Spectator

Why are some channels windowboxed?

For instance, the picture on WGN America is displayed in a small box in the middle of my 16:9 screen, with acres of black on all sides of the picture. Most channels fill the entire screen. I tried zooming in with the TV picture control, but that doesn't do much.

Is there any way this can be fixed? Or anyone we can complain to about it?

2 REPLIES
Proven Sharer

Re: Why are some channels windowboxed?


@JackieTreehorn wrote:

For instance, the picture on WGN America is displayed in a small box in the middle of my 16:9 screen, with acres of black on all sides of the picture. Most channels fill the entire screen. I tried zooming in with the TV picture control, but that doesn't do much.

Is there any way this can be fixed? Or anyone we can complain to about it?


I have exactly the same issue here with the second PBS station in our NE Ohio market.  You are seeing the expected result when you have your set-top box programmed to only deliver a 1080 picture through the HDMI cable to your video display but the program provider only transmits an SD signal with 3:4 aspect ratio to the cable company.  Many video program carriage contracts restrict the  cable companies from editing or otherwise altering the program material, so you would need to complain directly to the provider WGN America. 

You MIGHT also be able to add SD480 format to the HDMI output of your set-top converter, which will reduce the black area surrounding the programming.  However, that may in turn cause other side effects that you won't care for.  Ultimately as a subscriber the choice is yours to make. 

Proven Sharer

Re: Why are some channels windowboxed?


@JackieTreehorn wrote:

For instance, the picture on WGN America is displayed in a small box in the middle of my 16:9 screen, with acres of black on all sides of the picture. Most channels fill the entire screen. I tried zooming in with the TV picture control, but that doesn't do much.

Is there any way this can be fixed? Or anyone we can complain to about it?


It's a bit complicated. 

 

The first issue at hand is the network feed - meaning how the network is transmitted to cable companies / DBS Satellite Companies.  Although there are many possibilities, it really comes down to whether or not the source is being transmitted in HD or SD.  HD signals are typically sent at 16:9, and will fill your HD screen.  SD signals are sent 4:3, and there are several ways the signal can be sent, depending on the content.  Then there is how the cable company / DBS sat company sends the signal to its users.  It can be sent HD or SD.  And this complicates things.

 

If the network is HD, is sent to MSO's in HD, and sent HD to you, it will be 16:9 and fill your screen, unless the original content was SD (4:3), and then it could be:

1.  Sent cropped to fill your screen, where you will lose the top and bottom of the original 4:3 pitcure.

2.  Sent stretched to fill your screen, and things will looked squished.

3.  Sent in its original aspect ratio, adding black bars on the left and right.

This is a decision of the network.

 

If the network is HD, but you only receive the SD feed, the above is compounded by how the cable company sends the signal to you.   The cable company can take action on top of what the network did.  The cable company needs to convert the 16:9 feed to 4:3, and can do the same things that the network has done, but take it one step further...  letterbox the 16:9 feed to a 4:3 feed, and thus add black bars on top and bottom.

 

So, if you are watching a SD feed of WGNA, which originates in HD, and the particular show is an old sitcom shot in 4:3, this can happen:

 

1.  WGNA send the HD feed to MSO's pillared (added black bars left and right) to maintain the original aspect ration of the show.

2.  WGNA needs to be downconverted to 4:3 for SD by your cable company.  Since the network is in HD, and it is the desire not to lose any video information, the cable company letterboxes the HD feed and adds black bars on the top and the bottom of the screen on top of the left and right bars added by the network.  Now the old sitcom looks like a postage stamp on an envelope, with bars on top, bottom, left, and right.

 

You can press the "#" key on your STB remote to step through / toggle / change how your cable box passess the pitcure to your HD set.   The option, if I recall correctly, are Normal, Stretch, and Zoom.

 

Normal will pass the signal through.  You will see a postage stamp.

Stretch will pull the sides and/or top bottom so that a 4:3 stream will fit  a 16:9 screen.  This selection distorts the image and squishes it.  (This WOULD be a good option if the stream were amorphic, but that is a discussion for another day).

Zoom will crop the sides of the image, maintain the aspect ratio, and "zoom" in on the center of the image.  This would be the best option to correct the postage stamp issue.

 

In a nutshell, it's not easy, and every program will need to be handled differently.