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Somebody needs to write an article about this. So, I might as will do it. I keep seeing MANY threads about somebody getting a widescreen TV, but still getting black bars when they play a 2.35:1 movie. Ok, I'm gonna explain it right here. I'm hoping David can make this a Sticky also.

Ok, you bought a widescreen TV, right? That's great. The OLD TVs have an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (4x3). Your brand new widescreen TV has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (16x9). Ok. HD broadcasts are shown in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and they will fill your screen on your widescreen TV. If it's displayed on your old 4x3 set, it'll have black bars on the top and bottom. Why? Because the 1.78:1 aspect ratio of the program is WIDER than your 1.33:1 TV. So therefore, the image is shrunk to fit the width of your TV, thus leaving black bars. Ok, you're getting it now.

So, what about movies? Well, most movies are either filmed in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, or a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Yeah, the DVD may say 16x9 on it, but what that means is that it's "ENHANCED" for 16x9 TVs. It doesn't mean it's gonna fill your screen. 1.85:1 movies may fill your screen, depending on the amount of overscan. 2.35:1 movies won't fill your screen. Why? Because it's WIDER!! Therefore it has to be shrunk down to fit the width of the screen perfectly. Black bars at the top and bottom are normal to preserve the original aspect ratio of the movie. Widescreen aspect ratios range from 1.66:1 all the way up to 2.76:1 (Ben Hur). The wider the movie, the bigger the black bars. Widescreen TVs are mainly meant for HDTV viewing. But they sure make watching movies a lot better too because the black bars are either gone for the 1.85:1 movies, or a lot smaller for the 2.35:1 movies.

Yeah, I hear this a lot in those threads. "Why can't they just film at one aspect ratio and stick to it?" Directors and filmmakers film mainly for the theater and don't give a rip about the TV's aspect ratio. Plus, 2.35:1 movies mainly use an anamorphic lense to compress more of the picture onto a 1.37:1 frame. This method also increases the quality and makes it look better than hard matting, soft matting, and Super 35. 1.85:1 movies are either hard matted, soft matted, or filmed in Super 35. 2.35:1 movies are either shot in anamorphic, or filmed in Super 35. Now, if the movie is Super 35 and has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, some directors choose to open up the mattes a little bit to fill more of the screen like they did in Austin Powers International Man of Mystery and The Recruit. I really have no problem with this time of reformatting as long as it's up to the director and it still looks good. Some Super 35 movies are opened up a little bit if the director decides that the 2.35:1 composition is way too tight. Other reasons why most Super 35 movies AREN'T opened up a little is because a lot of the movie was hard matted for the special effects. If some of the movie was opened matted a bit, then some other parts of the movie would have to be "pan and scanned". And that's not good.

Directors choose different aspect ratios for different reasons. A lot of action movies are done in 2.35:1. A lot of the comedies are filmed in 1.85:1. Each aspect ratio is appropriate for different genres.

So, if you pop a movie in on your widescreen TV and still get black bars. Look on the back on the DVD and see if it says 2.35:1. If it does, then you're ok. If you pop in a 1.85:1 movie and don't get black bars, you're still ok.

I hope this topic will settle the confusions on this board. Have a nice day.
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