What's the difference between widescreen and fullscreen?


I always thought that widescreen dvds would be perfectly viewable on my new 16x9 TV but after I rented a movie this weekend in widescreen edition, I'm not so sure. I had big horizontal bars; one on the top and one on the bottom of my newer while watching the DVD. Is there a difference between widescreen and 16x9? Can a movie be full screen and still in 16x9 mode? Frustrated.


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What DVD was it? Movies are produced in two aspect ratios, 1.85:1 which is 16x9, or some with 2.35:1.

If the move was the former, then it sounds like your TV was stretching the video. You should look for a button on your TV's remote that will "Zoom" the picture instead of stretching it.

If it's the latter, it's supposed to have small horizontal bars to preserve the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, though if you have very big bars, you might still need to find that "Zoom" function.

- Trip


Super Moderator
2:35:1 makes me crazy!! After years of waiting to buy a wide screen TV a couple years ago I rented a 2:35 movie and thought, great, spent all this money and I am still watching movies in letter box, just now on a wide screen TV... :mad:)

I don't stretch 2:35's vertically, because to me then it looks too funny. I just live with the new version of letter box.


Widescreen DVD movies are usually presented in the original aspect ratio that was shown in theaters. If you don't want to see the entire image, just zoom & crop until it fills your screen.

I prefer to see the entire image as originally shown, regardless of the aspect ratio, even if it means some letterboxing (or pillar boxing on really old movies).


The term "full screen" used to (exclusively) mean "fills a 4:3 screen". It was mostly applicable to feature films presented on television (or on DVD), because movies have been "wider" than television shows for a very long time. "Full screen" (in that context) was accomplished either by "pan and scan" (some editor decided, for each scene, which portion of the image to show, sometimes even panning during a scene, to make sure that all the most important portion of the images are presented) or by "center cut" (blindly show showing the middle portion of the image).

I haven't seen the term "full screen" used in an HDTV context (though not doubting that such a thing might exist -- it would be confusing though because then how would you know the difference between something edited to fit in a 4:3 screen, which is what "full screen" has always meant, and something edited to fit in a 16:9 screen?) Rather, I think the CE industry feels that that, in an HDTV context, broadcasters (and discs) should just show the OAR (original aspect ratio) and if people want to fill the screen (seeing just part of the image), give them the control within their HDTV itself to do that, rather than force all viewers into the same choice. (Note that many prominent broadcasters disagree, including Turner, A&E, etc.)

Personally, I don't mind letterboxing on my 50" HDTV (i.e., showing a 2.35:1 film OAR). They wouldn't have made the film that wide if there wasn't important stuff happening on the sides, eh? Of course, screen size matters. A 2.35:1 film on my 15" EDTV (wide) screen -- I'm not so sure I'd be happy with OAR. My 15" screen actually has a special setting ... I think it is 14:9 (not a typo). Essentially, it is a compromise between full letterboxing of a 2.35:1 presentation and filling the (wide) screen. I think it cuts the black bars above and below roughly in half.

I actually use that setting for 4:3 programming as well. 4:3 programming would, if not adjusted, would leave black bars on the right and left. This 14:9 setting cuts those in half too, but as a result cuts a small sliver off the top and bottom of the image being presented. I've never seen, though, that really cut anything (significant) off. To be fair, we generally only watch Food Network, E! and Bravo on that television.
I hate postage stamped and/or bars on top/bottom. and i have a 4:3 standard CRT TV, and i find often that supposedly 'full screen' movies and OTA converters in 4:3 mode still make the 13" postage stamped picture square on a 25" console(while movies seem to fill fine horzontally but not vertically, leaving 3" cut off top/bottom). i really like having the full 25" viewable and haven't found a converter available which will zoom regardless of broadcast aspect ratio, keep getting either no response to zoom (DTVPal Plus) or i get 'Aspect ratio cannot be changed on this channel' crap.