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Viewing 4:3 DVDs (1 Viewer)


Jul 12, 2007
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Even tho' I have "subscrined" to The Digital Bits" for some time I have been rather reluctant to ask this question so as not to be ridiculed. Anyway - here goes.

I am emphatic about watching movies as they are supposed to be viewed. I have a widescreen TV with a choice of aspect ratios.

How should I watch for example: "A Streetcar Named Desire" SE 1.33:1 (4:3 Transfer)? I currently view it with the 4:3 ration on my TV.

And Example 2: "Star Wars: A New Hope" (LE) Disc 2 Oringinal Theatrical (1977) Version 4:3 Letterbox format (Aspect Ratio 2:35.1).

As I implied I have been an advocate of the Letterbox format since it arrived all those years ago. Anyway your replies would be appreciated in response to the above so I know where to go from here.

New Zealand

Joseph DeMartino

Senior HTF Member
Jun 30, 1997
Real Name
Joseph DeMartino
4:3 material you'll watch in 4:3 - the frame will be centered on your 16:9 screen with black or grey pillarbox columns on either side (depending on the options selected on your TV and/or DVD player menus.) If the player and TV are properly setup, 4:3 and anamorphic widescreen material should display at the proper ratios automatically.

Letterboxed widescreen material, as on non-anamorphic DVDs or laserdiscs, is another matter. Chances are you'll want to use one of your TV's "zoom" modes to expand the widescreen image to fit the width of your screen without distorting it in any way or cutting off any of the image. (Your TV probably has several zoom or stretch modes, some of which do distort or crop the image, and the descriptions in the manuals are no always helpful, so you may have to experiment a bit.)

Blowing up an image like this can accentuate flaws, but that's the trade-off for not watching a postage stamp sized image. And if your TV has a good scaler/de-interlacer, a letterboxed image can look surprisingly good when zoomed to screen width. My laserdisc player is still in mothballs, but I do have a few non-anamorphic DVDs that I watch (in my case I have to change settings on my DVD player first.) The original widescreen Star Wars films (included as a bonus on one of the innumerable DVD releases) look quite good. Streets of Fire actually looks amazing on my 56" JVC LCoS set, all things considered - better than it has ever looked on any media on any of my TVs.

The same applies to widescreen material letterboxed on SD TV channels, but I find the original resolution is so low on these that blowing them up to full screen width produces a pixelated mess that is virtually unwatchable, so I tend not to bother.



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