Anamorphic Widescreen Wheeling WV
Ink & Toner Drop-off
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South Charleston, WV
April 15, 2009 By David Birch-Jones
Real Wide Screen and No More Black Bars
One of the most common questions I get is about the black bars that appear above and below the image with many movies.
After all, a spiffy new HDTV and Blu-ray player will banish the black bars we had with DVDs and old TVs, right? Nope.
But with the right projector, screen, and lens, you can have CinemaScope in your home.
And no more black bars.
Back in the 1950’s, Hollywood came up with the concept of very widescreen movie aspect ratios, with numerous camera, lens, projector and screen variants all aspiring to stretch the horizontal image size.
Film technologies such as Cinerama, Todd-AO, and CinemaScope were developed to increase the visual impact of big budget Hollywood movies, and the trend continues today, with most major “tentpole” movies filmed in what the industry has dubbed simply “scope”, with aspect ratios as wide as 2.40:1 (for every unit of height, the image is 2.4 units wide).
It doesn’t help frazzled consumers that the movie industry describes aspect ratios numerically differently than HDTV set makers. The now-obsolete 4:3 analog TV screen shape is described in Hollywood as 1.33, which is simply the result of dividing 4 by 3. Same goes for HDTV's 1.78:1, which comes from 16:9. Check the three Wall-E images above.
While the majority of movie releases are in the film industry’s so-called “Academy Flat” 1.85 aspect ratio, which is almost, but not quite, the same aspect ratio as 16:9, many are shot in anamorphic widescreen with aspect ratios of varying sizes up to a very wide 2.40:1, where the film camera is fitted with a lens that squeezes the captured image horizontally, making everything in the resulting film frame look tall and skinny.
At the movie theater the reverse occurs, with another anamorphic lens attached to the film projector providing the necessary unsqueezing function, so the audience sees the full intended widescreen images in their proper proportions.
With fixed-frame HDTV sets however, you’ll be seeing black bars when you play a widescreen movie at home. While almost all sets do provide a zoom function that lets you fill out the screen to get rid of the black bars, image resolution suffers and you’ll be missing a goodly chunk of the movie’s left and right side image.
The good news for movie buffs is that it’s possible to have it all at home, and watch widescreen movies in their true original aspect ratio with no black bars, as long as they’re willing to pop for a front projection system, which has never been more affordable.
To get everything to work just right, there are three essential elements to a widescreen anamorphic front projection setup.
First is the projector, which needs to be equipped with a vertical stretch image processing function, which is often called just that (Vertical Stretch), or is also known as Anamorphic Mode 1 Scaling (the function is also found in numerous outboard video processors). ...