Why are TV shows still protecting for 4:3?
June 5, 2015 6:44 AM   Subscribe

So I was just looking at some production art work for Adventure Time, and it seemed weird, in this day and age, that they're still producing the show to be watched on a standard-definition, 4:3 TV set.

Do the studios have research to back this up? How many people are still using pre-digital, pre-HD TV sets? Of those, how many are not watching in letterbox format? Do studios have definitive timetables as to when they're going to stop caring about 4:3?
posted by 1970s Antihero to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
I use Dish Network and I know that HD channels are still a premium option. If I don't pay the $10/month whatever all of these basic cable channels come over in SD (although I think I now have the "HD for life!" option but can't remember what faustian deal I signed to get it)

So perhaps it's all going to depend on when the cable/sat carriers offer HD by default?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2015

for overseas markets, where 16x9 isn't as widespread?
posted by infinitewindow at 8:13 AM on June 5, 2015

Yeah this has much more to do with the distribution then mechanisms then the amount of TVs in market. Remember too, many houses have more then one TV, there's still large swaths of America that have at least one SDTV or SD only service on a secondary cable box in their house.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:40 AM on June 5, 2015

The link given looks like a widescreen ratio. The "next" link is promo art. Are you sure it was an actual production still that was in 4:3?

Some modern shows have the sides cropped for SD formatted TVs, but others stay widescreen and are shown with black bars. I'd think a show like Adventure Time would use the latter, but in either case, wouldn't all their artwork be in widescreen format?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:21 AM on June 5, 2015

Study from March 2015: HDTV SETS NOW IN OVER 80% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS, and "65% of all television sets used in US households are HDTVs."

I'd also agree with JoeZydeco and say that a surprising number of people I know are watching SD cable on HDTVs, because they would need a new cable box and a more expensive plan to get HD.
posted by smackfu at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2015

Looks to me like the linked images are, on top, a widescreen (16x9) composition and, on bottom, a rougher mock-up with the title-safe (4x3) area indicated by the dotted rectangle. In this case I'm guessing the idea is that you compose the frame for the full widescreen aspect, but you make sure that any crucial information, especially including titles, appears inside the narrower area that will be displayed if the program is ever viewed on an old-school CRT with overscan.

In a perfect world, even people with 4x3 TVs would be watching a letterboxed image, but in the real world you still have to assume that someone, somewhere is going to end up watching a center-cut version of the image.

This recent study suggests that nearly one-fifth of U.S. households are still SDTV only. And, of course, out of the 80 percent of homes that do have at least one HDTV, many of them still have SD sets in use.
posted by Mothlight at 10:43 AM on June 5, 2015

Response by poster: When I posted this question I asked, "Why are TV shows still protecting for 4:3?" The mods edited and changed it to "producing". I guess I should have been more clear in the body of my question.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:01 AM on June 5, 2015

Mod note: Oh shoot, jargon vs. autocorrect danger hypercorrection! Switched it back, carry on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2015

Study from March 2015: HDTV SETS NOW IN OVER 80% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS, and "65% of all television sets used in US households are HDTVs."

Those stats are a bit misleading, though. You really can't buy a non-HD television these days, regardless of whether you actually watch HD programming. I'd have to pay extra on my cable bill to get HD programs, but, if I had to replace my tv tomorrow, I'm pretty much stuck with buying an HD set.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:15 PM on June 5, 2015

Well, a lot of households keep old SDTVs for second or third sets. And there's probably still more SD-only channels than HD-only ones.

Based on the general appeal of Adventure Time, I'd think the show would be in letterbox format, as opposed to something geared exclusively for an younger audience, or where the visuals aren't important.

Letterman had a great segment when they first switched to HD, where a celebrity would make a cameo, but would intentionally be cut off to those watching in SD.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:17 PM on June 5, 2015

Cartoon Network in Asia still does 4:3 broadcasts on some analog cable networks - which remain popular for the cheaper price and not needing a set-top box.
posted by kerplunk at 4:32 AM on June 7, 2015

Its for overseas, no one cares about the US market anymore. I have been a camera operator for 20 years, the last ten in TV, mostly 30 minutes episodic comedy and the only time there is any question of 4:3 is when you are doing a tight two shot and it would be really silly to just have half faces on a 4:3 screen, even then it is all handled on the fly, I cant remember the last time there was a note from editorial or "the tower" about protecting for 4:3.
posted by silsurf at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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