Aspect Ratios

Understanding aspect ratios will explain why you may see black bars around your screen image. If your source video is not in the matching aspect ratio of your screen, you will see a black area at the top and bottom of the screen or at the left side and right side of the screen. There isn't much you can do about the "problem" other than understand why it happens as the "solutions" offer problems themselves. The "solutions" are the reason you see stretched images or cut-off titles. The video is either stretched to fit the aspect ratio, or cut off to fit the aspect ratio. We prefer seeing the full intended viewing area with no stretching or cropping of the image.


Screen proportions or aspect ratio:

Aspect ratios are a way of defining the proportions or shape of a screen. A modern television has 16:9 aspect ratio. A square has the aspect ratio of 1:1. In other words, for every unit one direction there is an equal unit the other direction. For 16:9

there are 16 units horizontally and 9 units vertically. Whether those units are pixels, inches or feet, the shape will remain the same.


4:3 aspect ratios

For years we watched televisions with a 1.33 to 1 aspect ratio, or a 4:3 aspect ratio. That was the defined shape of a television screen, 640x480 pixels. Whether projected 4 inches by 3 inches, or 4 feet by 3 feet, the proportions were the same, the dots just got bigger.

  • VGA - 640 x 480 pixels (think old tv)
  • SVGA - 800 x 600 pixels (earlier computer screens)
  • XGA - 1024 x 768 pixels 

16:9 aspect ratios

"Wide-screen" has seen a number of variations over the decades. You'll find aspect ratios like 2.35:1, 1.85:1, and 1.78:1. At movie theaters we experienced what was known as Widescreen Anamorphic. Advancements in technology now support high-definition television programming in the 16:9 wide-screen format. The 16:9 ratio (or 1.78:1) has emerged as the current standard that will likely be around for some time. OutStandingScreens™ are 16:9 aspect ratio.

  • WVGA - 800 x 480
  • HD720 - 1280 x 720 (entry level high-definition, some phones now output 720P)
  • HD1080 - 1920 x 1080 (1080i naitive high-definition,)

(1280x720 is the threshold for a native “high-definition” projector, 720p. However 1080i is the higher resolution “high-definition” experience.)


Link to Projection Screen Review at Sound & Vision magazine
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