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Q: Zoom settings on a widescreen TV ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Zoom settings on a widescreen TV
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: captainpooky-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 20 Jun 2004 08:57 PDT
Expires: 20 Jul 2004 08:57 PDT
Question ID: 363595
I recently purchased a Sony WEGA 50" rear projection TV, and a
Panasonic combination DVD/VCR player. I have also purchased a variety
of DVDs, some with 2.35:1 aspect ratio, some with 1.85:1, some with
4:3, etc. The Sony TV has four viewing modes: Normal, Full, Zoom, and
Wide Zoom.

I find that whenever I view a DVD, I have to cycle through the various
viewing modes several times, trying to figure out which one best
displays the maximum viewing area for the given movie without
stretching the picture. I even had one DVD where I thought I had the
zoom set correctly, but then part way through the movie some
sub-titles came on, and they were chopped off at the bottom of the

Furthermore, when you switch back to watching regular cable stations,
you have to set the zoom back to Normal, but then some cable movies
are also broadcast in wide TV mode, so again you have to mess around
with the zoom settings.

I find this whole process rather annoying and frustrating. Am I
missing something? Is there a way to get the TV or the DVD player to
default to the best zoom setting (i.e. to the least amount of
stretching to display the original aspect ratio) when the DVD is first
installed in the player, or when you flip from one cable station to
another? Seems like a simple enough thing to program into a TV, but I
have read through the user manual thoroughly, and I can't find any way
to solve this.

Alternatively, if there is no way to get the TV to handle this task,
is there a rule of thumb to use in choosing the correct zoom? I know
Normal is for 4:3 TV shows, but what really is the difference between
Full, Zoom and Wide Zoom?

Thank you for your help!

Request for Question Clarification by aht-ga on 20 Jun 2004 10:36 PDT

Would you be able to provide the exact model number for your Sony WEGA
50" rear projection TV? Sony carries multiple models worldwide, not
all sharing the same features.


Google Answers Researcher

Clarification of Question by captainpooky-ga on 20 Jun 2004 14:20 PDT
Hi, thanks for your response. It's a Sony Grand Wega KF-50WE610 LCD
projection TV HD monitor.
Subject: Re: Zoom settings on a widescreen TV
Answered By: aht-ga on 20 Jun 2004 16:26 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

I hope that the following will help you enjoy your new Grand WEGA and
DVD player as the manufacturers intended!

First, a brief primer on the video technology used by your Grand WEGA
and your DVD player. Standard DVDs are recorded using 480 horizontal
scan lines. Your DVD player will play this in either interlaced or
progressive mode (interlaced meaning that all of the odd-numbered
lines are updated on one cycle, followed by all of the even-numbered
lines on the next cycle; progressive meaning that all lines are
updated sequentially every cycle). This signal is sent to your TV
through either a 'standard' RCA-jack video cable, a S-Video cable, or
through analog component video cables (the Y-Pb-Pr connections you
should find on the back of your Panasonic DVD-VCR player). By default,
your DVD player is set to assume that you are using a TV with the
standard 4:3 aspect ratio. This means that, regardless of the actual
content on the DVD, the video output will always contain 480 lines.
Your TV, in turn, will take these 480 lines (and 4:3 ratio) and
display it as best as it can.

This means that if your Wide Screen Mode is set to Normal, it will
show it in 4:3 ratio leaving black borders on the two sides. If the
movie you are watching was filmed in 16:9 ratio, then this will leave
you with black borders on the top, bottom, and the two sides.
Switching to Full mode will stretch the 4:3 ratio area horizontally so
that it fills the complete 16:9 ratio screen, but will not touch the
vertical ratio meaning that you will still have a black border on the
top and bottom (and a strangely distorted movie in the middle). Going
to Zoom mode will then also stretch the vertical ratio, essentially
zooming the 'letterbox' area of the 4:3 ratio screen area to fill the
complete 16:9 ratio screen. Alternatively, the Wide Zoom mode will
stretch the vertical ratio so that the top and bottom parts of the
view get stretched less than the middle; the idea here is that if you
are watching a movie that is in between a 4:3 and 16:9 ratio, then you
can still maximize the screen area used with Wide Zoom; you will lose
a little bit of the 'squareness' of the view, though.

In any of these Wide Screen Modes other than Normal, though, the act
of zooming will cause you to lose parts of the transmitted screen
area. If these areas are the unused black areas on the top and bottom
of the screen during a widescreen movie, then this isn't really much
of a loss. However, if you turn on the subtitles capability of your
DVD player, then these areas are no longer 'unused'. This is because
subtitles on DVDs are stored as text data synchronized to the movie.
The DVD player displays this text as an overlay over top of the movie.
In the default 4:3 mode, this text will appear in the lower part of
the screen. This is fine if you are watching on a 4:3 screen, since
this means the text will obscure less of the actual movie. However, on
a zoomed widescreen TV, the text will be in the area that is chopped
off by the zoom.

Almost all of the Panasonic DVD-VCR players have a mode that can
partly help with this. In DVD mode on the player, you can hit the
Action button to access the menus. Look for a "TV Mode" menu, and
change the setting to "16:9" when watching a widescreen movie (ie. any
movie that is not filmed in 4:3 ratio). This should help shift the
subtitle text position into the viewable space.

The need to cycle through the zoom modes on your Grand WEGA is,
unfortunately, unavoidable. As far as the TV is aware, the actual
signal coming from the DVD player is 480 scan lines in 4:3 ratio. The
fact that parts of the signal are un-used black areas is irrelevant to
the TV. So, you have to manually control it. If you know that all of
your DVDs are widescreen, then set the Wide Screen Mode to Zoom, and
leave it there. In some movies (that are not 16:9, but are still wider
than 4:3), you will still have unused black borders on the side;
however, the view will still be square and you will eliminate the
borders on the top and bottom.

For normal everyday use, it is best to use your TV in 4:3 mode so that
regular television signals can be displayed square. While this will
result in unused areas on the sides, at least you will not lose any
part of the signal, or have to put up with everyone on the screen
looking like they've gained 100 pounds due to being stretched
horizontally! For some reason, though, Sony chose to make the default
setting the Wide Zoom. You can change this by accessing the Screen
Menu on your Grand WEGA, selecting the "4:3 Default" option, and
changing the setting to Normal. This way, when you switch from one
source to another, the setting for Wide Screen Mode will automatically
switch to the 4:3 ratio. For those odd times when a movie or TV show
is broadcast in widescreen "letterbox" mode, you can then toggle the
Wide Screen Mode to Zoom to expand the view.

A final note: if you upgrade your cable service to a digital service
that supports HDTV, then you can use the special DV-I connector on the
back of your TV to connect to the digital cable box, and display 720p
or 1080i signals that will automatically display as widescreen without
you needing to use the Wide Screen Mode feature of your TV (since no
zooming will be required; the native 720p or 1080i signal already is
formatted for 16:9 screens).

Additional information you might find of interest:

Wide Screen Video (a hobbyist's site)

Sony Online Manuals (in case you lose yours)

Panasonic Online Manuals

Again, I hope that this helps. Please let me know if you would like
any part of this Answer clarified, prior to accepting and rating it.


Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by captainpooky-ga on 20 Jun 2004 21:56 PDT
Thank you so much for your very detailed response. Your note about the
Panasonic DVD player defaulting to 4:3 made me realize that I have
unplugged the player a couple of times, and did not realize that it
defaulted back to 4:3, when I thought I had it set to 16:9, so that
was a useful tip.

I have also just now set the TV to Normal for regular viewing, so that
should help somewhat.

I'm still confused on your response where you have written "If you
know that all of your DVDs are widescreen, then set the Wide Screen
Mode to Zoom, and
leave it there. In some will still have unused black
borders on the side; however, the view will still be square and you
will eliminate the
borders on the top and bottom."

I have just now tried playing both a 1.85:1 movie (Legends of the
Fall), and a 2.35:1 movie (American Beauty), with the widescreen mode
set to Zoom, and in both cases the opening menu is chopped off, top
and bottom, and people's faces are clearly distorted in a vertical
direction (i.e. they have long faces). Also, if I hit Fast Forward,
the fast forward arrows are partly chopped off at the top of the
screen. Did you mean to say "leave it set to Wide Zoom"?, as that is
the mode that seems to display everything on the screen properly.
Also, in Zoom mode the screen is completely filled with no borders
anywhere. In Wide Zoom, the borders are at the top and bottom, rather
than at the sides as indicated in your reponse. Did you mean to say
"you will still have unused black borders on the top and bottom"?, or
am I still missing something here?

And one final quick question...when would Full mode ever be useful for
anything? What's the point of only stretching the picture

Thanks again for your help!

Clarification of Answer by aht-ga on 20 Jun 2004 22:27 PDT
Sorry, in my haste to provide the Answer, I visualized things
backwards, as your Clarification Request astutely indicates. As Zoom
mode, like the zoom mode of a camera, expands the view in both the
horizontal and vertical directions until the "standard" 16:9 letterbox
area of the 4:3 signal fills the 16:9 screen, then indeed in the other
ratios it will chop off parts from the top and bottom of the used
area. This is assuming that the DVD player setting is left in the 16:9
TV mode (and for sanity's sake, that's where I'd leave it so that you
don't need to hit fifteen buttons every time you just want to watch a
movie!). Wide Zoom is the correct mode to use for the non-16:9,
non-4:3 ratio movies, as this will stretch the 'middle' of the
vertical direction, without chopping off any of the vertical, while
linearly stretching the horizontal direction. For 16:9 movies, though,
Zoom mode will always look better than Wide Zoom, since for those
movies you actually want it to chop off the unused black areas at the
top and bottom. What would be most ideal would be if your Grand WEGA
gave you enough control over the Zoom mode so that you could zoom in
and out in small steps; this would let you zoom out until nothing is
chopped off anymore. A wish list item, for sure.

As for the Full mode (where only the horizontal gets stretched), I
fully agree with you; it is rare that the Full mode is practical for
anything involving living creatures, text, or most graphics. The only
time it would be useful would be if you had a source where the signal
was intentionally compressed horizontally, so that Full mode would
stretch it back out. The loss of resolution would run counter to any
potential advantages of increased screen area, though.


Google Answers Researcher
captainpooky-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00

Subject: Re: Zoom settings on a widescreen TV
From: aht-ga on 21 Jun 2004 21:51 PDT
Thanks for the tip, and have a great time with your new TV!

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