16 9 tv: What is the Aspect Ratio? (4:3, 16:9, 21:9)

Опубликовано: October 20, 2023 в 6:53 am


Категории: Miscellaneous

What is the Aspect Ratio? (4:3, 16:9, 21:9)

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Top
  3. What is it?
  4. What does it look like?
  5. Solutions
  6. IMAX
  7. 21:9 TVs
  8. Conclusion
  9. Discussions

Updated May 22, 2019 at 02:27 pm

By Cedric Demers and Adam Babcock

So you get your new TV home, set it up, and fire up your favorite 90s sitcom, just to be greeted by huge black bars on either side. What were small, almost imperceptible bars on the sides of your old 43″ TV are now massive 8″ wide black pillars on either side of the image on your new 75″ TV.

These black bars are there because your favorite TV show was made in a different era, when TVs had a very different aspect ratio from the current generation. But what is the aspect ratio? We will talk a bit about the history of TVs, why different aspect ratios exist, and what you can do to get rid of them, or at least make them less noticeable.

What is the aspect ratio?

The aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and the height of a display. It defines its overall shape, and it is usually presented as W:H (where W is the width, and H is the height). All TVs sold today have an aspect ratio of 16:9, which means that if the width is divided into 16 equal parts, the height of the TV or picture should be 9 parts.

16:9 works great for TVs, since that is the aspect ratio used by the majority of today’s TV shows, but unfortunately, most movies are made using the cinema standard, which is 21:9. 21:9 is much wider, so parts of the screen need to be filled with black bars above and below the image in order to fit most TVs. These horizontal bars are called “letterboxes.”

TV shows used to be made using a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is a lot more square than current TVs (this is why 16:9 is often called a widescreen aspect ratio). To fit modern TVs, vertical black bars or “pillarboxing” is used. We’ve listed the most common aspect ratios in this table, but every TV sold today uses 16:9.

Aspect Ratio

Uses TVs
4:3 1.33:1 SD Channels Old TVs
16:9 1.77:1 HD Channels The majority of HDTVs
21:9 2.37:1 Most movies Most theaters
14:10 1.4:1 IMAX Film Very few theaters
19:10 1.9:1 IMAX Digital Most IMAX theaters

The most common aspect ratios in the video industry.

What does it look like?

Black bars fill the extra space when the aspect ratio of the screen and content do not match.

When the aspect ratio of the content you are trying to watch doesn’t match the aspect ratio of your TV, you’ll usually end up with black bars.

Depending on the type of mismatch between the picture and the display’s ratio, the black bars appear in different places. Content wider than the screen it is played on will have horizontal black bars, while content that is taller will use vertical bars.

As you can see, when you watch a 21:9 movie on a normal 16:9 widescreen TV, you will have some black bars at the top and bottom. This is represented by the top center TV in the illustration.

How to get rid of them

Original picture

Stretched to fit

Cropped to fit

If the black bars bother you, unfortunately, there is no magic solution that can remove them without altering the image. There are a few options though, including:

  • Cropping the picture is the equivalent of zooming, but it removes the top and bottom of the picture.
  • Stretching retains all the information but it distorts the image to fit your screen.

Different TVs have different settings for this, so here’s a table with the different options found on different brands, as well as their specific name. Some of them have two types of zoom; either two levels of crop or one of them combines both zoom and stretch at the same time.

Brand Stretch Crop Crop #2
Sony Full Zoom Wide Zoom (Zoom+Stretch)
Samsung Fit to screen Zoom/Position N/A
LG 16:9 All Direction Zoom Vertical Zoom (Zoom+Vertical Stretch)
TCL Stretch Zoom Normal (Overscan feature)

IMAX Aspect ratio

IMAX scene in Interstellar

16:9 scene in Interstellar

IMAX movies and theaters are a complete ecosystem that encompasses everything from cameras, speakers, room shapes, screen finishes, and even film types. More importantly, though, part of IMAX’s proprietary system is their own aspect ratio. IMAX has a few different ratios used now to accommodate for different types of rooms, but there are two major ones: 1.9:1 and 1.4:1.

  • 1.9:1 is meant for more standard digital projectors and is used in IMAX Digital theaters. It is a bit taller than the standard Cinema 2.35:1 (21:9) ratio.
  • 1.4:1 is the more iconic ratio. It is incredibly tall and almost square in shape. This is what IMAX is most known for since the screens are usually much larger than normal cinema theaters and the height makes them a very immersive experience.

Most movies today that use IMAX still are filmed with a mixture of 21:9 ratio and 1.4:1 IMAX. As seen in the picture above, IMAX content fills up the entirety of the 16:9 screen. The image itself goes beyond the height of a 16:9 TV, but it is cropped in Blu-ray films to fit the screen. You don’t get the whole experience, but you still get a more complete picture than if it was letterboxed to the standard cinema ratio.

What are 21:9 ratio TVs?

A 58″ 21:9 TV is equivalent to a 61″ for 21:9 media, but only 47″ for 16:9 media.

21:9 TVs were made a few years ago and were aimed at cinephiles since they match the standard motion pictures aspect ratio and allow you to watch movies from edge to edge of your screen. They aren’t available anymore, and they were rare, and expensive, even at the time of their release. A few prototypes have been demonstrated in recent years, including a model that can change its aspect ratio to match the content, but nothing has been released.

Unless you only turn on your TV to watch movies, you’re better off with a standard 16:9 TV. Watching normal TV shows on a cinema-wide screen causes it to show black bars on either side, which isn’t great. This reduces the viewing area for 16:9 content considerably. A 58″ 21:9 television corresponds to the same viewing area as a 47″ TV for 16:9 content, as you can see in the illustration.

Nowadays, the 21:9 ratio is only found on PC monitors. It roughly equates to two 4:3 monitors side by side. Some PC monitors go even wider, causing even 21:9 movies to have vertical black bars. These are good for both productivity and immersive gaming.


Nowadays, the vast majority of TV shows are made, and distributed, using a 16:9 aspect ratio, and so is every TV. Movies are usually produced in a 21:9 aspect ratio, which results in horizontal black bars above and below the image on standard TVs. There are a few monitors out there that have a 21:9 aspect ratio, but despite multiple attempts by manufacturers, this has never caught on for home use, mainly because it results in vertical bars on the sides of TV shows.

TV Aspect Ratio: Understanding Widescreen, 16:9 and 4:3

You hear plenty about widescreen TV these days, but what does it mean exactly? Discover the difference between 4:3 and 16:9 in this guide to TV aspect ratios.

The TV aspect ratio is a term you often hear when discussing a television or projector screen.

You might hear about ‘widescreen’ and ‘4 by 3’, but what does it all mean exactly?

Well, it can be one of the factors to consider when looking to buy a new television or projector screen – and it’s another part of the seemingly endless stream of technical jargon that can confuse you.

You don’t understand it, and the person trying to sell you that new TV doesn’t seem to understand it either.

The thing is, you don’t really need to understand most of this stuff.

Much of it is just fancy terms and numbers to make that expensive new purchase of yours sound more exciting!

However, learning some jargon can improve your understanding of the technology – and sometimes help you get the best from it.

So what’s the aspect ratio of your television all about?

Table Of Contents

  1. What Is the Aspect Ratio of Your TV Screen?
  2. What Is a 4:3 Aspect Ratio?
  3. What Is a 16:9 Widescreen Aspect Ratio?
  4. Conclusion

What Is the Aspect Ratio of Your TV Screen?

The aspect ratio refers to a TV screen’s shape – or how wide it is compared to its height.

You may also come across this term when buying a projector screen.

It is a similar concept to the aspect ratio of a movie – however, this article is about the shape of your screen – rather than the video image showing on that screen.

The aspect ratio is calculated by dividing the width by the height.

So if you know the aspect ratio of a TV screen, you will know its shape.

What Is a 4:3 Aspect Ratio?

For those old enough to remember, the traditional shape of a television screen was almost square.

It was slightly wider than it was high, but not by much, and matched the shape of the picture sent to your TV.

This was known as a ‘4 by 3’ screen, but you may also see this written as 4:3 or 4×3.

This means that the screen was 4 units wide and 3 units high.

4:3 TV aspect ratio

The physical size of the units doesn’t matter – it could be 4 inches by 3 inches, 4 feet by 3 feet or 8 feet by 6 feet.

But, the relationship between the width and the height is always 4 across and 3 down.

Because the screen’s actual size doesn’t matter, it is often easier to express this 4:3 relationship as a ratio.

So, if you divide the width by the height:

4 ÷ 3 = 1.33

So, 1. 33 – or 1.33:1 – is the aspect ratio of a 4:3 TV or projector screen.

You may see the aspect ratio written as either of these numbers, but they mean the same thing.

When you see these terms, it tells you the basic shape of that screen.

What Is a 16:9 Widescreen Aspect Ratio?

As with all technology, times changed, and the boffins tried to improve existing TV technology.

While the aspect ratio of movies was also originally 1.33:1, this changed while the shape of a TV screen stayed as a ‘square.’

You would see a much broader screen in a movie theater – more like a rectangle than a square.

This wide image shape was thought to more closely reflect the way that eyes worked – and so was a more natural way to see things.

So, with the introduction of HDTV and digital television, the result has been a slow but steady switch to ‘widescreen’ televisions.

These days, all new OLED and LED TVs are now widescreen.

16:9 widescreen TV aspect ratio

The widescreen image you see on your TV isn’t quite the same shape as they use in movies, but it is similar.

The standard HD aspect ratio is ’16 by 9.’

As with a 4:3 image, this means the picture is 16 units wide and 9 units high – so much wider in comparison to the height.

You’re probably way ahead now, but this widescreen image can also be expressed as a ratio.

Like this:

16 ÷ 9 = 1.7777

This number is usually rounded up to 1.78 – so when you see a reference to 1.78 or 1.78:1, you know that the image or TV screen will be widescreen.

This is also known as 16:9 and 16×9.

If you want to know more, learn how to calculate the dimensions of your screen using your TV’s aspect ratio.


So now you’ve learned a thing or two about the TV aspect ratio, you can feel more confident about another piece of jargon that you will come across.

All new televisions and computer screens are now produced with a widescreen aspect ratio, so it is good to know a little background about it.

You won’t see many old 4×3 TVs these days, but 1. 33 computer monitors and projector screens are still around.

Have you ever wondered why you get those black bars on your screen when you play a movie on your DVD or Blu-ray player?

Well, now you understand the aspect ratios of TV screens, you are also in an excellent place to figure out why.

You can find more about this in the article on the aspect ratio of DVD and Blu-ray movies.

About The Author

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today’s audio-visual technology. He has been a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.

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16:9 channels

Communication Information Site » Satellite TV Articles » 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio channels

16:9 is a picture format that matches the aspect ratio of new TVs. Video in this format completely fills the screen, without black bars on the sides. Previously, TVs were more “square”, with 4:3 proportions, and TV channels transmitted the image in this format. As TVs have been updated among the population, TV content producers have gradually begun to create it with an aspect ratio of 16: 9.

A significant milestone in this process in Russia was the transfer of all channels of the first RTRS (Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network) multiplex to widescreen: Channel One, Russia 1, Match TV, NTV, Channel Five, Russia K, Russia 24, Karusel, OTR and TV Center have been broadcasting in 16:9 format since June 2018.

How the 16:9 channel format appeared

Back in the early 80s, such proportions were derived in the working group of the SMPTE society, which investigated electronic methods of filming. Finding a universal aspect ratio was required in order to use a digital camera to create video material of any format. After that 16:9was adopted by TV channels and quickly became the standard for HDTV. For a while in Japan, HDTV channels broadcast in 5:3 frame proportions, but they quickly switched to 16:9 there too. Since then, this aspect ratio has become the only and universal standard for HD channels.
In general, in the cinema there are many options for the aspect ratio of the frame, and 16:9 is the average between them. These proportions are as close as possible to the well-known “Golden Section”, as well as to 1.85:1, one of the two most common Hollywood film formats, which allows you to broadcast movies without cropping the picture.

Why some channels are still in 4:3

The answer is simple – many families still use TVs with this aspect ratio. Sometimes (very rarely) such TVs can even be found in stores. In addition, there are many old video cameras with which TV reports are created. And of course, a large amount of archival video, which is also used to create TV shows.

There is another important reason. Widescreen, for technical reasons, is simply impossible to transmit via an analog signal. Yes, for a long time all television broadcasting in Russia should have switched to digital format, but many providers still offer analog television services. It has its advantages – analog TV does not require a subscriber to have a digital receiver, so it is easier to control TV, which is important for older people.

The problem and dissatisfaction of TV subscribers is that the owners of TVs with an aspect ratio of 4:3 do not like the image on channels broadcasting in 16:9. And vice versa: the owners of more modern ones are “tired of looking at broad people” on 4:3 format channels. After all, in order to transfer an image that was originally in 16:9 to a screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio, you either need to fit the video using compression-stretching (full filling of the 4:3 screen) or apply a porridge (black fields at the top and bottom). In the first case, the image will be distorted. The second option is better, but rarely used due to certain technical difficulties.

Those who bought a new TV also suffer. At a 4:3 frame, they have black vertical margins on the side of their screens. The ZOOM option does not help much, as it leads to a deterioration in image quality.

Be that as it may, slowly but surely the channels are switching to broadcasting in 16:9 proportions. It is too late to discuss the expediency of such a decision – the choice has already been made.

How to change the aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9

Each DVB digital TV receiver is capable of receiving both aspect ratios. In the settings of new widescreen TVs or external set-top boxes, you can select the type of screen – 4:3 or 16:9.

Use the aspect ratio option to change the setting from the default 4:3 to 16:9 , otherwise the receiver will automatically convert the widescreen picture to the old format. But it is usually not necessary to adapt channels broadcasting in 4:3 format for a widescreen TV in the settings: the TV will do this automatically. If this does not happen, refer to the TV manual to set the desired settings.

In the video you can see how to correctly set the settings of a Samsung widescreen TV to view 4:3 channels without stretched picture.

A list of 16:9 channels can be found here.

16:9 or 4:3 – Reviews and Articles

Technical specifications, promotional materials, and reviews of technology related to watching movies and TV programs invariably include aspect ratio information. Behind these numbers is a well-defined parameter – aspect ratio. What do you need to know about it, and how does it affect viewing comfort?

The main task of the developers of modern audio and video equipment is the desire to achieve the highest possible image and sound quality close to natural. This issue is especially acute for manufacturers of “home theater” components. It is here that all kinds of sound processors, decoders, acoustic components and, of course, display devices deserve no less attention. As in sound, in the image the edge of perception depends on many components. One of them is the ratio of the width and height of the rectangular “picture”, which is called the format.

Long before the advent of cinema and television, Leonardo da Vinci discovered the so-called “golden section”. He proved that a rectangle with an aspect ratio of 13:8 looks the most harmonious for a person (that is, for 13 units of width there should be 8 units of height). This fundamental discovery, which had a great influence on the development of painting, with the advent of photography (and later cinema) has come down to our time. True, in the cinema this aspect ratio has been corrected, and today the average aspect ratio of the movie screen is 2.35:1. Here one more rule is taken into account: the wider the image, the more realistic it seems to be seen.

With the advent of television, the approach to picture format has changed significantly. The production of cathode ray tubes with a wide horizontal cross section for televisions was technologically difficult and too expensive for a long time, and the concept of mass broadcasting itself was based on completely different principles, relegating the tasks of imagery and realism to the background. Television itself excited the imagination of the masses, and the realism of television programs was considered a secondary factor, although a matter of course. Therefore, the appearance and further distribution of the 4:3 image format can be considered natural.

Having become the number one entertainment, the “box” for many years personified the future, where “one continuous television” of all leisure facilities will remain. Let’s not forget that the TV was the first “personal entertainment device” that combined a clear projection of real time and staged entertainment elements. The new technologies of that time brought fundamental changes to everyday life. To enjoy the show, it was no longer necessary to leave your soft sofa: just click a button. The promising TV industry, fueled by huge investments, almost buried the cinema, which had just begun to reach a new qualitative level. From year to year, widescreen rentals lost their viewers and had to adapt to new tastes and habits of the audience.

In the 80s of the XX century, the development of VHS and the appearance of the first video recorders capable of “putting the big world of cinema into this small box” did not have the best effect on cinema attendance, but brought the stereotype of “personal viewing” closer to cinema. Television has taught the consumer to fully get what he wants, where it is convenient for him.

Thus, the history of the television format has come to its end, leaving in every house, in every apartment on TV (or even several) with a screen aspect ratio of 4:3. The ground for home cinema was set, the art was saved, only the question of image integrity remained the same.

Meanwhile, cinema was experiencing a new birth. At the same time, equipment manufacturers were looking for a new medium capable of storing information adequate to the image and sound parameters in high-class cinema halls at a low cost. VHS was replaced by the DVD format, which paved the way for the development of the home theater industry. Digital technologies have made it possible not only to store and transmit audio information that can fully realize the real cinematic atmosphere at home, but also to improve image quality. Home viewing of movies in their true, wide format became possible. Fortunately, now there is something to do this: the consumer is offered widescreen TVs, projectors for home theaters and even plasma panels for every taste and budget. They differ from each other in aspect ratio, and therefore, in the integrity of the playback of “wide” formats.

There are only two main ones: 2.35:1 (21:9) – a wide film format in which most feature films are shot, and 16:9 (1. 78:1). It was with the 16:9 format that the era of full-fledged home theaters began, this is the most common wide format today, promising to replace the usual television 4:3 in the near future. Less common is an intermediate version with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

Widescreen film on a regular TV

DVD movies are now released in 16:9 format, despite the fact that equipment designed for a 4:3 aspect ratio is still the majority. On the other hand, the television standards PAL and NTSC do not allow broadcasting widescreen movies in any format other than 4:3. To resolve this contradiction, several methods have been developed for “packing” a widescreen picture into a television frame. Ultimately, when the image is compressed, a wide format picture is obtained, physically recorded in a 4:3 format.


This compression method got its name from the use of black bars at the top and bottom of the image. The principle is very simple: a wide format picture is simply rewritten into a 4:3 format frame without any distortion or changes. When viewing a movie compressed in this way on a regular TV, the viewer will not see part of the image, since the picture is cut off at the edges on the right and left. And for owners of widescreen TVs, the “envelope” is very convenient: using the Movie Expand mode (see below), they can adjust the image so that it is displayed on the screen without loss.


Another way of compression is implemented using “anamorphic lenses” (anamorphic lens). In this case, the image is compensated, however, entailing some distortion of the image. When recording an anamorphic image, a widescreen image is vertically stretched and recorded in a 4:3 frame, and when played back, it is compressed to its original size. The image quality is somewhat lower than with Letterbox, where the picture is saved in a 4:3 aspect ratio frame without distortion.

Movie Compress

With this method, the 16:9 image is compressed proportionally only horizontally during recording. When played back on a normal 4:3 aspect ratio screen, objects appear thinner, but the horizontal integrity of the picture is not lost. A movie compressed by Movie Compress can be viewed in its original form on the widescreen TV . To do this, you just need to set the mode to Widescreen, and the image will be proportionally stretched to fill the entire screen. In some conventional TVs, it is possible to turn on Movie Compress mode if you prefer the correct reproduction of the image over the horizontal integrity of the image. This function allows you to compress the picture vertically and restore its original aspect ratio – 16:9. But then the already familiar “postal envelope” will appear on the screen of an ordinary TV.

Widescreen conversion results in slight picture distortion at the edges of the wide screen

Pan & Scan

This method consists in the fact that the image is cut to the size corresponding to the 4:3 aspect ratio. In itself, this is no longer compression, but only some kind of adaptation to the television format. The Pan & Scan process itself takes place in a film studio with the participation of the director and editor of the picture. They decide which part of the widescreen image to cut off and how to get the most informative fragment in 4:3 format. To do this, a frame is superimposed on the original frame. If the “important” action of the movie goes beyond it, the frame is shifted to keep the meaningful image on the screen. In this case, of course, part of the picture is lost. The loss from this conversion is 20% for a 1.85:1 movie and 40% for a 2.35:1 movie.

Widescreen TV picture

In order to make the widescreen equipment more suitable for watching programs in 4:3 format, it is equipped with additional features that allow efficient use of space, in particular, removing black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when broadcasting widescreen tapes.

Movie Expand

This is a tool that allows you to fill a 16:9 screen with a 4:3 picture. The smaller picture expands to fill the dark bars on the sides of the image on the screen. But, unfortunately, it also expands vertically, up and down, so part of the image above and below is “cut off”. True, if a widescreen movie is broadcast in 4:3 format (with black bars above and below the image), then the black bars visible on a simple TV are widescreen disappear and the image is not affected as its original proportions are restored.


This technology is used in widescreen TVs to stretch the 4:3 picture to fill the screen. But in this mode, unlike Movie Expand, there is no loss of part of the image from the top and bottom of the screen, since the picture is only stretched horizontally. True, as a result of the conversion, a slight distortion occurs.

Enhances the picture in Widescreen mode with Panoramic View technology. A 4:3 image is also stretched horizontally, but unevenly: minimally in the middle and stronger at the edges. Then in the middle of the image, which is the focus of the viewer, there is no distortion. At the edges of the image, the distortion is not so strongly visible, and therefore does not interfere with the full viewing. At the same time, the top and bottom parts of the image are not truncated. This is very important when watching a movie with subtitles.

Tilted Movie Expand

The image transformation process in this mode is similar to the Movie Expand technique, but it allows you to move the image vertically. This additional nuance was designed specifically for the convenience of watching movies with subtitles. An image in 4:3 format is enlarged, but in such a way as not to lose the lower part of the picture reserved for subtitles. Sometimes it’s enough just to move the picture up…

Widescreen Plus

According to the PAL and SECAM broadcasting standards, the image consists of 576 lines. When broadcasting a 4:3 widescreen movie, the picture only occupies 432 lines, and the rest form black bars.