I hate über-letter-schlocking. What is it? Widescreen TVs (HDTVs) must deal with a wide range of media including DVDs, television, and over-the-air HD. DVDs can contain a surprising number of different formats like:
Anamorphic 16×9 (ratio of most widescreen TVs) :
Anamorphic 2:35×1 (ratio of many Hollywood movies):
Non-anamorphic 2.35×1 or “Letter-Schlocking” (black bars are encoded rather than just the video content):
Non-Anamorphic 16×9 Zoomed (notice the distortion, I refer to as the “Comcast Digital Cable Effect”):
Über-letter-schlocking happens when a non-anamorphic 2.35×1 or 16×9 movie is played back on your nice new HDTV without using the TV’s zoom function. The below happens because the black bars are encoded with the rest of the movie content so the TV sees this as 4×3 media (which it normally puts black bars on the right and left to simulate a 4×3 TV):
This causes black bars all the way around your movie and likely has made many new-HDTV buyers curse their new TV. It’s not your your TV’s fault, it is the movie companies who were stupid, lazy, or greedy (or all three) and decided to make many of the first DVDs available on the market non-anamorphic widescreen discs. Unfortunately many stores still carry these discs.
So next time you run across Über-letter-schlocking on your TV you can thank the idiots in the movie industry, because now you have to buy a new version.