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You're partly right : The light that goes to the mirror(s) comes from the 3 CRTs - the phosphor surface in those CRTs will slowly degrade and if you have no electrons hitting the phosphors (when viewing 4:3 on a 16:9 screen) in the "bars", they will wear less than the 4:3 area. Then, when you watch 16:9 stuff, the area where the 4:3 image was will be on a more "burned" area of the CRT and will be slightly less bright and its color will shift as the different phosphors age differently. The reason for the gray bars is to maintain those areas with a similar amount of phosphor wear to the area of the 4:3 image, so you can watch 16:9 later without uneven brightness and color. A certain amount of distraction is unavoidable (I don't like stretching or chopping the image, to me this is more distracting) because 4:3 and 16:9 are just different. You have to make your own choice of what is least distracting and balance that with the fear of burn-in if you have black bars, which some find less distracting than gray ones. A variety of threads have addressed this before and some use the gray bars to protect the CRTs and have black curtains to cover them. Very hard to put a number on the phosphor wear and how much to worry about it. It is certainly more of a problem if the contrast is set too high and less of a problem if the set is calibrated to drive the CRTs to the RIGHT level (and there is a RIGHT level - calibration DVDs like Video Essentials or Avia can help here)


Andy
 
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