How do I get rid of the black bars at the top and bottom?

Jan 08th, 2010 by dvdxplayer 3,295 views |Comments Off

The black bars are part of the letterbox process (see 3.5), and in many cases you can’t get rid of them, even if you have a widescreen TV. If you set the display option in your player to pan & scan (sometimes called fullscreen or 4:3) instead of letterbox, it won’t do you much good since almost no DVD movies have been released with this feature enabled. If you set the player to 16:9 widescreen output it will make the bars smaller, but this is intended for use with widescreen TVs only — you will get a tall, stretched picture on a standard TV.

In some cases, there may be both a fullscreen and a letterbox version of the movie on the same disc, with a variety of ways to get to the fullscreen version (usually only one works, so you may have to try all three):

1. Check the other side of the disc (if it’s two-sided)
2. Look for a fullscreen choice in the main menu
3. Use the “aspect” button on the remote control

DVD was designed to make movies look as good as possible on TV. Since most movies are wider than standard TVs, letterboxing preserves the format of the theatrical presentation. (Nobody seems to complain that the top and bottom of the picture are cut off in theaters.) DVD is ready for TVs of the future, which are widescreen. For these and other reasons, many movies on DVD are only available in widescreen format.

About two thirds of widescreen movies are filmed at 1.85 (flat) aspect ratio or less. In this case, the actual size of the image on your TV is the same for a letterbox version and a full-screen version, unless the pan & scan technique is used to zoom in (which cuts off part of the picture). In other words, the picture is the same size, with extra areas visible at the top and bottom in the fullscreen version. In more other words, letterboxing covers over the part of the picture that was also covered in the theater, or it allows the entire widescreen picture to be visible for movies wider than 1.85, in which case the letterboxed picture is smaller and has less detail than a pan & scan version would.

If you have a widescreen TV, make sure your player is set to 16:9 widescreen output. Most widescreen movies will fill the screen, but some movies are filmed at an aspect ratio of around 2.4. These movies are usually letterboxed to fit the 1.78 aspect ratio of your TV, so there’s nothing you can do about the black bars. Just be happy they’re much thinner than they would be on a standard TV.

If there’s not a fullscreen version of the movie on the disc, one solution is to use a DVD player with a zoom feature to enlarge the picture enough to fill the screen. This will cut off the sides of the picture, but in many cases it’s a similar effect to the pan and scan process. Just think of it as “do-it-yourself pan and scan.”

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