is a videographic technique utilising rectangular (wide) pixels to store awidescreenimage to standard 4:3aspect ratio.In its current definition as a video term, it originally wasdevised for widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio television sets, however, it has been used in regular film moviesfor decades.
DVDsusing anamorphic widescreen are metaphorically similar toanamorphic formatfilm negatives(although technically, the two formats are very different), wherein the rectangular image is optically-squeezed (horizontally) to fit inside the available negative area of standard filmstock. Anamorphicwidescreen DVDs use a similar horizontal-squeezing technique to different purpose. When viewed onstandard 4:3 televisions, without adjustment, the anamorphic DVD image will look compressed, such thatthe actors look exceptionally thin and tall (and a circle will appear as a vertical oval). Changing the DVD player's menu to the "4:3 letterbox" setting will digitally-insert black bars to the top/bottom of the image,thus eliminating the distortion and allowing the movie to be viewed in letterbox format. (Alternatively, theviewer can replace the 4:3 t.v. set with a widescreen 16:9 t.v. set. The DVD needn't be changed, because theimage is anamorphically encoded, however, the wider, 16:9 screen will eliminate visual distortion andwithout as much letterboxing.)Most video DVDs include a data marker that allows the player to automatically select whether the videoshould be presented with digitally-inserted black bars for 4:3 sets, or "as is" for 16:9 sets. If the source filmis wider than the 16:9 (approximately 1.78:1) aspect ratio, then narrow black bars will be recorded on thetop/bottom of the DVD's video, in order to preserve the proper appearance of the film (e.g. footage using asaspect ratio of 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 or whatever the director selected).The DVD 720x480 standard was based upon the older analog NTSCandPALstandards which have a fixed4:3 aspect ratio, but a variable horizontal resolution (approximately 200 up to 700) depending upon the
quality of the received signal. The DVD specification was designed to capture this variable resolution,assuming an ideal lossless NTSC or PAL signal. Discussing the encoding of anamorphic DVD is somewhatdifficult, because of the older analog formats which it depends upon. NTSChas approximately 720x480visible pixels, but they are non-square pixels (see the discussion under pixel aspect ratio
), so you cannotsimply divide the horizontal resolution by the vertical resolution to get the aspect ratio. Similarly,PALisapproximately 720x576, but the pixels are again non-square (they are shaped rectangularly as well -- but ina different way than NTSC pixels). By measuring the dimensions of the physical screens on which both NTSC and PAL/SECAM signals are displayed, or alternatively by imagining perfectly square pixels in agrid of size 640x480, it turns out that the aspect ratio is 4:3 (approximately 1.33) when measured properly.To return to the DVD encoding, it is incorrect to say that the "720x480" pixels indicate that the DVD datahas an aspect ratio of 1.5:1, because the pixels are (just like in NTSC) non-square.A typical purely-non-widescreen DVD will (non-anamorphically) encode a 4:3 datasource into these720x480 pixels with the assumption that they will be displayed in NTSC fashion on a display with a physical 4:3 aspect ratio, with the DVD player set in standard 4:3 viewing mode. Alternatively, awidescreen DVD will anamorphically encode a widescreen datasource (i.e. one with a large aspect ratiosuch as 1.85:1 or 2.35:1) by digitally compressing the visual information so that it will reside in the same720x480 grid, but will appear to be in an optically distorted form when viewed under typical 4:3 NTSC/PAL/SECAM playback (again with the DVD player in standard 4:3 viewing mode). To view thecompressed information properly on a 4:3 television, the DVD player can be placed into the 4:3 letterboxmode. To decompress the image data, the DVD player will shrink the image height appropriately (addingthe black letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the 4:3 screen in the process). The benefit of thewidescreen DVD is that you may load the same disc into a DVD player connected to a 16:9 television, putthe DVD player into 16:9 mode, and "decompress" the anamorphic image data by spreading out the imagewidth (grabbing the image by both ears and pulling outwards). If you stretched out a normal image thatwasn't anamorphically encoded in this fashion, serious distortion would result, but because the image datawas anamorphically encoded/compressed when the DVD was created, the stretching actually corrects theimage data so that it faithfully reproduces the original cinematic format (including the correct aspect ratio). Note that a widescreen DVD doesn't mean that letterboxing will be entirely eliminated; this is only possibleto accomplish without distortion when the original movie has an aspect ratio of 16:9. Movies that had anaspect ratio of 1.85:1 are very close to that number, however, and experience minimal letterboxing (lessthan 4% of the display height). Movies with 2.35:1 aspect ratios are further away from the 1.78:1 HDTVstandard, which means that even when viewing the widescreen DVD there will still be clearly visibleletterboxing.
Pre-2001 MGM Anamorphic DVD Packaging Sample.Pre-2004 Universal Anamorphic DVD Packaging Sample. Now same graphic used by Sony Pictures HomeEntertainment
DVDs with a 16:9 aspect ratio are typically labeled anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16:9 televisions,enhanced for widescreen televisions, or similar, although currently there is no labeling standard. Otherwise,the movie will only support the standard full-frame display and will simply be letterboxed.There has been no clear standardization for companies to follow regarding the advertisement of anamorphically enhanced widescreen DVDs. Some companies, such as Universal andDisney,include theaspect ratioof the movie. Below are how various companies advertise their anamorphic DVD movies ontheir packaging:
20th Century Fox: Enhanced for Widescreen TVs, Anamorphic Widescreen, sometimes notlabeled, includes aspect ratio on newer titles.
Anchor Bay: Enhanced for 16:9 TVs, includes aspect ratio in most cases.
Artisan Entertainment: 16:9 Fullscreen Version, or Enhanced for 16:9 Television (since it became part of Lions Gate, the newer reissues include aspect-ratio information on many titles).
Buena Vista:Enhanced for 16:9 Televisions, includes aspect ratio.
instead of giving aspect ratio.It should also be noted that 35 mm theatrical releases are not the only releases. An anamorphic widescreenDVD with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, 1.73:1, or 1.85:1 is a 35mm original widescreen theatrical release.Ratios of 2.2:1 to 2.5:1 represent even wider formats such asCinemaScopeor 70 mm.Both forms exist incommercial movies today in addition to the specialty 120mmIMAXformat. The differences in letterboxand widescreen have been denoted throughout their history on VHS tapes as the amount of viewable black bars long before widescreen TVs and Digital media gave way to larger viewable aspect ratios. Letterboxedmovies were more compressed, having larger black bar areas. "16:9 enhanced" (or another similar message)simply means that it has been encoded for the media device and TV/Monitor to recognize and play in anuncompressed viewing mode taking full advantage of a widescreen device.
Many commercial cinematic presentations (especially epics -- usually with 2.35:1 aspect ratio) are recordedonto standard 35mm ~4:3 aspect ratio film (accounting for the standard 1932Academy ratiothe true aspectratio of the image data is actually 1.375 but this is close enough to 4:3 that the difference is often glossedover), using an anamorphic lens to horizontally compress all footage into a ~4:3 frame. Another anamorphic lens on the movie theatre projector ultimately corrects (optically decompresses) the picture.Seeanamorphic formatfor details. Other movies (often with aspect ratios of 1.85:1 in the USA or 1.66:1 inEurope) are made using the simpler matte (filmmaking)technique, which involves both filming and projecting without any expensive special lenses. The movie is produced in 1.375 format, and then theresulting image is simply cropped in post-production (or perhaps in the theater's projector) to fit the desiredaspect ratio of 1.85:1 or 1.66:1 or whatever is desired. Besides costing less, the main advantage to the matte