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Question about 16:9 and 4:3 (1 Viewer)

Dave Rhodes

Nov 12, 2001
I'm going to be buying a new TV sometime next year, and I'm just about clueless (and so are the people at Best Buy it seems) about the whole 16:9 and 4:3 deal. If I buy a widescreen TV, which I assume is a 16:9 type TV, how will 4:3 signals look on the TV? Will they get stretched out to fit the screen, or will there be black bars on the left and right side, like letterbox gone bad? I mainly will use this new TV I get (haven't gotten to specifics like price, model, etc) for watching DVDs, and playing PS2, Dreamcast, Gamecube (eventually), and XBOX (eventually) games on. And not all games support 16:9, so what would happen if I were to play Crazy Taxi 2 (a 4:3 game) on a widescreen TV? Or what features (aside from component, S-Video, and composite inputs) should I be looking for in a new TV?


Stunt Coordinator
Dec 20, 2000
On a 16:9 set, 4:3 material will be displayed with sidebars, generally grey. They are annoying. You have two options.
First, which is the option I choose for showing movies that were orginally 4:3 (or so), is to drape opaque black fabric over the sidebars. This works well, and is analogous to what movie theaters do. The main disadvantage here is that you will get differential burn in, with the picture in the bar area eventually looking different on widescreen material than the picture in the center of the screen. For this reason, most people will tell you to avoid watching too much 4:3 on a widescreen set. But most people will also tell you that burn in shouldn't be too much of a problem if you keep contrast low.
Second, which I use for regular TV, is to use one of the set's zoom modes, which eliminate the side bars. One can get into arguments about which sets have the better zooms, but the bottom line is that there is no "correct" way to fit a 4:3 picture into a 16:9 frame "correctly;" anything you do has tradeoffs.
Using an HD set for 4:3 games is generally discouraged because of the possibility of burn-in from onscreen display of points, speed etc. That noted, the issues are the same as for watching 4:3 material generally.

Mark Bendiksen

Mar 16, 1999
quote: Could you go into more detail about this "zoom mode" thing?[/quote]
Each manufacturer has its own zoom/stretch features. I have a Toshiba 42H81, but the following applies to all current Toshiba widescreen models.
You can watch TV in five possible picture modes:
"Normal": Displays 4:3 material with the vertical grey bars on the sides.
"Theaterwide 1": Best for filling traditional 4:3 programming in the 16:9 dimensions of the set. There's a very small amount of cropping on the top and bottom and the picture is stretched (moreso on the sides than in the center). It looks very good, and this is how I watch the majority of my 4:3 programming.
"Theaterwide 2": Best for widescreen TV shows and NON-ANAMORPHIC widescreen DVDs. This mode essentially zooms in (cropping the top and bottom) and does no stretching.
"Theaterwide 3": This mode I don't use very much, but essentially it's a mixture of "Theaterwide 1" and "Theaterwide 2".
"Full": This mode is for anamorphic DVDs.
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[Edited last by Mark Bendiksen on November 14, 2001 at 04:09 PM]

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