4:3 vs 16:9: Best Aspect Ratio for Widescreen Video Projection
February 27, 2015

4:3 vs 16:9: Best Aspect Ratio for Widescreen Video Projection

Taking Your Presentations Into the Widescreen Era

One of the most common media discussions over the past 15 years has to be when, where, and how to make the full leap from 4:3 to the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio.

Even today, we’re still having this discussion. The concern isn’t so much with video formatting—it's rare these days to shoot video at the older 4:3 aspect ratio, and even more rare to find an LCD monitor that isn’t 16:9 widescreen.

Where the discussions continue are with PowerPoint and Keynote slide deck presentations and video projection screens.

Let’s take a historic look at where we came from and where we are today as we move our presentation content permanently into the 16:9 widescreen format.

1917 Called. They Want Their Aspect Ratio Back

Back in 1917 the 4:3 aspect ratio was born. The conventional screens where films were typically projected were approximately 33 percent wider than they were tall.

Moving ahead to the 1930s, when television technology was in development, this format aspect ratio was adopted as the standard for TV broadcast and cathode ray tube displays.

As technology moved forward for both film and television, so did the aspect ratio. We began to see wider formats both in the movie theaters and in our homes, then, ultimately, on our computer screens.

Today’s Widescreen Aspect Ratio = 16:9

Today, the media display format that is most common to home and business applications is simply referred to as “widescreen.”

For us, this means 16:9, which is now 78 percent wider than it is tall. This aspect ratio represents nearly all of the LCD displays we see today including HD formats.

4:3 vs 16:9: Once and For All

Widescreen displays are nearly the norm now outside of a few tablets that are holding on to the 4:3 aspect ratio.

But I suspect the smart folks at Apple will soon follow suit and your beloved iPad will soon be exclusively produced with widescreen displays.

Then can we finally say goodbye to 1917 and join 2015?

Fitting 4:3 Presentations into the 16:9 Aspect Ratio

Before such widespread adoption, we started considering 16:9 widescreen to be exclusive to HD content. Event producers would fit SD (standard definition) into this aspect ratio using letter boxing (or pillar boxing) to center the 4:3 image in the middle of the widescreen display.

Today we understand that widescreen is not exclusive to HD. We can create standard definition content in widescreen and take full advantage of all that horizontal space to deliver our content more effectively.

Stop Designing Slide Decks at 4:3

Then we have meetings and events: one of the last hold-outs of the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Why? Because even today, there are many PowerPoint (PPT) and Keynote templates that are being designed on laptops with 4:3 display screens and with PPT versions that default to 4:3 when new sessions are opened.

The trouble is that most event staging companies have done away with their 4:3 screens in exchange for 16:9 sizes along with projector upgrades that now support HD and beyond.

So, we wind up with your content shrunk down into a square in the middle of the screen. Welcome back to 1917.

Start Designing Slide Decks at 16:9

It doesn’t have to be this way. PowerPoint 2013 now defaults to 16:9 when you open a new session. Need an overhaul of a previous template?

Talented presentation designers from your event partner group (like the creative team at massAV) can reformat your presentation templates to widescreen dimensions, allowing you to take full advantage of the 16:9 content space.

Unfortunately it is not as simple as just hitting a “reformat” button. Often times your presentation content needs to be rebuilt to fit the widescreen format without stretch distortions.

You can do this from scratch on your own, or work with your events partner to ensure your presentations will look as good on the projection screens as they do on your modern widescreen LCD displays.

MassAV is the premier event staging and creative provider, helping Fortune 100 clients design and execute presentation content locally and around the globe. Give us a call and let’s get your presentation out of the 1900’s and into the future.

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