16:9 or 4:3? Gray bars or black bars? HELP!!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bruce White, Mar 20, 2002.

  1. Bruce White

    Bruce White Stunt Coordinator

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    OK. I'm in the investigation stage to determine what HD RPTV I want to purchase. I've been reading all I can on this forum about 16:9 and 4:3 RPTVs. I thought I knew what I wanted (16:9), but now I'm not so sure. My budget is in the $2000-2800 range. I'm interested in screen sizes 50" and above. So far, I'm mostly interested in Mitsubishi, Toshiba, and Pioneer.
    I don't want this to turn into a DVI-related thread. I've been reading about that controversy at this site and suffice to say, I'm willing to take the risk (real or imagined) of purchasing a HD TV now. So let's not go down that road.
    However, I'm confused about two things:
    1) BLACK BARS AND GRAY BARS. I understand that burn-in is bad. I understand that watching too much 4:3 material on a 16:9 in 4:3 format (non-stretched, with gray bars on the sides) will cause burn-in. However, I also thought that watching too much 16:9 material on a 4:3 having black bars top and bottom would also cause burn-in. But something I read in another thread made me wonder if this is always true. Is there a mode on a 4:3 TV that allows the use of black bars when viewing wide-screen material that does not cause burn-in? Also, if a 4:3 has 1080 scan lines, are all 1080 lines used when watching widescreen material?
    2) GEOMETRY. I was very sure I wanted the 16:9 screen format until I did the math, and now I'm not so sure. [NOTE: This math is just approximate and only applies to TVs roughly in the 50-57" range. See the table I created in another thread.] If I want a size X 16:9 picture, I can either buy a size X widescreen TV or a size X+5 (approximately) 4:3 TV. However, if I want a size Y 4:3 picture, I can either buy a size Y 4:3 TV or a size Y+10 16:9. Let's use some real numbers now. If I want a 50" 16:9 picture, I can buy a 50" 16:9 TV or a 55" 4:3 TV. The 50" 16:9 will only give me about a 41" 4:3 picture. On the other hand, if I want a 50" 4:3 picture, I can either buy a 50" 4:3 TV or a 61" 16:9 TV. Therefore, it seems like I can have a nicer compromise in picture sizes by purchasing a 4:3 TV rather than a 16:9 TV. Although both my wife and I think the widescreen TVs just plain look better.
    Another consideration of 4:3 vs 16:9--price. If I wanted about a 57" 16:9 picture, I could purchase a 57" widescreen TV (Tosh 57HX81 MSRP $3500) or a 61" 4:3 TV (Tosh 61H71 MSRP $3000). On the other hand, if I want a 53" 4:3 picture, I could purchase a 53" 4:3 TV (Tosh 53H71 MSRP $2600) or a 65" 16:9 TV (Tosh 65H81 MSRP $3800 or Tosh 65HX81 MSRP $4000). Either way, it looks like I can get more bang for the buck with a 4:3 TV.
    Are there some things I'm overlooking?
    Will a 16:9 image on a 4:3 TV look as good as on an equivalently sized 16:9 TV, assuming both are HD?
    Thank you very much for any help you can give. This is a big purchase for me and I'm really struggling to make up my mind. I still have a few months before I can actually buy.
    Can anyone provide insight?
    Bruce
     
  2. Philip____S

    Philip____S Stunt Coordinator

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    I'll chime in with my two cents, which may or may not help. I recently had the same decision and I decided to buy a Tosh 61H71 and Tosh 65HX81. The 61 is in the living room and the 65 is in my bedroom. The 61 is great for watching 4:3 content and looks amazing. The picture is huge and very clear. Watching in 16:9 mode is also pretty good, and is like watching a 56" widescreen. At that size you don't notice the bars because the picture is so big. On the other hand, I don't use 4:3 mode on the 65, and instead use TW1 mode. For cable the picture is not as good as the 61 and is not nearly as sharp or bright. Watching 16:9 content is of course great, but I don't know if it is better than watching on the 61. Given the choice, I'd go for both again for wow factor, but I think the 61H71 might actually be a better choice unless you watch movies 100% of the time.

    My two cents.

    Edit: One more thing, this whole burn in thing, combined with the annoying gray bars (I'd prefer black), keeps me from using the 4:3 mode on the 65. I know some use won't be bad for the TV, I just worry way too much I guess. Perhaps if I made some mattes I would use this mode more, but for now I don't.
     
  3. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    I'll chime in as well. I think it all depends on what you watch more. If you watch DVD's more than 50% of the time, you want the widescreen. Period. But, maybe you watch a lot of TV, in which case I'd say go 4:3.

    I watch some TV, and I watch it in TW1 mode (no gray bars). I could care less about preserving the OAR of a TV show. However, the gray bars are specifically gray to help avoid burn in, and if your contrast settings are low enough burn in shouldn't be a problem.

    Black bars will still appear on a 16:9 TV when you watch films in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. But, again, keep your contrast settings low and you should avoid burn in.
     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Wisdom suggests you should go with a native 16:9 set. As far as burn-in goes, simply make sure you White Level ("contrast") and Black Level ("brightness") are set at reasonable levels (i.e., not too high). If you opt for a 4:3 set, make sure it has a 16:9 mode.
     
  5. RyanDinan

    RyanDinan Stunt Coordinator

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    I'll also chime in here....

    If you go for a 4x3 set, DON'T get one that offers gray bars! The reason is, the set will NOT be squeezing all 1080 lines into the 16x9 area. Those gray bars have to be scanned, meaning, the inner 16x9 area will only have 810 lines to make up the image, instead of the full 1080.

    Even 4x3 sets that dont have gray bars may not be squeezing the raster area to allow true 1080 16x9 mode, so be sure to specifically check. Hitachi and RCA and (some) Tohsiba 4x3 HD sets DO NOT squeeze the raster - so be very careful.

    I have a 53" Sony HS10 which DOES have a true 16x9 mode. Sony's newer sets are the HS20/30 models. I believe Pioneer and Mitsubishi also have true 16x9 modes for their 4x3 sets...

     
  6. Jeff Leeds

    Jeff Leeds Stunt Coordinator

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    So how does the Hitachi, Toshiba, etc. give a 1080i picture, which they are rated at, if they are using this to make the grey?
     
  7. Michael St. Clair

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    Some sets, like this years 4:3 HD Tosh sets, have a user setting to switch between 810i with black bars or true 1080i with squeeze and no bars.
     
  8. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    One of my coworkers is currently debating between a Sony 53" HDTV and a Hitachi 53" HDTV, both 4x3 ratio and rear projection. He was originally considering a 16x9 format, but he doesn't have a DVD player, so I told him that he might be better off with a 4x3 set with a 16x9 mode. After revisiting Circuit City, I think he is leaning towards the Hitachi, because the salesman said that the Sony could have screen burnin with 16x9 programming. I told him that burnin shouldn't be a problem with DVD because of the 16x9 mode that Sony has. Although it may look like black bars at the top and bottom, there is actually no image there, and thus nothing to burn in. Am I correct in this?

    The salesman said that with future digital programming burn-in could be a concern on the Sony because of the black bars, as opposed to the gray bars on the Hitachi; plus the Hitachi could be zoomed so that the 16x9 material would fill the 4x3 screen whereas the Sony couldn't.

    I've tried to convince my coworker that the true 16x9 mode on the Sony would be his best bet, but he is currently leaning toward the Hitachi based on the salesman's recommendation. Is there anything else he should consider? By the way, he doesn't have a DVD player, so the true 16x9 mode may not be a significant consideration.

    Thanks for any help you may be able provide.

    Steve K.
     
  9. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    I will probably catch hell for this. The ability to zoom 16x9 material to fill a 4:3 ratio screen is not a buying point, at least in IMO. Watching a 16x9 or larger ratio picture using that mode would be worse than P&S. At least with P&S certain information lost from the original composition is reintroduced by P&S process when it is important to the overall story. Zooming a 16X9 image or larger to a 4:3 ratio means not only losing resolution, it also means that any important action that takes place at the side of the frame will be lost because you will only be able to see what is going on in the middle of the frame. Important details are going to be lost.

    Sooner or later, your friend is going to probably buy a DVD player and if he doesn't have true 16X9 capability he is going to kick his ass for not getting it when he had the chance. It does not mean that he needs to get a 16x9 set but at the very least he should get a 4:3 set with a 16x9 capability.

    I watch mostly movies so I went the 16x9 route and I don't regret it. Watching 4:3 ratio material means, for me, a smaller screen size but I don't care, the smaller black bars when watching widescreen movies more than makes up for that sacrifice....at least for me.
     
  10. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Edwin- I agree with you 100%. I'll do my best to get him to consider the Sony with its true 16x9 mode, but I may need some valid points to convince him. Since he currently doesn't have a DVD player, he can't realize how important the 16x9 mode is. Right now, he is much more concerned about burn-in than with squeeze modes.

    I guess my question (which may require a crystal ball) is will future digital programming be true 16x9 or will it 4x3 letterboxed? If it's true 16x9, then obviously the squeeze mode would be very convenient. If it's letterboxed, then burn-in of the black bars may be a consideration.

    Steve K.
     
  11. Jim-M

    Jim-M Second Unit

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    SteveK,

    My understanding of how the Sony works in 16:9 mode is the same as yours. I think it would be less susceptible to burn-in than a set that doesn't have a special 16:9 mode and uses gray bars. The black area above and below the 16:9 region isn't being scanned on the Sony so I don't see how burn-in would occur.
     
  12. Bruce White

    Bruce White Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you for the replies! It gives me more food for thought.

    Regarding black bars on the top and bottom: Is the black generated by the TV or is it just an unused portion of the screen. I know gray bars on the top/bottom or sides have to be generated by the TV, but what about the black?

    I'm beginning to lean more heavily toward the 16:9 again!

    Thanks to all!

    Bruce
     
  13. RyanDinan

    RyanDinan Stunt Coordinator

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    Bruce,

    This totally depends on the TV -

    Sets that offer gray and black bars will typically scan them both.

    Sets that do a true squeeze will create the appearance of "black bars" - But in reality, it's just the unused portion of the screen. All the scanlines are redirected (squeezed vertically) into the 16x9 portion of the CRT's phosphor area.

    If you're not sure if the set in question is scanning the black areas or not, bring up a fairly dark scene, and increase the brightness control to see if the black bar areas turn dark grayish with the rest of the dark areas in the image. If they do, then those areas are being scanned. If those areas hold their black (and it should be a very 'deep black') then the set is squeezing - Those areas will stay 'black' due to the lack of scanning in those portions of the CRT.

    -Ryan Dinan
     
  14. BradZ

    BradZ Stunt Coordinator

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    Steve K.

    I hate to break it to you, but the salesman was kind of right. The Sony is susceptable to burn-in. you're thinking about things the wrong way- the black area is not the part that burns in, it's the picture area. In this case the 16x9 area (whether squeezed or not) is being used while the letterbox area is not. Therefore the 16x9 area's phosphors wear quicker than the black bar areas. If burn-in occurs you'll have brighter areas above and below the 16x9 area.

    That said, it's still a better idea to get a set with a true squeeze since your picture will be better. The hitachi's, as you noted, do not do a true squeeze so resolution is lost with widescreen sources such as dvd or HD. The gray bars may help prevent burn-in, but they do not eliminate the concern. Your best bet to avoid burn-in is to vary your programming and to calibrate the set with video essentials or AVia to keep the contrast and picture levels low.

    If your friend watches 85% 4x3 programming and 15% widescreen programming he really shouldn't have to worry about burn in whether the bars are grey or black- just make sure they set the user levels appropriately.

    good luck.
     
  15. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    I would also like to say that I find gray bars to be more distracting when watching shows than black bars. I have watched some 4:3 ratio material framed with vertical gray bars and I find that your eye is distracted from the image somewhat because so much of the screen is lit up with a drab color. Black seems to be less of a distraction to a person's eye. Black also seems to create a perception of better contrast at low light levels where gray seems to make the picture look more "washed out". This is my opinion only.
     

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