High-Def FAQ: Why Don't the Black Bars Go Away? - High-Def Digest Forums
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Old 07-13-2007, 03:36 PM
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Default High-Def FAQ: Why Don't the Black Bars Go Away?

As part of his new bi-monthly column here at High-Def Digest, from time to time, Josh Zyber will be answering frequently asked questions related to High-Definition and both HD DVD and Blu-ray.

First up: Josh's illustrated answer to one of the most common questions asked by newcomers to the wonders of HDTV: Why don't the black bars go way?

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Old 07-13-2007, 03:53 PM
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This is a great post! I do get very tired of hearing people complain about the black bars as though it is making them lose something. You are not losing...you are gaining the entire picture! I could understand if you were watching on a 15" TV, but there is no reason for a TV that small anymore...

I sincerely hope that the studios never start making "full screen" movies on HD-DVD and Blu-ray...
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:05 PM
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Default Great..

Stellar article Josh, absolutely stellar!
I'm very glad that someone took the time to explain to the importance of the black bars to the unappreciative viewers.
Keep up the good work buddy!
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:11 PM
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aaahhh. such a superb post. I work in computers myself but I remember somebody from either our media section or home theater section brought the phone to me with a customer on the line thinking that their "blu-ray" setup was wrong and its either the movie or their player because they got black lines, even though he had HDTV and no matter how I said, he could not get the idea that the black bars were an artistic thing and not in the fault of blu-ray
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:30 PM
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Thanks, guys.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of these "Why pan & scan is bad" articles in various sources, but the question still comes up all the time, especially now that people equate "High Definition" with 16:9. There's also the notion that 16:9 is "close enough" to 2.35:1, and cropping that much is no big deal, a belief I strongly disagree with. So I wanted to provide a clear visual illustration of just what happens to these movies when you mangle them to fill the TV screen.

One other thing I rarely see addressed in those prior articles is the nature of "Open Matte" and why that is equally harmful to the composition of a shot (other than notions of boom microphones and camera equipment being made visible, which these days would be digitally painted out anyway). That shot in Dark City made a good example. It has a dynamic 2.35:1 composition, no cropping on the sides in "full screen", and looks just awful when you open the mattes off the top and bottom.
Josh Z
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My opinions are strictly my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of this site, its owners or employees.
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:36 PM
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Great article, since my Laserdisc days I have been trying to explain to people why Widescreen is better. Some people will never understand unfortunately, my girlfriend being one of them. Another great site to check out for the converted:


Last edited by AllSport11; 07-13-2007 at 04:54 PM.
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:36 PM
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Thanks for the article. Some filmmakers, (my cinematography prof at the university here for example) swear by 2:35:1 only because it allows for easier composition when framing a shot. Yeah sometimes it's nice to have it corner to corner but not if it sacrifices the camera work someone put a lot of effort and thought into.
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:41 PM
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Great article! I remember back when I first started collecting movies, on VHS, I never bought a movie unless it was letterboxed. All my friends and family that would come over to watch movies in my home theater would always whine and complain about the black bars. It was so annoying always having to explain why the black bars were better. Yet even after making a compelling argument in favor of letterboxing people still preferred to fill their TV screens, even if they knew they were losing part of the movie. I think there will always be that school of thought for less than serious movie watchers. Some people could care less about artistic expression and just want their TV filled. So be it.

Anyhow, great work! I will definetly bookmark this article and anytime someone asks the question I will link them to your article.
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:44 PM
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Nice job on a great article. I'm looking forward to future posts!
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Old 07-13-2007, 04:51 PM
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Finally, a good article to refer people to when they're complaining about black bars. Thankfully there are still those who understand the concept of OAR.
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