Thoughts on Converting 4:3 Video to 16:9?

MadMaverick wrote on 4/28/2015, 7:15 PM
"I want it to fill my screen!"

We've all heard this before... we heard it back when most people had square shaped analog TV's and would go to play a widescreen DVD, and we'll hear it these days when people will try watching an old 4:3 TV show on their 16:9 widescreen HD TV's. A lot of people don't seem to like the bars. They feel as if they're getting ripped off.

Many of our home movies were of course shot in the old standard 4:3 ratio. This is how a lot of my old short films were shot. It's crossed my mind many of times to go back through and crop the shots to make them 16:9. Bars on the top and bottom don't bother me. They give your production a more cinematic feel. People these days will shoot 16:9 and use the 2:35 cine-scope crop thingy-ma-jigger in their editors. It makes your image look like it's on a more grand scale.

Bars on the left and the right though... I don't hate them or anything, and I don't mean to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but they're a bit annoying. When I'm watching something 4:3 on a 16:9 display, there's just something that subconsciously tells me that what I'm watching is somehow inferior and less than it could be. Bars on the left and right just don't look as epic as they do on the top and bottom.

So yeah, I was thinking of cropping the shots in my old movies to 16:9 to give them a bit more of an epic and cinematic feel... and insuring that if there were ever any old naive viewers out there watching my work (for possible Blu-Ray/DVD releases) that they'd be watching my work without the picture being stretched out or cut off around the edges to fill their screens. I could even give the option, "watch in widescreen or full screen" with little illustrations of what they'd get with both. I feel like I'd kinda be adapting them for modern times, as well as for the future.

I guess that ultimately this is a "It's up to you" kinda thing... but I was just curious as to what others thoughts were on this, and if anyone has ever done anything similar.

Here's an extra silly little thought. Do you think there's ever any chance of their being a 2:35 cine-scope kinda TV released in the future? Like a wider screen TV? If so, than it's back to the same problem! I'd then have to crop the heck out of my old 4:3 full frame movies lol.

I think you can crop most 4:3 shots to 16:9 and end up with something good or not too sliced and diced up looking... with anything wider though, you're gonna end up with a bunch of nostril shots.


musicvid10 wrote on 4/28/2015, 8:57 PM
You can crop, stretch, or leave it alone with or without side dressing.
If you're trying to educate folks who don't have even fourth grade math skills -- don't bother.
Chienworks wrote on 4/28/2015, 10:31 PM
Keep in mind that if you crop your 4:3 down to a 16:9 shape you're throwing away quite a bit of the image, and what's left over will be stretched bigger and therefore the 16:9 result will be lower quality than the 4:3 you started with! You claim to be disturbed by the appearance of a lack of quality, so why exacerbate it?

There are several monitor manufacturers who now sell 21:9 computer monitors. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before some of them ship with tuners built in. I don't really see the point though. To me it doesn't look grander, because it doesn't look wider. It looks shorter, and just all that much harder to compose scenes.
johnmeyer wrote on 4/28/2015, 10:43 PM
You can do whatever you want. However, cropping SD material and then blowing it up to fit a 16:9 space is sure going to look fuzzy. Also, you are throwing away part of the image, and I guarantee that sooner or later, when someone's head get cut off the top of the screen, you'll regret your decision.

I have created all sorts of "clever" ways to fit 4:3 to 16:9, including an anamorphic stretching mask, as well as a non-linear version of the common "duplicated and then fuzz the edges of the 4:3 material to fit the 16:9 space."

In the end, after all these fun inventions, I render 4:3 with the pillars on the side because it creates the best-looking video, with no degradation and no gimmicks.

In the old days (1950s) we went through the same thing with movies shown in theaters. Widescreen was introduced in the early 1950s to combat people staying at home to watch TV. However, lots of movies were still made in the 4:3 format. What they did in the theater was to draw curtains over the edges of the screen. Very often the cartoons and newsreels were in 4:3. Then, when the main feature came on, the projectionist would draw the curtains just as the widescreen feature started. It really was a remarkable effect that accentuated the vista of the wide screen.
PeterDuke wrote on 4/28/2015, 11:36 PM
Perhaps we should use 4:3 menus with 16:9 movies to achieve that effect! :-)
musicvid10 wrote on 4/29/2015, 12:51 AM
An old trick that gets one "close" to wide screen is to purposely encode NTSC 4:3 at 1.0 PAR instead of .9091.
A good compromise since overscan almost takes care of sidebars, and subjects are not too squat.

Try it, it's really not that bad.

Geoff_Wood wrote on 4/29/2015, 5:56 AM
How about just doing them 4:3, and maybe just an occasional bit cropped to 16:9 where nothing significant is lost, to 'spice things up' , as you say ? Whatever you do, don't do those 'blurry edge curtains of repeated material' curtain edge things to fill the gap. Truly HIDEOUS.

I have no problem with stuff with black sidebars. Probably helped by having a black frame on the TV. Would show up more on a white or silver (etc) frame . Maybe non-black TVs should have cleverness to match sidebars to the frame colour. (Frame = the physical TV frame around the edge of the screen).

TheHappyFriar wrote on 4/29/2015, 5:58 AM
If it bothers people that much tell them they're watching to much TV. :)
John_Cline wrote on 4/29/2015, 6:24 AM
"When I'm watching something 4:3 on a 16:9 display, there's just something that subconsciously tells me that what I'm watching is somehow inferior and less than it could be."

There's nothing subconscious about it, everything shot in standard definition IS inferior to what is currently available, both in terms of aspect ratio and resolution. Just put the 4:3 stuff in the middle of a 16:9 project and be done with it. Don't crop it or play weird pixel aspect ratio tricks with it, it was framed in 4:3 when it was shot and that's exactly how it should be displayed. PAR tricks just distort the original image making people look a bit fatter (the ladies just love that!) Nothing bugs me more than a TV network messing with a 4:3 program, or people that will turn on the stretch function of their 16:9 TVs to fill the entire screen.
PeterWright wrote on 4/29/2015, 6:53 AM
Hear hear, John.

To the OP, you can recreate the Cinema experience described in this thread - put a graphic of some curtains either side, to replace black bars.

As JC points out, it's the resolution of the old SD 4:3 footage that drops the quality, not the shape of the rectangle.
MadMaverick wrote on 3/20/2016, 12:55 AM
Just figured I'd resurrect this oldie with some new thoughts.

I've since watched the film: On the Waterfront. Here is an interesting little featurette on the aspect ratio of the film:

On the Waterfront is one of the movies from Columbia that was exhibited in multiple aspect ratios. To achieve a wider ratio, the screen was matted, and the quality degraded a bit. This made me re-think re-formatting my videos. I figure that if this method is good enough for a classic like On the Waterfront, then it's good enough for me lol.

Also, I've since noticed older shows such as Seinfeld, That 70's Show and South Park being displayed in a 16:9 ratio on HD TV stations. The characters aren't stretched out, the text on the screen is placed naturally on the frames, and the picture quality doesn't look too grainy or distorted. In fact, the quality is great. It's almost as if they were shot that way in the first place... but these are shows from the 90's/early-2000's. What's up with that?
DGates wrote on 3/20/2016, 1:29 AM
As for the older shows now being broadcast in HD, they had the original film masters, so they had lots of resolution to work with when cropping/zooming in to fill the 16:9 space. For Seinfeld in particular, they cleaned up all their masters for their DVD release, so they had a nice new HD master ready for the rebroadcasts. I agree that it does look really good.

Cheers is also available in HD via Netflix and others, BUT, they're stretching the 4:3 to fit a 16:9 space. I really despise an improper aspect ratio.
MadMaverick wrote on 3/20/2016, 3:25 AM
I had suspected that since they were shot in film, they had a great deal of resolution to work with... as opposed to Digital Video or Analog Video that my old stuff was shot on.

I've heard about "video upscaling" to a greater resolution... but I'm guessing there's only so much you can do. If anybody knows of any methods or techniques, I'm all ears.
JJKizak wrote on 3/20/2016, 7:45 AM
Their are several 21 x 9 LED and LCD TV's on the market in the 58" and 65" range, some cheap, some outrageous, especially the European market. I will purchase one when they get cheap enough.
MadMaverick wrote on 3/21/2016, 12:05 AM
Do you mean that there are actually square shaped HD TV's?
Geoff_Wood wrote on 3/21/2016, 8:44 PM
"Cheers is also available in HD via Netflix and others, BUT, they're stretching the 4:3 to fit a 16:9 space. "

Surely not, on a commercial release that people are paying for ?

"I really despise an improper aspect ratio."

For sure - that is just totally wrong !

MadMaverick wrote on 3/22/2016, 12:45 AM
Yes, they are... and don't call him Shirley!