Widescreen Abuse

I am kind of a video snob so you can take this rant with that in mind. 

I am getting tired of looking at five thousand dollar flatscreens with the picture distorted.  As most of you will know, the new generation of TV sets are wider than the old sets, with a ratio of length to width of 16:9 rather than the old 4:3.  Unfortunately, most current broadcasting and all legacy TV shows are filmed in 4:3.  To watch these programs without distortion on a new flatscreen HDTV, you will either have black bars on the sides or you will have to zoom it such that you lose the top and bottom of the picture. 

Instead of these two options, most people have their widescreen TV's set to stretch the picture horizontally to fit the wider screen.  What this results in is a picture that is distorted and stretched by 33% in width, giving you lots of fat faces.  Yuk!  Why would someone buy a $5000 (or more) TV set with state of the art high-definition picture and then set it up so most of the programming looks like it was viewed in a fun-house mirror?  Especially when you only have to press one button usually to cycle the setup between regular and widescreen programming. 

Anyway, the teli is always on here in the breakfast room of the hotel (one of the realities of modern travel is that you can't seem to escape the blaring TV in either hotels or airports) but I have no idea what the BBC announcers look like.  The way the TV is set up, it looks like they all are fat with cheek fulls of acorns.


  1. BobW:

    Yoy are obviously too young to remember the translucent tinted plastic panels that were taped to the screen of your 14" black and white TV so you could see "My Little Margie" in color.

    Of course, they only cost (inflation adjusted) about $100.

  2. Bill:

    I recently took delivery of a new HD widescreen...and the installer insisted on setting it for this wretched mode. At least the factory default wasn't set this way. I wonder how many times this happens and the owner simply is oblivious to what is going on.

    I spent some 38 years in the television broadcast, and find it hard to watch television on most receivers...contrast and brightness screaming, color phase way off, and grossly excessive chroma levels all too much of the time.

    Add to that the fact that the industry hasn't solved the lip-synch problem on a vast number of digital feeds and I think you can go a long way to explain the slowness of the digital transition.

    On the other hand, when HD television is done right, it's almost magical.

  3. Scott P:

    You're right, it's absolutely maddening. The better algorithms stretch the center of the screen less than the sides of the image, at least, if you use the right preset.

  4. Highway:

    There are some people who still fear burn-in on many sets, and it's only the more recent technologies that really prevent this issue (LCD and DLP). Additionally, the stretching is, a lot of the time, the best of a lot of bad choices. Gray bars are distracting, cutting off program material is annoying (do you prefer pan-and-scan movies?). Scott's algorithim differences are probably the best of all available things. Stretching what you aren't looking at as much is better than a standard stretch of the whole thing, plus you do 'get used to it'. A lot of material isn't really that sensitive to it, either, like sporting events.