A CDE Definition
The display of a standard TV image on a wide screen. For example, to show a standard TV program with a 4:3 aspect ratio on a high definition TV set with a 16:9 aspect ratio, black bars are displayed at the left and right sides to make up for the shorter width of the 4:3 frame. Contrast with letterbox. See HDTV display modes.
HDTV display modes
HDTVs are made to accommodate standard definition (SD) programs, which will exist for decades in the form of VHS tapes, DVDs and thousands of movies in the cable, satellite and network TV archives. Filling a 16:9 wide screen with the more square 4:3 source material is done by zooming or stretching. There is also a setting that maintains the original aspect ratio by displaying black or gray bars on either side (see below). See aspect ratio.
Zooming (No Distortion - Content Removed)
The 4:3 frame is cropped at the top and bottom, and the remaining image is scaled up to fit the wide screen. Although people's heads are sometimes cut off in this mode, if objects mostly appear in the center of the frame, zooming is effective because there is no distortion of the original image. For letterbox movies, this is often the best setting (see below).
Stretching (Distorts Image - No Content Lost)
The 4:3 frame is stretched horizontally to fit the 16:9 screen. Stretching is done either uniformly across the screen or only at the sides, with both options available on some sets. Since only the width is scaled and not the height, the image is distorted. Some sets have a combo mode that stretches and zooms.
All HDTVs render these modes with a slightly different twist, and any purchasing evaluation must be made on the set in question, not another brand or model. See HDTV and DTV.
Standard TV on HDTV Sets
HD on HDTV Sets
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