¡Letterbox This! Or the continuing folly of widescreen format in the digital age


*Ed. Note: I originally published a rough draft version of this article on the black hole of blogging known as “Tumblr” and it was met with ready wit and stunning repartee. Just kidding. It was ignored. Don’t blog on Tumblr. No one reads anything there.

Wanna know what’s funny? Remember way back when “letterbox” format was new to the general public and you would get all these people freaking out about the “black boxes” or bars on their TVs? There were convinced (wrongly) that they were missing something when, in fact, they were getting the whole picture, as intended, on outdated televisions.

What is “letterbox” you ask? The following definition, from rtings, spells it out pretty well:

“The position and size of black bars on your television depend on two factors: the aspect ratio of your television and the aspect ratio of the video you are watching. Any mismatch between the two will be filled by the black color. This practice is called letterboxing.”

Okay. Maybe you don’t remember (I love dating myself on here by the way), but I do! It was a big deal. I grew up on things like “square” TV, three networks channels, one public one and one UHF channel and of course, black and white TV. Going to the movie theater to see a film, in what was then, “movie aspect ratio,” was fun because it was different…bigger!

Flash forward a decade or so and everything started to change. I’m in that generation of people where technology started to make leaps and bounds and quickly! At one time, I was excited about all the “letterbox” movies they were releasing on VHS and I collected quite a few. I still have them…in the garage. :/

And, man, did people ever complain about this new-found technology…which wasn’t really new! It took forever for “widescreen” to become the norm and yet many people still don’t really understand it.

What kills me these days is seeing networks do the reverse…but I digress.

Continue reading