The End of 4:3?

On May 1st 2012, ScreenScape will end native support for screens using the 4:3 aspect ratio.

When ScreenScape first began offering its digital display service in 2009, we engineered the software to offer full screen support for the three dominant aspect ratios of the day – 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10. We achieved this through a complex method that detected the ratio/resolution of a display screen at the time it was launched, then made on the fly adjustments for a real time best fit.

4:3 TV/monitor
Today in 4:3 aspect ratio

This dynamic approach has helped ScreenScape members to share their content in the ScreenScape Community without having to worry about the re-formatting of those assets to fit the varied screens that other members might be using. But it had its trade offs. Apart from code complexity, the main compromise was living with the limitations imposed by a one-size-fits-all design.

Lowest Common Denominator

One example of a trade off was the limit imposed on text size and length. This was necessary for areas like the narrow sidebar of a square-ish low resolution 4:3 display. Longer sentences in large font sizes just don’t fit in the smaller area. For a high resolution widescreen 16:9 display the limits could be much higher; but because the software doesn’t know ahead of time which size of screen it will be presented on, the lower limits are enforced for both. This approach guaranteed a consistency across a non-standard Community – but left us hungry for a solution with fewer design limitations.

16:9 HDTV
Today in 16:9 aspect ratio

A New Hope

Since that time, the HDTV manufacturing industry has consolidated around 16:9 as a universal standard. The 4:3 ratio is by-and-large a remnant from the days of CRT tubes, and doesn’t really apply to today’s market. The overwhelming majority of our members use HDTV’s as the panel component in their venues. The logical conclusion is that support of 4:3 is quickly becoming irrelevant. Coming to this conclusion removed a major design constraint for our Product team, and they used that extra leeway to re-imagine the way our Displays are created.

ScreenScape is moving to the 16:9 standard

The long and the short of it? ScreenScape is moving to the 16:9 standard as of May 1st, 2012.

What does this mean? Most members (those who use 16:9 screens) will notice no change. Those using 16:10 screens will be supported with a safe area design approach. Imperceptible to most audiences, on 16:10 panels the trained eye will notice a slightly wider margin at the edge of the display. Those using 4:3 screens (are there any more out there in commercial use?) will continue to function seamlessly, but will have a letterboxed display.

A new Display in standard 16:9
A new Display in 4:3 aspect ratio

The advantage to ScreenScape members is a move from good looking displays to GREAT looking displays. For our Product team, it’s a double win – simpler code with better results. The improvement is going to be hard to miss this year – our displays are going to get a substantial visual makeover in 2012. In no small part, these improvements stem from the advantages of using 16:9 as a universal standard.

Contact Us

Note: If you’re a current customer still operating on 4:3 screens, please contact us and we’ll be happy to walk you through the upcoming changes. If you’re curious about the aspect ratio of your screen, Whatismyscreenresolution is a useful tool for a quick diagnostic check.