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Why do we have wide-screen displays?

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    Why do we have wide-screen displays?

    Okay, so the answer to the topic obviously is "to watch movies made in wide-screen format", right?

    But why are movies made that way? My field of vision is not a mailbox-sized rectangle. In fact, a little simple experimentation seems to indicate that it's roughly circular. That is, I can see the floor and ceiling of this room as well as the walls without shifting my vision.

    I can understand Cinemascope--in my youthful days, I spent some time picking up cash as a projectionist in a drive-in theater. I'm familiar with changing lamp carbons, striking and regulating arcs, threading up film, doing changeovers (and marking them), etc. All skills of absolutely no value today.

    And I do remember the big heavy Cinemascope anamorphic lenses--and the hilarious results if you forgot to change them. But Cinemascope was a simple way for a theater owner to expand his viewing area by simply adding "wings" to the projection screen. After the wider screen, the only other investment was a set of lenses to "stretch" the image, at a sacrifice in brightness (often, a theater would upgrade their "cans" at the same time they moved to wide-screen).

    It wasn't practical to expand the screen in the vertical direction, obviously, as indoors, you're limited by where the floor and ceiling are as well as needing a certain amount of elevation to clear the top of the audience. Outdoors, you'd be looking at an expensive structural engineering nightmare.

    But today's home viewing experience isn't limited by this. So why are there no 60-inch wide and high TVs? And why is the broadcast format still the old 16:9 aspect ratio? It seems silly to me.

    This topic came up to me as I was tossing out some old Electronic Design magazines and happened to run across an exposition of that special-effects-laden-but-lousy-writing spectacle Prometheus. The talent was expensive, the equipment cost must have been astronomical and you wind up with a 2-star rated (they don't give zero stars) disaster.
    Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

    #2
    As a long time pro photographer I know that a roughly 5:3 aspect was what we always strived to achieve to obtain the greatest eye appeal. 5:3 = 15:9 so 16:9 seems to be a slightly further refinement of the 5:3 or 15:9 aspect ratio. I don't know where the 5:3 originally came from or even if it has any real truth behind it, however. But it is and always has been the industry standard.
    PM me if you're looking for 3" or 5" floppy disks. EMail For everything else, Take Another Step

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      #3
      Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
      But why are movies made that way? My field of vision is not a mailbox-sized rectangle. In fact, a little simple experimentation seems to indicate that it's roughly circular. That is, I can see the floor and ceiling of this room as well as the walls without shifting my vision.
      Human field of vision is a horizontally-elongated oval. (If our eyes were spaced farther apart, it would be more elongated; if we were cyclops, it would be almost a circle.) But since we haven't found a way to make oval TVs cheaply (yet), we make do with rectangles.
      Offering a bounty for:
      - A working Sanyo MBC-775 or Logabax 1600
      - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)

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        #4
        Originally posted by Trixter View Post
        Human field of vision is a horizontally-elongated oval. (If our eyes were spaced farther apart, it would be more elongated; if we were cyclops, it would be almost a circle.)
        Does that make Chuck(G), with his 'roughly circular' field of vision, some form of cyclopsian derivative?
        PM me if you're looking for 3" or 5" floppy disks. EMail For everything else, Take Another Step

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          #5
          Originally posted by Trixter View Post
          Human field of vision is a horizontally-elongated oval. (If our eyes were spaced farther apart, it would be more elongated; if we were cyclops, it would be almost a circle.) But since we haven't found a way to make oval TVs cheaply (yet), we make do with rectangles.
          Ahem, remember the old port hole TV's?
          IBM PS/2 Model 25, NEC V30 8MHz, 640KB RAM, ATI VGA Wonder XL, 2GB SSD, Ethernet, DR DOS 6/GeOS, Xircom PE3 Ethernet

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            #6
            What about the idea of 16:10 displays? I'm noticing them more in higher end screens, and they don't seem so wide as they're slightly taller. Technically CGA's 320x200 was a 16:10 resolution, so where did that idea come from?

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              #7
              Originally posted by Trixter View Post
              Human field of vision is a horizontally-elongated oval. (If our eyes were spaced farther apart, it would be more elongated; if we were cyclops, it would be almost a circle.) But since we haven't found a way to make oval TVs cheaply (yet), we make do with rectangles.
              Eh, Zenith did back around 1950 . . .
              Surely not everyone was Kung-Fu fighting

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                #8
                Feh. 4:3 or nothing.
                Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
                Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/X5DR, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Proteus/2, Moog Satellite, Oberheim SEM
                "'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by evildragon View Post
                  Ahem, remember the old port hole TV's?
                  Yes, but those scanned in a rectangle just like all CRT broadcast tubes, and were only port-holed due to framing of the picture.
                  Offering a bounty for:
                  - A working Sanyo MBC-775 or Logabax 1600
                  - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by Trixter View Post
                    Yes, but those scanned in a rectangle just like all CRT broadcast tubes, and were only port-holed due to framing of the picture.
                    At least one Zenith model had a round CRT back then, just like some o'scopes of the day. IIRC, there were quite a few round CRT's and some tv's had a mask or bezel over the tube to make them look somewhat rectangular. I had a 10" Hallicrafter [1948] that my grandmother gave to me and it had a round CRT (push button tuning also).
                    Last edited by Agent Orange; March 28, 2013, 03:46 PM.
                    Surely not everyone was Kung-Fu fighting

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                      #11
                      I'll say that when I walk into a room with normal 8 ft. or thereabouts ceiling, I'm acutely aware of where both the floor and ceiling are. I can't say that about TeeVee. Similarly, if I watch TV, almost all of my attention is focused in a rougly square area in the center of the screen. If I'm watching an old movie that occupies the center of the screen, it's only a couple of minutes before I've forgotten that it's not wide-screen.

                      If the object is realism, it fails miserably. The few times I've seen 3D TV, I've had to quit because of a raging headache. Apparently I'm not alone.

                      All of this reminds me of the 1930s experiments with "realism" in sound. One of the radio manufacturers did a double-blind study using a small live ensemble behind a curtain and electronics using the best available technology of the day. Strangely, there were those who claimed that they couldn't tell the difference. The more startling conclusion was that people preferred listening to bandwidth-limited (6KHz, I think) reproduction than with the best wideband technology back then.

                      I remember the first time I heard FM radio--I thought it was stunningly real. I could never reach that conclusion again.

                      Maybe one day we'll have full-surround TV with touch, smell and taste. But wide-screen ain't it.
                      Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

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                        #12
                        Well, one reason movies aren't as tall as they are wide is of course that there's very little of interest up there.. and I guess the microphones would be diffiult to hide!

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by Tor View Post
                          Well, one reason movies aren't as tall as they are wide is of course that there's very little of interest up there.. and I guess the microphones would be diffiult to hide!
                          ...not to mention the lighting gear. Yours is the best answer that I've heard justifying the use of wide-screen instead of tall-screen. How many TV sitcoms show the ceiling of a room, much less showing the floor covered with gaffer's tape and spotting marks for the cast?

                          Oh, by the way, here's the article on the filming of Prometheus.
                          Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

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                            #14

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                              #15
                              Originally posted by Chuck(G) View Post
                              I'll say that when I walk into a room with normal 8 ft. or thereabouts ceiling, I'm acutely aware of where both the floor and ceiling are. I can't say that about TeeVee. Similarly, if I watch TV, almost all of my attention is focused in a rougly square area in the center of the screen. If I'm watching an old movie that occupies the center of the screen, it's only a couple of minutes before I've forgotten that it's not wide-screen.

                              If the object is realism, it fails miserably. The few times I've seen 3D TV, I've had to quit because of a raging headache. Apparently I'm not alone.

                              All of this reminds me of the 1930s experiments with "realism" in sound. One of the radio manufacturers did a double-blind study using a small live ensemble behind a curtain and electronics using the best available technology of the day. Strangely, there were those who claimed that they couldn't tell the difference. The more startling conclusion was that people preferred listening to bandwidth-limited (6KHz, I think) reproduction than with the best wideband technology back then.

                              I remember the first time I heard FM radio--I thought it was stunningly real. I could never reach that conclusion again.

                              Maybe one day we'll have full-surround TV with touch, smell and taste. But wide-screen ain't it.
                              The first stereo that I ever heard was from the movie 'This is Cinerama', about 1953 or so, at the Music Hall in downtown Detroit. The 1955 GM Autorama Expo, at the Michigan Stae Fair grounds, had a kiosk display where one could put on a headset and hear a montage of sounds, in stereo, such as a lion roaring, crowd noise, jet aircraft, etc.
                              Surely not everyone was Kung-Fu fighting

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