Talk:Letterboxing (filming)

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the letterboxing is often careless? care to elaborate?

Added image[edit]

Added the image (a while ago), so I removed the image request Last Avenue 18:37, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Not always effective[edit]

Most 16:9 is still new and that most of the time, letterboxing is fairly effective. The notable exception is on documentaries broadcast in 16:9 which include old footage broadcast in 4:3, as the directors don't care to change the aspect ratio throughout the whole program, so that in the segments originally broadcast in 4:3(remember, up until around 2004 99% of everything was broadcast in 4:3, and still about 35% is today) are actually shown in 16:9! This means that either a) The image is stretched so that everyone appears fat, or b) the top and bottom is cropped, so that some information is sometimes missing. Why can't the producers just pillarbox these segments? I don't mind when a program switches from 4:3 to 16:9 in a current news program, so why distort the old footage?


I just talked to a coworker who, despite being familiar with the film format, had no idea that doors in some countries were fitted with letter boxes and therefore never knew where the name came from. Do you think we should mention it? Marnanel (talk) 15:47, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

I added a reference to letter box at the end of the first paragraph in the lead. --Thomprod (talk) 22:04, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Widescreen letterboxing[edit]

Is there an explanation for why widescreen releases still sometimes get letterboxed on widescreen TV's? For example, I have a widescreen TV (which has no problem with widescreen TV shows) and the widescreen version of The Simpsons Movie, but it still displays in freaking letterbox format (resulting in me having to select "Overscan" on my TV and thus cutting off parts of the image). TJ Spyke 03:45, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Widescreen TV shows are normally shot at an aspect ratio of 16:9, exactly matching the 16:9 ratio of your widescreen TV and completely filling the screen. Widescreen films, however, have been shot at various ratios over the years, most of which are still somewhat wider than your TV screen. A common current ratio is 2.35:1, resulting in some residual black bars at the top and bottom, but not as much as you would see with the same film displayed in letterbox format on a 4:3 screen. --Thomprod (talk) 22:10, 4 January 2009 (UTC).

Letterbox Use in Digital video sharing[edit]

Can somebody add a section to clarify the position of sites like youtube, divshare, revver,, and the like to explain their policies on letterboxing uploaded videos? (talk) 13:28, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

YouTube does not currently letterbox uploaded video. They display it in the same format that it was supplied to them, and can be 4:3 SD or 16:9 HD. --Thomprod (talk) 22:15, 4 January 2009 (UTC)
Right, YouTube doesn't change the format of the file itself, but it uses a video player that always has the same format as your screen. If the video has the same format as your screen, it will fill the player but if it doesn't you will see black bars. Making the player the same format as the screen was in fact a very good choice because it means that when you watch YouTube videos in full screen mode, you wouldn't get double letterboxing unless the video file itself has already been letterboxed by the uploader. -- (talk) 23:31, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Mattes aren't always black and letterbox parodies[edit]

I added a bit about non-black & animated mattes and letterbox parodies just now at the end of the "in cinema and home video" section and I hope everyone consider it appropriate (Surely there should be a mention of both somewhere in the article.) I know of 2 instances of letterbox parodies. I mentioned the Crazy Frog one, but another was a car commercial I saw a long time ago before widescreen TV was common, or perhaps before they existed altogether - after the commercial opened in letterboxed CinemaScope footage of a car racing in the desert, the next shot was of the car sitting still and a character reached down and up and removed the mattes, which at that point in the commerical were actually cardboard or styrofoam. I'm sure there are other instances of non-black mattes (tons from music videos) and probably a few parodies as well. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:37, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Sheesh! Literally one minute after the edit somebody wiped it out [1], citing the usual excuse of "uncited original research", as if the article would be better with a bunch of youtube links. And I'm kind of scratching my head over the comment of "giving examples that most readers will have no ready way of examining" as if youtube videos (if I did link to them) couldn't be played back by someone wishing to see for themselves. I'm not gonna bother uploading images right now, but when you do a Google video search for "Zebrahead Playmate of the Year", "Never Gonna Stop", and "Crazy Frog Axel F" you bring up thumbnails revealing what I was referring to. Even when I cite examples (as any good wikipedia edit should have), they are considered somehow insufficient or inappropriate and the whole thing is promptly deleted.

But the fact remains, letterboxing mattes are not always black as the article claims, nor are they always absolute borders. I could try to repost my edit (possibly relocated to the "fake letterbox" part and otherwise rephrased), but what would be the point? The same person or someone like them would just wipe it out again. Maybe the whole thing would be better as part of the matte (filmmaking) article. (And I can't wait to see that future edit destroyed the moment I post it!) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:08, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

OK, despite my cynicism and gripes from last night, I've tried this again, this time improving on the original paragraph (adding info about IBM's colored mattes in their ads and noting other companies that do the same) and putting it after the "fake letterboxing" bit and I even found a decent reference. (An online Word doc with info about IBM's blue mattes) As for other references, I could include YouTube URL's for each instance I cite, but do we really want the article's references cluttered with YouTube URL's? (I don't.) One idea I have is for a collage of thumbnails to be created. It would be of IBM ads in each of the three colors they've used, examples from other ads, some from music videos, and one or two of the letterbox parody (I can only reference one, the Crazy Frog video). The collage would include 9, 12, or 16 thumbnails and the caption might read "examples of colored, animated, and parodied letterbox mattes" though maybe the parodied letterbox part could be kept separate and the collage could be used just for colored and animated mattes. This would have the effect of showing the examples without having to link to each YouTube video. I may create such a collage in time, but not tonight. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:31, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

Anamorphic widescreen on VHS[edit]

The article stats that "[Anamorphic widescreen] image transformation generally requires digital signal processing, so letterboxing was the only way in which films were presented in widescreen on home video prior to the DVD format". This is not true, as VHS already supported WSS (widescreen signal). Sorry for not editing myself :P (talk) 23:03, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Reverse Letterboxing[edit]

The article doesn't say anything about the opposite case, e.g. when someone watches a 4:3 video on a 16:10 screen. Can this also be called letterboxing, or is there a different term for this? -- (talk) 23:35, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

This is called "pillarboxing". Bob talk 16:23, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

"Patterned" pillarboxing[edit]

Recently on TV in Australia, I have noticed this interesting form of pillarboxing (e.g. sometimes on SBS news stories, or on the TV show "Forensic Investigators"). Rather than making the pillarbox matte black, it is some kind of semi-random, sometimes moving, pattern (a sort of busy pattern, but without sharp internal edges, internally diffuse), which is often colour-matched to the main part of the image, or to the theme colour of the show, or else is a dark grey colour. I think this is an effect designed to be less distracting to the eyes than pure black, to create less a sharp edge. What I am wondering, does this technique have a name?? (talk) 10:52, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

In the 1960s and 1970s, a station might run a widescreen film either with the sides cropped off or in pan-and-scan for the duration of the film proper, but would show the opening titles in letterbox to avoid clipping the names. In these cases, they would sometimes used a matte that was not entirely black, but rather had obvious filigree design (I think the term was "chinagraph"). This was to reassure the viewers that the black borders were intentional, and not the result of a "brownout." (Sometimes a power shortage would cause a TV picture to shrink on the tube. The station realized that thousands of viewers might at once telephone the power company had they not taken this precaution.) This practice became less necessary once viewers came to understand what was going on. WHPratt (talk) 15:30, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

I remember that practice from when I was a kid in the '60s and '70s. Another thing which broadcasters did alternatively (at least here in the United States) was to just run the credits in their raw form, which is to say that they were left in their horizontally squeezed aspect ratio, which fit all the credits into the standard TV screen. My brothers and I, not knowing anything about widescreen techniques such as anamorphic lenses, used to wonder what the point was of making all those cowboys so strangely tall and thin at the beginnings and endings of westerns. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:15, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

Merge discussion[edit]

The stand-alone Pillarbox article is redundant while this article has a section on the very same subject. The other page is essentially un-cited (the only reference is tagged as a dead link). Since this page's section has references, I think the other page's material should be merged here and the other article replaced with a redirect to this article. -- David Spalding (  ) 13:21, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Unsourced material[edit]

Article has been tagged for needing sources for over two years. Feel free to reinsert the below material with appropriate references. DonIago (talk) 12:50, 31 March 2014 (UTC)