The manual is pretty good at explaining them using the engineer's vernacular (grin).
I'll do my best.
Normal: This mode displays regular 4:3 TV content in it's original aspect ratio. Purists prefer this, even though it doesn't use all of your horizontal pixels (you get the gray bars). TV manufacturers warn against this mode, claiming you risk burning in your set (hence, the gray bars, not black bars, because the gray slows down uneven burn). The general consensus on this forum appears to be that if you properly tune things like contrast, brightness, hue and saturation (using a tool like the Avia DVD) PLUS mix up your viewing (some 4:3 normal TV, some 16:9 movies etc) then you'll be safe, at least for a long enough time not to worry about it (5-10 years).
Full: Use this mode for anamorphic 2.35:1 DVD movies. It will retain the original aspect ratio, will use up the whole screen horizontally and you will have the required black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. Rightly so, because your TV is 1.78:1.
Zoom: Use this mode for academy standard DVD movies (1.85:1). You won't lose any image and the picture will be in its original aspect ratio. Again, you will have black bars on the top and bottom, although the bars will be somewhat smaller. Also use Zoom for DVD letterbox movies that aren't widescreen enhanced (i.e., they are meant for 4:3 TVs to display them with big black bars on the top and the bottom). For these latter DVDs you'll lose a little bit on the top and bottom, but such is life!
Wide Zoom: Some people view older letterbox DVDs in this mode. It will make the picture take up the whole screen, and not distort the center of the picture as much as it will the edges. Some people (like me) prefer to view SOME types of regular 4:3 TV in this mode for better immersion (like racing, other sports, cartoons for the kids, etc). Talk shows (like my fav: The Screen Savers on TechTV) in Wide Zoom mode isn't ideal because people look stretched.
For more information about anamorphic dvds, letterbox dvds, etc, you might want to visit:
Zoom: Use this mode for academy standard DVD movies (1.85:1). You won't lose any image and the picture will be in its original aspect ratio. Again, you will have black bars on the top and bottom, although the bars will be somewhat smaller. ========================================
This is not correct in the case of anamorphic 1:85 aspect ratio movies. All anamorphic widescreen dvds should be played in "Full" mode, regardless of aspect ratio. "Full" does a uniform horizontal-only stretch when the set is fed anything other than an HD signal, which is necessary for any anamorphic dvd. Be sure to set the dvd player to 16/9 mode.
Zoom applies a uniform horizontal AND vertical stretch, and will make any anamorphic dvd picture look vertically stretched.
So use Full for all anamorphic dvds, regardless of aspect ratio (1:85, 2:35, etc.) Even though your set's aspect ratio is in actuality 1:78, due to overscan you should not see any black bars when playing a 1:85 aspect ratio movie.
Zoom should indeed be used for non-anamorphic widescreen dvds, again regardless of aspect ratio, unless you have a dvd player with a scaling feature for expanding non-anamorphic dvds to fill a native 16/9 screen-- in which case you should again use "Full" as with anamorphic discs.
Yes, Steve, thanks for the clarification. Reading more of The Ultimate Guide to Anamorphic Widescreen DVD at http://www.thedigitalbits.com/articl...hic/page2.html I see that there is no labeling standard. So, if the DVD isn't clearly labeled as Anamorphic, then seemingly the best way to tell if the DVD is Anamorphic is to view it in Sony's Normal mode. On our Sonys, that makes the picture seem horizontally squished.
Exactly. With the player set to 16/9, an anamorphic picture will be too tall and skinny with the set in Normal (gray bar on the side) mode, a non-anamorphic picture will be normally proportionned.
The labelling thing is a problem. Some packages say "anamorphic", some say "enhanced for widescreen tvs" and some don't specify at all. I won't buy one that doesn't specify on the package unless I verify which format it is on some review site. I won't buy a non-anamorphic title unless the film itself is an absolute must-have or the original aspect ratio is 4/3.
I think all modern 16:9 televisions have these viewing choices. Older 4:3 televisions don't, but some DVD players might allow you to alter the viewing format (i.e., selecting between letterbox or a zoom mode that you can pan around using a joystick style remote)