Have you ever been captivated by a show or movie that has played on your television set? Have you noticed the intricate details and sound effects and wondered how it all came together? Are you plagued with curiosity about certain details of television production? I’m sure we’ve all been here before. However, most people aren’t as easily enthralled by the shows on their television set as they are by the movies playing on the big screens in the local theater. This is all partly due to the role of aspect ratio in television sets versus movie theater screens.
The aspect ratio of a screen is the relationship between the width and the height of a television frame. Movie theater screens have a significantly larger aspect ratio than that of normal TV sets, so the arrangement of words on the screen can be more varied and dramatic. The aspect ratio for a TV set is smaller, limiting the amount of information that can be placed on a screen. The information also must be placed in such a way to cause the most impact from the audience. The traditional aspect ratio of a television screen is four units wide by three units high. For an HDTV, the aspect ratio changes to sixteen units by nine units. The increased width of the HDTV causes it to appear more like a movie theater screen than traditional televisions, thus causing more impact on audiences.
A problem arises between the making of a video and the transmission of a video to home screens across the country. Because different TV sets have various aspect ratios, how can one be so sure that the entirety of their video will be seen, head-shots, subtitles, words, and all? The simple answer is to ensure that there is adequate room between the edges of the screen and the important information or shot. This precise framing is prescribed by the scanning areas and the essential areas. The scanning area is the picture seen in the viewfinder and on the preview monitors in the control room. The essential area is also known as the safe area and is centered in
the scanning area. Any viewer across the country is able to see the information or picture within the essential area.
Another problem arises with out-of-aspect-ratio graphics. This is where the desired picture or information does not fit the required aspect ratio, so in order to see the entirety of the shot, the graphic becomes so small that it isn’t readable. A way to avoid this is to divide the message up into smaller aspect ratio sections so that it’s able to all be seen in a close-up. This way, the audience at home can receive the message loudly and clearly.