Some Common Projector Aspect Ratio & Examples To Understand Better

Many different Projection standards exist worldwide and all of them have their own specific aspect ratios. While this article will not go into depth on the different ratios, it will briefly cover the most common ones.

This article will give you a list of some common projector aspect ratios that are used in a modern projector.

Not only does this article help to identify the Aspect Ratio of a projector but it also gives you insight into which type of projector is being used and what types of format options are possible with each Aspect Ratio.

Let us start by answering what aspect ratio is.

What is the projector aspect ratio?

There are a lot of definitions out there but in general, it is a measurement of the image as it is projected onto a screen. The aspect ratio also called the screen size, is the width to height ratio of an image.

What is the projector aspect ratio?

For example, if we had measured an image to be 16:10 (width: height) the aspect ratio would be 16/10 or 1.6: 1.

For example, most newer projectors have an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 or 1.0: 1 which means that for every one foot wide your image will be 1 foot high on the screen and not at all distorted by letterboxing or stretching as older projector did.

How to calculate projector aspect ratio?

It is usually quite simple to figure out the Aspect Ratio of a projector. First, measure your screen size in feet and then divide it by the height of your image. Then take the decimal point and multiply by 1.33, if you want to see the initial numbers for this calculation go here

For example, If my screen size is 100in wide by 70in high I will calculate my aspect ratio as (100/70)*1.33 = 1.71:1

The main reason we are interested in aspect ratios is that they tell us about the type of projector that was used for creating the image.

Aspect Ratio versus Projector Resolution

Aspect Ratio versus Projector Resolution

One thing to note is that for all the examples in this article, the resolution of the projector will not change.

The resolution of a projector is dependent only on how many pixels are being used on the projector to generate an image and it has nothing to do with the size or ratio of that image.

The confusion may arise because, while understanding aspect ratio, you also need to know about its inverse which is resolution.

Aspect Ratio: Aspect Ratio is measured as width: height ratio. It can be used to determine screen size as well as image distortion if not calculated correctly (commonly done by simply dividing your screen size by the height of your image).

Resolution: Resolution refers to the number of pixels displayed per inch. It is the one parameter that directly controls the size of your image on the screen and not a direct result of the image ratio.

In fact, it is common to see people using both aspect and resolution interchangeably while talking about a projector because they may have heard both terms in the same context without realizing that it is a different thing altogether.

To summarize, the Aspect Ratio is measured as width: height ratio or (width/height) while the resolution is expressed as a number of pixels shown in an inch on the screen and is dependent on the projector. The resolution will not change if your aspect ratio changes!

Why there are so many Types of Aspect ratios?

Why there are so many variants of the Aspect ratio?

Because of the fact that so many formats of video exist and that there aren’t any standards governing the various aspect ratios, it is quite hard to agree on one aspect ratio to use for each format.

Also, people tend to use widescreen TVs for a lot of things where they show more than 16:9 ratio borders around their image. Take a look at the below picture which shows some common format variants.

So why is that? If you measure your TV or projector screen in inches and divide it in width by height, you might find your TV has an aspect ratio lower or higher than 1.33:1.

The reason for this is that TVs tend to be rectangular and are used for watching content in horizontal format (like movies) where we don’t have vertical borders.

However, projectors are usually not rectangular to start with and are used more often with vertical borders so their display ratio is different from the aspect ratio of a rectangular TV.

So, while your TV may be 16:9, a projector may show 16:10 which is a different aspect ratio altogether.

In fact, many new TVs now support two different aspect ratios as well as two different resolutions to reflect the fact that they can be used in both vertical and horizontal formats. The same goes for Projectors too.

Some common variants of projector aspect ratio

  1. NTSC or PAL
  2. Non-Progressive
  3. Progressive
  4. 4:3
  5. 1
  6. Widescreen HDTV and DVD
  7. High Definition
  8. Standard Definition
  9. Cinema or CinemaScope
  10. Square
  11. Letterbox
  12. PC Widescreen

What does this mean?

We are not trying to take all the measurements here, rather we want to understand what aspect ratio is and how it affects other measurements of a projector. So, let’s talk about these parameters of a projector now.

NTSC or PAL

This stands for National Television System Committee which is the basic format of a television system in America since 1951 and continues in use for decades since then.

The American NTSC system has an aspect ratio of 4:3 whereas the PAL (Europe) has an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Most non-progressive projectors that we have today support both 4:3 and 1.33:1 formats and most LCD displays also support both ratios.

Non-Progressive

A non-progressive projector uses CRT or Shadow Mask Display which divides the display screen into three separate electron guns to illuminate different colored dots on the display in order to show a full-color picture.

This makes it possible for the CRT display to produce all colors at one instant and thus, they were cheaper to make at that time.

Non-Progressive projectors are also called 2 Dimensional Projectors since they do not have any memory of the previous image and can only show an updated version of it after every refresh cycle.

They are also called “flicker-free” because there is no flickering during image refresh. They are often used in movie theaters and on-stage projection systems.

Progressive

Progressive Projectors instead have a memory of the previous image stored in the electronic circuits so they can show an updated version of it even after it has already been displayed.

They are also called “flicker-free” because there is no flickering during image refresh. Although, for projectors with 4K resolutions, the non-progressive function will be a bit more expensive and you get fewer pixels from those projectors.

4:3

Projectors using the 4:3 aspect ratio have been the most common on the market since the 1960s. It uses the same width of the screen from top to bottom and with that format, you can see everything in the full picture.

The diagonal measurement is between 17-18 inches which means that you can stack 4 today Projectors side-by-side to give yourself a Full HD experience.

1:1

This is just like above but instead of having a diagonal measurement between 17 and 18 inches, it will be 16 inches without losing any of the image quality at all.

For some people in older generations, this may seem like not enough pixels, but since we are talking about the resolution here and not size, it is more than acceptable.

HDTV and DVD

DVD and HDTV were developed in the early 1990s, but at first, it was just for the cinema. In the last couple of years, both Sony and Panasonic had released their own line-up of Projectors that are capable of displaying 1080p resolutions on screens up to an immense 61 inches wide.

The difference between both resolutions is that 1080p consists of 1920×1080 pixels whereas 720p has a total of 1280×720 pixels.

The bigger difference is that if you have a 4:3 projector, a 1080p image would fill more than half the screen horizontally but less vertically. However, this depends on your resolution needs and will be discussed later on this page.

Why there are so many variants of the Aspect ratio?

High Definition

The word high definition is used to describe a high definition image. Whether you are talking about an HD TV, HD Netcast, or HD movie, the high-definition image represents a picture that has a resolution of 1280×720 pixels, which is considered 720p.

Although in the past both Sony and Panasonic used to refer to their projectors as “High Definition” Projectors, both companies now use the term “HD Projector” or “HD Pico Projector”.

Standard Definition

Definition of standard (en) /Standard Definition/ In television or other systems for displaying moving pictures, an adaptation of the aspect ratio of a movie to the screen, typically 16:9.

SD acronym for “Standard definition”.

SD format conversion (en) /Conversion from/ Conversion from SD to HD format. SD-to-HD converters are used to convert a digital video transmission from a Standard Definition source (e.g., DVD or Video CD) to a higher resolution and greater picture detail for viewing on the TV screen or a high-resolution projector.

Cinema or CinemaScope

Cinema/CinemaScope is very much like 4:3 but with some improvements. It is 16:9 in width ratio but has expanded the height to have a 21:9 ratio of height to width.

This means you can see 28% more screens horizontally and 25% more vertically.

This aspect ratio was first used in theatres by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios to make films more immersive than ever before by filling up nearly the entire area of a cinema display. With this, you can have 1.33:1 or 1.78:1 (flat) images on your display depending on your own needs.

Square

Square aspect ratio (also known as letterbox) is used to fill the entire screen. It has a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and was most common in American movies from the late 1950s and early 1960s when CinemaScope was gaining popularity.

Now with projectors, there are some slight variations like 1.37:1 or 1.43:1 aspect ratio which both fills the screen horizontally but has a smaller height ratio in order to provide a full-screen image vertically on your display.

Letter Box

Also known as Telemovie or CinemaLetterBox, this is the most commonly used format for showing letterbox movies in theaters or digital cinemas since it provides a standard 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

This format has a full-screen height of 1.78:1 and is a bit more expensive than 16:9 but provides the same aspect ratio and delivers the same image quality experience.

PC Widescreen

The PC Widescreen aspect ratio is a variation of the 4:3 standard definition television format used with computer software applications, such as Media Player and YouTube, to display widescreen films in their original dimensions on a computer screen.

For example, DVD movies are encoded in 4:3 (example below) which means that they are shown “letterboxed” like normal movies or like telecasts where there are black bars on top and bottom of your viewing area.

Fixed versus Variable Aspect Ratio

Fixed aspect ratio refers to projectors with an unchanging ratio of width to height, while variable aspect ratio can change the ratio. This is usually done with small projectors that use a mirror or lens to change the image size instead of a zoom lens.

Depending on your wall space or seating arrangement, you can choose either one depending on your requirements and what will fit best.

Also, if you are projecting an image from a DVD player with 4:3 resolution, you might want to go for a projector that has a fixed aspect ratio so that you don’t have your image stretched horizontally and losing quality.

Standard and Gross Screen Aspect Ratio and the Screen Diagonal

A standard or gross screen aspect ratio is the way a projector or TV displays its image. All video is formatted in a specific ratio depending on how big it wants to show up on your screen.

The standard (or most common) aspect ratio for digital video is 4:3. This means that every horizontal pixel will be 4 pixels across and 3 pixels up from the bottom of your screen. As a comparison, regular TV shows are shown with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

What will happen if you watch something with the wrong Aspect Ratio?

What will happen if you watch something with the wrong Aspect Ratio?

So, when you are watching movies, TV shows, or presentations with the wrong aspect ratio on your PC or TV, you can lose out on more than half of your screen size.

For example, if you have a 20-inch LCD monitor and your movies are shown in a 16:9 aspect ratio but your monitor is only a 16:10 aspect ratio, the full-screen image will be stretched horizontally.

If you are watching something like an HD video where the resolution is 1920×1080 pixels and the image from the DVD player is 720×480 pixels, it will be stretched vertically to fill the 16:9 screen because 720×480=16xx9 which equals 1.77:1 which is a wrong ratio.

Similarly, when you are watching movies or playing games which are primarily 16:9, it will be stretched horizontally from 4:3 to 16:9 and the result is the same as before.

Most Common Aspect Ratios for Projectors

As far as the standard aspect ratio for the most common projectors is considered, it will be 4:3 which has been used since the invention of film and is suited to live theatre projection standards. The next most common aspect ratios are 16:9 which came into use in HDTVs sometime around 2002 and then 1.78:1.

Although there are slight variations, they all share the same principle of not changing the image size when in use without any form of limitation.

The most common aspect ratio for home theater video projector:

  • 480p SD
  • 720p HD
  • 1080p HD
  • 4K Ultra HD
  • 8K Ultra HD

480p SD

480p is the standard video format used for DVDs and HDTVs, with a resolution of 480×360 pixels.

So if you are connecting it to your HDTV, it will look like an SD TV with no pixelation or stretched picture. It can be converted to Full HD by using a VGA input on the projector and then converting that output into HD via HDMI cable.

720p HD

The HD standard on the other hand has a resolution of 1280×720 and is used mainly in PC monitors. You can connect to your HDTV or other projectors with 720p by using an HDMI cable.

1080p HD

The most common display resolution for newer TV sets is 1080p which has a ratio of 1920×1080 pixels. Although most projectors aren’t capable of displaying full HD, it’s still a good deal for watching movies and photos.

The next step (and the best one if you have 160-200 inches) is 4K UHD which has 4096×2160 pixels, making it the third most popular resolution in use right now with film projectors.

Most Common Aspect Ratios for Projectors

4K Ultra HD

Although most projectors are currently not capable of displaying full HD, it’s still a good deal for watching movies and photos.

The next step (and the best one if you have 160-200 inches) is 4K UHD which has 4096×2160 pixels, making it the third most popular resolution in use right now with film projectors.

8K Ultra HD

The latest display resolution (as of 2017) in the line of video display resolutions is 8K which has a resolution of 7680×4320 pixels. Although this is a more common standard in TV sets, only a few film projectors currently use it as the cost is still quite high for an average user.

The most commonly used aspect ratio for films is 1:85, which is called “Academy aspect ratio” or simply “Academy format”. It’s the same screen size, but you get more pixels vertically than horizontally (or the other way around).

Most common aspect ratios for a business projector

  • SVGA
  • XGA
  • WXGA
  • SXGA
  • WUXGA

SVGA

The standard video screen size for business is 800×600 pixels. It’s a bit more than that of SBS, but it’s still almost the same resolution.

XGA (1024×768)

To save disk space and hardware cost, many servers come with external display monitors that only require a VGA connection.

If you watch movies with an XGA or SXGA (1024×768) resolution, you might get the full size of XGA while the projector will stretch it to fill your screen.

This is what you have probably experienced when watching TV programs over a projector in an office; you got all of the lines from TV stretched vertically instead of being on your display in their actual size.

WXGA (1280×768)

This is a slightly bigger aspect ratio. If you have a 20-inch monitor that has a ratio of 16:10, it would fill the height of your screen but only half the width. Therefore, your movie will be stretched horizontally to fill the whole screen vertically.

SXGA (1280×1024)

If you have a larger monitor with SXGA resolution, then it won’t fit your screen horizontally because 1280 pixels are not enough to fill up your display. Therefore, it will be stretched vertically and become squashed as shown in the figure below.

WXGA (1280×720 and above)

To save disk space and hardware cost, many servers come with external display monitors that only require a VGA connection.

If you watch movies with an XGA or SXGA (1024×768) resolution, you might get the full size of XGA while the projector will stretch it to fill your screen.

This is what you have probably experienced when watching TV programs over a projector in an office; you got all of the lines from TV stretched vertically instead of being on your display in their actual size.

Common Aspect Ratio for Watching Different Media

Common Aspect Ratio for Watching Different Media

Depending on the media (video, photos, documents) you have to watch, you need to find the right aspect ratio for that. For movies and TV shows, the common standard is 1.27:1 which means that the screen will be set at 1.27 times bigger than from your projector.

So if you have a 16:9 screen size (16 inches wide and 9 inches high), it will fit your display with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio with an equal height. As in 16:10, it will be taller than it is wide due to its 1.77:1 aspect ratio.

On the other hand, if you have pictures, prints, or project files that you want to display on a projector and you’re using a 16:9 aspect ratio, it will look like they’ve been stretched horizontally. You might have noticed this when viewing your presentation on a projector screen because there are black bars on top and bottom.

This is due to the fact that most images are of 16:9 but projectors run in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio so because there is no vertical space, they can’t fill up your screen and will start showing up in the black bars as shown in the figure below.

How to find out the best projector aspect ratio for you

How to find out the best projector aspect ratio for you

In case you want to find out what aspect ratio is the best for viewing a particular media, you will have to use a projector that comes with different aspect ratios.

You will find three sizes of projectors – 18:9, 16:9, and 1.85:1. You can try each and see which one fits your space the best and plays it back correctly on your screen.

In order to make sure the image does not seem stretched, you can also try using different ratios so that you can compare them and see which one fits your display best without having them stretched horizontally or vertically.

The above information will help you to get the best image quality for different media so that you don’t lose any of your screen space.

Conclusion

The aspect ratio is the key factor when it comes to viewing digital media on a projector. Aspect ratio is the size of the image from an optical source, be it a DVD player or TV set, and how it is displayed on your display.

For most, this is just an overcomplicated way to say that your projector has a certain resolution (number of pixels) and its screen will appear to be larger if its aspect ratio is higher than 1:1.

This means that if you have a projector with a VGA port and there is no aspect ratio setting on it, you won’t be able to watch anything because the image will be stretched horizontally or vertically, losing its original size in the process.

Aspect ratio in projectors and TVs are measured in width: height proportions, so 4:3 is common for standard definition video (SD video has a resolution of 480×360 pixels) while 16:9 is commonly used for high def TV shows, movies, or games. The next step after this would be Full HD which stands at 1920×1080 pixels.

 

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