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Dutchess_III's avatar

Why don't they make square flat screen TV's?

Asked by Dutchess_III (43072points) February 15th, 2011

WHAT is the point of the rectangular screen? We got a new 26 inch flat screen. The screen settings start at “normal” and go all over the place, to zoom, to wide, etc. All of the settings, other than “normal” distort the picture in some way. They stretch the people out, or they cut off the tops of their heads or they cut off the words scrolling across to bottom. However, in the “normal” setting you’re looking at about a 20 inch, square screen. If square is the “normal,” why isn’t the screen “normal” IE: SQUARE???

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28 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

There is something wrong with your television.

I have the same size Samsung and do not have this problem… all.

We love it.

markferg's avatar

Most stuff is now made in 16:9 format, so the screen is designed to show that. You may be one of the very rare people that watch a lot of 4:3 format video. It’s such a small market nowadays that is not profitable to make that format screen anymore.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s not video. It’s TV @markferg.

@john65pennington my husband pretends not to notice the distortion either. I guess it’s something you just get used to, but it bugs the hell out of me. Do me a favor…when you get a minute, what settings do your screen show that you have?

sinscriven's avatar

@Dutchess_III : TV has been filmed in widescreen aspect for a while, for years people never realized that to get it to fit on a traditional 4:3 ratio, they had to cut significant parts of the viewing screen from the sides.

Modern television will either stretch to fit the screen, which causes distortion, or will size it properly but will either have a box that’s in 4:3 or letter-boxing it to keep it from distortion.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So why don’t they make the flat screens 4:3 ratio in size to begin with?

Jeruba's avatar

Movies are made in different proportions from TV. The width and the settings accommodate different media. I watch DVDs only, and I use one of the wider settings for them, depending on the format of the movie.

markferg's avatar

@Dutchess_III – TV is the transmission of a video signal and an audio signal. The screen displays the video signal and the speakers transduce the audio signal. Old TV transmissions contain a 4:3 video signal and widescreen TV transmissions contain a 16:9 video signal. It matters not a whit if it is a terrestrial, satellite or cable TV transmission, or a DVD, VHS tape or an input from a computer, the screen uses a video input.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But I’m not talking about movies @Jeruba. I’m talking about regular TV.

I see @markferg. They all originate as a video. What is the difference between the ratios?

john65pennington's avatar

DutchessIII, when the video signal is right on your television, please click to the History Channel and be ready to be awed. The HD there is breathtaking, especially the undersea photos of the fish and reefs. The color is dazzling. Cut off all the lights for the best effect.

I will check that for you, shortly. okay?

Brian1946's avatar

I think most screens are now in the rectangular format (16:9), because it approximates the human field of vision.

I.e., the width of the human visual field is about 1.78 (16/9) times the height.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@john65pennington I don’t get the History Channel…but I wish. Our cable is only $18 a month….

At whom ever knows…We discovered right away that with the new TV we get a plethora of “new” channels at the “upper end” of the channels. Didn’t take us long to realize they’re the same channels they broadcast at the lower end BUT with different programs playing so they might as well be “new” channels.

OK, my husband is gone for the night. I had the remote to myself. I put it on “normal” because I can’t stand the distortion. However….I was watching a PBS station on the upper channels that was about “Pioneers In Television….” Well, it was showing broadcasts from the 40’s, 50’s 60’s, and early 70’s. When it was showing those, the picture filled the screen from top to bottom, but with black bands along the side. However when it switched to narration, where they were broadcasting whatever recent video they shot in the studio, it filled the entire screen, with no distortion….....

After the show I started moving up and down the upper channels with the ratio set to “normal.” Almost every channel, except that one, showed a picture that went from top to bottom, but left black edges. Then I’d hit a channel that filled the whole screen…then I’d hit one that was just a square picture in the middle of the screen…

What’s bugging me is I want a true picture, no distortion, and if it’s a little smaller than we’re used to, so be it. If there are black bands on the sides, I don’t care. My husband, on the other hand, wants the picture to fill the screen, no matter what…..I’d rather read a book. (Just pissin’ on my own thread here!)

Supacase's avatar

I don’t know if this is related to your situation, but I just asked my husband why there is a band around the picture on our flat screen. Because I was watching the regular channel – he turned it to the HD version of that channel and it filled the entire screen.

chocolatechip's avatar


Aspect ratio is the ratio of the width of the image compared to the height. Nowadays, most things are shot in 16:9, whereas 4:3 is an older standard. When you are watching TV, some programs will be shown in 16:9 format, some in 4:3.

On your TV, “normal” just means that the image’s aspect ratio is not modified in any way. Since the aspect ratio of your TV screen is also 16:9, if you are watching a program filmed in 16:9, then it will fill your entire TV screen. If you are watching something filmed in 4:3, there will be black bars on the side in order to fill in the extra space.

That PBS program you were watching is 16:9, so in normal mode it fills your entire TV screen. However, the older broadcasts it was showing from the 40s-70s were 4:3, hence the black bars at the side.

Since 16:9 is becoming the new standard, most television screens are now manufactured with that aspect ratio as well. All the other settings other than normal are for weird people who like distorted images, and they are indeed pointless.

mattbrowne's avatar

Because of the human eyes and the visual cortex of the brain, see

The German article is a bit more detailed about human field of view:

Bei einem Erwachsenen beträgt seine horizontale Ausdehnung beider Augen zusammen bis etwa 180°, die vertikale zirka 60° nach oben und 70° nach unten.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thank you @chocolatechip! There are so many people out there who insist that the picture has to fill the screen that they always hit “wide” and flat out deny the fact that everything is distorted! Why the do that?

Anyway, is there yet a 3rd ratio, because SOME shows have a black band all the way around all four sides. Also, @Supacase said her husband went to the HD version of the channel (I assume those are the channels at the higher end?) and the picture filled the whole screen. HOWEVER, when I go to the upper end channels, only 1 or 2 of them fill the screen. The rest look just like the ones on the lower end…the 4:3, I assume, but the pictures are definitely clearer there.

@mattbrowne… What are you trying to tell me??? I’m in Kansas! We don’t Habla Es Deutch here! What is the gist of the Wiki?

Brian1946's avatar

“Bei einem Erwachsenen beträgt seine horizontale Ausdehnung beider Augen zusammen bis etwa 180°, die vertikale zirka 60° nach oben und 70° nach unten.”

I totally agree! ;-)

Ivan's avatar

First of all, they do make flat screen 4:3 TV’s. Or at least, they did. I own one. They even made 4:3 HDTV’s for a while. Part of the reason why 16:9 is the now the standard is because movies are filmed in that aspect ratio. When you watch a movie on your 4:3 TV, huge portions of the screen are actually cut off. That’s what they mean when they say “this film has been modified for television” or whatever at the beginning of TV movies.

Now, the reason why everything looks distorted on your TV is because you’re receiving a 4:3 signal. If you don’t want to have this problem, you need to upgrade your service to 16:9 HD. Similarly, if you have a DVD player that is capable of outputting 16:9 (and you have the proper cables), you will see no distortion; everything will look great.

Oh, and “normal” TV’s aren’t square, they’re 4:3, which is also a rectangle. ;)

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK but 4:3 is more SQUARER than 16:9!

You know, we just got it so we can return it. There seem to be volume issues too (one channel is right where you set it. Then you change it and it’s freaking BLARING.) We’ll see if we can’t find a SEMI-SQUARER flat Screen. That’s what Rick was hoping for in the first place… that really you @Ivan?? You look different…did you cut your hair?

(PS, I can’t believe spell check isn’t flagging the word ‘squarer’.....doy.)

Ivan's avatar

If I were to give you some advice, I wouldn’t overreact about the distortion and rectangle-ness of it. At the very worst, you just have some stretched TV shows. You’ll get used to it. The pros outweigh the cons. First of all, if you ever do have the desire to upgrade to an HD service, you will be able to. You’ll also be able to watch movies in their proper format. You can get an HD antenna to receive all of your local channels in HD widescreen. If, for whatever reason, you wanted to play video games on it, you could play them in HD widescreen (which is what they’re made for, nowadays). Downgrading to a 4:3 TV is only going to come back and bite you later on down the road.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I had a feeling that was so, @Ivan. All right. I’ll just shut up….and wonder why we have to watch the distorted shit. The black bands are no different than the plastic black edges of the TV screen to me…...Thanks, Mon.

mattbrowne's avatar

Oh, I thought the important words were so close to English that a translation is not needed

horizontale Ausdehnung beider Augen (eyes) zusammen bis etwa 180°, die vertikale zirka 60° nach oben (upward) und 70° nach unten (downward).

Makes sense now?

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK….but that means what?

mattbrowne's avatar

We we look straight we can see 90° (degrees of this angle) to the left and 90° to the right, but only 60° up and 70° down. Therefore there are no square flat screens.

____ ..____(left/right)

\../ (up/down)

Dutchess_III's avatar

…........................................................................................................ _ : _
So are you saying that the 16:9 ratio is more attuned to what our eyes see? X <<< Left AND Right AND up AND Down. I win!

mattbrowne's avatar

Yesssssssssssss !!

Dutchess_III's avatar

O! So, when’s your next book coming out? Are you going to make it in a 16:9 ratio?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Dutchess_III – I found a co-writer on Fluther. To complete it this will at least take 2–3 years.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Who is it??

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