‘16:9’ and ‘Letter-Box’: What is the difference?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Shawn_T, Sep 4, 2001.

  1. Shawn_T

    Shawn_T Agent

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    Dear All,
    I have a Sony WEGA KV-36XBR250 [June 1999, no Progressive Scan feature] and for all the DVDs that I have watched for the past 2 years, I have seen them in “Wide-Screen” / “Letter-Box” format (black bars on top and bottom) and thought that was the best I could get.
    Well today I rent the newly released movie: “Enemy at the Gates” and at the back of the box it says enhanced for 16:9 TVs.
    When I inserted the DVD, I notice that the picture is even more squeezed and the clarity is amazing.
    Now I am not talking about Progressive Scan, since I can see the interlacing (very minimal though) since neither my JVC DVD Player, nor the TV have this feature, but now that I have seen this even sharper display played back by my DVD and displayed by my TV, this question popped up in my mind:
    What was the format of the previous DVDs that I was watching then?
    What is the difference between 16:9 and Wide-Screen/Letter-Box format?
    I mean I have LOT of DVDs ranging from old Austin Powers, Anime, Dinosaur, Bugs Life, and the rest but this is the first time a DVD utilized this feature of my TV.
    Even this article did not help me:
    http://www.dvdforum.com/faq-tech.htm
    Thanks in advance.
    ------------------
    Best Regards,
    Shawn
     
  2. Guy Kuo

    Guy Kuo Supporting Actor

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    If I recall correctly, your display is one of the handful which is designed to properly display an anamorphic disc on a 4:3 screen. I think you are in for a treat as many people simply don't even realize the display has that capability and the salesdroids are even more lost.
    You know that a movie has a wider aspect ratio than a television. The old way of getting the entire picture to fit inside a 4:3 television video frame was to simply use the middle portion of the 4:3 frame. This is called letterboxing. When DVD came along, anamorphic aka 16:9 format became quite widespread. The idea was to use more of those otherwise wasted lines of black in the 4:3 frame to carry picture information. The picture information is stretched vertically in the frame so it uses more scan lines and thus greater resolution is held on disc. Unfortunately, this also makes everything too tall on playback. That is fixed in one of two ways.
    First one could simply rescale the image vertically by throwing away some of the image information and putting the image back into the limited number of scan lines normally used for letterboxing. This is called in-player downconversion and is automatically done by your DVD player if you tell the DVD player that your television is 4:3 in shape (not widescreen). On most 4:3 displays this is the only way you get to watch anamorphically recorded DVD's. It's a real pity to do it this way because all the extra image resolution is thrown away and you get downconversion artifacts like jaggies or extra soft images. That is probably the way you've been watching your widescreen DVD's if they were 16:9 enhanced (aka anamorophic).
    The second way of displaying the anamorphic image is to have the display squeeze its scan lines together vertically to restore correct aspect ratio. This "vertical squeeze" entails no loss of active image scan lines and doesn't suffer artifacts due to in player down conversion. There are two things which must occur for this to work. First, the DVD player must be told that the display is widescreen. That prevents in-player down conversion from happening. The next thing is the display must be told to physically squeeze its scan lines together to keep the image from looking too tall.
    Very few 4:3 televisions know can perform the physical squeeze. Most if not all 16:9 televisions can perform the physical squeeze. You have that oddball display that gives you the best of both worlds - The ability to view both 4:3 using the entire screen and the ability to see the full resolution of anamophic material. Trouble is you probably never enabled the feature and for some reason you just accidentally did it.
    Here's what you should do. Go into the DVD player's setup menu and make sure that your display shape is selected to be 16:9 (widescreen) rather than 4:3. This tells the player not to do any down conversion. The player will work as usual with 4:3 and letterbox movies, but when it plays back an enhanced disc it will output the full resolution of the disc without trying to down convert it. This normally would not work with a 4:3 television since the picture would be too tall. Your case is special. (Assuming I don't have your TV model mixed up)
    The next thing to do is go into your television's setup menues and find the control that enables the vertical squeeze. It's buried in the menues. Unfortunately, I can't remember off hand where it is. Do this while playing back an anamorphically enhanced disc and you'll notice that the image suddenly shrinks down vertically to the proper proportion. 33% better resolution is within your grasp.
    There is more magic. You probably won't need to flip the vertical squeeze feature of the television on/off manually. The display has the ability to detect if the incoming signal is anamorphic or not and automatically switch aspect ratios. That is most of the time anyway.
    Hope that makes sense. I think you are in for a treat you didn't even realize you had bought.
    Once you get that working, do yourself another favor. Get AVIA and calibrate your picture and sound.
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    Guy Kuo
    www.ovationsw.com
    Ovation Software, the Home of AVIA DVD
    [Edited last by Guy Kuo on September 04, 2001 at 05:21 AM]
     
  3. Jeffrey Forner

    Jeffrey Forner Screenwriter

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    Shawn;
    16:9 TVs are those widescreen sets you see at Best Buy and Circuit City. You know, those sets that look more rectangular than what you're used to seeing. The 16 and the 9 tell you the rough dimensions of the screen. So for every 16 units wide, it is 9 units tall (or 1.78 units to 1). Traditionally, televisions have been shaped with a screen with dimensions 4:3 (or 1.33:1), making them more square-like.
    The DVD format is designed to take advantage of the extra resolution these sets have to offer. When a DVD says that it is "Enhance for 16:9 TVs" or is "Anamorphic," it means that the movie has been optimized for widescreen TVs.
    On your DVD player, you should be able to find a setting for the type of TV you have. If you own a traditionally shaped set, you want to set that to 4:3 letterbox mode. If you have a widescreen set, you set it to 16:9.
    If you own a traditional 4:3 TV and you set your DVD player for 16:9, DVDs that are enhanced for widescreen TVs will output an image that looks squished.
    As for widescreen, read about it in this forum's http://www.hometheaterforum.com/home/wsfaq.html
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    -J.Fo
    "And you can tell Rolling Stone magazine that my last words were... 'I'm on drugs!'"
     
  4. John-D

    John-D Stunt Coordinator

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    A Bug's Life has two versions. Only the Collector's edition is Anamorphic (costs more too). Dinosaur is probably Letterbox, but both Austin powers are anamorphic widescreen presented in 2.0 (unusual apsect ratio selected by the director).
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    The things we own end up owning us
     
  5. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Hehe, i got yelled at once here when i said I was gonna keep my DVD In 16:9 mode on my 4:3 TV because of its clarity (33% clearer). But that was coz they thought i was doing that to get rid of the black bars (A trait of the J6P), but i explained the clarity was much better... since then, i've gone back to my jaggy-filled toshiba-downconverted widescreen.. not complaining though... [​IMG]
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    The So Family Home Theater!
    http://www.multimania.com/sonick182/ht/index.html
     
  6. Svapan

    Svapan Auditioning

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    Jeff,
    I've got a dvd player by Toshiba. I've got 3 display options: 16:9, 4:3 LetterBox, and 4:3. What should I set my dvd display option to? Currently it's 4:3.
     
  7. Guy Kuo

    Guy Kuo Supporting Actor

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    If the display can perform vertical squeeze of its scan lines, then set the DVD player to 16:9. This includes most 16:9 and a small handful of 4:3 displays like Shawn's. This allows the full, enhanced resolution to be seen and downconversion artifacts avoided.
    For most 4:3 displays, set the DVD player to letterbox so it will do a downconversion. It's an awful waste of resolution, but the only way to get correct geometry if the display doesn't do a vertical squeeze. Some adventurous soles force a vertical squeeze through the service menu, but that isn't for the ordinary user to attempt.
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    Guy Kuo
    www.ovationsw.com
    Ovation Software, the Home of AVIA DVD
     
  8. Shawn_T

    Shawn_T Agent

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    Thanks for the responses.
    I am sure that my Sony KV-36XBR-250 DOES have the 16:9 feature.
    What it DOES NOT is the ability to 'manually' select it:
    I am at the mercy of any 16:9 enhance DVD to send a signal to my TV to utilize this feature, and not being able to 'manually' turn in ON/OFF.
    On the other hand the newer models (such as XBR-450) have a 'manual' selector that let you choose either 4:3 or 16:9.
    I have set my JVC DVD-Player (XV-D701BK) to display "16:9 Wide" and for audio to "Dolby Digital/PCM"
    The ONLY thing that I am upset about are the followings:
    1) Lack of additional COMPONENT Input (to hook up my PS2)
    2) The inability to 'manually' select 16:9 feature.
    Now I don't get the Vertical Squeeze concept: Is it same as 16:9 or is it an HDTV 'exclusive' feature?
    Thanks again for all kind and informative responses.
    ------------------
    Best Regards,
    Shawn
    [Edited last by Shawn_T on September 04, 2001 at 02:24 PM]
     
  9. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    double post...
    [Edited last by John Garcia on September 04, 2001 at 06:03 PM]
     
  10. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    The squeeze has nothing to do with HD, as all the Sony WEGA direct view sets that are 32 or larger have this feature, not just the HS series and the XBRs.
    Recent HD RPTVs all have scaling options which allow you to format the picture in many ways. Many seem to have a "stretch to fit" feature that formats any source to fit the screen, which distorts non-16:9 material. The other side to that is that if you do not use the "fit" feature, 4:3 is displayed in it's correct aspect ratio, with blank bands on either side, which looks odd to me.
    You should be able to use the mode on your DVD player to manually select the 16:9 option each time by toggling between 16:9 and 4:3 letterbox. By not sending the 16:9 signal, the squeeze will not happen. The downside being that you will lose some of the picture on anamorphic discs, as it will "hang" off either edge.
    ------------------
    All progress is based upon a universal, innate desire on the part of every organism,
    to live beyond it's income.
    ITRCA ** Speedring (sorry, car guy)
     
  11. Guy Kuo

    Guy Kuo Supporting Actor

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    Vertical squeeze merely means the display is taking the scan lines and actually physically placing them closer together vertically. This squeezes the image back down vertically to compensate for the geometry distortion created by the 16:9 enhanced (aka anamorphic) disc having its image vertically stretched to used more scan lines. The squeeze is needed to geometrically undo the stretch. This is far preferable to in-player downconversion toa smaller number of scan lines to achieve the same geometry correction because the downconversion not only throws away image information but also creates its own artifacts. It is very desireable to own a display which can do the vertical squeeze.
    Just think of it as the display not moving its electron beam as far down between each scan line. This makes the image less tall vertically.
    ------------------
    Guy Kuo
    www.ovationsw.com
    Ovation Software, the Home of AVIA DVD
     
  12. Guy Kuo

    Guy Kuo Supporting Actor

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    The display may not have a means for you to manually force the squeeze on, but it does have control which lets you prevent the squeeze from occurring. This is unfortunate because many people are probably leaving the feature disabled and never getting the full anamorphic resolution. The DVD player should do a good job of signaling whether or not the signal is to be displayed as squeezed or not, but there can be some incompatibilities between player and display which make the signaling process less than 100 percent reliable. A manual override would be nice in such cirumstance. If you have a problem with the squeeze not being enabled reliably, try another player.
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    Guy Kuo
    www.ovationsw.com
    Ovation Software, the Home of AVIA DVD
     
  13. John Morton

    John Morton Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Shawn!!
    Try the following web site for a plithera of more information:
    http://www.keohi.com/keohihdtv/usefu...menu_sony.html
    OR, search HTF for my name. I posted some of this information a few months back. The WEGA's squeze trick you want to use is the same as when playing your PS-2 games in the squeze mode, in addition though, MAKE SURE TO SET YOUR DVD PLAYER TO 16x9 OUTPUT. If you don't = the picture won't be improved much, and maybe worse!!
    Send me an email if you have further problems getting this down and I'll try to walk you through it over the phone this weekend (maybe Saturday)?
    :)
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