Theres an intriguing new development in our gradual transition to high-definition television. Graphics, such as those I create, might be allowed to occupy previously taboo territory on the edges of the picture!
If Uncle Albert ever saw the image all the way to the bottom edge, he would summon his TV repairman and complain about the black line at the bottom of his picture. The repairman would turn a knob on the back of the set to fill the picture tube by enlarging the image, thereby lopping off a bit more of it.
Let me dim the lights for this next section.
I described letterboxing in this earlier discussion.
According to Glen Dicksons article in the September 28, 2009, Broadcasting & Cable, It is logical to assume that a letterboxed version of Fox News Channel would result in a compromised experience for viewers on old 4:3 sets, including smaller text in graphic tickers. But Fox executives say SD viewers will actually now see more. ... Fox News Channel was able to increase the size of its lower-third graphics and use larger text fonts.
Actually, to me, on an HD screen the fonts now look too large. But Dickson continues:
To prove the concept, Fox created, in essence, a letterboxing lab on the third floor of its Manhattan headquarters, with a wall of flat-panel HDTV sets from various manufacturers alongside several old-school 4:3 tube TVs. ...
Its counterintuitive, admits Fox News Channel senior VP and creative director Richard OBrien. Youd think on a 4:3 screen youd be getting less, because its letterboxed. But the way its designed, and the way youre able to make use of the whole [height] of the screen now, youre actually able to get more. Its hard to think that way until you see it, but when we did all the tests, it was a no-brainer that this was the right way to go.
Well, perhaps it's not a no-brainer for everybody. B&C heard from a local cable-company technician who'd had to deal with Uncle Albert. I took a call from a customer last night complaining about the letterboxing. It had coincidentally happened after a service call where a set top box was replaced, and he thought it was the box. He had actually gotten a tape measure out and measured the height of the bars and the new graphics. I was able to explain to him it was Fox News Channel's decision to do that. He indicated he would stop watching it.
At last! We've found a way to get Uncle Albert to stop watching those rabble-rousers Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck!
Anyway, let's go back to the original article. Dickson concludes, Foxs widescreen shift may turn out to be a milestone in the gradual evolution from standard-definition to HDTV. While broadcast networks like NBC and Fox have provided letterboxed versions of entertainment programming to standard-def viewers for years, Fox News Channel is the first U.S. cable news network to go fully widescreen for both HD and SD distribution. If the new letterboxed version of the SD network is well-received, it may spur other cable networks to go the all-widescreen route, which Fox says delivers a better overall viewing experience and streamlines production workflows.