What's with HD channels letterboxing in 4:3?

J

joeyjojojnr

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This is more of a curiosity question and likely not specific to Dish:

Why do some HD channels that are clearly broadcasting in full 16:9 (as you can tell from their station bug in the lower right of the screen) show 16:9 content but in the space of the 4:3 aspect ratio letterboxed?

A couple of examples:

There's a movie on Retro right now being broadcast that way.

I've seen The Office broadcast that way.

Is there a technical reason for that? Are these perhaps old letterboxed versions of films that they used to broadcast on 4:3 and just don't zoom (or pay to upgrade their rights to broadcast the higher resolution 16:9 version)? Maybe some sort of licensing issue?
 
DodgerKing

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Keep them in their natural aspect ratio

Much better than stretching and distorting images
 
TNGTony

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Dodger, why couldn't they stretch it vertically AND horizontally to fill the screen and still maintain the original overall shape? That is the question. I understand it wouldn't be in HD, but it would fill the screen without having to use the TV's zoom feature.

IMHO it's lazy broadcasting.

There are a couple of HD channels that take 4x3 programs pillarboxed in HD shown in SD window-boxed so you end up with a postage stamp image on the TV!

www.dishuser.org/aspect.php
 
teachsac

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There seems to be some misconceptions starting with the OP. Letterboxing and 4:3 are different. Letterboxing is fitting a 16:9 picture into a 4:3 frame with black bars on the top and bottom. When moving letterbox to 16:9 there are black bars all around. That's what you see when watching Foxmovies on a 16:9 TV and many DVDs.

My take on the OP is why are 4:3 shows being shown on HD (16:9) broadcasts, i.e. movies. Many movies simply haven't gotten the updated treatment since broadcast has been moving from 4:3 to 16:9, particularly older ones. Remember most movies were "formatted to fit your TV screen". Most movies shot prior to 58 are also 4:3 in their OAR.

S~
 
TNGTony

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No, he is talking about a 16x9 SD movie shown on an HD channel window-boxed (bars all around). Happens quite a bit with older movies that haven't been remastered yet. You see it quite often on Starz Cinema HD and Encore HD.
 
DodgerKing

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Dodger, why couldn't they stretch it vertically AND horizontally to fill the screen and still maintain the original overall shape? That is the question. I understand it wouldn't be in HD, but it would fill the screen without having to use the TV's zoom feature.

IMHO it's lazy broadcasting.

There are a couple of HD channels that take 4x3 programs pillarboxed in HD shown in SD window-boxed so you end up with a postage stamp image on the TV!

www.dishuser.org/aspect.php
Ahhh... I see. So you get a black bar on all four sides?

It would seem like zoom would be better, but remember when you zoom you do lose PQ and the image does become more pixelated
 
TNGTony

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For the record:

Pillarbox
15.jpg



Letterbox
20.jpg


Window Box
24.jpg



The OP's question is WHY does the HD channel show a 16x9 movie window boxed? The answer is that it is really a letterboxed 4x3 image shown on an HD channel in pillarbox format.

I do not know the technical reason WHY the HD channels do not "zoom" the image on their end to fill the screen other than shear laziness. I am probably wrong and there is a long involved technical reason, but I do not know it.
 
teachsac

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I've seen a few, but not that many. Still goes back to what I said about needing to go back to the master and reformatting, whether it's 4:3 or letterboxed. An example I am looking at is "How to Steal a Million" right now. Been foramatted for 4:3 keeping the original 2.35 aspect ratio. Great on an SD set, but it's a 480 transfer. Stretching and zooming looks hideous.

S~
 
Last edited:
DodgerKing

DodgerKing

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For the record:

Pillarbox
15.jpg



Letterbox
20.jpg


Window Box
24.jpg



The OP's question is WHY does the HD channel show a 16x9 movie window boxed? The answer is that it is really a letterboxed 4x3 image shown on an HD channel in pillarbox format.

I do not know the technical reason WHY the HD channels do not "zoom" the image on their end to fill the screen other than shear laziness. I am probably wrong and there is a long involved technical reason, but I do not know it.
My guess is that the PQ becomes much worse
 
J

joeyjojojnr

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I've seen a few, but not that many. Still goes back to what I said about needing to go back to the master and reformatting, whether it's 4:3 or letterboxed. An example I am looking at is "How to Steal a Million" right now. Been foramatted for 4:3 keeping the original 2.4 aspect ratio. Great on an SD set, but it's a 480 transfer. Stretching and zooming looks hideous.

S~

Ah, yes. Sorry for the confusion. Indeed, I meant 'windowboxed' and that movie is exactly what triggered the question.

I suppose that makes sense...the source film/tape is 4:3 letterboxed.

You'd think there'd be a way to decently upscale to allow a zoomed image. My $40 DVD player does a decent job at that.

Oh well. Until then, I'll just have to use the ZOOM button. ;)
 
TNGTony

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The PQ on a zoomed 4x3 letterbox format on a broadcast digital tape/file, analog tape or DVD is much, much, MUCH better than the quality of any TV's zoom feature after transmission (compression/decompression cycles). No, it's not HD but I would bet that 99% of the viewers wouldn't notice.

See ya
Tony
 
DodgerKing

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The PQ on a zoomed 4x3 letterbox format broadcast digital tape/file, analog tape or DVD is much, much, MUCH better than the quality of any TV's zoom feature after transmission (compression/decompression cycles). No, it's not HD but I would bet that 99% of the viewers wouldn't notice.

See ya
Tony
Discovery channels zoom their 4:3 images, thus cutting off some of the top and bottom and still leaving a small pillar bar on the sides. There PQ is still pretty good, so I guess it will not be that bad if they zoomed a windowed box image
 
TNGTony

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Yup... exactly my point. :)

For the record I am lucky to have two good TVs with quality zoom features and they get used all the time. PQ is okay and way better than watching window box. Now having said that I want TNT, TBS, HGTV, A&E and their ilk to stop stretching 4x3 programs!
 
n0qcu

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Remember most movies were "formatted to fit your TV screen". S~

I have always felt that that is the wrong terminology.

It has actually been formated to fill to your screen. (letterboxing actually "fits")

Back to subject yes it would most likely look better if the station would do the zooming. Especially since a lot of TV's and STB actually do not have an actual zoom that will make the windowbox image full screen (depending on actual Aspect)
 
S

sam_gordon

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Don't forget you (with a 16:9 set) aren't the only one watching a movie. So if the broadcaster "stretches" the image to fill the 16:9 set, someone watching on a 4:3 screen will actually lose content. I'm referring to content that is the same (simulcast) on a station's HD & SD signal.

If it's truely an HD only station, the other reason the broadcaster wouldn't want to do that is it (in addition to compromising PQ) will distort the picture. Some viewers don't have a problem with the distortion, others do (no matter how slight). However, if the broadcaster distorts the picture, the home user doesn't have the option to "undo" the distortion. If they don't "zoom", the home viewer DOES have that option.
 
S

smjbh5

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MTV-HD does this all the time. Hate the black bars on all 4 sides, always reminding the wife to zoom so I don't get any IR on the screen. Almost better to watch the SD channel then stretch. MTV's pq sucks anyway,
 
DodgerKing

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Yup... exactly my point. :)

For the record I am lucky to have two good TVs with quality zoom features and they get used all the time. PQ is okay and way better than watching window box. Now having said that I want TNT, TBS, HGTV, A&E and their ilk to stop stretching 4x3 programs!
That is what really irks me as well. These are the only channels of which I still have their SD version stored on the guide because of this. I rather watch a poorer SD PQ than a better quality stretched HD version. What sucks is most TVs are able to stretch 4:3 if people want to stretch it, but many cannot shrink an already stretched 16:9 image.
 
TNGTony

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Don't forget you (with a 16:9 set) aren't the only one watching a movie. So if the broadcaster "stretches" the image to fill the 16:9 set, someone watching on a 4:3 screen will actually lose content. I'm referring to content that is the same (simulcast) on a station's HD & SD signal.

If it's truely an HD only station, the other reason the broadcaster wouldn't want to do that is it (in addition to compromising PQ) will distort the picture. Some viewers don't have a problem with the distortion, others do (no matter how slight). However, if the broadcaster distorts the picture, the home user doesn't have the option to "undo" the distortion. If they don't "zoom", the home viewer DOES have that option.

I want to restate that this would be a 16x9 window boxed image stretched proportionally vertically AND horizontally (straight zoom) with no distortion of the image on an HD channel. I personally cannot stand to watch 4x3 horizontally stretched to fill the screen.
 
MikeD-C05

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IF an HD movie is shown in 4 x 3 pillar box , I won't watch it. It is supposed to be in 16 x 9 Full screen or at least 16 x9 letterbox. I can zoom it to fill if it is letterbox without too much degrading of the picture. But why even bother to show it in HD if it is in 4x3 at all? You know it wasn't shot that way. All movies are in 16 x 9 unless they were tv films.
 
TNGTony

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Mike, what about movies like The Abyss, Ronin or Terminator 2: Judgment Day which were shot in Open Matte 4x3 and shown in the theaters with top and bottom cut off? I saw The Abyss clearly in HD on Encore but it was the Open Matte version.

My TV has a zoom and scan feature so I could approximate the theatrical cut too. :)

The only thing my TV doesn't have is the "shrink" feature to restore stretched images to their OAR. :)
 

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