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4:3 vs. 16:9 -- What is the best solution?

Evan Powell, November 21, 2001


There is a strong movement afoot trying to get consumers to bow down to the 16:9 gods. The only problem is the world is not 16:9. It is a bunch of formats and 4:3 is still huge among them. And your home theater must deal with all formats one way or another. Each of the three basic solutions has definite advantages and obvious limitations. No single solution is "better" than another-they are each merely better for certain types of display.

My objective here has been to smash the prevailing myth that a 16:9 projector and 16:9 screen must be the best solution simply because the format is new. It is certainly not true for me. It may or may not be true for you. Only you can determine that.

As you design your home theater, think carefully about how much 4:3 material you like to watch and how you would prefer to see it. Is it important that your "widescreen" material be physically wider than your 4:3? If so, you should set it up that way. Is maximum resolution in HDTV your ultimate primary goal? Then a 16:9 projector and 16:9 screen is a great way to go.

If on the other hand you find that there is a lot of 4:3 video, TV, and film that you want to see in large format, then the 16:9 projector/screen combo will present you with limitations you may not enjoy. A 4:3 projector combined with a 4:3 screen and electric masking can produce dramatic results when installed and used to its best advantage.

You are the director in your own home theater. Think about each type of video/film you want to watch-standard TV, HDTV, music videos, current widescreen feature films, classic 4:3 films, etc. Visualize how you want to see them on your wall. After giving each format some thought, you can decide how each is to be displayed. Follow your instincts and preferences, consider all of your options with an open mind, and you will design the optimum solution.

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Screen Option Three
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