Everywhere you go, you see 16:9 widescreen television screens playing regular 4:3 video programs stretched out to fit across the whole screen. You see these in airports, banks, bars, and offices. Maybe you even see this in your own home.

Presumably, the owners of these TV screens can’t bear to see all those extra black pixels on the left and right sides going to waste. The thought of not using those pixels — pixels that cost hundreds of dollars! — is so unbearable that the owner is willing to tolerate the fact that everyone and everything they see on the screen is literally 50% wider/fatter than they are supposed to be.

To me, the sight of such a stretched-out, distorted screen is utterly unbearable. Totally unwatchable. It might as well be upside down to me, the people look so wrong. And yet to millions of people, this is normal and acceptable. Can they not see that it looks completely wrong? I mean, honestly: Can they not tell the difference?

Some Theorizing

I took this photo of CNN en Espanol a few weeks ago. The stretched-out image on a widescreen TV has become so commonplace, it seems, that even CNN’s producers thought it would be acceptable/normal for people to look at this normal-proportioned woman speaking to a man whose face is literally wider than it is tall. And these are television/broadcast professionals!

Maybe this is something the human brain can get used to, as it is with experiments I’ve heard about where people wear glasses that flip the whole world upside down — where, after a few days, the brain adjusts completely and the test subjects were able to see the world correctly. Have the brains of stretch-screen viewers adjusted to compensate for the distortion? Somehow I doubt it.

The more likely explanation, I think, is that some people’s visual abilities are simply duller than others. Some people cannot visually discern between a properly-proportioned image and a distorted image. Basically some people just can’t see the problem, and therefore they don’t care about it. Just to be clear here, I am literally saying that I suspect that many people’s brains (and/or eyes) do not work as well (compared to other people’s) at processing visual input, something akin to color blindness or tone deafness.


This would explain one of the reasons why so many Microsoft PowerPoint slideshows look so bad, I think. Most PowerPoint users are far more concerned with fitting the image on the screen than they are with the image looking correct. So they stretch the hell out of their clip art until, they think, it looks just right.

I think it also explains why people regularly pick up the wrong bag on the airport baggage claim carousel, even when the bags look completely different from each other. Many people literally can’t tell the difference between their own bag and another bag with the same basic characteristics, for example “blue and small” or “black and big”, even when so many other characteristics — different shapes, proportions, textures, materials, features, etc. — all clearly indicate differences.

Maybe it also explains why ugly design works: because many people literally can’t even detect basic design principles. They can’t distinguish between misproportioned and balanced, askew and straight, dense and open. They can’t tell the difference between two similar colors, can’t detect differences between fonts, can’t tell a blurry photo from a crisp one. And, thus, they don’t care.


47 responses to “Are Some People Just Visually Dull?”

  1. Chris, Chris, Chris…

    This is an interesting post, but I would assume that in your trade you would run into this problem *all the time*. Aren’t 95% of your clients visual dullards? I’ve been in so many design meetings and I’m tearing my hair out: “Can’t you see why this sucks? Are you blind?” I want to scream.

    There is lots and lots of popular visual culture but people are still not taught to see properly unless they go to college-level art school.

    My freshman year in college when; after weeks of the boot camp that was the 1st year foundation courses; after peering at nude bodies and trying to capture them with pencil & paper for hours and hours and hours; after staring at dumb little 1st-year still lives for months and finding each and every nuance of tone in a bottle and capturing it on canvas; suddenly something changed in my head. It was like a religious revelation — suddenly I could *see* things! It was as if I had been blind, but suddenly I could see space as never before, I could see colors, proportions, shapes. It blew my mind.

    I’ve lost some of this visual acuity. Or perhaps I’m just used to it. I hope I haven’t lost it all.

  2. @twhid: Good point. Maybe this is something that is as much learned as it is innate. I, for example, firmly beleive that one can be trained to see things better. See “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (which is probably the basis for your freshman drawing classes) or the classic “Ways of Seeing” for two excellent lessons on how to look and see better than you ever imagined. Maybe our education systems are simply doing a bad job at basic visual training.

  3. While I’m with you on the visual pain this produces, and I think your theories are probably accurate in many cases, what about the simplest answer?: People don’t know how to operate the functions on the TV.

    Of course CNN doesn’t get to use this excuse, but for many of the now seemingly-ubiquitous (my local pizza place just put one up!?) large flat panels, I’d wager a fair amount are the result of people not knowing how to change the settings. Probably combined with the visual ignorance you cite…

    Perhaps the latest manifestation of blinking VCR clocks?

  4. I see that ToddG beat me to the comment I was going to make. This is the New Millennium’s version of the flashing 12 on a VCR (what’s a VCR?) – so now interaction design pundits can bring that example up in every presentation 🙂

    This bugs me to no end as well, fwiw.

  5. @Steve & Todd: I’ve thought about that, and although I agree that it’s an excellent candidate for a reason why the problem exists, I have my doubts: I’ve got a widescreen TV and it’s got a giant “ASPECT” button on the remote control. Pressing it toggles between modes. It’s super easy, but then again I’ve not seen many other TV remotes.

    Still, this distortion pisses me off so much that I can’t imagine not reading the directions to try to figure it out. It’s not like the clock, to me — it’s far more “in your face”.

  6. I agree this is annoying, but it’s not because of visual dullness, it’s because people tend to mentally correct the images so much so that they don’t see the distortion… This is especially true with faces which can be highly distorted and still recognizable… but happens with many kinds of distortion as long as the distortion is uniform.

    Many people actually choose the stretched out setting because they prefer bigger stretched images to smaller visually correct ones…

    On a similar note I’m driven crazy by people with LCDs set to the wrong scaling ratio which leaves screen scaled to weird proportions with blocky text and horrible looking bitmap images. When I go in to correct the monitors people invariably say they the reason they changed the ratio in the first place was to “make text bigger”. I’ve seen 24 inch monitors set to be 1024 pixels wide which seems like insanity. This, I think, I think is a problem of interface design… Not giving people simple controls that allow them control the relative size of interface elements and have them be pixel perfect… Anyway I’ve switched scores of monitors to their native resolutions… at internet cafes, at friend’s houses, etc… I often return to find them switched back.

  7. TV distortion, Logos on screen, 24 hour news ticker tape. That top picture has it all. All the nasty distractions that visually attuned viewers hate.

    One could argue that the CNN en Espanol photo shows multiple layers of communications; That it appeals to both visual-spatial and auditory-sequential thinkers. That it also talks to viewers with different time priorities who may be scanning the channels or zoning out.

    Yes, something is wrong there. By using the broken window theory of what’s being shown, one could imply that the reported content on that channel is also potentially distorted. That maybe there are other things that are not as rigourously checked.

    But firstly viewers need to notice that the 16:9 image is distorted before they become irritated that the illusion is broken. For most, that distortion is simply a minor irritation during a quick skimming of the channels. They do not give it much attention as it’s framed and is not their central focus.

    Like talking to someone behind you in a mirror, it’s a temporary distortion that’s considered acceptable. It only reaches irritation level if someone has to invest time and stare for a while … like watching a movie. But, like you say, even after a longer period of time that too can be “blocked out.”

    The notion of visual literacy … of being aware of the different modes of representation is higher level process than just the perceptual problem of distinguishing bag characteristics at an airport. One deals with an awareness of technology, and its limits; it requires a familiarity of video and screens. The other examples have to do with personal taste, memory, and sense perception. Don’t bundle them all together because it fits with your visually aware haves & have-nots theory.

    Most will ignore the compressed video. They’ve got better things to do. I say “Destroy your TV.” Be resolution independent.

    As for the “12:00” blinking … I figure that’s just suggested because you visual folks out there see “16:9” mentioned and make a visual jump to an analogous experience.

  8. mike harper Avatar
    mike harper

    But, how great is it that a couple local HD stations broadcast their content *pre-stretched*? That’s right, I can set my television to display in 4:3 mode, but then their signal appears to be stretched vertically. I’d note that they, like the “horizon” mode on my tv, aren’t merely pulling the image horizontally like taffy, but doing some sort of transform to the image so it’s not as bad as a mere stretching, but I see where you’re coming from.

  9. It is all about teaching. Once you show someone how to see differently, and you show them how that viewpoint can add value to their lives in some way, they will never be able to unsee what they have just learned. This is the same thing that we deal with when talking to clients. It is our responsibility to teach them, right? Design is communication, and those who communicate most effectively, reach more people, right?

  10. I should probably be stoned for this, but this is my take on the matter. Before I bought a 16:9 television set I was sooo annoyed at people watching these stretched out images and swore that I for one would never ever do that when I got around to buy one of those TVs.

    But when that day cam, after a while I started to use some “Smart Zoom” function, that kind of “semi-stretched” the image . I honestly cannot remember why. Perhaps because the TV is so small (28″) that a 4:3 seemed too small. Or that I found the black stripes annoying. Or that I wanted a setting that I didn’t have to keep changing, I didn’t want to have to start fiddling with that remote button after a channel switch. And some of the shows that were 16:9 in original had placed the subtext in the black area under the screen.

    I don’t know. I wish I had a proper defence, or that I hadn’t deviated from my first pure thoughts, or that I at least could produce some reasons that made sense. That was the purpose of my post of course, but I realized after a while that I had no reasons, and now it’s too late. Sorry.

  11. Mary-Anne Avatar

    I think you are just trying to find fault with something that is obviously up to the tv viewer. Who cares if someone watches tv in a stretched form? I watch this way. I can’t stand seeing the black around it. That drives me crazy but I give you the right to want it your way. Most of us who watch this way are just waiting for the widescreen format since we have TVs that are ahead of the entertainment industry. I think you are too serious! Lighten up. Save your energy for your design work and writing.

  12. I have no choice – on my set, when I change it to 4:3 aspect ratio, the bars on the sides are grey instead of black. Watching TV like this regularly would burn the bars in, as it’s a projection set. Some of us are stuck.

  13. @Mary-Anne: Just to be clear, I don’t think people who do this are stupid, immoral, tasteless, or evil. I just think they don’t care as much about what things look like as other people (like me) do, and that perhaps it’s because some people just don’t see things the same way other people do — in much the same way that some people can’t distinguish between musical notes as well as others can. Maybe you think it’s more important to focus on information, stories, gossip, music, and all the other stuff that TV sets give you besides images. That’s okay.

    In fact, I think that’s part of my point: To tell people who work in the visual design and graphics fields that a good deal of the work that we do isn’t even remotely appreciated by our audiences because they don’t care about the same things we care about. Things like proportionality.

    @clay: I have the same problem, as I too have a projection set. Most of what I watch on TV, however, is letterboxed anyway (especially DVDs), so I can usually switch to a “zoom” mode to fill the screen. Most other shows have such crappy cinematography that zooming in doesn’t hurt it much, either.

    @Tristan Spill: Yo Tristan, it’s delightful to see your name here. Long time no see!

    @mike harper: But, how great is it that a couple local HD stations broadcast their content *pre-stretched*?
    I haven’t noticed that, but it’s not surprising. It’s a nice solution to clay’s problem, too. I think I’ve seen this effect on DVD’s however, where I can stretch the image horizontally to fill the screen but retain the full height of vertical pixels. I think stretching a scrunched image actually gives you a better image than merely zooming in on a letterboxed image.

    @raul: The messed up desktop graphics is exactly the same kind of thing I’m talking about. People have no idea that their desktops look blurry, and in fact I’ll bet that if you switched to the proper native mode, most of those people would not be able to detect the difference even if you asked them to.

  14. baoneets Avatar


    The reason your tv places grey bars instead of black bars is to PREVENT burn-in.

    If you leave a bright image in the center of your screen with two black bars on the outer edges, you’ll notice that the screen will age more in the center than the outer edges.

  15. Unless you’re noticing burn-in issues and you’re trying to prevent them you should never ever under any circumstance stretch your TV! Idiots!

  16. Uh, maybe some people just aren’t so nit-picky. I notice it when I see it, but it doesn’t particularly bother me; especially if the information (say in a presentation or new broadcast) is something I am interested in. Look at YouTube, not exactly beatiful images for the most part, but some interesting content.

  17. These folks are the same folks that drop $2500 on a 50″ plasma for their home theater, but continue to use their 480i DVD player, VHS VCR and standard def cable on it and think they’re getting the best picture ever.

  18. Hey just leaving you a message to let you know that i hope you die. you have got to be the whiniest little whining girl i have ever seen in the history of the internet.

  19. The reason for displaying 4:3 content in 16:9 ratio on a Plasma TV is that it the black bars on the side are left to too long the image will burn the screen unevenly.

    They display the wide screen because they do not want to ruin the TV. A warning is in some TV manuals.

    Some are ignorant of the stretched image (meaning it defaulted to displaying that and they either don’t notice or think its supposed to be like that) but most see the stretch and are not willing to ruin their TV so they just get used to looking at it like that.

    I personally would ruin the TV instead of adapting to 4:3 at stretched 16:9.

    The upside is that after watching 4:3 programming stretched wide your brain begins to shrink the image horizontally until its closer to normal aspect and when you turn to your wife, your brain will attempt to shrink her horizontally too. That can’t be a bad thing!

  20. halljona Avatar

    So my question would be….. If the CNN image shown (with the horible stretch) was shown on a stretched 16:9 screen (as opposed to the 4:3 in the current shot) how wide would be poor guys head be then? Ewwwwww

  21. Hold on, I don’t want to take all this in too quickly. You found a way to be different from others and your hypothesis on why you’re different is that you are mentally superior. A blogger who’s different _and_ better than others? Didn’t see that one coming. I mean, it’s not that they’re “stupid, immoral, tasteless, or evil,” you’re just better. Your advanced artist mind is so attuned to the aspect ratios of faces that it cannot tolerate such imperfection. They’re still ok people, I guess. No wonder they’re all so happy, blissfully uncritical of so much wrong.

    You wouldn’t want to consider any alternate hypotheses that made you inferior, like for example others had more plastic minds which, while initially noticing the discrepancy, readily recompressed the image while simultaneously extracting more resolution data from the larger area, the reverse equivalent of encoding in anamorphic widescreen.

  22. @baoneets: Not necessarily true. My first widescreen set I ever encountered was at a friend’s house. I got to playing with it while he was out of the room, and turned off the stretch as soon as I figured out how (this TV used the gray bars). When he got in the room, he about had a heart attack yelling “put it back!”. He then handed me the TV’s instruction manual which clearly stated that extended use in this mode will cause the lines to burn in. This was a Mitsubishi rear projection, fwiw.

  23. Just curious, but would replacing the black bars with the overall color theme of the center content prevent burn in, or would there still be a burned in line between the center content and where the side bars start?

    For those of you confused by my description, think of the Philips Ambilight tv, but the ambient colors replace the black bars instead of lights behind the tv.

    (hmm… should I have put in a patent about this before I posted?)

  24. I completely agree with your assessment, I cannot stand a stretched screen and prefer the black bars. I got an LCD HD TV to avoid having to worry about the burn-in that others mention here. One thing I do hate is when the HD channels transmit their signals in the 4:3 format, isn’t the large size part of the joy of HD?

    When working with pictures in powerpoint, use the corner to change the size and it should keep the side ratio constant or use the menus to do the same thing. It is a pet peeve of mine when someone takes charts I have made and screws them all up by futzing with the pictures. So many presentations are carp anyway that it is a losing battle to complain about this one issue in the huge pile of design horrors that the public is typically subjected to.

  25. Preventing burn in – that’s why I do it. But only for crappy news programs and things like that – never for movies.

  26. I have a neighbour who, being appropriately technical, has no excuse at all.

    Does anyone know of a program I can enroll him on? 12 steps to a more realistic aspect ratio, that kind of thing.

    This corruption in our society must be stamped out.

  27. Umm, ya, so I have a widescreen tv, and I notice the distortion just fine and don’t like it. The picture you have posted does not show that distortion. By the way, that’s not even a “widescreen” tv. Usually the tv set is a bit wider buddy. Maybe look up some widescreen tvs and you can see the difference? That is a 4:3 set, it may do widescreen video shrinking it and black barring it but the shape is 4:3 to begin with. Maybe before you spout off about a topic you should be able to tell the basic differences in the equipment?

  28. Steve Gorman Avatar
    Steve Gorman

    The real problem is that most people don’t understand the concept of ‘aspect ratio.’ For some of us it seems like a painfully simple concept, but most people have to have their hand held through the explanation. Did you know that your standard TV is a little wider than it is tall? Huh? Standard? Big words!!

  29. Actually… one of the reasons people do this with 4:3 content is they’re trying to avoid burnin. By displaying a lot of 4:3 content unstretched on a 16:9 display, you can get very noticable burnin after a while. Don’t think for a second this doesn’t happen either. I’ve seen TVs where the 2 black areas each side of the image are distincly visible when displaying a black screen and are a different brightness to the centre area when displaying 16:9 content. Where I work, we have around 26 widescreen displays and probably about half have burnin. As I said tho, this is just one of the reasons people stretch the content…

  30. JT: He’s not talking about the outer frame, he’s talking about the widescreen set within the frame, being used as an alternative to a two-box.

  31. Dear Christopher,
    I posted the following on the PHD-Design discussion list.
    Good luck,
    Carel Kuitenbrouwer, Amsterdam

    Dear Terence,
    Thanks for the link. I enjoyed Christopher’s comment on 16:9 screens horrible ditortion of 4:3 video on his ‘Nice Site’ very much. I tend to make similarly grumpy remarks, in Dutch alas, in my own blog.
    The stylishness of the site, however, doesn’t appeal to me. I personally don’t care much for ‘niceties’ such as dropshadow’s and other references to the ‘real’ world. May be I’m too sharp, visually. Interactively I may be dull, but I had a very hard time finding a sender on the graphpaper-homepage. Eventually I found it way down at the bottom of a long column full of entries. Not very user-friendly.
    Kindest regards,
    Carel Kuitenbrouwer

    Every now and then I’m impressed by an exemplar website site that has good
    information, is clean, easy to use, readable and gives good value.
    I just came across Christopher Fahey’s work on
    You might want to look.


    Carel F H M Kuitenbrouwer
    GSM +31 6 21 833 785, TEL +31 20 618 58 92,

    Tweede Helmersstraat 40-BV, 1054 CK Amsterdam, Nederland
    16 Rue de la Boulette de Watignies, 08250 Champigneulle, Frankrijk

  32. Geoff Matthews Avatar
    Geoff Matthews

    I also can’t bear watching title sequences and film credits on a 4:3 screen when they squash the images of people. This squash experience has been around longer than that of the stretch – give me a letterbox anytime.

    The desensitising effect of these experiences unfortunately doesn’t rate high on producers’ agenda; they are quite rightly more concerned with the political, economic, ethical dimensions of the content they are presenting.

    An alternative theoretical direction

    Liminality comes into play here. Designers do deal with elements at the threshold of ‘normal’ perceptibility and by doing so continually broaden the scope for effective communication. To succumb to the opposite effect is ultimately to flatten communication, damage human relations, and therefore to act unethically. It is not about being superior, as one respondent suggested; it’s about doing a job well.

  33. “The real problem is that most people don’t understand the concept of ‘aspect ratio.’”

    No, I blame the system. 🙂 Making it easy and usable to set these features is not something most TV makers are interested in. Up to last year, they were designing for prosumers and professionals, because these TVs used to be considered high-end equipment. But widescreen is hitting widespread adoption in full-stride now.

    TVs *should* be able to auto-select aspect ratios based on signals — it should be in the realm of the amateur to break defaults, and not the novices. No one has ever set their aspect ratio of their TV set before and they shouldn’t be REQUIRED to from the start.

    My guess is that, aside from burn-in (from the prosumer audience), most people leave it that way simply because they are tired of endlessly adjusting their TV settings.

    They want to sit down, turn it on, tune it to a channel/DVD/whatever, and that’s it.

  34. PS, I’ll bet you’ll hear a good amount of this topic from people loving their brand-new Apple TVs — because iTunes media has video dimensions embedded into it. As a Mac mini HTPC owner, I’ve never had to touch my aspect-ratio button because the it knows how to format the video for me: widescreen video is wide, 4:3 video is 4:3, menus aren’t crushed and the system knows how to combat burn it.

  35. I think most people don’t give a crap about aspect ratio (and/or it’s over their head). They bought the biggest screen they could afford and they want to “fill it up!” Having a small screen within a big screen would just be stupid. I would also consider the idea that the stretched appearance is a favorable characteristic of the “bigness” of their screen–the Hummer of TV screens. Look at my large, menacing TV! This reminds me also of the days when trailers before cinemascope movies were stretched out because they were in a different aspect ratio, or massive movie screens that curved and distorted the image. For most viewers there was something going on there, not sure what, but it felt big. Take a look at the Dreamworks logo. I’ve always thought it looked horizontally scaled to allude to that stetchy movie theater experience.

  36. Sweet llama jesus, YES.

    Well, I mean, no — I don’t think that most picture-stretchers are physically unable to distinguished between a stretched picture and a correct picture. But yes, it is quite infuriating. Even for non-artsy people like me.

    At first I thought they just didn’t know how to fix it. When I first came across the phenomenon, I dutifully corrected peoples’ pictures for them, and explained how to do so. Eventually it dawned on me that they actually *want* the picture stretched.

    I’m now on the lookout for an optometrist who sells eyeglasses that stretch everything horizontally by a third. Good gifts for these folks.

  37. I’ve been plagued by this problem for years. When widescreen TV came to the UK, you would go into any electrical retailer shop and all the pictures being shown were from the same 4:3 source box, whether they were 4:3 TVs or not. In fact, it still goes on today. Even more infuriating is the fact that companies that do not pay for decent displays in these shops have their fantastic “HD Ready” screens on show connected only by an RF cable showing a really fuzzy picture. I cannot imagine how *anyone* with half a brain could possibly buy any of these sets based on the setup in shops such as Currys…

    Now I must ‘fess up… Although personally I had issues with the whole “fattening” of 4:3 images on a 16:9 set, I ended up in a relationship with someone and their widescreen telly, who refused to have the black bars on the sides of the screen. As a result I had to get used to it, but I could appreciate it since on a 28-inch widescreen TV, showing 4:3 at correct aspect ratio makes the picture much smaller.

    The saving grace is now most programmes and channels have finally made the push to widescreen (at least in the UK). The result of course is now I have a slightly different problem. I have Sky+ set up in three rooms in the house. In the lounge we have the 16:9 set which is working perfectly. Upstairs in the bedroom we have a 4:3 TV, and thanks to Sky ingenuity, when you start using the remote control it automatically letterboxes the image (if broadcasting in 16:9). However in the kitchen there is no remote control setup and therefore (these days) most programmes are actually squished from 16:9 to show on the 4:3 TV there. I’m not complaining though for three reasons – firstly I’m just thankful for the fact my Sky box has loads of outputs so I can connect it to so many different rooms at once. Secondly, people can still watch the TV in the lounge at the correct aspect ratio; the kitchen is simply an added bonus and I’d rather have the better picture in the lounge. And thirdly, how many people have watched a 16:9 picture in 4:3? Unlike the other way round, one’s eye seems to attune to the picture that much quicker and easier. It’s shocking to say, but sometimes I don’t even realise the picture is squished. Maybe it because one is more used to seeing a TV set from an angle and therefore used to the image being distorted that way anyway? Discuss 🙂

    And on a side note… We all were worrying so much about a perfect aspect ratio, but did anyone notice on older 4:3 CRTs how little of a s**t the manufacturers gave to setting up the tubes so that the aspect ratio was correct on them? I had old sets that ranged from fat to thin images. Consider the sizes of “safe” and “text safe” areas broadcasters need to compensate for. Even more annoyingly, now most people have gone widescreen, broadcasters still can’t really make proper use of the space, in case some numpty has set up their STB to chop off the sides of the picture for their ageing 4:3 TV. Therefore we end up with TV ‘dog’ logos and on-screen text stuck midway to the centre of the screen just so’s those idiots can actually see everything.

    Thanks to backwards compatibility, safe areas and aspect squishing will continue to be problems until 99.99% of the whole World has gone HD. Bah!

  38. If you happen to be more than about 30degrees from directly front on to your screen, then a stretched 4:3 image is more in proportion than a non stretched image.

    So if you have lots of freinds around to watch a movie, and they cant all sit in perfect right angle alignment, or your at a sports bar watching a game on their widesreen TV from some random angle, then be thankfull that the image is stretched. The majority are benifitting from using all the pixels.

  39. Eric Gauvin Avatar
    Eric Gauvin

    Yes. Interesting point. But what do they do with the the rest of the world that still has perspective related to their point of view. I think most people would be more comfortable with the image on the tv screen retaining its characteristics of perspective like other objects in their field of view.

  40. this drives me crazy!!

  41. Frederique Avatar

    So glad to have found your column! I am a mathematician geek with bad eyesight (no, not near sided), and I can tell this is wrong. Some TV at least have a button on the remote that allows you to correct the aspect ratio, but some flat panels don’t, you actually have to go through a series of setup menu every time you want to change the aspect ratio. I can’t stand the wide stretch look – Imagine seeing a ballroom dancing video stretched like this, at a dance studio!! They should be able to tell something is off.
    Anyway, one of the criteria when I buy my first flat panel TV? Assurance that aspect ratio will be self-corrected or only a remote control button press away!
    Thanks for giving me a chance to vant.

  42. The debate rages on, it seems. I just noticed Tony Soprano watching his TV stretched out like this.

  43. G Stephens Avatar
    G Stephens

    I couldn’t agree more.

    The Irish national broadcaster, RTE, ran a campaign to educate people on this a year or two ago. With little apparent effect given the number of bars, etc. that have fancy expensive widescreen TVs and satellite TV but don’t bother to select the right picture format.

    And, hey, check out this page on RTE’s site – – look at the three images (2 incorrect, and 1 correct) – are my eyes deceiving me or have they labelled them wrong – surely the one on the left is the correct unsquashed one – check out the guitarist in the background and bear in mind that the guy in the foreground is VERY fat.

  44. njkayaker Avatar

    @Mary-Anne: “Who cares if someone watches tv in a stretched form? I watch this way”

    @James: “Uh, maybe some people just aren’t so nit-picky.”

    Why spend money on a “better picture” and make it worse? It surprises me that people don’t notice (and sometimes even think it’s an HD image!).

  45. 16:9 screens suck because the screens are small (or short and fat). the lcd industry is fooling consumers. compare a 4:3 and a 16:9 of the same “diagonal” and the 4:3 is bigger. I don’t want a short and squat girl or tv picture. And LCD makers are charging more $$$$

    A piece of paper vertical oriented and thats how humans view

  46. Observing madness Avatar
    Observing madness

    I cant stand these 16:9 aspect ration. Whats the point? I am not at the movie theater – i want my 4:3 ration back. I will never upgrade to this crap its not worth my time or money. I use the zoom in my dvd to fill the 16:9 to 4:3 – i could care less about this gimmicky new size.

  47. I have noticed this since day one with the availability of the option of squashed and not. I am now convinced that alot of my friends, and all of my family are visually retarded. And I have very little respect for alot of their other opinions and advice now that they have failed this basic visual test. Imagine what their music and politcal views are like. Totally distorted. This is so weird. When I go to someones house and I experience this, it’s like I am in total denial land.