Widescreen Vs. Fullscreen

It is always a great feeling when you walk into a room and see Star Wars playing on the television. While over at a friends house everyone in the living room was watching The Empire Strikes Back, it was towards the beginning of the film, when the Empire is…. striking back at the rebel base on Hoth. While the rebels are fleeing the planet the base is providing cover fire. “Standby ion control.”
These words ring out and I turn towards the screen, but I cannot see who is saying those mission critical commands. It was because the DVD player contained the Full Screen (FS) version of the film.

I Hate Full Screen.

There are few things in this world or in film that I hate, but Full Screen movies are one of them. NEVER buy me a Full Screen movie. And here is why.

Full Screen movies CUT and CHOP the film from its original aspect (rectangle) to a TV safe aspect (square). Some innocent television viewers, when watching a Widescreen movie on their square televisions think that the black bars at the top and the bottom are cut away from the picture, in fact they are preserving the aspect ratio of the film and allowing the screen to display the entire image. With modern HD televisions sporting a High Definition 16×9 aspect ratio there are little to no black bars needed to preserve the aspect ratio.

Television stations often show Full Screen films to present a larger image. When black bars take up part of the picture to preserve the aspect ratio the film image is much smaller. This is not a very pleasant viewing experience on small TVs, yet you are not seeing the whole picture.

But if you are purchasing a DVD or Blu-Ray I strongly encourage you to always buy Widescreen. Otherwise you will loose most of the image to the Pan and Scan method Full Screen utilizes to squeeze the composition of the shot into a square. I cannot imagine watching classics such as Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey in Full Screen, you would loose 60% of the image to cropping.

Fortunately Full Screen movie selection has begun to dwindle with the rise of HD television sales. Widescreen allows you to view the film in the way the shot was originally composed and intended for you to see.  The director does put extreme amounts of thought into what exactly is in or is not in the frame, these things don’t just happen by accident. It is a plan to convey the message and look of the film, and the women firing the ion cannon.


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