View Full Version : HDTV picture size on standard 4:3 TV


Jeffhs
06-24-2013, 03:04 PM
When and if my flat screen TV dies (it is close to the end of its 2-year warranty), I intend to replace it with my RCA CTC-185 19" NTSC table-model TV. I've tried connecting my cable (without using a box) to the latter TV; it works, but the picture on one channel (and one channel only) does not fill the screen vertically. I don't want to use a cable box with this set if I can avoid it. The cable company in my area (Time Warner) is no help. I was on the phone with one of their customer service representatives for quite some time discussing this issue, but was given no concrete solution to the problem, except to use a cable box.

Is HDTV (the ATSC television standard) designed this way, that is, the picture on a standard 4:3 analog TV will not fill the screen without a box, and if not, why am I only seeing this on one channel, rather than on every DTV channel on the cable? I think this may be one way the cable companies have of getting their customers to buy flat-screen sets, with their hope being that, eventually, every single CRT TV in this country, with no exceptions, will disappear from American living rooms, and even then the cable operators force us to use cable boxes to get anything above the expanded basic tier of service. I do not watch most of the stations my cable offers on x-basic, preferring to buy DVDs of older shows from online stores such as Amazon.com or rent them from Netflix.

Thank heaven DVD players have not yet become obsolete in this age of DTV. I bought an LG Blu-ray player (with wired Internet connectivity I do not presently use) to replace my standard DVD player a couple of years ago; I'm glad I did. I'm to the point now where I often watch my DVDs more than I watch broadcast TV (except the retro-TV channels; my cable carries three such channels -- MeTV, Antenna TV and a local station that carries RetroTV, formerly RTV).

Chip Chester
06-24-2013, 04:07 PM
If you're watching your cable feed on a CRT NTSC TV, with no box and no DTV tuner, then none of the HDTV stuff applies. That goes for screen formatting as well. It's very likely that the screen format is chosen at the device that converts the HDTV signal into the standard-def signal you see on your set. The two basic choices in that scenario are center cut and letterbox. Unless your set will interpret (either thru flags or thru image processing) and zoom in on a letterbox image, or you have a menu item allowing it to be configured manually, you're stuck with what they send you. And what they send you may be influenced by whose signal it is -- the originating station may have the clout to require letterboxing. I know it's a time-consuming pain to configure a show to "work" in center cut, when it would be much better presented as a wide-screen image -- either natively on a 16x9 display, or artificially as a letterbox image.

DVD players are often smart enough to figure out what they're plugged into, display-wise. Or, they can be manually configured. Cable's not so smart, without a box.

I'm surprised you can still view "analog" cable.

Maybe your current display will outlive its warranty, too. It could happen!

Chip

jmetal88
06-24-2013, 04:19 PM
I've been really annoyed by the Cartoon Network feed from my cable company lately. I don't know if it's the network or the station (EDIT: Err, I meant cable company) that's doing this, but all the programming has been stretched to 16:9 format. Yes, stretched. Not cropped or letterboxed, but stretched. The native 16:9 programming looks fine, but anything that should have been aired in 4:3 looks just awful. I still watch everything on an analog CRT, and I can't figure out any way to correct it. If there are any analog cable boxes out there with aspect ratio controls, I'd love to know about it. I bought an RCA 'media recorder' somewhat by accident at a pawn shop the other day, so I was hoping it would have aspect ratio controls when I figured out what it actually was, but if it does, I can't find them (of course not having the original remote doesn't help, either).

jr_tech
06-24-2013, 06:24 PM
If you're watching your cable feed on a CRT NTSC TV, with no box and no DTV tuner, then none of the HDTV stuff applies. That goes for screen formatting as well. It's very likely that the screen format is chosen at the device that converts the HDTV signal into the standard-def signal you see on your set.

Cable's not so smart, without a box.

I'm surprised you can still view "analog" cable.

Maybe your current display will outlive its warranty, too. It could happen!


Indeed! Many cable systems have gone *totally* digital, including the lower tiers, meaning that a "cable box" is necessary to receive anything on an older set. Apparently not the case in Jeff's area. Transitioning to a cable box when necessary, might be a help, as a cable box likely will allow adjustment of aspect ratio.

Your set could perhaps outlive analog cable in your area. Even the cheap 15" Coby that we use in the kitchen is still going, long after the warranty ran out!

jr

Chip Chester
06-24-2013, 09:06 PM
The most flexible aspect ratio controls I've run across in consumer equipment are in the "transitional" sets -- ones with both "HD" tuners and analog tuners, and sporting both HDMI and component/composite inputs. Adjustability was the norm back then, as both systems were in flux. Or fluxed up. Whatever.

I've never look at one of the HD 4x3 Sony CRT sets, but I do know they're dirt cheap on craigslist.

If you against cable boxes, perhaps a DTV converter box would provide some flexible display options. (Don't own one, so this is a guess...)

Chip

Jeffhs
06-25-2013, 12:36 AM
DTV converter boxes do not work well in my area. That is, they would probably get most of the TV stations from Cleveland but two -- channels 8 and 19, which just happen to be the ones whose subchannels I watch the most. I cannot get these two stations using an indoor antenna and my current flat TV; an outdoor one is out of the question (don't want to mess with anything that big, though I realize I could use one if I wanted to).

All I can say is, I hope my flat panel TV lasts a long time, as I am not looking forward to going back to a CRT set. I think the FCC made a huge mistake in changing the US television standards to ATSC, when we had a perfectly good NTSC standard for well over 50 years. I read somewhere, think it might have been here, that this was strictly "change for the sake of change", with no real reason or need to change the standards; however, the FCC went ahead and did this on a whim.

Don't misunderstand me; I am not completely against ATSC digital TV. As I stated in at least one other post to another thread on the subject, I like the vastly improved picture quality and higher resolution of DTV over NTSC, as well as the expanded programming choices afforded by digital subchannels carried by most DTV stations (my favorites are Antenna TV, MeTV and RetroTV, formerly RTV, all available on Time Warner Cable on channels 8.2, 19.2 and 91.6, respectively). What I did not care for was the FCC's insistence that all U. S. television stations convert to DTV (not necessarily HDTV) by the final hard date of June 19, 2009, and those incessant public service announcements (PSAs) aired by many stations months before the transition that all but screamed at us that "your (present) TV will go black on February 17 (later June 19), 2009!" I'll never forget the ad campaign for the transition run by the Cleveland CBS-TV affiliate on channel 19. They referred to the DTV transition as "The Big Switch", and ran the PSAs for the campaign every chance they got. I never thought they would stop.

Chip Chester
06-25-2013, 12:06 PM
Depending on the frequencies you need to receive (which might not be the ones called out by the channel number) you might try plugging your DTV adaptor box into the cable. It should work if those subchannels are being broadcast on low basic-cable channels. The higher you go, the less likely it is that it will work.

You could also try a 'Cleveland special' antenna. They were apparently used back in the day to pull in Cleveland stations while viewing from Lorain, etc.

Chip

Jeffhs
06-25-2013, 02:03 PM
Depending on the frequencies you need to receive (which might not be the ones called out by the channel number) you might try plugging your DTV adaptor box into the cable. It should work if those subchannels are being broadcast on low basic-cable channels. The higher you go, the less likely it is that it will work.

You could also try a 'Cleveland special' antenna. They were apparently used back in the day to pull in Cleveland stations while viewing from Lorain, etc.


Chip

I am not using an adaptor box, and my area's DTV subchannels, at least the ones on 8 and 19, are on high VHF channels, which is why I don't get them here on an antenna.

What is a "Cleveland special" TV antenna? :scratch2: I never heard of that kind of antenna before now. Doesn't matter anyway, as I don't think any kind of antenna will work here. Most people in this town have cable or satellite. The few outdoor antennas I see in the area today are relics of the 1950s and are falling apart, 60 years later. They are probably not much good for anything anymore.

BTW, where on earth is Lorain, Ohio? I live east of Cleveland, in a town closer to Erie than to anywhere in Cleveland (though my cable gets all the Cleveland TV stations, plus one educational channel from Erie or Pittsburgh) and don't know much of anything about the other side of the area--if in fact that's where that city is. Is it in Northwestern Ohio? Near Indiana or Kentucky? :scratch2: There is a television station supposedly in the Cleveland area that mentions "Lorain" as part of its coverage area, but I don't know exactly where the station itself actually is.

Chip Chester
06-25-2013, 02:40 PM
A Cleveland special, according to a buddy who lives in Lorain (Google maps operation is left as an exercise for the reader) told me a while ago that it was a local broad-beam antenna with a much more directional multi-beam Yagi appended to it, and electrically connected in a pretty simple manner (which I don't know the details of). It was supposed to do a good job of reeling in signals from the Cleveland area transmitter.

If you have a Ham antenna of almost any sort, maybe stack come adaptors, plug it in and see what happens. Just getting a wire outside the house may help. (Transmit-free wire, that is...)

There are also directional, amplified indoor antennas that help. If you go to antennaweb it may give you some recommendations.

Chip

Electronic M
06-25-2013, 07:36 PM
I've been really annoyed by the Cartoon Network feed from my cable company lately. I don't know if it's the network or the station (EDIT: Err, I meant cable company) that's doing this, but all the programming has been stretched to 16:9 format. Yes, stretched. Not cropped or letterboxed, but stretched. The native 16:9 programming looks fine, but anything that should have been aired in 4:3 looks just awful. I still watch everything on an analog CRT, and I can't figure out any way to correct it.
I've been pretty hacked off about Cartoon Network stretching their 4:3 content as well. Like you I wondered if it was the cable company or the network feed. I'm on Time Warner Cables southeastern Wisconsin feed so I suspect that it is the network. Maybe I should make some time to email 'CN' to complain about it.

@Jeff: If you are only tuning over the air DTV on your flat-screen's internal tuner then that is likely your problem with reception. I've read that the internal DTV tuners of most flat screens SUCK. I'd suggest tracking down a Zenith, LG, or insignia brand DTV converter box(these were among the best made), connect it to your CRT TV and antennas, and see what you can get.
If you can get the station but the signal strength is low(those boxes have a signal strength meter function in the menus) you could try an antenna booster amp and or custom building an antenna for the freqs of the stations you want to recieve.

ChrisW6ATV
06-26-2013, 12:14 AM
Jeff, to answer your original question, it is likely that your cable system is converting a widescreen (16:9) channel that probably started as an HD channel, into a standard-def (and therefore 4:3, non-widescreen) signal. The only way to do this is to "letterbox" it, as you are seeing.

I have not had pay-TV since 2005, so I do not know if there are any channels that are now HD only as opposed to having HD and SD versions. (That channel itself may be formatting ts "SD" version as a letterboxed signal.)

jmetal88
07-01-2013, 01:55 AM
I've been pretty hacked off about Cartoon Network stretching their 4:3 content as well. Like you I wondered if it was the cable company or the network feed. I'm on Time Warner Cables southeastern Wisconsin feed so I suspect that it is the network. Maybe I should make some time to email 'CN' to complain about it.

Okay, it must be the network, then. I'm on Cox in Southeast Kansas.

jmetal88
07-12-2013, 01:00 PM
You know, recently, when watching Cartoon Network, I've noticed something even weirder. The picture seems to be stretched more at the sides than at the center! I've noticed when watching TV in Windows Media Center in the past that it has a mode that stretches pictures like that. I always thought it was odd, but it leaves close to the original aspect ratio in the center and gets more distorted on the sides, so your picture fills the screen (at least with a 16:9 display) without having any of the picture missing, and tries to fool your brain into thinking it has the correct aspect ratio. To me, this is even worse than uniform stretching, though.

EDIT: It seems like they only do this on some programs, though. Some things are, of course, presented in native 16:9, and others are uniformly stretched 4:3 (especially commercials).

Chip Chester
07-12-2013, 01:24 PM
Yup, that's an option on some gear. Probably championed by CBS, and anyone else whose logo is a centered circle.

It is unsettling to see someone's head ooze and stretch as they walk from side to side in the frame. I always pillarbox when given a choice, and I wish you could squeeze it back to 4x3 in the world of consumer video.

Chip

ChrisW6ATV
07-14-2013, 05:08 PM
The picture seems to be stretched more at the sides than at the center!
That mode is often called "panoramic" or similar, on widescreen displays that offer it.

The sooner we can kill all of these awful "fill up the screen with picture content" abominations in all of their forms, the better. Video programs, as well as movies, have been made in multiple aspect ratios, and they should be left alone, plain and simple. Altering them makes no more sense than to go to the Louvre, or Chicago's Art Institute, and chop up every picture on display so that they fit into one frame shape.

It is bad enough to use controls on a display device to mangle the video; it is ten times worse to do so at the network itself and leave the viewers no way to fix it in most cases.

kramden66
07-23-2013, 05:00 PM
Recently BBC America had some Doctor Who specials where they would talk to past doctors and other cast members about that particular era , they'd show clips in 4.3 wand they looked ok ( refering to the Peter Davison one i saw ) but when the interviews were over they decided to show a story 4 parts i think it was , it was panoramic and anoyed me , people shouldn't get wider on the sides and they were all for the sake of filling the 16.9 screen.

mike

Electronic M
07-26-2013, 01:42 AM
Haven't seen nonuniform stretching yet, but a while back when watching Fox News I saw something for the first time that I've been morbidly anticipating for some time....a TRIPLE boxed comercial(once pillar boxed twice letter boxed...my 19" Zenith CCII became like a 10" set, UGH!)! Now broadcast engineering as a field is legitimately dead to me.
When I started seeing double boxed content(letter and pilar) for the first time my reaction was: 'Ugh! you are charging how much for cable?...And you are spending how many million in equipment?...And you morons don't have a device set up to detect and eliminate multiple redundant boxings and fix it by expanding the center to fill the screen!?!?!?'

I mean seriously, either the engineers have their heads WAAAY up their buts, corporate pencil pushers are ordering the engineers to do things that are bad ideas, or no one in the TV broadcast industry gives a CRAP about folks that still have NTSC sets and want PROPERLY down converted content for them.

Chip Chester
07-26-2013, 08:07 AM
Keep in mind that one of those letterboxes could have come from the production company that made the commercial. There are about 92 different possible reasons for this -- ranging from the whim of the art director on the project to the fact that they needed one duplication format to cover all their airbuys.

Active Format Description can help, but it's not foolproof, as some spots are grouped together by organizations outside the station, and are aired as a "package" rather than individually. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Format_Description

The only way broadcasters will fix stuff like this is for comments to wind up in their FCC public comment file at the station.

And when you're doing a program, it sucks to have to second-guess how your show is going to be presented. Making things "center-cut compatible" eliminates almost 1/3 of the screen area, from a program-critical content standpoint.

Chip

dieseljeep
07-26-2013, 11:36 AM
Depending on the frequencies you need to receive (which might not be the ones called out by the channel number) you might try plugging your DTV adaptor box into the cable. It should work if those subchannels are being broadcast on low basic-cable channels. The higher you go, the less likely it is that it will work.

You could also try a 'Cleveland special' antenna. They were apparently used back in the day to pull in Cleveland stations while viewing from Lorain, etc.

Chip
Unless the cable system in your area is different, The DTV adaptor boxes will not receive anything from the cable. I inquired at Best-Buy if an adaptor box is available, that will. None available.
My RCA sets that were built in 2008 or newer will. That is, receive the DTV channels and subs that are available on cable.

old_tv_nut
07-26-2013, 12:29 PM
Unless the cable system in your area is different, The DTV adaptor boxes will not receive anything from the cable. I inquired at Best-Buy if an adaptor box is available, that will. None available.
My RCA sets that were built in 2008 or newer will. That is, receive the DTV channels and subs that are available on cable.

Cable companies have always done everything in their power to prevent individuals from using their own set-top boxes or TV set's tuning capability, no matter what Congress, the FCC, or anyone tries to do to force them. They have never been honest about stating that the only way they could finance the heavily debt-leveraged construction of systems was by continuing to get set top box rental fees. Of course, this puts them in the monopoly position of getting rental fees even if their only effect is to bloat profits on an already-constructed system.

dieseljeep
07-26-2013, 05:25 PM
The racketeers at T/W cable are still negotiating with the local carriers of NBC programming. Definitely no honor among thieves. It is available OTH.
I seldom watch any NBC programming. It's too bad we can't put these crooks in their place. :D

ChrisW6ATV
07-28-2013, 11:25 PM
I saw something for the first time that I've been morbidly anticipating for some time....a TRIPLE boxed commercial
I probably first saw those in 2003. There is a very easy explanation. The commercial was 16:9, but it was on a 4:3 channel that is encoded as 16:9 but displayed on your 4:3 set. No TV station, much less a cable system, is going to on-the-fly change formats to assist various display types. (Europe and maybe other places had a variation of this possibility in the late days of analog TV, when standard-def widescreen TV sets were common there; that may be what Chip was describing.) The only near-cure is a tuner that can remember per-channel "zoom" settings, so that you could fill the 4:3 screen with that 4:3 channel (other than the commercial's 16:9 self-format, which would never get "fixed"). The Zenith DTT-900/901 or Channel Master CM7000 tuners can do this if I remember right, but they are for over-the-air only.

Chip Chester
07-29-2013, 08:12 AM
I have noticed on NBC network shows in the evening (news, etc.) that immediately after the fade to black before local commercial breaks is about 10 frames of 4x3 -- at evidenced by a slight black level mismatch. Then, the station's programming comes in at whatever its setting is. So, somebody along the chain is using AFD...

What's also interesting is full-height 4x3 commercials within an HD show. Line 21 up top is clearly visible, with the caption data churning away, during the spot. Normally that would be buried in overscan.

Chip