16:9 Aspect Ratio: What Is This And Why This Widescreen Is So Popular?

Satyam Maitrai
Satyam Maitrai, Content Writer
ยท13 min read

16:9 Aspect Ratio

Undoubtedly, HD TVs look stunning, but have you ever wondered about the aspect ratio that’s involved in order to have this amazing experience? 

Have you given a thought as to why 16:9 is popular among YouTubers when it comes to uploading videos? And what makes it relevant even today?

Well, if you haven’t, today, through this article, let us help you explore everything about this ratio (and other popular ratios) along with its history, resolution, and application in detail.

Understanding ‘Aspect Ratio’ 

The comparable relation between the width and height of a screen or video display is known as the aspect ratio. The ratio is usually used in camera sensors, television displays, as well as in printed and digital media. 

The most prevalent aspect ratios are 4:3, also known as 1:3:3:1 or full screen, and 16:9, sometimes known as 1:78:1 or widescreens. 

Now, if you are wondering what widescreen is, in layman’s terms it is simply a TV that has a wider screen as compared to other televisions. 

The list also includes 3:2 aspect ratios suitable for sensors in devices like phones and cameras for shooting different media. Additionally, Cinemascope is a 2.35:1 extra wide aspect ratio used for making films for cinemas. 

Aspect ratios are important because there are many standards. The 19:9 ratio in phones is different from the 16:9 horizontal ratio in the modern laptop screens. Also, old computers have a 4:3 aspect ratio while mainstream media is displayed mostly in a 16:9 ratio. 

However, in the early days, almost all televisions and monitors had a 4:3 aspect ratio. It was square in shape, which was 33% wider than its height, and was generally known as a square monitor. However, they were not ideal for high-definition video displays. 

Finally, in 1917, the 16:9 aspect ratio was made the standard format for movies with the television industry following in its footsteps in 1930.

What Is The 16:9 Aspect Ratio?

The 16:9 aspect ratio is widely used in HDTV, non-HD TV, Full HD, and analog television screens. The ratio is obtained when you divide vertical pixels by horizontal pixels (in numbers), containing 1920 vertical lines and 1080 horizontal lines of resolution. 

For reference, a 16:9 aspect ratio on television simply means that the horizontal viewing area is wider (16) than the vertical viewing area (9). Practically all the television broadcasts were using this format by the end of 2005.

Moreover, the 16:9 format is natively supported in DVD format and is further used on Vimeo, YouTube, and other popular video websites attracting a very high view rate. 

Additionally, a 16:9 aspect ratio improves TV watching by offering more content on-screen. 

Also, the aspect ratio is clearly specified in the video production by mentioning the widths relative to height, such as 16:9. Today, this ratio has become the common video player size and is the default aspect ratio for most devices, both professional and consumer-grade electronics.

However, there are other reasons why it has become the standard aspect ratio. 

Some of them are:

  • Screens of this size have a greater resolution than those with 16:10 aspect ratios, which were once the industry norm. 
  • In comparison to its predecessors, creating displays that are compatible with this ratio is also more cost-effective. 
  • In the research area, standardization of TVs and computer displays with this aspect ratio saved producers time and money.

What Is The Resolution To The 16:9 Aspect Ratio?

When it comes to displaying a presentation or video on an electronic device, resolutions and aspect ratios are quite significant. The sharpness and clarity of your screen's image are also determined by its resolution. 

It's calculated by multiplying the number of horizontal pixels by the number of vertical pixels.

Moreover, even the sharpness of a picture on a display is determined by the monitor's resolution and size. Also, as the same number of pixels are spread out across a greater number of inches, the very same pixel resolution will be crisper on a smaller panel, and gradually lose sharpness on bigger monitors.

Now talking about the computer display system, its greatest resolution is determined by its physical ability to concentrate light (in which case the physical dot size - the dot pitch - corresponds to the pixel size), and it normally has lower resolutions. 

However, a display system with a maximum resolution of 1280 by 1023 pixels, for example, could additionally support resolutions of 1024x768, 800x600, and 640x480 pixels. Also, the highest resolution on a given display size may provide a crisper image, but it will be distributed across a space that is too tiny to read comfortably.

Now coming to the aspect ratio of a picture, it is the proportion of its width to its height, represented as two integers separated by a colon, for instance, 4:3. There are several aspect ratios in use in many mainstream press applications; nevertheless, in the television business, the 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios are the most frequent. 

Moreover, the 4:3 widescreen format, which is utilized for both standard and high definition video, has replaced the old standard definition format that is no longer used by broadcasters.

Although there are other resolutions to pick from, here is a list of the most commonly utilized resolutions (and their corresponding aspect ratios) today:

  1. The standard definition widescreen video resolution is 720 x 576 (16:9) pixels.
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint presentations have a default resolution of 1024 x 768 (4:3).
  3. An "HD Ready" Plasma / LCD's native resolution is typically 1366 x 768 (16:9).
  4. 1280 x 720 (16:9) — Also known as 720p, is a high-definition standard.
  5. Widescreen laptops typically have a resolution of 1280 x 800 (16:10).
  6. The high definition standard, sometimes known as 1080i/1080p, is 1920 x 1080 (16:9).

The Common Resolutions Of 16:9 Are:

Ratio Calculator: The Difference Between 4:3 And 16:9

The 4:3 aspect ratio, which was created by William Dickson in 1892, was established as the standard format for the film in 1917 by the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, and by the television industry in the 1930s. However, in the mid-1950s, the motion picture industry began to develop a variety of widescreen formats to boost their dwindling audience numbers. 

Despite the universal usage of 4:3 cameras, LCDs with a 4:3 aspect ratio were becoming increasingly difficult to come by. Many manufacturers moved on to the newer 16:9 widescreens. 

Second, 4:3 is slightly wider than it is high, which suited the box type of television that was used in the 1930s. 

Mathematically, as the relationship between the width and the height is shown in the ratio of 4:3, if one divides the width by the height is:

4 ÷ 3 = 1.33

This makes it 1.33:1, which serves as the aspect ratio of a 4:3 TV or projector screen. However, this aspect ratio only remained as long as the shape of the television remained square. 

This quickly changed when the 16:9 ratio came into the picture. It was much easier on the eyes, and the wide shape of the image closely reflected the natural way of seeing. This accounted for most high-definition widescreen LCDs and TVs with a 16:9 aspect ratio as their default standard (16:9 and 16:10 are very similar). Nonetheless, it's 78% broader than tall, and one-third bigger than a 4:3 screen.

Additionally, some versions can also show SD (standard definition) video streams, although this comes at a cost. 

Now, the 16:9 aspect ratio becomes 16 units wide and 9 units high - much wider in comparison to the 4:3 aspect ratio. Also, when the width is divided by the height it is:

16 ÷ 9 = 1.777

This makes it 1.78:1, which is a perfect fit for wider-sized televisions. 

Today, widescreen LCDs with a 16:9 aspect ratio act as the best complement to 16:9 format HD cameras. On top of that, this aspect ratio provides high-definition pictures that are clear and distortion-free, making video conferencing, and broadcasting more and more popular now.

What Are The Most Common Aspect Ratios In Films? 

Before I discuss the most common ratios in films, you must first understand that a fixed aspect ratio is used while making a film or television program. This is determined by the camera that is used to film the show, as well as the interface where it will be shown. As a result, TV series’ will almost certainly have a distinct native aspect ratio as compared to big-budget films. 

However, the sooner the film is edited, it may be released in a variety of aspect ratios, with the picture adjusted to fit the format. 

With a few exceptions, most films released after 1953 were in either 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 aspect ratios. However, most modern films are shot in 1.85:1, 2.35:1, or 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratios. A few silent films, such as Grandeur and " Vision, were shot in other unusual aspect ratios. 

  • Although there have been various aspect ratios used in the last few years, there are 4 popular formats that you will encounter frequently. This includes the following: 1.33:1 Ratio

This is the most common aspect ratio of SD (standard-definition) pictures and TVs, sometimes known as 4:3. However, as new TV displays migrate to widescreen, this is becoming less prevalent. 

Although there are still many older TV shows that are only accessible in this aspect ratio. As a result, you can watch any of the 4:3 television shows on your old 4:3 television without compromising much on quality. Surprising,  it?

However, on the widescreen TV (16:9), there will be bars on both sides due to the image not being large enough for the TV. In technical terms, this is referred to as vertical letterboxing or pillar boxing. 

To counter this, most TVs offer a 'justify' (or similar) feature that stretches the display to the edges, however, this could overstretch the image and distort its quality. 

A better option is to zoom in and eliminate the bars. Even though this will result in some activity at the bottom and top of the screen being lost, still this seems to be a better alternative.

  • 1.78:1 Ratio (the most popular)

The aspect ratio for almost all the widescreen TVs is 1.78:1, as previously stated. 16 x 9 or 16:9 are other names for it. Additionally,  is also a term used to describe this same aspect ratio. 

Frequently, 16:9 is the optimum aspect ratio used for presenting content on HDTV as it is the standard for high-definition television screens. Also, in case a show has a 16:9 aspect ratio, you can be assured that it will easily match the aspect ratio of the screen and that the contents of the show will fill the entire screen. 

However, when watching this video content over a 4:3 television the widescreen image is likely to have bars at the bottom and top of the screen. As a result, the image will look considerably smaller because it was designed to match the reduced width. 

  • 1.85:1 Ratio

For numerous films, 1.85:1 is a typical widescreen aspect ratio. It is widely used as a widescreen format in the United States, and it is somewhat wider than the normal 16:9 format. But, as the aspect ratio is nearly the same, a video with this aspect ratio may fit perfectly on a normal 16:9 HD TV. 

Letterboxing occurs when a 1.85:1 show is displayed on a 16:9 screen, although the bars at the bottom and top may be minimal since this form is already a good fit. 

  • 2.39:1 Ratio

When it comes to 2.39:1, it is a famous aspect ratio used in big movie releases, sometimes known as Panavision or CinemaScope. The aspect ratio used to be 2.35:1, but in the 1970s it was changed to 2.39:1. Apart from this, 2.40:1 is another popular rounding. 

If you are wondering where to find this information about aspect ratios, then let me tell you, the aspect ratio of the show or movie on the disc, as well as other information, may be found on the rear of your Blu-ray or DVD packaging. 

The History of 16:9 Aspect Ratio 

The 16:9 aspect ratio has a long history dating back to 1984 when Dr. Kerns H. Powers first proposed this aspect ratio to the electronic industry. This was the time when hardly anyone was creating videos in an aspect ratio other than 4:3. Moreover, this aspect ratio (16:9) was then used to solve the difficulty of cinematographic projectors fitting inside booths that were too tall for their width.

Today's widescreen displays and HDTVs, with their wide 16:9 aspect ratio, have completely transformed the way we view the world. They provide more working space and allow you to see larger pictures without compromising visibility. 

On top of that, the 16:9 aspect ratio has been increasingly popular in recent years due to the growing usage of computer displays and LCD televisions. Nonetheless, high-definition (HD) television has used the 16:9 aspect ratio since 2009, which 16:9 appeared in a wide range of media, including movies, television, video games, and even sports.

Which Aspect Ratio is Best for Watching Movies?

In motion pictures, video images, and still photos, the aspect ratio dictates the form and scale of the image. Aspect ratios are also used to describe a variety of objects, such as the shape and size of television and computer monitors. 

The most popular aspect ratio for watching movies is 1.33:1, while alternative ratios include 2.39:1 (often used for high definition television) and 4:3 (typically used for video games, and commonly used in standard-definition television). 

Also, most movies in theaters have a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is also referred to as a broad screen. Movies are also exhibited in considerably smaller proportions on television and computer displays, with varying aspect ratios, such as 4:3 (1.33:1) and 16:9. (1.78:1). 

16:9 Aspect Ratio in Action

Although 16:9 is the current industry standard, it can be difficult to figure out what else uses the format apart from computer monitors and television sets. After all, filming and distribution to cinemas still adhere to specific aspect ratios, and in many sectors of the filmmaking world, the 1.85:1 aspect ratio is still the conventional "flat" ratio. 

However, as discussed above, if you view a 1.85 film on a 16:9 screen, thin black bars are likely to appear at the bottom and top of the screen. Although, most of the 1.85 (including some 2.39) films have been filmed "open matte," which means that the complete image is almost closer to the standard ratio. 

This implies that many movies shot for 1.85 might be "opened up" when they are seen on a 16:9 or 4:3 television, eliminating letterboxing and providing more information (visual) at the bottom and top of the screen.

Nonetheless, if a film is shot using contemporary digital technology, it has a fair probability of being framed in almost any ratio. If you stay in 16:9 (like several YouTubers opt for), you may take advantage of a bigger aspect ratio. This is exactly why Netflix and other streaming providers have greater creative latitude and leeway. 

Even video games also have a significant impact on the adoption of 16:9 resolutions as the industry standard. 

Interesting, isn’t it?

Also, if you are a video game lover, and are looking forward to exploring more about how these games are made, then you don’t have to go any further, as we have the concepts covered here.

In conclusion

Most of the mentioned ratios can be better exhibited and portrayed with HD TVs, cameras, and monitors. Many television shows are broadcast (and even shot) in the native 16:9 ratio, and this is where the 16:9 ratio shines the brightest. 

On top of that, we recommend you to choose an LCD monitor that comes with the correct aspect ratio so that there is no difficulty in matching the incoming video signal coming from the camera or other digital gadgets, and that even your storyboarding process can go smoothly.

Nonetheless, due to the effect of 16:9 being used everywhere else, even your phone now comes in widescreen. Although it's still early in the game, the 16:9 aspect ratio has had a significant influence on how one consumes and enjoys entertaining, and it's difficult to see anything surpassing it.

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