiving a 16:9 channel that is showing a 4:3 program will add horizontal boxes (this is called "letterboxing" as it resembles a typical mailbox with a horizontal slot) and will result in this lovely frame of empty space. This full frame of blank space is called a "windowbox." This is fine, most remotes have a "Zoom" button that will allow you to zoom in and eliminate the windowbox. Now, when you have a 16:9 television, things get tricky.
A 16:9 television receiving a 4:3 channel will pillarbox to fill the space. A 16:9 television receiving a 16:9 channel will not change anything. Looks fine right? It's just like you have a fullscreen television sitting inside your widescreen television. No problem! This is the point where television viewers will commit the cardinal sin that bothers me so much. People will look at this image and say, “what? Grey boxes? On my screen?! Heavens no! I paid for these pixels and I will not let them go to waste displaying grey boxes." Then they alter the aspect ration with the “Zoom" feature to look like this:
This is disgusting. This makes me want to vomit. Nobody's head looks like that. Nothing should look like that. This should be made illegal.This is the most common kind of distortion that I see when I visit "Friends."
Moving on, sometimes (and increasingly so) a program is formatted for 16:9. To keep with the theme, I have chosen an image from the remastered version of "Friends" that is formatted for widescreen.
The 16:9 "Friends" fits perfectly on a new 16:9 channel. An old 4:3 channel has to letterbox, adding space on the top and bottom to make the image fit their broadcast ratio. Now let's move to screens.
Just like a 4:3 program on a 4:3 screen, a 16:9 program on a 16:9 screen works out fine, regardless of what kind of channel it is displayed on. The only possible issue is the windowboxing, which can be fixed easily by utilizing the "Zoom" feature.Just like a 4:3 program on a 4:3 screen, a 16:9 program on a 16:9 screen works out fine, regardless of what kind of channel it is displayed on. The only possible issue is the windowboxing, which can be fixed easily by utilizing the "Zoom" feature.
If you're one of the few hipsters who still has a 4:3 television, both ways will give you empty letterbox bars, whether it be from the channel or from your television. Now the same person from before is going to say, "those stupid black bars. What do I do to get rid of them?
So they go ahead and make Jesus cry.
In the end, free will exists, so I unfortunately cannot force anyone to abide by these rules. If people want to continue watching these disgusting and distorted images, they can. My wish is that you, reader, will go forth with this knowledge and recognize these issues. It is up to you whether or not you want to change your ways. Maybe some day channels will unify in broadcasting, but until then, we must battle the elements. Be prepared.