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Old 2007-12-13, 02:40 PM   #1
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Default FAQ - Black Bars - Why Do I Still Have These?

Updated 2011.03.01. 13,577 Previous Views.

This post is best used in conjunction with the "companion" post on "Widescreen Stretch Modes".

Black bars are normal on your TV under certain circumstances. This is because the programmes shown on TV were originally shot in a number of different aspect ratios.

Most people are used to the "standard TV" aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (4:3).

Movies shown in cinemas are typically shown in a wider ratio (1.85:1 - very close to 16:9) - or they can be shown in 2:35:1 (a picture much wider than tall)

One way that this has been dealt with is with "pan and scan" movies, which basically remove a portion of the movie to make it fit a standard TV screen. Many people, however, prefer to see their movies in their Original aspect ratio (OAR) - as the director intended - mostly widescreen. These movies create "black bars" above and below the image on standard TVs. The programming shot for standard TV's creates bars to either side of the image on widescreen TVs. For the best picture quality and no distortion, the programming should be watched in the OAR which will result in black bars on a portion of your TV depending on the OAR.

Here are some basic descriptions of the various "black bars":

The following applies to widescreen HDTVs - 4:3 HDTVs will be discussed later:

16:9 High Definition Programming:

True High Definition Programmes are 16:9 and you will see no black bars on your widescreen TV.

16:9 High Definition Programming, originally shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio (2.35:1 OAR).

Some movies will be shown this way and it is normal to have black bars above and below the movie/programme. Many TVs cannot stretch HD input signals, so you may be "stuck" with the black bars.

4:3 Programming Upconverted for HD Channels:

There are black bars on the sides of 4:3 (SD) programming that has been "upconverted" by the network for the HD channel. These black bars are actually part of the image, so many TVs are not able to stretch the image to remove the black bars. The only way to eliminate these bars is to watch the same programme on the equivalent standard definition channel and you will then be able to utilize your stretch modes. (Some STBs and some HDTVs have stretch modes for HD signals.)

16:9 Widescreen, Upconverted:

Occasionally HD channels will show a programme that was widescreen, but was upconverted within a 4:3 image. This means that there will be black bars on the sides and above and below the widescreen-type image. There are also many commercials that are shown this way. Since these bars are part of the image again, the same applies regarding stretching.


DVD players have a menu for selecting "widescreen or 16:9" TVs. This should be set to 16:9 or widescreen when watching DVDs on a widescreen TV.

1.85:1 Enhanced for Widescreen (Anamorphic) DVDs

These DVDs are the correct aspect ratio to fill a widescreen TV. You will need to set the TV to it's "horizontal only stretch mode" to properly see this type of movie. There should be no black bars (or the black bars may be very thin). If you use the vertical and horizontal stretch mode by mistake, everyone will be tall and skinny. Many newer HDTVs do this automatically.

1.85:1 "Standard" DVDs (Not Enhanced for Widescreen (non-anamorphic))

These DVDs are the correct aspect ratio to fill a widescreen TV. You will need to set the TV to it's "horizontal and vertical stretch mode" (zoom) to properly see this type of movie. There should be no black bars (or they can be very thin).

2.35:1 Enhanced for Widescreen (Anamorphic) DVDs:

These DVDs have an aspect ratio that is much wider than it is tall, so it will not fill a widescreen TV. You will need to set the TV to it's "horizontal only stretch mode" to properly see this type of movie. There will be black bars above and below the movie. If you use the vertical and horizontal stretch mode by mistake, everyone will be tall and skinny.

2.35:1 "Standard" DVDs (Not Enhanced for Widescreen):

These DVDs have an aspect ratio that is much wider than it is tall, so it will not fill a widescreen TV. You will need to set the TV to it's "horizontal and vertical stretch mode" (zoom) to properly see this type of movie. There will be black bars above and below the image. If you absolutely cannot stand the black bars, you can use the DVD player's zoom mode to zoom in on the picture and eliminate the black bars, however, you will now miss the "outermost" parts of the movie and you will not be seeing what the director intended.

1.33:1 DVDs or SD programming on an HDTV

These DVDs are the correct aspect ratio to fill a 4:3 TV. You will either see bars on the sides, or you can use one of the stretch modes like you do for any standard definition signal.


If you're still not getting the right picture from your DVD player, please note the following:

DVD players have a menu for selecting "widescreen or 16:9" TVs. This should be set to 16:9 or widescreen when watching DVDs on a widescreen TV, or on a 4:3 TV with "vertical compression". Some DVD players have even more settings available. Make sure that you choose the right one depending on your TV and DVD player (read the manuals).

Note regarding stretching of HD inputs.

Many HDTVs cannot stretch HD (1080i/720P) signals (Some can). Some STBs now have stretch modes, but they're not typically as good as those of the TV.


Please PM 57 if you have any comments or suggestions.
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Old 2007-12-13, 02:55 PM   #2
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Had to start a new post - the above was getting too long:

Grey Bars above/below HD channel images

Do you always have Grey (or sometimes Black) bars above and below the HD channels?

If you do, this is because you are sending a non-HD signal to the TV. This is either because you have used an incorrect connection - either RF-coax, composite video or S-video, or because you have improperly set up the STB to output 480i/p for all channels.

Set up the STB properly and while troubleshooting ensure that you remove all connections except for component video or HDMI/DVI.

Also, make sure you're on the correct TV input. Sometimes people will connect via S-video for the SD channels, but then forget to change inputs back to the HD cable for the HD channels


More on DVD Aspects:

Some TVs have an "auto-stretch" mode, which attempts to properly stretch incoming signals, however, it doesn't always work properly and non-anamorphic DVDs may not be properly stretched on most "auto-stretch" TVs. You either need to turn off "auto-stretch" or override it.

Now that there are many people using upconverting DVD players, or BD players, most HDTVs cannot properly stretch 720P/1080i signals, so the TV uses the "full" mode regardless of the original source material. This mode is usually correct for anamorphic DVDs, however, it is not for non-anamorphic DVDs, therefore you will need to feed the TV a 480i/p signal to allow the TV to properly stretch these DVDs. Many upconverting DVD players have a user selection for "4:3 DVDs" which you may also use to properly view non-anamorphic (4:3) DVDs - what this is called will vary with the player - it can be called things like 16:9 Wide, Wide, etc.


Note also that DVDs (movies) come in a huge variety of aspect ratio. Although the majority are 1.85:1 or 2.35:1, there are lots of other aspects from 1.1:1 to 2.8:1. See the following:

http://www.imdb.com/Sections/DVDs/AspectRatios/ (Dead Link, Sorry)


More on Studio Aspects:

The studios will often release different versions for the HD channels. If the original aspect was 2.35:1 for example, the studio may release an additional 1.78:1 aspect version for the HD channels to eliminate any black bars (which many people hate or do not understand). Most times when this is done, the sides of the movies are cropped and you lose some of the movie. In rare instances, they go back to the original print and "add in" information above and below the original aspect to create the 1.78:1 release, so you actually see "more" than the director intended. Sometimes the director had different aspects intended for various parts of the world and also created several different versions himself.
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Old 2007-12-13, 02:57 PM   #3
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The following descriptions apply to 4:3 (standard) HDTVs - not many around these days.

Preamble: Because most 4:3 HDTVs do not have the stretch modes available in widescreen HDTVs, you are typically "stuck" with whatever comes on the screen. Here's what you're typically stuck with.

16:9 High Definition Programming:

True High Definition Programmes are 16:9 and you will typically see black bars above and below the image

16:9 High Definition Programming, originally shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio (2.35:1 OAR):

Some movies will be shown this way and it is normal to have black bars above and below the movie/programme. The bars on a 4:3 TV are quite broad and the image only takes up about 1/2 the screen.

Upconverted 4:3 programming on HD Channels:

These programmes will look particularly weird on a 4:3 set that does not allow a stretch of this image. These images will look like a "window in a window" because there will be black bars above, below and to the sides of a 4:3 image, despite the fact that it is the same aspect ratio as your TV.

16:9 Widescreen, Upconverted:

Same as for 4:3 HD above, but the black bars above and below the image will be wider still.


DVD players have a menu for selecting "widescreen or 16:9" TVs. This should be set to 4:3 when watching DVDs on a 4:3 TV. If you don't have this set properly, Anamorphic DVDs will make everyone look tall and skinny because you won't be able to do the "horizontal only stretch" required to make this look right.

Vertical Compression on 4:3 HDTVs

If you have one of the 4:3 HDTVs that have "vertical compression", you can set the DVD player to 16:9 and activate the "vertical compression" feature on the 4:3 TV. This will give you the proper aspect ratio on your 4:3 display and it will provide maximum resolution on your 4:3 set.

1.85:1 Enhanced for Widescreen (Anamorphic) DVDs:

These DVDs are the correct aspect ratio to fill a widescreen TV. There will be black bars above and below the image on a 4:3 TV. If you don't like the black bars, use your DVD player's zoom button to remove them, realizing that you will lose the outermost parts of the movie and you will not see what the director intended. If you see "tall, skinny" people instead of normal people, you have your DVD player set incorrectly to 16:9 instead of 4:3. Your resolution will also be about 33% lower than an equivalently sized image on a widescreen TV because you cannot take advantage of the "enhanced for widescreen feature. (see the note above about 4:3 HDTVs that have "vertical compression", if you have such a TV)

1.85:1 "Standard" DVDs (Not Enhanced for Widescreen)

If you have your DVD player set properly as indicated above, there is no difference between Enhanced and "unenhanced" movies.

2.35:1 Enhanced for Widescreen (Anamorphic) DVDs

These DVDs have an aspect ratio that is much wider than it is tall, so it will not fill a 4:3 TV. There will be "tall" black bars above and below the movie and the movie will only fill about 1/2 the screen. Your resolution will also be about 33% lower than an equivalently sized image on a widescreen TV because you cannot take advantage of the "enhanced for widescreen" feature. (If you have one of the newer 4:3 HDTVs, you can read about "vertical compression" above)

2.35:1 "Standard" DVDs (Not Enhanced for Widescreen):

Same as above, however, your resolution is identical to an equivalent widescreen image.

1.33:1 DVDs and SD programming:

These DVDs are the correct aspect ratio to fill a 4:3 TV. You will see a "full screen" image. That's why some DVDs are "mislabelled" "Full Screen" instead of "pan and scan". "Full screen" implies that you have a 4:3 TV, which most HDTVs are not now and although your screen is full, you are typically missing 30-50% of the original image.
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Old 2009-04-07, 12:30 AM   #4
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AFD Link:

http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/show...038#post909038 Post.

http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=104849 Thread
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