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October 15, 2009 1:03 AM   Subscribe

The Virtual Window Interactive is a toy based in, and an advertisement for, The Virtual Window, a theoretical Visual Studies text authored by Anne Friedberg, who passed away this week at age 57. If you're like me, the first thing you'll realize is that your native aspect ratio is faulty already.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur (17 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Inteersting link...
Re aspect ratios, one thing I just do not get about Windows is how the PC/gfx card/windows has no idea what the ideal resolution/aspect ratio of the monitor is! I don't know how many friends and family I have visited where they are viewing a 1024x768 desktop on a 22" 16:10 LCD screen and wondering why all their text is blurry and their images at an odd shape...

With 2-way comms available on monitor cables since VGA, windows should prompt a user to set 'native' res/aspect ratio as soon as the monitor is plugged in!

(and don't get me started on misconfigured wide-screen displays in bars/cafe's/dvdstores displaying 16:9 video in widescreen!)
posted by nielm at 1:32 AM on October 15, 2009


(and don't get me started on misconfigured wide-screen displays in bars/cafe's/dvdstores displaying 16:9 video in widescreen!)

It's not just stores, actual networks are guilty of this! TBS HD in particular shows old SD episodes of Seinfeld, Friends, etc in 16:9, stretching and fattening all the actors. I'm surprised SAG hasn't started a beef about it yet.

and 16:9 is widescreen, but I knew what you meant, 4:3
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:53 AM on October 15, 2009


My sister is still angry that I set her satellite box to 16:9 to match her television. She and her partner had been watching a 4:3 picture stretched across the TV (in what I call 'fatvision') for a couple of weeks after they bought the telly. I was sat up late on my own at their house one night and noticed this, and casually switched the satellite box to 16:9, which I mentioned to them in the morning.

Nine months later, they still think their picture is screwed. Their brains just became so conditioned to watching incredibly short people with wide faces that they can't help seeing normal proportions as 'wrong'.

So be warned, kids. Aspect ratio can mess you up. And your family.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:56 AM on October 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Many (most?) people seem to be completely blind to wrong image ratios. Some years ago all the photos in my university's facebook had been stretched horizontally, turning all the students and staff into a bunch of happy, smiling toads. Nobody seemed to notice this, even when it was pointed out to them. More recently, I found myself in a hotel room decorated with a framed print of a typical rural scene (cows, duck pond, farmers). Since the ratio of the original image was wider than the frame ratio, the designer had just squeezed the image (rather than cropping it, or using a matching frame), so the cows, ducks, farmers were all stretched, vertically this time. In fact it's so common (see the misconfigured displays cited above) that I don't know if people are really blind to this or if it is just me being picky about nothing.
posted by elgilito at 3:16 AM on October 15, 2009


Yeah, I have a friend whose default mode appears to be squash and stretch. He was going on about some women on the screen, "Aren't they hot?" My only thought was: "Sure, if you like them after the Tall Man from Phantasm has taken them to the heavy gravity planet for squishin'."

Fiddling about with aspect ratios ought to be automatic.
posted by adipocere at 3:24 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish our TV would actually adapt the aspect ratio automatically when we set it to "Auto". Instead it just seems to crop the image to exclude any area that's black or sufficiently dark. It can get kinda wonky when watching a scene shot at night.
posted by pyrex at 5:08 AM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some of us can't do much about the aspect ratio. Unless we pay for HD we get cable broadcast in 4:3, which our 16:9 TV adapts to fit the screen. I could just leave it to not stretch everything, but that confuses the Tivo (which knows we have a 16:9 TV).

Given that there's no analog signal any longer I don't understand why the cable is still sending us a 4:3 signal. I shouldn't have to pay extra for HD now that HD is the standard.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:17 AM on October 15, 2009


Some of us can't do much about the aspect ratio. Unless we pay for HD we get cable broadcast in 4:3, which our 16:9 TV adapts to fit the screen. I could just leave it to not stretch everything, but that confuses the Tivo (which knows we have a 16:9 TV).

Given that there's no analog signal any longer I don't understand why the cable is still sending us a 4:3 signal. I shouldn't have to pay extra for HD now that HD is the standard.


I noticed that, before the digital transition, we regularly got properly letterboxed pictures from our local network affiliates on our basic, analog Comcast cable connection. As the digital transition happened, those signals all switched to cropped-on-both-sides, full-screen pictures. The result being, of course, that titles, subtitles, graphics, etc. are all falling off the sides. Our PBS station seems to be particularly bad in this respect.

The lone exception is our local NBC affiliate. Their primetime lineup is completely, perfectly letterboxed on our analog, SD tv. Curious about this, I emailed their technical director and asked why they were the only local station with a properly formatted image. His reply was that they take the time to provide Comcast with two feeds. One, their full digital HD signal, and another SD signal, properly formatted for viewing on SD systems. At least that's his explanation. I'm not well-versed in tv tech.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:37 AM on October 15, 2009


Their brains just became so conditioned to watching incredibly short people with wide faces that they can't help seeing normal proportions as 'wrong'.

These are Americans, right? When they go outside, they see wide people, not svelte people like those actors and actresses.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:59 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Widescreen computer monitors are (mostly?) 16:10, not 16:9. Aspect ratios are hard!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:36 AM on October 15, 2009


You are but children playing child games! Adjusting your aspect ratio on your remote? Pshaw I say! DIY 4-way acoustically transparent masking! What's more amazing, if you don't follow this type of thing, most masking is done only 2-way (the height is constant). Not to mention the beautiful Fidelio black velvet mask, you can really see how it soaks up the light in those pictures. Next time you're over at a family members house and when you fix their 16:9 stretch to the correct 4:3, they'll certainly complain it doesn't "fill up the whole screen" or that "who notices the difference." Rest assured, this motherfucker would notice.
posted by geoff. at 8:00 AM on October 15, 2009


"Given that there's no analog signal any longer I don't understand why the cable is still sending us a 4:3 signal. I shouldn't have to pay extra for HD now that HD is the standard."

Before you get too much into your bourgeois swoon, most folks still have a regular ol' television, and not an HD one. Digital transmission is the new standard, not HD TV.
posted by klangklangston at 8:05 AM on October 15, 2009


uh, k? i played around with the visual project, and i have to say not bad.
idealized contemporary male viewer with screenshot expose content through windows aperture. it has sounds of dogs and birds.

idealized contemporary female can be dragged around the viewing space, whereas, the idealized contemporary male just teleports to where you drag and click.
posted by quanta and qualia at 9:09 AM on October 15, 2009


For what it's worth I've watched a ton of 4:3 content cropped on my 16:10 computer monitor and it almost always looks GREAT. I really think this is a superior option to the anti-letterboxing. Honestly I don't think that the 4:3 aspect ratio has so much going for it anyway and if you take into account the HUGE gutters that old TV used a 4:3 to 16:10 crop is almost guaranteed not to drop anything particulary important.

Granted my experience is with 16:10 not 16:9.
posted by Wood at 10:13 AM on October 15, 2009


"Given that there's no analog signal any longer I don't understand why the cable is still sending us a 4:3 signal. I shouldn't have to pay extra for HD now that HD is the standard."


In addition to the number of people who still have old sets, consider the epic amount of existing television programming that exists at the 4:3 ratio -- it will take time for a large library of 16:9 programming to exist sufficient to fill 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on all the channels. Sea changes take time.

Incidentally, it's not like you'd want them to stretch the picture for you, or crop the top and bottom off of programming that wasn't shot to have the top and bottom cropped off. Horizontal letterboxing is the right answer for now, and over time you'll see less and less of it (especially as HD packages become "normal" and SD packages become "legacy" from your provider) until one day you're shocked to see an old movie or television program in the 4:3 format.

You'll still see 'em of course; consider how much black and white programming still makes it to the airwaves.
posted by davejay at 1:53 PM on October 15, 2009


Sorry, vertical letterboxing.
posted by davejay at 1:54 PM on October 15, 2009


Apple calls it "pillarbox". I'm not sure how standard that is.
posted by Kalthare at 3:41 PM on October 15, 2009


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