filmstrip16:9 WIDESCREEN


As projectionists at the Albany and other outside competitive events, we have experienced an increasing number of entries in widescreen format, some in cropped (letterbox) form and some in true 16:9 full screen. Club members are also filming in these formats.

Summarising the characteristics of the different formats:-

1. Many video cameras include a “widescreen” mode that allows filming to resemble the 16:9 aspect ratio presentations that we see on our widescreen TVs. These features operate by cropping the top and bottom of the frame to “letterbox the image from the normal aspect ratio of 4:3 to 16:9. The consequence of this chopped 19:9 effect is to lose a lot of the camera`s vertical resolution. A normal PAL frame is composed of 576 lines, whereas a cropped 16:9 picture has only 432 lines, not much better than the old 405 line TV. This type of presentation will be shown as a letter box on an older set but will normally expand to fill a modern widescreen TV and the resolution loss may not be objectionable on a smallish screen. A large projected image is another matter.


2. Some fully featured Standard Definition (SD) cameras include a higher number of pixels behind the lens and can provide sufficient resolution for a proper 16:9 aspect ratio that will display the full number of lines with no resolution loss to give a fully detailed picture on a widescreen TV or projected image. A camera with this feature will have a 16:9 viewfinder.


3. All High Definition (HD) cameras are specifically 16:9 widescreen and can retain this ratio when down converted to SD for showing on a widescreen TV or projector.


4. Another way to shoot true widescreen on a normal 4:3 camera is to use an anamorphic lens mounted on the front of the camera lens. This squeezes a 16:9 subject onto the standard format and will display on a widescreen TV or projector in exactly the same way as a video shot on a widescreen camera.

If a video is shot in widescreen, it is only right that we project it as such in any competition or other event, and hopefully we will be assessing methods of the best way to handle the various formats.


Any thoughts or suggestions on this subject would be appreciated.


Chris Kenny who sadly passed away in February 2015