Posts Tagged ‘aspect ratio’


Image aspect ratios


It’s 2011, and digital broadcast TV is now the norm. Not being the proud owner of a shiny new LCD HDTV, I still watch cable received through NTSC channels sent via coaxial cable from my ISP and cable provider. One thing that annoys me is the lack of attention to detail that often surfaces in broadcast media, specifically when the aspect ratio of a source image is discarded and rendered improperly on a screen.

Most people who owned TV sets before the digital transition watched their programs in the standard NTSC-prescribed 4:3 “almost square” format. Of course, most moves are shot with different aspect ratio, such as 16:9 and end up being reformatted to fit your screen. The proper way to go about this is either to letter-box it (“black bars”) or to crop off the sides (“zoom”). I’m more a fan of letter-boxing personally, but in either case, the aspect ratio was preserved so that peoples’ faces appear with the same roundness that they would in real life.

Most recently I’ve noticed some networks’ commercials have been distorted and stretched, as if the person who performed the editing and final rendering of the video didn’t bother to consider how it would appear on standard televisions. Of course, it could be something the cable company is doing wrong, but having worked in broadcast, it’s my opinion that the broadcaster should not be responsible for poorly formatted material – the buck stops at the producer who is ultimately responsible for transmitting the material to the broadcast site and making sure that it looks and sound correct on-air.

Stretching or compressing an image originally designed for 16:9 to fit into a 4:3 box literally makes people look like pin-heads. In audio terms, it’s the equivalent of playing playing a 33 RPM vinyl record in 45 RPM mode. Sure, it sounds “cool” but you’d hardly want to listen for pleasure and relaxation that way.

Another prime example of this lack of attention to detail is currently evidenced on the Musician’s Friend website. When clicking on an image to view the enlarged version, at first it comes up normally, but when clicking on a next or previous image, it comes up distorted. I’ve written to them about this in hopes of going back to my normal browsing habits when shopping for gear. I’ll post an update when I get a response.