Once seen as exotic, since 2009, it has become the most common aspect ratio for televisions and computer monitors, and is also the international standard image format for UHD, HDTV, Full HD, and SD digital television today.
16:9 (1.78:1) ("sixteen-nine") is the international standard format of widescreen and Wide-aspect Clear-vision. Japan's Hi-Vision originally started with a 5:3 (1.67:1) ratio but converted when the international standards group introduced a wider ratio of 16:9. Many digital video cameras have the capability to record in 16:9, and 16:9 is the only widescreen aspect ratio natively supported by the Ultra HD Blu-ray standard. It is also the native aspect ratio of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, but Ultra HD Blu-ray producers can also choose to show even wider ratios such as 2.00:1 and 2.40:1 within the 16:9 frame adding black bars within the image itself.
Dr. Kerns H. Powers, a member of the SMPTE Working Group on High-Definition Electronic Production, first proposed the 16:9 (1.77:1) aspect ratio in 1984. The popular choices in 1980 were 4:3 (based on TV standard's ratio at the time), 15:9 (5:3) (the European "flat" 1.66:1 ratio), 1.85:1 (the American "flat" ratio) and 2.35:1 (the CinemaScope/Panavision) ratio for anamorphic widescreen.
Powers cut out rectangles with equal areas, shaped to match each of the popular aspect ratios. When overlapped with their center points aligned, he found that all of those aspect ratio rectangles fit within an outer rectangle with an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 and all of them also covered a smaller common inner rectangle with the same aspect ratio 1.78:1. The value found by Powers is exactly the geometric mean of the extreme aspect ratios, 4:3 and 2.35:1, ≈ 1.77 which is coincidentally close to 16:9. Applying the same geometric mean technique to 16:9 and 4:3 yields an aspect ratio of around 1.5396:1, sometimes approximated as 14:9 (1.55:1), which is likewise used as a compromise between these ratios.
While 16:9 (1.77:1) was initially selected as a compromise format, the subsequent popularity of HD broadcast has solidified 16:9 as perhaps the most common video aspect ratio in use. Most 4:3 (1.33:1) and 2.40:1 video is now recorded using a "shoot and protect" technique that keeps the main action within a 16:9 (1.77:1) inner rectangle to facilitate 16:9 conversion and viewing. Conversely it is quite common to use a technique known as center-cutting, to approach the challenge of presenting material shot (typically 16:9) to both an HD and legacy 4:3 audience simultaneously without having to compromise image size for either audience. Content creators frame critical content or graphics to fit within the 1.33:1 raster space. This has similarities to a filming technique called open matte.
In 1993, the European Union instituted the 16:9 Action Plan, to accelerate the development of the advanced television services in 16:9 aspect ratio, both in PALplus (compatible with regular PAL broadcasts) and also in HD-MAC (an early HD format). The Community fund for the 16:9 Action Plan amounted to €228,000,000.
Over a long period in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the computer industry switched from 4:3 to 16:10 (8:5) and then to 16:9 as the most common aspect ratio for monitors and laptops. A 2008 report by DisplaySearch cited a number of reasons for this shift, including the ability for PC and monitor manufacturers to expand their product ranges by offering products with wider screens and higher resolutions, helping consumers to more easily adopt such products and "stimulating the growth of the notebook PC and LCD monitor market". By using the same aspect ratio for both TVs and monitors, manufacturing can be streamlined and research costs reduced by not requiring two separate sets of equipment, and since a 16:9 is narrower than a 16:10 panel of the same length, more panels can be created per sheet of glass.
In 2011, Bennie Budler, product manager of IT products at Samsung South Africa, confirmed that monitors with a native resolution of 1920 × 1200 were not being manufactured anymore. "It is all about reducing manufacturing costs. The new 16:9 aspect ratio panels are more cost-effective to manufacture locally than the previous 16:10 panels".
In March 2011, the 16:9 resolution 1920 × 1080 became the most common used resolution among Steam's users. The previous most common resolution was 1680 × 1050 (16:10). By July 2022, 16:9 resolutions are preferred by 77% of users (1920 × 1080 with 67%; 2560 × 1440 with 10%).
16:9 is the only widescreen aspect ratio natively supported by the DVD format. An anamorphic PAL region DVD video frame has a maximum resolution of 720 × 576p, but a video player software will stretch this to 1024 × 576p.
Producers can also choose to show even wider ratios such as 1.85:1 and 2.4:1 within the 16:9 DVD frame by hard matting or adding black bars within the image itself. Some films which were made in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, such as the U.S.-Italian co-production Man of La Mancha and Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, fit quite comfortably onto a 1.77:1 HDTV screen and have been issued as an enhanced version on DVD without the black bars. Many digital video cameras also have the capability to record in 16:9.
Common resolutions for 16:9 are listed in the table below:
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||All channels.|
|Croatia||HRT 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, RTL Televizija, RTL 2, Nova TV, Doma TV, RTL Kockica and Sportska Televizija.|
|Czech Republic||All channels.|
|North Macedonia||All channels.|
|San Marino||All channels.|
|United Kingdom||All channels.|
|American Samoa||All channels.|
|French Polynesia||All channels.|
|New Zealand||All channels.|
|Papua New Guinea||All channels.|
|Solomon Islands||All channels.|
|Brunei||All channels (Radio Television Brunei).|
|China||CCTV channels 1–15, CCTV-5+, all CGTN channels. Older contents in 4:3 and news contents are stretched on SD variants of these channels as stretching on SD channels is common.|
|Hong Kong||All channels.|
|India||All HD channels. Most SD channels are still broadcasting in 4:3, either fullscreen or letterboxed.|
|Indonesia||All channels. Very few local TV channels still remain in 4:3, for example Ruai TV and Tepian TV.|
Japan pioneered its analogue HDTV system (MUSE) in 16:9 format, which started in the 1980s. There were also analog NTSC-compatible widescreen broadcasts using the Clear-Vision system. Currently all main channels have digital terrestrial television channels in 16:9. Many satellite broadcast channels are being broadcast in 16:9 as well.
|Mongolia||MNB & MN2, TM Television, TV5, TV6, TV8, Channel 25, Эx Орон, SBN, ETV, MNC, Eagle News TV, Edutainment TV, Star TV, SPS, Sportbox and SHUUD TV.|
|Nepal||Kantipur Television Network, AP1 TV, News 24 (Nepal), TV Filmy and Nepal Television|
|Pakistan||All HD channels. Most SD channels are still broadcasting in 4:3, either in fullscreen or letterboxed|
|Philippines||16:9 native:[a] PTV, ANC (both SD and HD),[b] Kapamilya Channel (HD),[b] CNN Philippines, One PH, One News,[b] One Sports+,[b] Hope Channel Philippines, 3ABN, Hope International, INCTV, Net 25, DZRH News Television, TeleRadyo Serbisyo, all TAP DMV channels (TAP TV, TAP Edge, TAP Movies, TAP Action Flix, TAP Sports, Premier Sports, Premier Tennis, and Premier Football), BuKo, NBA TV Philippines, PBA Rush, UAAP Varsity Channel, Golden Nation Network, Metro Channel, SMNI, SMNI News Channel, PIE, IBC 13, All TV, GMA 7, GTV and its other subchannels, TV5 (both SD and HD)|
|Qatar||All beIN Sports channels, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Mubasher, Qatar TV HD, all Alkass channels.|
|Saudi Arabia||All channels.|
|Singapore||All channels, however 16:9 contents look squashed on older 4:3 sets. Also, all 4:3 contents including news clips are stretched as stretching is common.|
|South Korea||All channels.|
|Sri Lanka||All channels|
|United Arab Emirates||All channels.|
|Vietnam||All of VTC's channels, VTV channels, HTV channels and K+'s channels (selected programmes), most of local channels.|
- Channels that are squeezed/letterboxed to 4:3 on analog terrestrial transmissions nor no letterbox on widescreen-produced programs
- 16:9 versions available on pay-TV services only
- channels that are originally broadcasting in 4:3 on analog terrestrial, but upscaled or stretched to 16:9 for digital terrestrial television, cable and satellite
- Some programs are aired in true 16:9 formatting
|Antigua and Barbuda||All channels.|
|Bolivia||Always on 16:9: PAT, ATB.|
Often on 16:9: Bolivia TV.
|Brazil||Channels change between 16:9 and 4:3 pillarbox depending on what's airing.|
|Cayman Islands||All channels.|
|Chile||All channels. Expect Telecanal in 4.3 in ident 4:3 letterboxed in commercials|
|Costa Rica||All channels.|
|Dominican Republic||All channels.|
|Mexico||Free-to-air television: Las Estrellas, FOROtv, Canal 5, NU9VE, Televisa Regional, Azteca Uno, Azteca 7, a+, adn40, Imagen Televisión, Excélsior TV, Canal Once, Canal 22, Una Voz con Todos, Teveunam, Milenio Televisión, Multimedios Televisión, Teleritmo, and some local HD stations.
Pay television: U, Golden, Golden Edge, TL Novelas, Bandamax, De Película, De Película Clásico, Ritmoson Latino, TDN, TeleHit, Distrito Comedia, Tiin, Az Noticias, Az Clic!, Az Mundo, Az Corazón, Az Cinema, 52MX, TVC, TVC Deportes, Pánico, Cinema Platino, Cine Mexicano.
|Paraguay||Almost all channels on free-to-air television, especially HD feeds (ex.: RPC, NPY, Unicanal, channel 7 HD). SD feeds (usually found on pay television) are usually letterboxed and downscaled to 4:3 (ex.: SNT & Paravisión).|
|Saint Lucia||All channels.|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||All channels.|
|Trinidad and Tobago||All channels.|
|United States||All HD channels. SD feeds are usually letterboxed and downscaled to 4:3.|
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2015)
|Burkina Faso||All channels.|
|Cape Verde||All channels.|
|Equatorial Guinea||All channels.|
|Ivory Coast||All channels.|
|Sao Tome and Principe||All channels.|
|South Africa||All channels.|
|South Sudan||All channels.|
- Display aspect ratio
- Display resolution
- Videos with display aspect ratio 16:9 on Commons
- Hoehler, Dieter (2008-06-03). "A Brief Review on HDTV in Europe in the early 90's". LIVE-PRODUCTION.TV.
- "RECOMMENDATION ITU-R BT.1197-1 Enhanced wide-screen PAL TV transmission system (the PALplus system)" (PDF). itu.int.
- RECOMMENDATION ITU-R BT.1298 - Enhanced wide-screen NTSC TV transmission system (PDF). ITU. 1997.
- Searching for the Perfect Aspect Ratio (PDF)
- "Understanding Aspect Ratios" (Technical bulletin). CinemaSource. The CinemaSource Press. 2001. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- EN 5956091, "Method of showing 16:9 pictures on 4:3 displays", issued 1999-09-21
- "Why 16:9 aspect ratio was chosen for HD?". Guruprasad's Portal. 2014-06-13. Archived from the original on 2021-11-16. Retrieved 2021-09-17.
- Baker, I (1999-08-25). "Safe areas for widescreen transmission" (PDF). EBU. CH: BBC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
- "Television in the 16:9 screen format" (legislation summary). EU: Europa. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- "Product Planners and Marketers Must Act Before 16:9 Panels Replace Mainstream 16:10 Notebook PC and Monitor LCD Panels, New DisplaySearch Topical Report Advises". DisplaySearch. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- "Display Ratio Change (again)". 2009-04-14. Archived from the original on 2020-03-02. Retrieved 2020-01-22.
- "16:10 vs 16:9 - the monitor aspect ratio conundrum". 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2020-01-22.
- "Resurgence of 16:10 Aspect Ratio Laptop Computers to Occupy 2% Share of Non-Apple Market in 2020, Says TrendForce". 2019-04-11. Retrieved 2020-01-22.
- "Widescreen monitors: Where did 1920×1200 go? « Hardware « MyBroadband Tech and IT News". Mybroadband.co.za. 2011-01-10. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- "Steam Hardware & Software Survey". Steam. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- "Steam Hardware & Software Survey". store.steampowered.com.