What is Wide Screen TV?



Pictured: a widescreen Plasma TV


As the world slowly moves to digital TV, we are seeing more and more TV sets becoming available in the wide
screen format. The main advantage of wide screen TV is pretty obvious as you get more picture to watch, but it also makes your set a bit more compatible with modern day films.

The size of most films produced since the 1950s is often referred to a 16:9 aspect ratio, this means the picture is 16 units wide to 9 units high. The unit could be any size, if in a cinema a unit could be a 1 to 2 foot where each unit of a TV could be 1 to 2 inches or less for example. In comparison to today's cinemas TV sets have always been a 4:3 aspect ratio until the introduction of wide screen sets.

The incompatibility between TV and Cinema Sizes wasn't due to a lack of vision from the designers of the first TVs. In fact, the designers of the first TVs did set out to match the size of cinemas screens as back in those days cinema screens were in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

The 4:3 aspect ratio dates back to the first days of cinema when Thomas Edison's company started producing their film with 1 inch wide and 3/4 inch wide frames. As Edison was the first to produce motion pictures, it was this size everyone else adopted.

Cinemas were big business in the early part of the last century, but as the craze of television hit the need to go out to the cinema dropped dramatically. Cinemas responded by improving the cinema experience, this is what led to wide screen formats like Vistavision, Cinerama and Cinemascope. On a side note, one interesting gimmick was Perspecta sound, an early surround sound system that moved the mono sound across the screen via 3 speakers and equipment that could detect sub-audible tones under the soundtrack.

In order to make movies fit into our existing 4:3 sets, studios either use a letterbox or pan and scan method to present the film. A letterbox film refers to the black bars on the top and the bottom of the screen, its a trade off with you losing a bit of picture size but retaining the whole 16:9 format in order to see the film as the director intended. The pan and scan method involves the studio watching the film and cutting out parts of either sides of the screen with no action in it, before releasing it as a video or DVD. Its a method that works well but it is not really the way the picture was meant to be seen.

As many countries are now moving to digital TV transmission, the new wide screen format is now being introduced and is really starting to take off. It is envisioned that in the next 10 years the price of plasma and LCD TVs drop to a point where they are cheaper to produce than CRT TVs. When this happens it will be almost impossible to buy an old 4:3 aspect ratio set, and you would not want one way as every TV program broadcasted will be in wide screen 16:9 size.

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Did You Know?

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