Native 2.35:1 Displays

Thanks for your amazing podcast; I've been an avid listener since episode 1. I was wondering if you could spend some time on the topic of ultra-widescreen projectors and 21:9 TVs. There are very few products of the sort, and many people spend a small fortune on anamorphic lenses, stretching processors, and such. Why are there no native 21:9 projectors out there? Ninety percent of my viewing is in 2.35 and above, and I always have black bars on the top and bottom. In my mind, 16:9 is the new full screen. What's coming down the road ahead?

Atli Davidsson

Thanks for the kind words! I'll certainly look into covering this topic on a future show. Actually, there are a few projectors with native 2.35:1 aspect ratio—Digital Projection (seen on the left above) and SIM2 announced such models at CEDIA this year, and projectiondesign announced one at CEDIA last year. However, the price tag for all of them is well into five figures, so we're still talking about a small fortune, and I doubt we'll see a significant price drop anytime soon.

As for 21:9 flat panels, Philips makes one for the European market, and Vizio has been promising one (seen on the right above) in the US for quite some time now. However, the company has still not announced when it will be available, nor has it announced final size or pricing, though knowing Vizio, I bet it will be surprisingly affordable.

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kelsci's picture

Many years ago, VIDEO magazine published an article concerning the 16X9 ratio. Boy, I wish I had saved that piece. Essentially, there was an artist conception how all the ratios we know of would fit and look in the 16X9 ratio. It appeared to be a compromise to allow a decent image on the 4X3 and the 2:35 to 1 ratios. True you would get bars on these images but what would be the alternative using 2:35 to 1 as a screen size on flat panel sets only. Personally, I have been very satisfied with the 16X9 ratio on my flat screen tv. I hope that ratio remains that way. I have a lot of 4X3 material on dvd-r and would hate to think what that would look like on 2:35 to 1 screen. I cannot really comment on projectors but if they offer a flexible projection lens assembly to handle both ratios that is fine.

utopianemo's picture

Scott, if you do cover this topic, make sure to talk about panasonic's projectors, which use an auto zoom feature to allow for a black-bar free 2.35:1 experience(provided one purchases the requisite screen). Sure, it's not natively 2.35:1, but for those of us unable and/or unwilling to spend thousands on lenses and scalers, it is a clever and elegant solution.

MatthewWeflen's picture

I have a difficult time agreeing with Mr. Davidsson's sentiment regarding 1.78:1 and 1.85:1 images.

For one thing, 1.85:1 was the aspect ratio that Hollywood switched to (from 4:3, meaning that films such as "Gone With The Wind" and "Wizard of Oz" are somehow inferior) in order to compete with television. Are all of those films (including classics such as Hitchcock's "North By Northwest") somehow inferior because of their aspect ratio?

2.35:1 film is not the pinnacle of ultra-wide aspect ratios, either. Ben-Hur weighs in at a skinny 2.76:1. Does that mean that 2.35:1 films are somehow lacking, and only "Ben-Hur" is worth watching?

The only time an aspect ratio is "inferior" is when it is not the original aspect ratio that the film or video was shot in. "Full screen" is certainly an abomination when it butchers a "widescreen" image. But it is not an abomination in and of itself.

Old Ben's picture

I don't understand the benefit of having a native 2.35:1 display. I get that there may be some satisfaction of not having wasted space on the screen and of not having the black bars. However, if I understand correctly (and maybe I don't), a 2.35:1 display does not offer a better picture over a 16x9 display because the source material does not take advantage. Take, for example, a 2.35:1 movie encoded on a 1080P blu ray disc. As I understand it, each frame of the movie image will occupy 817 of the 1080 vertical lines. The remaining 263 vertical lines on the 1080P coding will be black.

The 2.35:1 display either (i) will have 817 vertical lines such that it can ignore the black information from the blu ray disc or (ii) will have 1080 vertical lines and will scale the 817 vertical lines to 1080 lines. In either circumstance, there is no new information being displayed on a 2.35:1 display that is not being displayed on a 16x9 display.

Perhaps there is a chicken and egg aspect to this? I guess it is possible that a blu ray disc could be encoded such that the 1080 vertical lines are completely within the vertical limits of a 2.35:1 picture (although an updated blu ray spec may be needed?). Without 2.35:1 displays, such a format for the media is commercially impractical. However, I think the 2.35:1 displays in the home are problematic for other reasons.

As I understand it, 2.35:1 is popular for movies because it is considered to be more immersive because it extends the image into the viewer's peripheral vision. In a movie theater, this is possible because the image right in front of me also is adequate. What I mean is that the image is large enough that the vertical span of the screen is large enough that my vertical vision also is mostly filled by the image. At home, this is not the case. Unless I am obscenely wealthy, my screen size is significantly smaller than what I would see at a movie theater. For a given diagonal screen size, as I increase the picture ratio, the vertical dimension of the picture decreases. As nice as it is to have the image filling my peripheral vision, I still want a nicely-sized picture immediately in front of me. This brings me to the second stumbling point - horizontal size. For me (and I suspect for most), the horizontal dimension of my TV is the stumbling point. We have plently of vertical wall space for the TV, but have limited horizontal space in our living room to fit the TV. To make a 2.35:1 TV large enough that the vertical dimension is satisfactory, the TV would be so wide that it would be impractical in many (if not most) homes.

In the end, I think the 16x9 displays are the perfect size, trading a reasonable amount of peripheral view image for vertical size (at a given diagonal size). There may be a small market for 2.35:1 displays, but I cannot imagine the market would ever be large enough to justify the cost of creating media that takes advantage of it.

chrisheinonen's picture

If you are width limited instead of height limited, then going with a 16x9 screen makes sense. As far as choosing a 2.35 or 2.40 screen, sometimes that comes down to looking at what you watch and what you will be using your projector for. My projector is in a cave that I never watch TV in (I don't even have a tuner in it) and 80% or more of the movies that I watch are 2.35 or 2.40 ratio. Since the vast majority of what I watch are this format, I'd prefer to not have the black bars in that ratio than in the 16x9 ratio.

The lack of an anamorphic, or ratio, flag in the Blu-ray spec is a little bit annoying as it would allow for extra resolution for 2.35 content if you had an anamorphic lens, or a new projector with the special DLP chip. It's likely too late to add this to the spec, but I imagine for whatever format we use for 4K they can add this in.

On question I had that was never answered was if the new DLP chip that companies use for native 2.35 projectors are larger than the standard DLP chips. Since the top and bottom of the chip aren't used, as it's still a 16x9 chip but higher resolution, if the chip isn't larger, then there is going to be less light output since part of the chip isn't used to reflect light. Hopefully it's a larger chip, since that will reflect more light back, but since it's such a high end product right now they can afford the lamps to power a large screen.