Re: Widescreen Format

Clark, Jeff (
Thu, 15 Feb 2001 14:28:30 -0800 (PST)


I think what you are experiencing is due to the
interaction of three factors:
the DVD (and how it is formatted)
your TV monitor
your DVD player

Some DVDs are widescreen or "letterboxed" just like
videotapes or laserdiscs are: i.e., they fit the entire
widescreen image into the standard 4:3 TV ratio by
providing black bands at the top and bottom of the
picture to allow the picture to be displayed in a wider
ratio without cutting off any of the image's sides.

However... some DVDs are created in what's called an
"enhanced" mode. Sometimes on the packaging that word is
used. You'll also see 16x9, anamorphic widescreen, or
something similar. This means that in the video transfer,
the image has not been formatted for the standard 4:3 TV
screen--instead, it's been optimized, or enhanced, for
the new widescreen TV format (which will be utilized by
high definition TV)--and this is in the 16:9 ratio
(rather than 4:3). When an enhanced DVD is played on one
of these widescreen sets, it has a higher picture
resolution (approx. one-third higher) and any black bands
present will be much smaller, because the widescreen TV
ratio is much closer to widescreen movie ratios (which
are generally from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1--with 16:9
translating to 1.78:1, very close).

But enhanced DVDs can be played on standard 4:3 sets
without a problem--they'll look just like a plain vanilla
(un-enhanced) DVD with a letterbox picture formatted for
a 4:3 monitor.

The catch is, is your DVD player set correctly to do
this? If you show an enhanced DVD on a standard TV, you
have to make sure that the DVD player has been set for
viewing its output on the standard TV instead of a
widescreen TV.

If you don't... voila, the image will look squeezed on a
4:3 ratio TV set. So the appearance of this
problem will be intermittent, depending on whether a
particular DVD is enhanced.

Different DVD players may handle this option of setting
the monitor aspect ratio differently--but you'll always
need to do this through the player's "setup menu"
(however it's labeled on the player or in the

Once you do that when you're using a standard TV
monitor, though, you shouldn't have a problem with some


On Thu, 15 Feb 2001 11:06:19 -0800 (PST) Michelle
Flinchbaugh <> wrote:

> I'm wondering if anyone can fill me in on widescreen format on DVD?
> Some people here are telling me that it's exactly the same as letterbox
> (which had been my assumption), but other people are telling me it's not.
> Apparently we're having trouble with the widescreen DVD's we've purchased
> playing, but not displaying on our monitors properly, with the top and
> bottom distorted and stretched lengthwise and lost off the screen.
> Michelle Flinchbaugh
> Acquisitions Librarian
> University of Maryland, Baltimore County
> Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery
> 1000 Hilltop Circle
> Baltimore, MD 21250
> Phone: 410 455 6754
> Fax: 410 455-1598
> E-mail:

Jeff Clark
Media Resources (MSC 1701)
James Madison University
540-568-6770 (voice)
540-568-3405 (fax)