Go get 16:9 content for your 16:9 TVs, you morons
All right. Enough is enough. HDTVs are coming down in price, SDTVs are turning into dinosaurs that are barely advertised in the Best Buy and Circuit City flyers, and content providers (that is, your cable or satellite service and your DVD player) offer the content you need to take advantage of the newer screen formats. Very soon the HDTV format will become the standard format. It’s time to get with the program and stop being lame: If you own a 16:9 television, you need to get yourself some 16:9 content before I’m forced to drive over there and kick your ass.
I’m willing to cut you some slack for a little while longer (given the overall sluggish HD content transition), but not much. This is getting ridiculous. I see more and more 16:9 televisions, but I’m not seeing more and more 16:9 content. I’m seeing people who are watching 4:3 standard-def content on their 16:9 HDTVs. It has to stop. Now.
“Looks good to me,” they say, marveling at their new HDTV. No, it doesn’t. It looks like a bunch of crap. You’ve got a horizontally distorted, low-resolution non-HD image on what should be a crisp, new, high-resolution HDTV, which only serves to magnify the fuzziness inherent in analog non-HD. If you honestly think this looks good, you should be banned from HDTV as a consumer. Why did you buy the HDTV in the first place?
It amazes me how many people, still to this day, do not understand the way aspect ratio works. If you’re one of those people, this blog entry is your lesson by way of condescension.
An old SDTV (standard-definition TV, using the NTSC format in the United States) has a ratio of 4 units in width for every 3 units in height. A widescreen 16:9 HDTV using the HDTV format (although they indeed have made 4:3 HDTVs, presumably to add to the confusion) is 16 units in width for every 9 units in height. 16:9 is the same as 1.78:1, which is very similar to the 1.85:1 of widescreen movies (but not as wide as a 2.35:1 widescreen movie, which must be letterboxed to fit even on widescreen 16:9 TVs).
I won’t even go into refresh rates and line resolutions, because that’s not necessary to my point. My point is, I’m sick of seeing 4:3 content images stretched into faux 16:9 images. The diagram to the right illustrates my point. Half or more people* watching a 16:9 TV are watching TV stations that aren’t in HD, so they get 4:3 images. The proper way to display this would be to display them in 4:3 mode and have black bars on the left and right sides of the screen. Instead, many people stretch the 4:3 image to fill the screen, as to not “waste” it.
These are presumably the same people who bought nothing but “fullscreen” 4:3 DVDs because, “Letterboxing cuts off the top and bottom of the screen.” No, it doesn’t, you ignoramuses. It shows the full image in a format that otherwise can’t support it given its dimensions. Look at the illustrations provided and get a clue.
There’s still the issue that a lot of cable providers require you to get an HD-channel lineup (which might cost more) and some channels you may have to pay extra to get in HD format. I’m willing to cut you some slack in those cases. Where I won’t cut you some slack is with your DVD collection, which is a format that, while not true HD because of its resolution (HD-DVD and Blu-Ray must still battle it out in the high-def DVD format war), was conceived with HD and 16:9 widescreen in mind. Yet, I still see people who have 16:9 TVs and they run their DVD players in 4:3 mode. This, despite that their DVDs are actually anamorphic widescreen discs. WTF? Change your DVD player settings to optimize it for your HDTV!
Of course, then we also have the “fullscreen” DVDs, which people bought so as to not have letterboxing on their 4:3 TVs, where the letterboxed image fills less of the screen and thus seems smaller. The irony of this, of course, is that for 16:9 TVs a “fullscreen” DVD will not fill up the screen natively. I’m hugely in favor of banning the term “fullscreen” because it’s so misleading. What it really means is “formatted for 4:3,” which at this point should be considered obsolete. Except for shows that were intentionally shot that way (“The Wire” and “The Shield,” for example), you all need to stop buying 4:3 “fullscreen” DVDs immediately. Otherwise you’re going to have a bunch of DVDs where you must stretch the image horizontally or deal with the left/right letterboxing (“pillarboxing” is the correct term) on a 16:9 TV.
Where this whole issue drives me most nuts, however, is in public places like bars.
When I go to a sports bar and they have HDTV DLP widescreen projectors showing 12-foot images of Monday Night Football on ESPN, the least they can do is pony up for ESPNHD, so they can show the 16:9 content that is intended for this kind of presentation. But no. Instead, I have to watch a football game in fuzzy standard-definition that has been stretched from 4:3 so that all the players and images are distorted. Everyone looks extra-wide, and circles are no longer circles but horizontally elongated ovals.
Yo, barkeep, tell your manager to GO GET HD CONTENT. He spent the 10 grand on the two DLP widescreen projectors. Can’t he afford to spend the additional $10/month (or whatever nominal fee it is) for ESPNHD?
Bunch of morons. Screw you, bar owner, and all your expensive technology that you can’t even bother to properly set up and supply with the right kind of content.
I guess until every TV in this country is 16:9 HD and all content is only offered in that format, I’m going to have to deal with you people who can’t tell the difference between a circle and an oval.
Disclaimer: If you are guilty of doing this and weren’t aware, I don’t really think you’re a moron. At least, not totally. I’m just venting. But, seriously, learn the difference. Actually, since you’ve read to the end, you have learned the difference. Congratulations; you are now HDTV-ready.
*Made-up extrapolated statistic based on my personal observation.