are Anamorphic DVDs better?
you purchase DVD movies, then you probably enjoy collecting movies for the long
term. You may not know, however,
that some widescreen DVDs contain 33% more resolution than other widescreen DVDs.
These DVDs with extra resolution are called "Anamorphic
Widescreen", "Enhanced for Widescreen TVs", or "Enhanced for
A Lesson in
are sold in two different aspect ratios: Standard and Widescreen. There are widescreen televisions that are not high definition
televisions. So you don't have to
pay for an HDTV to have a widescreen TV.
ratio equals (1.33:1)
ratio equals (1.78:1)
Most broadcast TV programs and pre-1950's movies have
an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (read 1.33 to 1), so televisions in the past have
always been made at this same 4:3 aspect ratio. But most widescreen movies have an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 or
2.35:1. To fill the entire screen
of a 4:3 TV, the sides of a widescreen movie must be cropped off to make a
"Pan&Scan" image. This
reformatted image often loses characters and scenery essential to the movie
presentation. To see the entire
widescreen image as the movie director intended, the movie can be letterboxed to
fit on a 4:3 TV. These are the
black bars that appear above and below the movie frame.
Widescreen TVs minimize this letterboxing appearance and less of the TV
screen is wasted on the black bars because a widescreen TV is closer to the
aspect ratio of widescreen movies. In
the near future of HDTV broadcasting, widescreen TVs will become the new
the standard and widescreen TV have 480 lines of resolution counted from top to
bottom. Consider a movie filmed at
an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. A non-anamorphic DVD will letterbox the movie using only 345
lines of resolution for the movie image. The
other 135 lines are wasted as black bars on the screen.
A widescreen TV can still magnify the letterbox image to fill most of the
screen, but magnification does not increase the number of lines of resolution.
What is more, magnification reveals gaps between the scan lines and
defects in the video image.
Non-Anamorphic DVD on a 4:3 TV
Non-Anamorphic DVD on a 16:9 display
Requires magnification to fill the screen
- Why magnify when you can make the original image larger?
DVDs allocate more horizontal lines to the movie image.
For the same 1.85:1 movie, an anamorphic DVD uses 462 lines of
resolution. Only 18 lines are
wasted on black bars. If a DVD
player is set to 16:9 mode, but viewed on a 4:3 TV, an anamorphic movie will
appear stretched vertically due to the extra horizontal lines present in the
image. But if the movie is viewed
on a 16:9 widescreen TV, the TV automatically stretches the image horizontally
back to the correct aspect ratio.
Anamorphic DVD on a 4:3 TV with the player set to 16:9 mode
Anamorphic DVD on a 16:9 Display
No magnification required
4:3 TVs can vertically compress the scan lines into a 16:9 sub-frame to display
the image at the correct aspect ratio. If
your 4:3 TV does not support this feature, you can still view an anamorphic DVD
at the correct aspect ratio. All
DVD players have a playback mode called "4:3 Letterbox" which removes
every 4th line of resolution from anamorphic DVDs. The converted image will look
like a non-anamorphic, letterboxed DVD on a 4:3 TV.
Sony and Pioneer players perform the best conversion.
So if you still have a 4:3 TV without a 16:9 mode, you cannot utilize the
extra resolution of an anamorphic DVD. But
an anamorphic DVD still insures better image quality for movies older than 2-3
years because the studio must make a new video transfer of the movie to make an
anamorphic DVD. In the near future,
if you decide to upgrade to a widescreen TV, you will be glad to have the
anamorphic resolution in your collection. You will wish that all your non-anamorphic
DVDs had been released as anamorphic.
How do you tell
if a DVD is anamorphic?
anamorphic DVDs are labeled as "Anamorphic Widescreen" or
"Enhanced for Widescreen TVs". If
the disc package is not labeled, then you can often rely on the past releases of
almost always releases anamorphics (But they are never labeled)
Home Video and Warner Home Video (WB) mostly release anamorphics
sometimes releases anamorphics
· Fox has
only released the Alien movies as anamorphic (Director, Ridley Scott, requested
Vista (Disney) and Miramax have not released any anamorphic DVDs
Be a smart shopper. If
you're not sure which of two different movies to buy, and only one of them is
anamorphic, buy the anamorphic one.
Some studios expect to profit by selling you their movies twice:
Once as non-anamorphic, and then again as anamorphic in 2 or 3 years.
Use your wallet to send a message to the movie studios that you won't
settle for low quality video when you can have better resolution for the same
price. Better yet, write or call
the studios and demand Anamorphic DVDs.
Vista Home Video
South Buena Vista Street
Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Consumer DVD Hotline: (323) 956-8070
(distributed by Buena Vista)
Sunset Blvd., Suite 230
Angeles, CA 90046-3353
Fox Home Entertainment
Avenue of the Stars, 25th Floor
Angeles, CA 90028