This page is written with the motivation of annoyance
at many, many people. Most namely though, the annoyance is laid firmly
and fairly on the shoulders of the incompetent broadcasters in their consistent
inability as a group to provide decent, watchable television. Society
& news organisations constantly talk about the decline in the quality of
television. Where has all the quality gone? Is it from the dilution
of quiz shows, or the lack of quality drama. For me, the blame for
the demise in quality television is much more discernible, the framing of
Baird might have got it right with his 7:3 "portrait"
frame back in the 20's, the BBC may have had it right when they launched
with a 5:4 frame in the 30's, maybe the format of choice for most of the
20th Century; 4:3 is good enough, or is the cinema brainchild the 16:9 the
most superior frame format?
It doesn't matter. Broadcasters with enough money
have chosen 16:9 for us already. The problems only occur when integrating
this with former technology. Seriously though, you can't tell me the
BBC had years of aspect radio conversions between their standard 4:3 and
their former 5:4 frame in the 50's. So why do we as viewers have constant
problems when broadcasters try to satisfy our viewing pleasure with a mish-mash
of double standards?
interpretation of television has been sketchy and out-spoken many times,
however one question remains firm in my mind. What viewing pleasure
can people get out of this; nowadays lovingly known as "stretchy-vision".
Cinemas have for many years successfully provided movies
of varying formats & aspect ratios. CinemaScope, PanaScope, WarnerScope
& PanaVision are all well respected names in cinematography, successfully
reproducing images in varying widescreen formats, originally a marketing
gimmick, nowadays a serious biological necessity to relax the eyes.
You will never go to a cinema & experience a movie in an incorrect movie
ratio. So why them must we as television consumers endure the annoying
result of stretched & pinched images.
Broadcasters have always had control over how a viewer
watches its content. Since digital television launched in 1998, that
control has been handed over to the consumers in what can only be described
as a viewing catastrophe. My Hitachi widescreen set has 6 different
aspect ratio modes, all of which can be useful in different situations,
however all of which are confusing to the average consumer.
What was wrong with Granada showing Superman IV in 16:9
format on analogue TV. Absolutely nothing, no one ever complained
that there were black bands at the top and bottom of movies when shown on
analogue TV. In fact in the early 90's it was encouraged with ITV
& Channel 4 regularly providing a "PAL plus" or "Widescreen Experience"
service to show movies in their *original* aspect ratio on TV. Why
then in the 21st Century can't we accept black bands down the side of a
football match? Is it because we don't expect it to be there; we don't
know what to do?
When ITV broadcast Champions League football, they quite
correctly, force the viewer to enjoy the match in what is known as an AFD7,
a 16:9 image with 4:3 source. This forces viewers with a 16:9 set
to view the
with a 4:3 format as intended by the host broadcaster & ITV. The downside
is documented as a bug in the handling of AFD7's by the UK Digital Television
Group receiver implementation guidelines for those viewing the above with
a 4:3 set. The effect caused is affectionately known as a "postage
stamp" with black borders all around the image. This effect is caused
because the programme is still flagged as being a 16:9 programme even though
90% of the air-time of the programme has a 4:3 source.
This forced viewing action by the broadcasters is correct
in order to make the anarchy of choice controlled again. But why do
people modify what is *right* anyway?
Some to *fill* their screen by stretching their 4:3 image
to fill the sides up.
Some stretch upwards to hide the channel DOG giving a 16:9 cut out effect,
some even squash their 16:9 source on a 4:3 set to give a tall & thin impression.
People force themselves to watch television like this because they can,
which reminds me of an old saying, "sometimes it's not always best
to do something even though you know you can."
Broadcasters must regain control of the framing of imagery
in the digital age. This will probably not happen now until the arrival
of HD, and even then all content will be 16:9 anyway so the problem will
be eradicated anyway.
Broadcasters however do have a trick up their sleeve.
The example of the football match described above is the only way that 4:3
content can be successfully controlled in shape & dimensions. People
find it hard to get out of the 4:3 in a 16:9 frame situation, therefore,
why can't all content be transmitted in this way on a digital platform.
Quality loss would be minimal because of the "broadcasted black".
Thus, because the black never changes, bandwidth is not wasted on the black;
reverting to the rest of the image to provide higher quality vision for
the main picture.
Only this way can broadcasters revive some of the beauty
lost for the quality of television, and give a bit of dignity back to the
programme it is trying to broadcast.
If you feel that television is being ruined by people
stretching or mis-shaping their TV's aspect ratios, contact us and tell
us your thoughts on widescreen presentation in the UK.
- The Widescreen Scam
- About Aspect Ratios
- AFD7 bug