With the advent of DVD, Blu-ray, and HDTV, the appearance of TVs with screens more closely shaped to that of a theatrical movie screen are now standard on store shelves.
With the switchover to DTV/HDTV broadcasting now complete, as well as the introduction of high-definition Blu-ray, the practicality of widescreen 16x9 televisions is definitely obvious.
Although 16x9 sets may be best suited for watching motion pictures on video, even normal TV programming can benefit from this design. Sporting events, such as football or soccer, are well suited for this format in that now you can get the whole field in one wide shot at a closer vantage point than the distant wide shots we have been used to.
Also, there is an increasing amount of widescreen television programming, not only from the likes of PBS and the Discovery Channel, but many network primetime television series, and movie presentations have been using the widescreen format. Check your TV Guide for offerings in the widescreen or letterbox format.
16x9 TV, DVD, and Blu-ray
When you purchase a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, many times it is formatted for widescreen viewing. On DVD packaging you may notice the terms Anamorphic or Enhanced For 16x9 Televisions on the packaging. These terms are very important, and practical, for owners of 16x9 TVs.
What this means is that the image has been placed on the DVD in a horizontally squeezed format that, when played on a 16x9 TV, is detected and stretched back out horizontally in the same proportion so that the widescreen image is displayed in the correct aspect ratio without shape distortion.
Also, if a widescreen image is shown on a standard 4x3 television in letterboxed format, in which there are black bars at the top and bottom of the image. For a detailed explanation of how anamorphic DVD works, including illustrations, check out What is Anamorphic DVD? from DVD Beaver.
Burn-In: The Negative Side of Some 16x9 Televisions
The basic rule is as follows: If more than 15% of your television viewing is in the traditional TV 4x3 format, buy a 4x3 aspect television (if one is available). If the overwhelming majority of your TV viewing is in widescreen format, then buy a 16x9 television. The reason for this is "burn-in".
As stated above, "burn-in" affects mostly CRT-based Direct View, Front, or CRT-based Rear projection units. Plasma sets can be somewhat affected by the burn-in process, but LCD flat panel televisions are not affected by burn-in. A consumer that views mostly standard 4x3 television broadcasts, mixed with some viewing of widescreen programming and DVDs, and is concerned about possible burn-in should consider the LCD flat panel television as an option.
When viewing traditional TV programming on a 16x9 television, the image is centered on the screen and black bars appear on the sides of the screen as there is no image to be reproduced. Over time, this can cause a burn in effect in which you see two lines on the sides if you are watching a 16x9 image that fills the screen.
Although improvements have been made in this area to minimize this problem, such as "orbiting" - which constantly makes a slight shift in the image edges; this is not noticeable to the naked eye. Burn-in on Plasma sets is not nearly the problem now that it once was on early models. However, consult the owner's manual of any 16x9 television (especially CRT-based units) before purchasing, to note any disclaimers or comments on this issue. Also, this may or may not be covered under a manufacturer's warranty, as it is a usage issue. Purchasing a service plan from the retailer may be a good idea if they cover this potential problem.
Conclusion and Resources
Home theater is getting more and more popular with consumers. Blu-ray, DVD, surround sound, and 16x9 widescreen TVs bring a more authentic audio/video experience to the living or entertainment room. Although most DVD releases are already in widescreen format, broadcasters continue are still catching up in widescreen programming.
As programming providers (Broadcast, Cable, and Satellite) add more widescreen and HDTV programming to their schedules, acceptance and appreciation of 16x9 TV by consumers will become more widespread.
Get the whole picture - Go Widescreen!