16: 9

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16: 9 , also 1.77: 1 or correctly rounded 1.78: 1 , is a term that describes the relationship between image width and height in video technology . A distinction must be made between “real” 16: 9 (aspect ratio: 1.78: 1) and the standard 1.85: 1 used for anamorphic storage.


“Classic” image formats are 4: 3 in video technology or (in the meantime) 3: 2 in photography . Cinema technology , too , originally started with 1.33: 1 (4: 3) to 1.37: 1, but switched to formats with aspect ratios of 1.66: 1 to 2.35: 1 at an early stage , because these are in Let the cinema project better: for projections with an aspect ratio of 4: 3, a significantly larger vertical distance to the rows of seats is necessary.

Television - originally with a round cathode ray tube (cylinder / cone shape) - was first adapted for optical reasons to an almost square, later to a rectangular landscape format, the 4: 3 format (1.333: 1) that was common in cinema at the time. It was only with the development of plasma and LCD screen technology that any desired image formats became possible and the widescreen film format that had been widespread since the 1950s was now used as a guide .

Image formats approximating the circular shape are also advantageous for reproduction with optical aids, typically projectors . Wide formats place higher demands on the lens system.


Format comparison 4: 3 and 16: 9

The human field of vision has an aspect ratio of almost 3: 2. Immersive projections such as B. IMAX or Virtual Reality, therefore use aspect ratios of around 1.37: 1 to a maximum of 1.6: 1. In conventional cinemas as well as in the home, a wider format is better, as vertical shading from front rows or objects can hardly be avoided. Therefore, formats from 1.85: 1 to 2.37: 1 were aimed for. This has nothing to do with the human field of vision , and certainly nothing to do with the field of vision , a technical size of an optical device.

Studies have shown early on that the human field of vision is more like a widescreen format. Since the technology no longer speaks against it, efforts are now being made to broadcast TV programs in widescreen format.

The fast and strong penetration of households with DVD players and the fact that most DVDs contain a digital anamorphic 16: 9 picture, which offers better picture quality especially on 16: 9 televisions, played a decisive role in establishing the widescreen format than the previously common television technology. Another reason was that television set manufacturers largely stopped producing 4: 3 sets. Against this background, the television broadcasters were also forced to switch to the digital 16: 9 format in order to offer a picture quality of equal quality, as many consumers are used to from DVD and other newer digital video sources.

By switching from analog to digital broadcasting via satellite, cable and antenna, it was also possible for TV stations to bring an image quality equivalent to DVD to the viewer's living room. In the case of digital television reception - similar to anamorphic widescreen DVDs - an anamorphic digital 16: 9 picture is also transmitted and rectified and optimally displayed by the television set , provided the corresponding receiver set-top box is set to 16: 9 picture output. 4: 3 televisions can generally also display an anamorphic 16: 9 picture with the full horizontal number of lines. With older models, the 16: 9 squeeze mode sometimes has to be activated manually, which also results in better image quality (more pixels, better colors, no grizzling). However, the prerequisite is the connection via SCART and the setting of the digital receiver box to RGB .

In the case of analog reception, as is often the case with cable television reception, on the other hand, a conventional 4: 3 letterbox image ( anamorphic image recording ) with black stripes and a correspondingly smaller number of horizontal lines is sent. 16: 9 televisions usually recognize such a letterbox picture and automatically enlarge it so much that the black stripes at the top and bottom disappear and the widescreen content is zoomed in and displayed across the entire screen. These televisions hide the coarse pixel structure of the low-resolution analog image with strong soft focus. A good picture can only be achieved on new widescreen televisions with a digital DVB receiver.


Use of archive material in new programs

By the end of the 20th century, almost all television productions were recorded in 4: 3 format. In the case of newly produced programs in the 16: 9 format that make use of archive material, the problem arises as to how the recordings that are not of the same format should be integrated into the program. This problem often arises with historical documentaries or nostalgic programs that use old television material.

One way to use this archive material is to trim the existing 4: 3 images to 16: 9 format. Since recordings in 4: 3 format correspond to an aspect ratio of 16:12, a quarter of the vertical image information must be cut off at the top and bottom of the image so that the image corresponds to an aspect ratio of 16: 9. Even if a pan & scan process is used for this, the original composition is lost. In the case of recordings that were originally very strongly zoomed, this leads to a more restless image impression, but the lack of feet or headboards also makes these settings appear clearly incomplete. Also, text overlays are sometimes only partially or not at all legible due to the cropping.

This method is often used by broadcasters in the production of new television programs, despite the significant loss of picture. In rare cases, the original 4: 3 picture is brought to the required aspect ratio not by cropping, but by distorting it. Although all image information can still be recognized after using this method, the original proportions are no longer correct. A circle then becomes, for example, a lying ellipse; this distortion is extremely annoying, especially on faces.

Subsequent trimming of already existing programs

Some broadcasters, for example ZDF and almost all private ones, have switched to cutting programs produced in 4: 3 to 16: 9. Here, too, there are sometimes significant image losses as this usually takes place without the use of the pan & scan process and instead usually only a fixed image area is cut out (usually from the upper area of ​​the original format). No method can do justice to the different visual ideas of all viewers. While some people want a completely filled 16: 9 picture at any cost and also accept distorted or cut off pictures, others want to see the pictures in their original format, even if the television screen is not completely filled. By trimming the original films to a pseudo-16: 9, the broadcasters are primarily incurring the displeasure of those viewers who would like to see the programs in question in their original format.

More sensible handling of different format material

Another option when dealing with 4: 3 images in 16: 9 productions is to bring the 4: 3 images to an aspect ratio of 16: 9 using black bars or stylized backgrounds on the left and right edges of the image. Although this method no longer completely fills the television screen, all the original image information and the correct aspect ratio are retained.

In the case of programs already produced in 4: 3 format, it is even easier: If this program is broadcast in the correct 4: 3 format, each viewer has the option of deciding whether to view the program in the original format or in a correspondingly cropped or distorted pseudo 16: 9 format. This only has the disadvantage that the picture cropped by your own television is often taken from the exact center of the original. For optimal transmission of the picture content, however, the 16: 9 section should be taken slightly above the center of the picture or even at the top of the picture, since in 4: 3 format the most important picture content is usually captured above the center of the picture. Overall, it is a very unaesthetic method, as the center of the image actually targeted by the cameraman is now shifted even further to the upper edge of the 16: 9 image, which can lead to image errors such as cut off heads or missing hairlines. Television broadcasters take this problem into account in their productions, but most 16: 9 televisions do not offer the option of shifting the position of the image section.

Another reason why TV broadcasters prefer to zoom in on older material rather than broadcast it in pillarbox format is the limited resolution of the digital TV image. While a full 720 × 576 pixels could be transmitted in an anamorphic 16: 9 image, when pillarboxing a 4: 3 image, only about 540 × 576 pixels would be used, the remaining pixels would be black bars to the left and right of the image to see. If this picture were to be zoomed in on a 16: 9 television, only 540 × 432 of the 720 × 576 possible pixels would be displayed, which would correspond to a mathematical loss of quality of almost 44 percent. Viewed on a 4: 3 television, the transmitted black bars on the left and right would also be added by the bars above and below the actual picture created by the rectification of the anamorphic format, so you would see a 4: 3 picture that is much too small in a 4 : 3 TVs.

Representation of people

While the widescreen format is more suitable for landscape shots than a 4: 3 image, it has a disadvantage when depicting people: Both a standing and a seated person and a close-up of a head extend more in the vertical than in the Horizontal. In these cases, the wide format is less used. As a result, people are displayed smaller in the 16: 9 format than in the 4: 3 format. With the comparatively limited size of television and computer screens, this is more significant than with cinema screenings.

Establishment as a standard format in various countries

Experience so far shows that the establishment of 16: 9 as the standard format took much longer than originally assumed. Although large television broadcasters paid attention to 16: 9 compatibility when purchasing new production technology back in the 1990s and 16: 9 was the usual format for internationally marketed television productions and EBU productions, some stations still produce and broadcast in 4: 3 today -Format. In the early years of the 16: 9 format, series and occasionally also films that were recorded in 16: 9 were produced with 4: 3 compatibility, i.e. In other words, during the filming process, care was taken that essential image content (including fonts and effects added later) never left the center of the image beyond the frame of the area visible in 4: 3 format, so that owners of a digital 4: 3 Television and television stations that were still broadcasting in 4: 3 could easily zoom in on these 16: 9 productions and display them in 4: 3. However, this technology is no longer common, which is why newer series should really be broadcast in 16: 9 format.

German-speaking area

More demanding productions by public broadcasters, such as cultural programs or documentaries, were produced in 16: 9 in some cases as early as the mid-1990s, followed by numerous television films and series. The public broadcasters completely switched to 16: 9 by the end of 2007. For the first time on a larger scale outside of films or series, the 16: 9 format was used at the 2006 World Cup . From that point on, more and more broadcasters switched their own productions to 16: 9. It all started with Südwestrundfunk (SWR) in autumn 2006; it followed

  • the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) in April 2007,
  • NDR and MDR , ARD and ZDF in summer 2007,
  • RBB , SR , RB and television in French-speaking Switzerland in autumn 2007.
  • Since the beginning of 2008, ProSieben has broadcast its own productions for the first time, such as The next Uri Geller (January 2008), Galileo (March 31, 2008) in 16: 9 (since November 2008 also advertising).
  • RTL has been broadcasting the first 16: 9 broadcasts since August 2008, and since November 19, 2008 completely (including advertising).
  • N24 has been broadcasting in 16: 9 since October 22, 2008 and since November also in 16: 9 advertising. N24 cuts old 4: 3 broadcasts into 16: 9.
  • Since November 2008, Kabel eins has been broadcasting completely (including advertising) in 16: 9.
  • Since April 2009 the Austrian private broadcaster PULS 4 has been broadcasting its own productions, advertising and trailers in 16: 9.
  • ATV has also been broadcasting in 16: 9 since mid-September .
  • The children's channel Nickelodeon has been broadcasting exclusively in 16: 9 since October 2, 2011. Programs in 4: 3 are zoomed in to 15: 9 (initially 14: 9).
  • The Austrian music channel gotv has been broadcasting all of its own productions, advertising and most new music videos in 16: 9 since the beginning of 2010. However, some music videos are also broadcast in 4: 3 format.
  • VIVA Germany has been broadcasting the trailers and some productions in 16: 9 since January 1st, 2011. Since March 23, VIVA has also been broadcasting music videos in 16: 9. In the meantime, other series and music videos are also zoomed in to 15: 9 (initially 14: 9).
  • In December 2007, Swiss television changed its program completely to 16: 9, but it still broadcasts 4: 3 productions in this format. The digital satellite signal is transmitted in anamorphic form. In the regional area, Telebasel became the first Swiss private television broadcaster to switch completely to 16: 9 letterbox in autumn 2007 .

The larger private broadcasters switched to 16: 9 in 2008, and the vast majority of the smaller broadcasters have since followed suit.

Great Britain

In Great Britain, the major broadcasters switched to the wider picture format as early as the 2000s , but the cameramen there ensure that all relevant content (people and text graphics) is in the center of the picture so that viewers with 4: 3 televisions can to have the 16: 9 picture zoomed in on your digital receiver and output as a 4: 3 picture (as pan & scan), whereby the 4: 3 television is fully used, so no black stripes are visible above and below, but the right one and left area of ​​the wide picture that goes beyond the 4: 3 format is cut off. With the earlier introduction of widescreen, widescreen televisions have spread faster in the UK.

Other countries

In France, individual smaller private broadcasters have switched completely to 16: 9, whereas the large broadcasters even broadcast the 2006 World Cup at a trimmed 4: 3. In the Benelux countries, most of the larger broadcasters largely switched to 16: 9 as early as 2004. In Italy, RAI produces numerous programs in 16: 9, but does not broadcast anamorphic 16: 9 digitally. The channels of the Mediaset group produce and broadcast 4: 3, while the Italian pay-TV provider SKY broadcasts - like many other European pay-TV providers - primarily feature films in true anamorphic 16: 9 (as of July 2007).

At z. B. Series in the USA you can see graphics moved further towards the center, such as age information, actor names or station logos. This is also often seen on sports broadcasts. Which means you would not lose any graphics if you did without the left and right image edges. In most cases, however, image information would be lost and people standing at the edge of the image could not be shown completely or cut off.

Usage today

  • Anamorphic encoding of DVDs
  • 16: 9 picture reproduction devices (televisions, video projectors), the field of view of which is approximately 16: 9
  • 16: 9 image recording devices (video cameras) with a field of view that is approximately 16: 9
  • 16: 9 display modes on 4: 3 and 16: 9 televisions, whereby different manufacturers often understand this to be different; Often an image is meant with an image height that is around 25 percent less than the standard display
  • 16: 9 films on DVDs that have not been zoomed in to 4: 3 full-screen display using Pan & Scan
  • Standard aspect ratio of HDTV (1920 × 1080 or 1280 × 720 with square pixels )

See also


  • Band splitting for the compatible transmission of 16: 9 pictures In: Christian Hentschel (Ed.): Video- Signalverarbeitung , Springer-Verlag , 1998, ISBN 978-3322902498
  • Steffen Gautzsch: Development and market introduction of the Blu-Ray Disc: The Blu-Ray Disc as a home entertainment standard and Dvd successor , Diplomica Verlag, 2010

Web links

Commons : 16: 9  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. What is the advantage of 16: 9? Phoenix FAQ. Retrieved February 18, 2014.