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HD letterboxing question (1 Viewer)

Mark Hedges

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 21, 2003
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442
I just got an HDTV (Sony KV-32hs500) and have time warner cable providing HD content thru a Scientific Atlanta 3100HD box. When viewing the HD output from the box the image is cropped unneccesarily - 4:3 content appears as a rectangle inside the TV with space all around, instead of taking up the entire screen. Even some HD content, such as Law & Order last night, is letterboxed twice instead of at least fitting the screens full width. Is this normal? I find it really annoying!

Thanks!

Mark
 

David Forbes

Supporting Actor
Joined
Mar 22, 1999
Messages
621
Mark,

I'm not familiar with that TV, but it sounds like you need to use a different aspect ratio for the HD setting. There should be one called "wide" or "movie," something like that, that will uncompress widescreen content correctly. Check the manual. There should be a description of the various settings.

No, what you are seeing is not normal.
 

Joe Reed

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
123
No Mark, you are not getting HD, when it is windowboxed like that(I have the 36" sony xbr800 and 40" xbr800) it is a SD program, even though it is on a HD channel, but where I live in NY, about an hour away from NYC, we only get HBO and Showtime, due to 9/11.

When you put it on HBOHD channel (207 where I live) and Showtime HD channel( 252) if they broadcast it in HD, it will be letterboxed just like a dvd, but a heck of alot better looking :D
 

Stephen Tu

Screenwriter
Joined
Apr 26, 1999
Messages
1,572
Part of your problem is that you have a 4:3 set, while HD is 16:9. So it will always display HD material as letterboxed on your set. If the station is transmitting SD upconverted to HD (as most do when HD isn't available), it's transmitting 4:3 within a 16:9 frame (side bars filling out the 16:9 picture). The TV sees 16:9, so it letterboxes this, thus the bars on all sides. The bars top & bottom are caused by the TV; the side bars within the picture area were generated by the affiliate. The TV thinks the side bars are part of the picture, hence it doesn't know to discard and zoom the whole thing.

If you are seeing this on Law & Order, then it wasn't HD for whatever reason. Ask your local affiliate, maybe NBC hasn't started up again (HD suspended during the war), maybe someone forgot to "flip the switch" (some stations don't have automated switches yet to go from SD feed to HD feed).

Possible solutions:
(1) consider returning for a 16:9 set instead (then bars only on side, for 4:3 picture, or top & bottom, for wider than 16:9 films)
(2) look for setting on the cable box catering to 4:3
display rather than 16:9, that zooms in to ditch the side bars.
(3) For these upconverts, use 4:3 interlaced output via S-video instead.
(4) Switch to the analog station instead of the digital one.
 

Mark Hedges

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 21, 2003
Messages
442
I think it is something todo with the HD signal being inconsistant, because last night "ER" was in hi-def and took up the whole screens width. It was letterboxed, of course, but I expected that. It looked great!

Someone from the cable company is coming tomorrow to try to improve my reception - I will ask them about this.

Mark
 

John-Miles

Screenwriter
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Nov 29, 2001
Messages
1,220
Stephen, it makes no difference if you have a 4:3 set when it is capable of doing the 19x9 squeese.
 

Stephen Tu

Screenwriter
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Apr 26, 1999
Messages
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It does make a difference. It matters when the broadcaster is sending 4:3 within a 16:9 window, in an SD->HD upconvert. Then the TV does the 16:9 squeeze, thinking it's a 16:9 picture, and you get bars all around, a small 4:3 box within the 16:9 area of the display, rather than the 4:3 taking up the entire screen as one would want. The TV would need a special zoom mode to deal with this, but most of the 4:3 HD sets don't, that I've seen. You basically have to switch to a non-HD feed to get around this problem, or hope your STB can do that zoom.
 

John-Miles

Screenwriter
Joined
Nov 29, 2001
Messages
1,220
Sorry Stephen my bad, I was assuming most tv's were like mine and had a manual squeeze funtion.
 

Steve Schaffer

Senior HTF Member
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Apr 15, 1999
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Real Name
Steve Schaffer
Part of your problem is that you have a 4:3 set, while HD is 16:9. So it will always display HD material as letterboxed on your set. If the station is transmitting SD upconverted to HD (as most do when HD isn't available), it's transmitting 4:3 within a 16:9 frame (side bars filling out the 16:9 picture). The TV sees 16:9, so it letterboxes this, thus the bars on all sides. The bars top & bottom are caused by the TV; the side bars within the picture area were generated by the affiliate. The TV thinks the side bars are part of the picture, hence it doesn't know to discard and zoom the whole thing.
================================================== ==============================

This is one of the clearest explanations of this particular quirk of HD broadcasts I've ever read, and should be archived somewhere!

Another reason to go for a 16/9 set for watching HD, too bad there aren't more reasonably priced 16/9 direct view models to choose from.

I was doing a bit of research and found out that some Mitsubishi widescreen rptvs will "stretch" these 4/3 upconverts on HD signals to eliminate the broadcaster-added sidebars.
 

Vin

Supporting Actor
Joined
Oct 23, 2000
Messages
546
This is one of the clearest explanations of this particular quirk of HD broadcasts I've ever read, and should be archived somewhere!
I thought the same thing when I read it....I've already printed out a copy for myself!

Great job Stephen! :emoji_thumbsup:

Vin
 

Mark Hedges

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 21, 2003
Messages
442
I guess I understand what is happening, but it still makes no sense to me. I think a bit more backward compatibility should have been put into the HDTV system. I mean, lets face it, 16:9 sets are in the minority, and 16:9 programming in the extreme minority. I don't understand why they couldn't have made it function like my DVD player, where 4:3 programming takes up the full screen and 16:9 programming is letterboxed, with the TV automatically going into "Squeeze Mode". I think this could have been done easily enough without any dumbing down of the HDTV standard.

Mark
 

Mark Hedges

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 21, 2003
Messages
442
4:3 HD sets probably are a minority for RPTV's, and certainly for flat panel displays, but for conventional tube TV's I would say they are the vast majority. There are precious few 16:9 tube TVs available, and all of them are poor values compared to a comparable 4:3 display.

Mark
 

Matt DeVillier

Supporting Actor
Joined
Sep 3, 1999
Messages
773
There are precious few 16:9 tube TVs available, and all of them are poor values compared to a comparable 4:3 display
completely untrue. Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, and Zenith all offer 16x9 HD-ready tube displays, which are comparably priced to 4x3 HD-ready tube sets. You can't compare a 16x9 HD-ready set to a 4x3 analog set price-wise.
 

Matt DeVillier

Supporting Actor
Joined
Sep 3, 1999
Messages
773
On Sony's online webstore, the 32" Wega Hi-Scan set is $1699, and the 34" Wega 16x9 Hi-Scan is $1999. A premium maybe, but not huge. You can't compare the hi-scan to the XBR line as that's apples to oranges
 

Stephen Tu

Screenwriter
Joined
Apr 26, 1999
Messages
1,572
Well, yeah, there's no comparison since you are comparing XBR series to their cheaper line. The KV-32HS500 is $1500 list at the Sony site. The more comparable widescreen 32" KV-32HS510 is $1300, the 34" KV-34HS510 is $2000. The 4:3 32" gives an approx 29.4" 16:9 picture. The 32" widescreen gives about 26.1" 4:3 picture, the 34" 16:9 about 27.8".

I would put the blame on Sony for not providing a zoom mode on their 4:3 HD sets. HD was designed to be 16:9; if a manufacturer wants to make a 4:3 HD they should have put in a workaround. The broadcast itself is reasonable; the TV station rates to have better equipment than your set, so better that they do the upconversion to HD. I suppose you could always write to the stations in question and request that they broadcast a 4:3 SD picture in another subchannel instead of just the upconverted->16:9 signal; some stations in my area do this. In addition to eliminating the double letterbox effect on 4:3 sets, this would also help RPTV owners concerned with uneven wear from black side bars, since then they could use their set's grey bars instead, or various zoom modes not available on 16:9 HD signals.
 

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