January 26th, 2013

Is anyone else being driven somewhat nuts by this…

…or is it just me?

You go to a public place that has a wide-screen TV. A restaurant or bar, or sports bar, for example. You’re having your hamburger and fries, or maybe a Cobb salad (that would be me). Every now and then you glance up at the TV to see what’s going on.

And what you see is distortion. Usually, bodies much wider than they really are. All out of proportion, looking very strange and also strangely heavy. I suppose for football games, that’s considered a good thing. But for anything else, I find it very disconcerting.

It can happen in motels, too, which is even worse. Settle down to watch some mindless show, and the actors and actresses all look about a third wider than they should, and it’s impossible to fix because the remotes in motels won’t let you do it.

It seems a rather simple thing to get the settings right. I did it on my own TV at home, which isn’t the widest of screens but is fairly large. It took some doing, but once it’s set, it’s done. I would think that in a public place it would be even more important to get the picture correct. But the problem is so ubiquitous that I begin to wonder whether anyone notices or cares.

Your take?

[ADDENDUM: Aha, aha! Found a kindred spirit, and one who actually (unlike me) knows something about the technical aspects. I’m not alone after all!!]

25 Responses to “Is anyone else being driven somewhat nuts by this…”

  1. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    If it is fixed, because it’s a wide screen TV showing a broadcast in standard (not HD) format, then either the sides of the screen go black or the top of the heads get cut off.
    I’m more annoyed at the content.
    In my diner (where the local Tea Party meets) i don’t see Fox news, I see NBC, ABC or, depending on time on evening, TMZ or ET or some other nonsense.

  2. Edward Willett Says:

    Drives me crazy, too. First thing I do in every motel room is fix the settings on the TV to avoid that problem, but you can’t do anything about it in bars and airports and…aargh!

    So, no, you are not alone! (And neither am I. Yay!)

  3. Matthew M Says:

    You are not alone. I’ve been stewing about this for years. How can anyone stand seeing fun house versions of their favorite movie and TV personalities?

    Our best hope for relief is that Apple release a TV that automatically displays the original aspect ratio as large as the screen will allow and other TV makers will follow suit.

    Then we’ll have to do something about the bugs.

  4. thomass Says:

    Have not seen it.

  5. Roy Lofquist Says:

    This particular problem first appeared with computer games. It’s taken about 20 years for the gaming industry to get a good handle on accommodating all the various video formats available.

    As the linked article explains, HDTV and standard TV use different aspect ratios (16:9 vs. 4:3). Some cable services and some TVs allow you to “zoom” or “stretch” the picture to fill the screen (no sidebars). I have two computer monitors in the 16:9 format. They display widths of objects differently no matter which setting I use. I kind of eyeball the correct setting by watching for a square object in the picture and adjusting for that.

    It could be worse. They could provide an option for the Cinemascope movies we see on TCM to make them taller. Six foot tall munchkins might be interesting.

  6. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    you can’t do anything about it in bars

    Sure you can. You can ask them to change it. Or you can ask them for the remote if they’re too busy.

    Of course, the people at my bar know me, and will cheerfully had me the remote if I ask for it. Being a regular has its perks.

  7. LAG Says:

    Neo, it’s not the remote. This is what Bloomberg and Michelle have been hectoring us about.

    Now, excuse me while I have another 16oz glass of vino rosso.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    LAG: 🙂

  9. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and some Canadian provinces Says:

    LOL, there are actually about 4 significant aspect ratios, and you can spot them if you’re using one of the better “cinemaplayers” on your PC — usually there’s a menu (sometimes under “display”, or “view”) with the term “Pan and Scan” or something like it. In addition to “Do nothing”, 4:5, 16:9, they also have 1.85:1 and 2.35:1, for classic “Cinemascope”, etc., style movies.

    Note: No idea if the latest bloatware idiot WiMP does anything like this, since I never use the POS. I either use KMP or Media Player Classic. There are several others of note, too, but those two are almost certainly the best freeware ones on the market.

  10. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and some Canadian provinces Says:

    What’s needed is a universal remote that knows the “setup” system for all TVs. I’d bet you could probably do this with a Logitech Harmony remote, but I haven’t tried to. It’s a bit overkill but if it really bugged you, make sure they can do it and then pack one on your trips… 😀

  11. PapaMAS Says:

    I also demand realistic colors. I have never understood why some people will watch distorted pictures where everyone is tinted either red or green. Makes me want to barf.

  12. Simon Says:

    It is the kind of thing my 7-year-old son doesn’t notice. I think a lot of people must retain the aesthetic standards of 7-year-olds.

  13. William Teach Says:

    Yes, it is annoying as heck. People and companies spend a lot of money on these TVs and don’t take the 5 minutes necessary to set the settings correctly.

  14. Charles Says:

    Slightly off topic; but, what really drives me nuts is the fact that TVs are now in places that never used to have them before – as you mentioned, Hotel lobbies, Restaurants, etc. But, the number one place that really drives me crazy is the checkout line at the supermarket. I cannot leave – so, I am a “captive” audience for whatever commerical they have blasting right in my face as I wait to check out. arrrrrrgh!

  15. beverly Says:

    they now have tv screens in the elevators


    anyway. the aspect ratio thing has ALWAYS bugged me about the widescreen sets; I fix my own, and ask sweetly to fix other people’s.

  16. ErisGuy Says:

    Depends on the what surrounds the 4:3 picture. I’d rather see fat people than four narrow ads (which is what a local TV station broadcast).

  17. Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup » Pirate's Cove Says:

    […] neo neocon finds something that annoys the hell out of her […]

  18. vanderleun Says:

    There is a weapon you can use to fight back in stealth mofe: TV-B-Gone:

    “our TV-B-Gone® universal remote control resembles other TV remote controls, but is different in two important ways. First, it only has a power button that allows you to switch a TV on or off. You control when you see, rather than what you see. Second, the device is so small that it easily fits in your pocket, so that you have it handy whenever you need it wherever you go: airports, bars, restaurants, laundromats, etc.”


  19. Ray Says:

    I just bought a new LED TV and the TV knows what aspect ratio to use. I suspect the aspect ratio is encoded in the digital signal and the new TV sets automatically set the correct aspect ratio. No more obese people. Remember the cinamascope movies where the projectionist would forget to put the correct lens in the projector and everyone looked skinny?

  20. Occam's Beard Says:

    Slightly off topic; but, what really drives me nuts is the fact that TVs are now in places that never used to have them before – as you mentioned, Hotel lobbies, Restaurants, etc. But, the number one place that really drives me crazy is the checkout line at the supermarket.


    Screwed-up aspect ratios are bad enough, as are grotesquely askew colors, or maxed-out saturation, but overall my pet peeve is having to see @#$%^& screens everywhere, even at gas stations (where I spend the time staring at fuel pump, trying to resist the urge to smash the screen and the blathering about some brainless Hollywood twit). Enough already! Seriously, do people lack the intellectual resources to occupy themselves for a few minutes without externally-provided passive “entertainment?”

    Phew! I was gone, now I’m back …

  21. neal ekengren Says:

    Yes, drives me nuts. Screwed up aspect ratios are found everywhere. I’m amazed that most people just dont give a hoot. Biggest problem for Blu-ray is that people just don’t care. They prefer the gee-wiz of having streaming video on their phone with crappy sound.

    The problem is worse when you switch your TV back and forth between analog cable and digital QAM cable. I’m constantly jiggering with aspect ratio to get things right.

  22. pst314 Says:

    My TV automatically detects the program’s aspect ratio and sets itself accordingly. My parents’ TV, which is a few years older, does not detect and must always be manually set.

  23. Charles Says:

    Beverly & Occam’s Beard – you’ve both given me a reason to be happy that I don’t work in the city anymore (TVs in elevators) and live in NJ, where we do not pump-your-own (Tvs at the gas pump).

    TVs in both of those locations would drive me nuts, absolutely nuts. Only cell phones being used everywhere is worse (and the truth be told it isn’t the cell phones it is the users!)

    Yea, I know, I’m getting old and grumpy; but, at least I don’t yell “kids get off my lawn” (that might be because I don’t have a lawn?!)

  24. thomass Says:

    I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    “Sure you can. You can ask them to change it.”

    That or get one of those universal turn off remote devices. 😉

  25. neo-neocon Says:

    thomass: it’ll have to be the latter, because when I’ve asked them to change it they say they don’t know how.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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