aspect ratios

Since I'll be needing a new video projector soon, I've been toying with the idea of swapping out my 4:3 projection screen for a wider one, and the whole aspect ratio thing has me completely puzzled.

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I have no HDTV gear, and don't feel any need for it (since there's basically no HDTV content available that I care about). However, it would be nice, when watching letterboxed movies, to have them grow horizontally rather than shrinking vertically. In other words, it'd be nicer to have vertical black bars with TV than horizontal black bars with movies.

So basically, I'm trying to figure out whether this is worth the effort, and how much of a pain in the butt it will be (both up front, and on a day-to-day basis.)

(Really I'd rather have a 116" diagonal LCD instead of a projector, but they don't exist.)

  1. As far as I know, most movies are 1.85:1. But the whole home theatre and HDTV world seems to have standardized on 16:9 (AKA 1.77:1) which is a lot less wide. This means that letterboxed movies won't fill the whole screen, and even after upgrading your gear, you still have black bars at the top and bottom.

    This is madness, is it not?

  2. I guess I have three choices for how to project onto a 16:9 screen:

    1. Get a 16:9 projector (they exist, but are rare);
    2. Get a 4:3 projector, and an "anamorphic" adapter lens that stretches the 4:3 image to 16:9;
    3. Get a 4:3 projector, and project an image that is as wide as the screen (but 30% taller.)

    Options 2 and 3 sound pretty kludgey, but option 1 severely limits the choice of projectors. What is the Done Thing?

  3. Pretty much the only two video sources I use are DirecTivo (non-HDTV version), and Playstation 2 (for playing games and watching DVDs).

    In a setup like that, how much of a pain in the butt is it to switch modes? Is this something that you do with the source signal, or with a setting on the projector, or both?

    I see that my Tivo has a preference for TV aspect ratio that lets you choose "4:3" or "16:9", but when I change that, nothing seems to happen. I expected it to stretch the image or something, but I can't see any difference at all.

So can someone with experience with this stuff tell me how it actually works in practice?

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