Help me stretch non hd channels on my wide screen tv.
February 19, 2007 12:55 AM   Subscribe

How do I use the entire screen on my new wide scren tv?

I recently bought a wide screen 32 inch HDTV.

HD channels look great. Non HD channels are fine, except I have black bars to each side of the picture. I'd like to stretch out the picture to fill the whole screen (I'm ok with the resulting somewhat out of proportion picture).

I'm no electronic wizard, and I've gone through every setting for my tv/cable box I can find. Am I missing something? Isn't there a way to have non hd channels automatically stretched while leaving the hd channels alone?

Thanks for any advice.
posted by gtr to Technology (20 answers total)
We need to know the brand and model.

And even with this knowledge in hand, I would be hesitant to equip you with the knowledge necessary to do something so aesthetically questionable.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:11 AM on February 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

What your are looking for is the aspect ratio button on your tv remote. Every HDTV I have seen has one. It will let you stretch the image or zoom the image to fill the screen.

I agree with roboto though, the picture looks wacked when zoomed or stretched
posted by travis08 at 1:14 AM on February 19, 2007

Some HDTVs have a very clever zoom mode that expands the picture horizontally to fill the tube, but in such a way that the edges are expanded more than the center of the picture. I find this the generally most watchable widescreen mode for 4:3 broadcasts. My Philips refers to this as "Super Zoom" mode.

People moan about stretching a 4:3 signal to fill a 16:9 screen and how it makes everyone look squashed. In truth, once you have had the TV for about a month, this totally stops bothering you. Your visual cortex is a pretty amazing and adaptable lump of neural tissue.
posted by kindall at 1:25 AM on February 19, 2007

The aspect ratio button is labeled "Scaling" on my TV for some reason. Keep an eye out for that term, too, just in case.
posted by SilverTail at 1:27 AM on February 19, 2007

This is the hdtv.

The cable box is a Scientific Atlanta Explorer 3250HD.

What your are looking for is the aspect ratio button on your tv remote. Every HDTV I have seen has one. It will let you stretch the image or zoom the image to fill the screen.

Yes, I can stretch the channel. But then when I go to an hd channel I have to unstretch it. What I was hoping was a setting or way of having the tv only stretch channels that aren't naturally wide screen.

I agree with roboto though, the picture looks wacked when zoomed or stretched

Hmm, O.k. Maybe I misunderstood how people watch their wide screen tvs. I guess I assumed most stretched the picture to avoid the black bars. If the norm is to live with them, that's fine.
posted by gtr at 1:35 AM on February 19, 2007

What I was hoping was a setting or way of having the tv only stretch channels that aren't naturally wide screen.

Without manually changing the aspect each time, that is.
posted by gtr at 1:37 AM on February 19, 2007

gtr: the average viewer probably stretches the picture on the HDTV. But this is the same average viewer who never changes the default showroom brightness/contrast/color settings so their picture probably looks like crap. Enthusiasts will be shocked and appalled if you stretch the picture, just as they have always been shocked and appaled at "pan and scan" movies as apposed to letterboxed format.

If you don't mind the picture being stretched, you're probably in the majority even though I'm one of the people it shocks and appalls.

Anyway, are you sure that the HDTV is stretching the picture even on HD channels? If I set my TV to "stretch", it will automatically stretch the non-HD channels but it leaves the HD channels alone.
posted by Justinian at 2:20 AM on February 19, 2007

Mine works that way, Justinian.. if it's in stretch mode, it will stretch ANY input, HD or SD. You probably have a better TV than either gtr or I do. :)

gtr, one thought... if you can hook up the cablebox via DVI or HDMI, the box may be able to do all the scaling for you automatically, before it even gets to the TV. If you're connected with component cables (the three RCA red/green/blue wires), you may not be able to make it automatic.
posted by Malor at 2:43 AM on February 19, 2007

My Cable box (it's a motorola) has settings where you can tell it what aspect ratio you want for HD and non-HD content. In my settings it's called "4:3 OVERRIDE" That way my 4:3 content is stretched to fill the screen and my HD content is shown correctly.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:26 AM on February 19, 2007

This stretchy-picture thing is so prevalent over here in .uk/.ie that I'd rather assumed it was impossble to turn off. If I could get one to do what the OP says he desn't want, my extreme ambivalence towards widescreen TVs might fade. I'll take letterboxing any day.

Beware, however, channels which don't understand aspect ratios and give you a 4:3 picture with letterbox bands. There's one here which must look completely ridiculous in widescreen when the TV's done double-stretching the pre-stretched 4:3 image to which they erroneously added letterbox bands.

It's possible that you might need to set and unset whatever switch you're currently looking for, more often than you expect.
posted by genghis at 5:59 AM on February 19, 2007

On my Scientific Atlanta cable box remote I can press the # key to jump through the various stretch and zoom modes.
posted by cmicali at 6:00 AM on February 19, 2007

Ok on further research, yes your box supports the zoom feature. Try pressing the # key which happens to also be the enter key at the bottom right of the number pad. If you don't have that try the button labeled 'bypass'.
posted by cmicali at 6:02 AM on February 19, 2007

gtr, please read this whole comment before clicking below.

Below is a link to the AVSforum thread for this model TV. AVSforum is a massive online community of dorks obsessing over AV equipment, and the thread below is just people with your model television. However:

1. Currently there are 16 pages of commentary to plow through, and I guarantee that at least half of it will be idiot speculation and handwringing.

2. I haven't read it, but there will almost certainly be people obsessing about some failing of the TV. Whatever it is, there'll be lots of sturm und drang about what a ripoff the set is, how maker A is a sham and a shame, how they've promptly returned their set and moved to maker B instead. If you're happy with your set (save for the zoom function, RTFM dude) then perhaps you shouldn't be reading the forum, because it may ruin it for you.

3. They'll be talking about things like black crush, red push, telecine, et cetera. Don't worry about it. Or, if you do, be prepared to stop enjoying watching TV because you've become obsessed with watching for arcane video display degradations ...

Now that you've read the above, go ahead and click to go on to the avsforum thread.
posted by intermod at 6:44 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

My Samsung (42 in plasma) doesn't "stretch" automatically either. I had to hook up a non-HDMI input cable in addition to the HDMI, to get it to stretch the non-HD channels, and have to switch between the inputs to get it to work.

Don't listen to those that say the stretched picture looks weird. It does for about five seconds the first time you do it, but then you're totally used to it and it looks fine. A slightly stretched picture is vastly preferable to a burned-in screen, anyway (which on an LCD isn't an issue, but still...).
posted by pdb at 7:08 AM on February 19, 2007

Look for a Ratio, Format, Scaling, Zoom or some other similarly-labeled button on your remote.
posted by Doohickie at 8:24 AM on February 19, 2007

I don't like to watch TV on 2/3 of my TV either, but neither do I like the look of the stretched TV. The philips super-zoom is *slightly* better but still I don't like it. On our TV, a good compromise is watching in straight 14:9 mode. It doesn't stretch, it zooms in a little. This results in the picture getting a tiny bit cropped off the top and bottom but to me it's OK. It does not fill the screen horizontally but it's a lot closer.

Fortunately I don't get HD channels along with non-HD channels... I watch all my HD via off the air broadcasts and all other TV from directv, and my TV allows me to have different settings for both... so I don't know how to make it a per-channel setting, if that's even possible.

Good luck!
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:45 AM on February 19, 2007

My Panasonic professional plasma also doesnt unstretch automatically. Nor does my Dish network HD PVR.

Just learn to watch non widescreen thows in their native aspect ratio, its a lot better that way.
posted by mphuie at 10:45 AM on February 19, 2007

Look for a Ratio, Format, Scaling, Zoom or some other similarly-labeled button on your remote

On most Samsungs, that button is called "P Mode" but it won't work if you have the TV hooked up through an HDMI cable, for some reason. As I mentioned above, hook up a non-HDMI input source and then use the "Source" button on the remote to switch between HD and non HD input sources.
posted by pdb at 10:55 AM on February 19, 2007

My Samsung 42" has an option to swap it that way. It's under the menu, keep an eye out for it. The default is the "black bar" setting, though.
posted by GilloD at 10:56 AM on February 19, 2007

Thanks to everyone for their help.

Fwiw, with component hookups I can get the picture to stretch on non hd channels, while leaving hd channels the same.

When I use dvi from my cable box to hdmi on my tv there doesn't seem to be a way to stretch non hd channels without doing it manually each time.

Since I'm also having trouble with the dvi/hdmi connectioin even recognizing non hd channels, I guess I'll be sticking with component for now.

Thanks again.
posted by gtr at 10:58 AM on February 19, 2007

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