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Question: Viewing classic movies on HDTV?


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I have a fairly large collection of recorded classic movies on videotape from VCR and DVD from DVD recorder. I play them on a CRT(analog) old-fashioned 32" television. To me it seems perfect for watching classic movies for nearly all were made in the same 4:3 aspect ratio as my TV.


How is it watching classic movies, recorded or otherwise, on a high def TV with its 16:9 aspect ratio?

I can't possibly see how it could be as good. Don't you have black bars on the sides of the set to fit the 4:3 image on a 16:9 screen?


And my CRT 32" screen has to have a much larger viewing area than a 32" HDTV just because there are more square inches in the 32" 4:3 compared to 32" in the 16:9 because screen size is measured diagonally. I figure I would need about a 50" HDTV to get the same number of square inches of viewing area that I know get with my 32" CRT.


The problem for me is that companies don't seem to be making the CRT TVs any more. I would like to hear about your opinions on how it is watching movies and TV shows recorded in the 4:3 aspect ration on a 16:9 HDTV.


Edited by: rover27 on May 15, 2010 4:54 PM

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I actually do not have anything helpful to suggest. I just wanted to let you know that I have wondered about the same thing. It's always nice, if you post something, to get an answer of some kind from someone. So I'm just saying, "I hear you", and I hope you get a solution to the problem.

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Yes, to see the 4:3 aspect you will have the black bars at the side. I work at a place where they have a HDTV hooked up to standard cable and they keep it on the 16:9 setting and it makes everyone looks fat! (and everything else out of proportion).


I have a color bar dot generator and I use it to demonstrate to some how the normal cross hatch looks on a standard TV and when I hook it up to a hi def TV, its shows how stretched out the picture is. Some I showed still don't get it.


Each aspect has to be properly set for proper viewing.


If one would to hook up a color bar generator and set it to cross hatch, the *normal* appearance for the 4:3 setting should look like this on *any* TV set. It will have to be connected to the composite in or the video in. They don't support HDMI. I hope this helps.



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Well, if you are one of those folks who can't stand black bars at all, and mainly watch old films with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio (~4x3,) then you have a problem.


Personally, I think the bigger and sharper the picture, the better. And, I want the original aspect ratio. When I went from a rear projection CRT TV to a HDTV, I bought a HDTV that is as tall as my old RPCRT was. That way, 4x3 pictures are the same size as before, and 16x9 pictures are bigger in area. TCM SD, and especially DVDs look far better on my HDTV than they ever did on the RPCRT. The black bars on the sides don't bother me at all.

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*I work at a place where they have a HDTV hooked up to standard cable and they keep it on the 16:9 setting and it makes everyone looks fat!* - hamradio


So did my brother's until I pointed it out!


I have yet to get a new TV and accompanying DISH upgrade, but when I do, my old 27-inch will have a comfy spot in my bedroom in case I hate the sidebars. I hardly ever wear my glasses anymore, so I probably won't be able to tell the difference in quality anyway. :-)

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I have a 55 inch 120hz Samsung and I can only say this: Blu-ray is perfect, I just got the UK Masters of Cinema editions of Murnau's Sunrise (1927) & City Girl (1930) and Godard's Une Femme Mariee (1964), all in 1.37 ratio or smaller (black bars on sides which don't bother me), and they've never looked better (rendered at a progressive 24 frames rather than 2:3 pulldown, lots of film grain + superior picture depth.) That said, DVD is just alright I think, even upconverted. Results may vary depending upon what you're watching. SD cable and VHS are terribly sub-par.


I've kept an old TV just for DVD, SD cable, and VHS. So I'd say it is a good idea to keep an old tube set lying around. Like everything HD, only programs with video transfers ready for that resolution will look great on those systems (many films will never be rescanned to take advantage of the higher resolution or it will be quite some time until it happens but the films that have been do look spectacular.)


(Note: Since the misconception often arises on internet message boards like IMDB that it's pointless to release old films, like Sunrise, on Blu-ray, it bears repeating that 35mm film of any age is suitable for 1080p transfer. Inherent frame detail might not improve that much on some films but there ARE other benefits like simply taking advantage of ALL of the available TV resolution as well as film grain, picture depth, and a genuine frame for frame reproduction of the film.)


Edited by: JonasEB on May 16, 2010 2:00 AM

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To get the same size 4:3 image on an 16:9 display that you get with a 32" CRT, you'd need to get one measuring 40" diagonally. Here's a link to the screen size calculator I used for that:




For "TV 1" I specified a 32" TV with a 4:3 aspect ratio.


For "TV 2" I specified a 16:9 aspect ratio and played around with the screen size inches until I came up with an image size that was close. Note that you also get a graphical demonstration of the image size and how it will display, including the black bars at the sides.


You'll need to set the options on the HDTV and, if you're using a DVD player, also on it to assure you're getting the 4:3 image displayed correctly. On a quality, properly-adjusted hi-def display, older films look wonderful, significantly better that on a CRT in my opinion, and this is from a person who had CRT-based front projectors from 1976 thru 2009.

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