Spectrum TV

Why is a program displayed with black bars on the TV screen?

The black bars on a television screen fill space that the actual video is not using. This occurs because the aspect ratios of a program and a television do not always match. The black bars allow a program to be displayed without editing or distortion.

If black bars are displayed . . . Then . . .
above and below the screen

Letterbox Format

the video is being displayed in letterbox format. This occurs when a 16:9 image is displayed on a 4:3 TV. This commonly happens if you are watching a DVD or widescreen movie on a standard 4:3 TV.

Some channels broadcast only in widescreen format, even on standard definition channels, so all programs on those channels are in letterbox format when viewed on a standard 4:3 TV.

on the left and right of the screen

Pillarbox Format

the video is being displayed in pillar box format. This occurs when a 4:3 image is displayed on a 16:9 TV. This commonly happens if you have a widescreen, 16:9 HDTV and are watching a standard definition channel.
on all four sides of the screen

Window Box Format

the video is being displayed in window box format. This occurs when a 4:3 image is already letterboxed and is then displayed on a 16:9 TV. This happens if you have an HDTV and are watching a standard definition channel that is displaying a program in widescreen format. If you were watching the same channel on a 4:3 television, you would see the show in letterbox format.
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Article Number: 2177

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