Black bars on TV screen

OldBear

Novice Member
Good Afternoon All

I am new to this forum so please forgive me if I do anything wrongly.

In the past couple of days I have been seeing horizontal black bars at the top and bottom of my TV screen when playing back recently recorded programmes.

The programmes have been :-

1) BBC1 - "A Very British Scandal" - 27 & 28th Dec. at 9:0pm Recordings done on Humax HDR-2000T
2) Sky Atlantic - "Dexter: New Blood" - 27th Dec. at 9:0 pm Recorded on Sky+HD Box
3) BBC2 - "Vienna Blood" - 24th Dec. at 9:0pm Recorded on Humax HDR-2000T

Television is a fairly elderly Samsung T32E310EW which -to date- has been well behaved. 'Live' programmes do not appear to be affected by the bars- eg: ITV, Ch4,Ch5,- but as we almost always only watch recorded programmes I do not have many examples of the live ones.

Other Sky (eg. Alibi, BT Sport ) and Freeview (eg. Yesterday) recordings are playing back without any bars.

I have tried all the checks re. screen resolution with no adverse results found and the above recordings seem to be equally affected in both HD and SD modes.

I am afraid I am not very technically minded and would really appreciate any help and suggestions as to what might be causing this change and if there is anything that can be done to correct it.

Regards,

Roy.
 

mikej

Well-known Member
Most programs on Freeview are recorded and broadcast in the 16:9 ratio, which means the picture will fill the whole screen of a 16:9 (widescreen) TV and you don't get black bars.

Occasionally though, certain films or dramas will be broadcast in a wider, more cinematic ratio and you'll get black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

I just checked 'A Very British Scandal' on iPlayer for you and it's not been filmed in the usual 16:9 ratio (hence the black bars) and the same may be true of the other programs you mentioned, so what you're seeing is normal.
 

OldBear

Novice Member
Hello mikej

Many thanks for your reply and the reassuring explanation.

Is it OK for you to tell me how you check what ratio the films are made in ? Is it possible for a tech dummie like me to do ?

I have got iPlayer and all the other 'on-demand' apps via Fire TV stick as well as 'Catch-up' for Sky programmes so I could have a go at investigating them myself if you think I could.

Regards,
Roy.
 

mikej

Well-known Member
Is it OK for you to tell me how you check what ratio the films are made in ? Is it possible for a tech dummie like me to do ?

I have got iPlayer and all the other 'on-demand' apps via Fire TV stick as well as 'Catch-up' for Sky programmes so I could have a go at investigating them myself if you think I could.

Regards,
Roy.
I'm not sure if that's possible - at least not with live or recorded Sky or Freeview content. Most TVs won't give you that kind of information but I've no idea whether your Sky or Humax box will or not - I suspect not, but try pressing the info button to check. Some streaming devices might, but I don't know whether the Fire TV Stick is one of them. Try pausing a program and seeing what info is available.

Two common cinema movie aspect ratios are 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 but I don't know whether the producers of the TV shows you mentioned would necessarily try and match those.

One giveaway that 'A Very British Scandal' is not filmed in 16:9 is that the BBC logo is over-layed over the the top black bar, which proves the bars are supposed to be there. If you had a ratio problem due to incorrect settings, you would get unwanted blacks bars, the image would look squashed / distorted and the logo would be over the image itself.

In some ways, it doesn't actually matter ratio what they are - content either has black bars or it doesn't and there's not a lot you can do about it :)
 

OldBear

Novice Member
Thanks mikej

I find this quite interesting actually, having for years just pressed a button or two and got TV programmes and recordings to order I never realised other things could be going on in the background!!

I wonder why they would do changes like this ? - perhaps there are commercial factors at work here. After all, money tends to be behind most things nowadays.

I will have a go at doing some programme checks as you suggest - even though I don't know what I'm hoping to find!!

One thing - when you checked 'A Very British Scandal' on iPlayer did you get an actual figure for the changed ratio or was it just the overlay of the BBC logo that gave the game away? Would the different ratios of 1.85 :1 and 1.39:1 show up anywhere if they had been used?

All this is just my interest in a new (to me) phenomenon as I fully understand your comments about not being able to do anything about it.

Regards

Roy.
 

mikej

Well-known Member
To be honest, I know that my TV is set up correctly so seeing black bars as soon as I launched that particular program was all I needed to know. Channel logos overlaying the top bar are just an easy way to confirm what's happened if you're not sure. The BBC don't provide aspect ratio info as far as I know (at least none that is accessible to me with my current set-up) and neither does my TV's iPlayer app.

Broadcasting certain movies on TV with black bars has been going on for as long as I can remember but the likes of the BBC intentionally making dramas intended for TV in similar aspect ratios is a more recent development, I think. It allows them to fit more in the frame than when using 16:9 and gives a more cinematic feel.

The overwhelming majority of films on DVD, Blu-ray and all of the major streaming services (iPlayer, Netflix, Prime etc) will come with black bars when watched on TV.
 

mike7

Distinguished Member
First of all there are no such things as "black bars". Certain programmes and films are filmed in different aspect ratios so the "bars" are not there for any financial reasons. This is nothing new as it goes back to the 1950s when Cinemascope and other wide screen cinema photography came into being. This was largely due to compete with the rising popularity of television.

It is down to the director and cinephotographer as to what aspect ratio they prefer to suit a particular production. Usually films with big outdoor or crowd scenes benefit from wider formats.

There was a time when TVs had a 'zoom' setting which stretched out the picture to fill the screen. This would either chop off the outside edges or stretch the picture so that the whole image was distorted. Now that, generally speaking, people have much bigger screens it is not such an issue. Most of the issues people had was with the ability to zoom horizontally. The vertical issue does not seem to have been much of a problem. To overcome issues in 4:3 days widescreen movies were often 'panned and scanned' for TV to make sure that the action was in the middle of the picture and this produced some very odd effects. A hardy annual at this time of year is "How the West was Won" which was filmed with three fixed cameras running simultaneously. It's been butchered several different ways to prevent the "bars" but now usually appears in letterbox mode.
 

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