Widescreen and Fullscreen TV Formats

fullscreen widescreen formatsSometimes your TV picture will seem stretched which causes things to look fat. Most likely this is because you have the wrong TV format for the channel or program you are watching. Here are some details on widescreen and fullscreen formats and when you should use each of them.

Fullscreen: This is the old traditional TV format. Any program before HD is recorded in this format. For example, TV shows like Seinfeld, I Love Lucy, and Family Ties are broadcast  in 4×3 formats.

Widescreen:This is the newer HD format that is able to fit on newer 16×9 televisions (HD TVs).

What happens when you try to watch an old TV show with fullscreen (4×3) formats on an HDTV? Most Satellite and Cable remotes have a “format” or “aspect ratio” button that will let you toggle between the following options.

seinfeld-4-3Normal or Fullscreen Mode: Watch the show with grey or black “bars” on each side of the picture. This will give the true aspect ratio. Most televisions have the ability to put either black or grey bars on the side. Check the menu for this option.


seinfeld-stretchStretch Mode: This mode will stretch the picture to fill the screen. The picture is stretched more at the edges than the center to try and limit how fat or wide things look. I am not a big fan of this mode for two reasons. One, I don’t like how it makes people look. Second, when you watch a HD program the channel is set to wide mode so it also stretches HD programs and movies as well. So if you use this mode to watch an old show remember to switch it back to normal formats when watching an HD (16×9) program.

seinfeld-zoomZoom: This zooms in on the center of the picture to still give you a 16×9 aspect ratio and keeps things looking normal. However, you do miss the edges of the picture as they are cut-off. Mostly the sides are cut off. In regard to TV shows this is not a big deal, but in movies it is more of a problem because you may be missing some details or cinematic effects.

In summary, if your TV picture looks stretched or too zoomed in you probably have the wrong TV format aspect ratio. Just find the “format” button on your remote and toggle through the different settings to find the picture that looks right to you.


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