|Posted on April 19, 2013 at 11:05 AM|
Since the dawn of man, few things have united us spindly bipeds like our common, loathsome, blind-rage hatred for black bars in our video. Black…frickin’…bars?! Instead of the movie?!? How dare they?! HOW…DARE…THEY?!?
This is America where we want more of things, not less. We want 244-ounce sodas with unlimited refills, and hamburgers with numerous patties and covered in enough sauce and cheese to make the cholesterol fairy blush, and chickens stuffed in ducks and crammed into turkeys! We deep-fry cubes of butter and have “smalls” that would be extra-larges anywhere else in the world. And, dammit, we want movies filling the entire screen with picture, not black bars!
In fact, it’s not unreasonable to conjecture that it was a private Kennedy phone call to Cuba saying, “Now, errah, Fidel, if we’a can’a agree on’a nothing else, errah, then we’a can’a, start our’a discussions on’a the common ground of our’a mutual hatred for’a those’a black bars’a in our’a, video playback.”
With an exasperated exhalation of grey-blue smoke from a Havana cigar rolled on the sweet, creamy thighs of virgins, Castro, nodded and uttered an acquiescing, “Si…” and with that the world was brought back from the brink of nuclear disaster. Maybe.
If I learned anything from my high school geometry teacher, it was that a square is a square is a square. IS A DAMN SQUARE! It is always the same. Always. Big, small, anywhere in between, you can always count on a square to have the same 1 to 1 proportion.
But a rectangle…? Ah, those things are right bastards, coming in all manner of sizes and proportions. 1.78:1, 2.20:1, 2.35:1, 2.39:1, 2.66:1, 2.93: 1… How dare they?! Rectangles exist outside the boundaries of any civilized society, with no respect to a video watcher’s moral high-ground and common decency. And nothing sets a TV watcher’s blood a-boilin’ like seeing a bastard, red-headed stepchild of a rectangle being placed onto a perfectly sensible square and filling it with God-awful, lifeless pixel black bars.
But, what if there was a way to actually come to terms with the hateful rectangle? To embrace it as the way to view films in all their sadistic rectangular glory? To tame the rectangle, to own it and make it the preferred way to watch movies at home? What if…
Understanding the Rectangle
First, we need to understand why a rectangle is and is not always the same. The means a quick lesson in math and video technology and artistic intent.
First, aspect ratios are expressed in a ratio of width to height. A ratio of 1.5:1 (said “one point five to one" ) would be one-and-one-half times as wide as it is tall, and a ratio of 2:1 would be exactly twice as wide as tall. Our modern HDTV displays have a ratio of 16x9 which is reduced down to 1.78:1. (That’s it for the math stuff. Really. Though, you know, quick shout out to Pythagorean Theorem, yo! )