Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV set

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Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV set

Postby Schmye Bubbula » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:04 pm

I've used an old CRT TV with my Roku up to now, and I just bought my first-ever HDTV a couple of days ago. I'm having a hard time getting my head around widescreen issues with Roku, and widescreen in general.

First off, I'm plugging my Roku into my 720p HDTV through an old switchbox with Composite cables (CVBS). I've heard that Composite cables aren't good enough to carry 720p, and needs Component or HDMI cables. And sure enough, my TV info dialog reports that my Roku signal is 480i SD. This is despite even when configuring my Roku Display Type in Settings as "HDTV 720p." But I don't really care about the resolution, because I'm perfectly happy with the SDTV resolution that I'm stuck with through my old TiVos through which I do all of my broadcast TV viewing, plus I like my switchbox also for those two TiVos and DVD-R, and above all for the compressor/expander audio circuit built into the switchbox that in compressor mode, among other things, reigns-in screaming commercials and makes wide dynamic range Netflix movies a fairly constant volume level. So I'm just really using my new HDTV mostly as a widescreen SDTV.

So under these perhaps unusual circumstances, do I want to set my Display Type Setting as "HDTV 720p," or as "16:9 anamorphic" (which is for SDTV)? Both seem to force all widescreen program play into an anamorphic ("Cinemascope") 4:3 aspect ratio, necessitating putting the TV into "Wide" mode to get full widescreen. The only difference is that the Roku main screen and channel menu screens additionally seem to get the anamorphic treatment in the "HDTV 720p" setting. (Why does Roku take that approach? Why doesn't it just blast out widescreen in the first place, without having to go through the two-step anamorphic "encoding"/Wide mode "decoding"? All it does is put me through a wild goose chase umpteen times a day having to dig through deep menus to toggle the TV's Wide mode. Grrrr.)

I'm also confused about widescreen in general when flipping channels in live TV (when I'm really in 720p): some HDTV stations' 16:9 programs appear fullscreen, and other stations' 16:9 programs are small windows within my screen. Ditto with some of the subchannels' 4:3 SDTV broadcasts: some are fullscreen top-to-bottom, others are small windows within my screen. Why is that?
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby kc8pql » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:01 pm

Schmye Bubbula wrote:
I'm also confused about widescreen in general when flipping channels in live TV (when I'm really in 720p): some HDTV stations' 16:9 programs appear fullscreen, and other stations' 16:9 programs are small windows within my screen. Ditto with some of the subchannels' 4:3 SDTV broadcasts: some are fullscreen top-to-bottom, others are small windows within my screen. Why is that?

Assuming you're talking about broadcast (OTA) TV ? If so, that's just the way it is, all over the place.

For the other problem, just get an HDMI cable.
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby Schmye Bubbula » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:21 pm

^ Yes, I'm talking about broadcast (OTA) TV. "That's just the way it is, all over the place" doesn't tell me why some stations do it one way, and other stations the other way. I'm curious about what's going on, and why.

As I stated in my original post, if I switch to an HDMI cable, I lose my old switchbox with the Roku, and losing the switchbox's audio compressor is a big deal to me, especially with high-dynamic range Netflix movies (I have hearing issues, and a hearing aid's compressor brings-up ambient background noise along with the main audio; the switchbox's compressor doesn't, and gives me an absolute advantage).... I think I see part of my problem: I bought this Vizio HDTV used, and although it came with a Vizio remote control, I think the previous owner replaced his remote with a lesser-capable Vizio-branded remote, because the remote in the user's manual shows zoom controls that may handle my problem, but they aren't on the one that came with mine, and the zoom controls aren't duplicated in the on-screen menus.
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby stratcat96 » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:28 pm

ok, with OTA broadcasts there really is no "standard" so sometimes the widescreen picture will fill the screen, other times it will be letterboxed. Unfortunately he's right, that's just the way it is. On the TV, just keep it in "Widescreen" mode. Since over composite you will only get 480i because they are incapable of carrying a progressive scan signal, just keep the Roku in 16:9 anamorphic. This way the Roku will not attempt to retrieve HD signals even if your internet can handle it. That is especially nice if you are or are going to be subject to data caps. Depending on the encoding, widescreen movies from Netflix or Crackle, or even DVDs will appear slightly different just because there are multiple aspect ratios to "widescreen". Movies and TV OTA that are standard definition and 4:3 will appear pillar boxed (black bars on the sides) it takes some getting used to, but you will notice if you zoom with the TV everything will be stretched and look goofy
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby mommom » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:46 pm

My Vizio remote did not come with zoom either ,but it is in the manual.Maybe its a generic manual,maybe a remote with zoom is available,but I hate zoomed movies(my other tv has zoom on the remote).Weird cartoon look. It seems like you are going through a lot of work to watch tv. Maybe there are some other solutions to the sound problem that will let you keep your tv set up one way. I have no suggestions,but maybe someone else does.I use a pc as a Tivo with a tv capture card.If I had an audio problem I would probably put in a sound card.Maybe someone else has a setup like yours that works easier.
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby kc8pql » Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:04 pm

Re: OTA

Back when OTA went digital I was looking around on the net, researching cheap but decent 16:9 HDTVs.
In the review section for one model that had a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews I ran across a 1 star review
that cracked me up. The reviewer complained that "if I'd known that the picture wouldn't fill up my screen,
I wouldn't have bought such a big TV. :wink:
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby Mark12547 » Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:17 pm

My recommendation, if feasible, would be to purchase a HDMI cable that would go from the Roku to the HD TV. (I am assuming that your HD TV understands at least 720p.) A friend told me that if you are purchasing a reasonably-length HDMI cable (3 to 10 feet), just go with any of the *mart stores (bi-mart, wal-mart) and buy a reasonably-priced cable. When the cable is purchased and hooked up, you can use the HDMI input on your TV to receive the signal from the Roku. If you see the Roku channel menu, go into settings -> Display type, and select HDTV.

I have the original model N1000 Roku "Netflix Player" (yes, my invoice calls it a "Netflix Player"). I was driving an older style TV for a year or so using the composite output because my TV understood only 480i. (Composite output is always 480i.)

When I purchased my HD TV, the next day I purchased a HDMI cable, told the Roku the display type was HD TV, the Roku rebooted, and ever since my TV has been happy with the signal from the Roku. As per HDnation, I changed my TV picture size for the Roku HDMI connection (and later for the blu-ray HDMI connection) to "Screen Fit", which on my TV means the signal will match the size of the screen, whereas its "16:9" picture size overscans (about 10% of the picture is lost outside of the viewable area).

Anyway, with the Roku connected via HDMI to the HD TV, the Roku display mode set to "HD TV", most of the Netflix content makes maximum use of the HD TV (black bars on the side for the old style 4:3 aspect ratio for TV and made-for-TV movies up to just a few years ago; use the full screen for most shows that came out in the past couple of years; but still black bars at top and bottom for panoramic / "vistavision" movies but those aren't as big as they were on the old TV). In fact, I was surprised how well the Roku normally maximizes the use of the HD TV screen without having to resort to chopping off part of the image.

The same seems to be true with my blu-ray player, though I had come across maybe three discs in the past year where the coding on the DVD wasn't sufficient to optimize screen use and ended up with black bars all the way around the picture. Most recently this happened with The Wiz, the blu-ray player matted on all four sides in black. Fortunately, my old DVD player is still hooked up via composite cables and my TV offers more zoom options with composite ports than it does with HDMI ports, so I was able to use a zoom setting that was close, though not as good as when the blu-ray player can both zoom and upscale.

I don't have my HD TV hooked to cable so I can't comment about that except to say that it seems that there seems to be a variety of resolutions used and if a movie is shown on a channel that has only 480 lines and it is shown in widescreen, it wouldn't surprise me if it appears to be completely matted on a HD TV.
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby Schmye Bubbula » Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:21 pm

Thanks, stratcat96, you've provided some new information — I didn't know that there are multiple aspect ratios to "widescreen." Now that you've said it, I guess I do recall seeing some widescreen programs wider than others, relative to height.... However that still doesn't address what I'm talking about.

Your first sentence may not reflect careful reading of my post: I was very painstaking to say that some HDTV stations' 16:9 programs appear fullscreen, and other stations' 16:9 programs are small windows within my screen. I wasn't saying that some are letterboxed and some aren't. "Letterboxed" refers to fitting a different aspect ratio program fullscreen in one dimension, and with black boxes in the other dimension, right? I was talking about fullscreen all around vs. black boxes on all four sides. For the latter, I've noticed that the top & bottom black bars are narrower than the left & right black bars, so why can't the slack be taken up and display fullscreen top & bottom, with just a little bit of black bars left & right? Then my 20" screen hasn't been turned into a 15" screen! So it's not the case that "he's right, that's just the way it is"; rather, to quote Wolfgang Pauli, it's: "That's not right. It's not even wrong." (In other words, it doesn't matter that different stations broadcast with slightly different aspect ratios — what matters is that all of the available length of one of the dimensions letterboxed fills the screen in that direction.)

And I can't keep my TV in "Wide" mode all of the time; then other programming will be stretched. I need to buy an original Vizio remote with that Wide button on it. (I don't know what model Vizio you have, mommom, but my manual was not generic and was specific to my model VX20L.)
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby stratcat96 » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:04 pm

according to your TV's manual, for HD channels set it to "Normal". The TV should be able to assign different settings to different inputs, so you should be able to set your a/v input (Roku) to "normal" as well. Then widescreen should display as fullscreen.

What you describe with the picture being enclosed by blackbars is called "window boxing" and usually occurs on a 4:3 TV displaying 4:3 content when "widescreen" is being used (selected).

Zoom displays 4:3 programming with no black bars and in the correct aspect ratio, and displays the wide-screen programs without distorting the image, but the left and the right sides are cut off. You're really going to have to experiment with your TV to get the results you want. Perhaps this will help, it's from the manual of my Vizio 26in but then not all the modes will be on yours--


The following paragraphs describe in detail the differences of the Aspect Ratio being processed by the TV:
Normal Mode
The original 4:3 aspect ratio (1.33:1 source) is preserved, so black
bars are added to the left and right of the display image. Standard TV
broadcasts are displayed with a 4:3 Aspect Ratio. Movies in 4:3
Aspect Ratio may be referred to as pan-and-scan or full frame.
Wide Mode
When watching a standard broadcast or full-frame movie in
this mode, the display image is stretched proportionately to
fill the TV screen. When watching a widescreen (1.78:1
source) program or movie, the display image fills the TV
screen. If you are watching a widescreen (1.85:1 or 2.35:1
source) program or movie, there will still be black bars at the
top and bottom of the screen.
Zoom Mode
When watching a widescreen (1.78:1, 1.85:1, or 2.35:1
source) program or movie, the display image is zoomed
proportionally to fill the width of the screen. The top and
bottom are cut off to remove most of the source material’s
black bars. This mode is good for programs or movies with
sub-titles.
Panoramic Mode
When watching a standard broadcast or full frame movie in
this mode, the 4:3 Aspect Ratio (1.33:1 source) display image
is stretched horizontally on the left and right sides to fill the
TV screen. The center of the image is not stretched.
Stretch Mode
When watching a widescreen program (1.78:1 source) with black
bars on the sides, the display image will stretch to fill the TV
screen. People will appear wider than they really are. If you are
watching a widescreen (1.85:1 or 2.35:1 source) program or
movie, there will still be black bars at the top and bottom. This
mode is available only when watching a widescreen program.
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby mommom » Sat Apr 30, 2011 7:31 pm

Those are the same paragraphs from my manual for my 42 inch Vizio.I meant maybe the manual was generic in some of the content,with additional model specific content where needed.Mine has the paragraph about "zoom" also,but just like the OP I have no button on my remote for "zoom",and it is definitely the original remote.
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby Schmye Bubbula » Sat Apr 30, 2011 8:01 pm

mommom, I just now ordered one of these. It matches the remote control pictured in the VIZIO VX20L HDTV User Manual exactly, with the sole exception of no SET button in the upper-left corner. Curiously, the remote pictured in the accompanying VIZIO VX20L HDTV Quick Start Guide is different, is just like mine (and possibly yours), and lacks the Wide, Zoom, PIP, etc. buttons! Go figure. Hopefully between the Wide button for my Roku, and the Zoom buttons for everything else, my problems will be over.

That was a good list provided by stratcat96, lifted from my and mommom's VIZIO manuals, and I found three more even more comprehensive and very authoritative treatments on aspect ratios here, here, and here.
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby mommom » Sat Apr 30, 2011 9:39 pm

Well I'm jealous! My remote is very basic.Hopefully this one will help iron things out for you. :)
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby krisbee » Mon May 02, 2011 7:41 am

If I read the real problem, it is that you can't use the HDMI cable because of the lack of audio compressor. Can you loop the audio out of the tv, to the switcher and then back in, or to your stereo? Thinking outside of the box here - having a nice HDTV and using composite cables is like buying a porche and going 50 on the highway.

I don't have an HDTV, so everything is fine to me :) But, when this nice 38" tube tv finally dies (NEVER!) and we upgrade, the cabling will upgrade at that time as well.

Its' funny, but as things go along, they aren't working for the older screens anymore (credits cut off, etc.) - everyone composes for 16:9. I have also noticed that audio levels use to really put the empasis on the phantom center, but recently a few movies we watched, we couldn't hear the dialog on the tv - we switched to the surround and everything was fine - just like mixing for mono was important in the past and now those foldbacks don't work because it isn't considered anymore. Audio was mixed so the lowest common denominator would hear everything fine - now if you don't have the best or at least current, you suffer. Same with software, I guess...
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby Schmye Bubbula » Mon May 02, 2011 10:20 am

^ Well, seems to me that the real problem is that all HDTVs don't automatically proportionately zoom programs displayed for whatever reason as windowboxed to optimally fit the screen (i.e., to letterboxed — only two sides with black bars). And this isn't merely an obscure problem posed by my unusual desire to display 480i SDTV 4:3 programming on a 16:9 HDTV; as I said in my original post, everybody confronts this problem when flipping channels: "some HDTV stations' 16:9 programs appear fullscreen, and other stations' 16:9 programs are small windows within my screen. Ditto with some of the subchannels' 4:3 SDTV broadcasts: some are fullscreen top-to-bottom, others are small windows within my screen."

Now that I've had my first HDTV under my belt for a couple of days, I'm starting to notice the poor quality of Composite cables for the 480i SDTV coming out of my switchbox (TiVo & Roku): blown highlights and washed-out color — I never noticed it on my old CRT TV. Like I said, the lower resolution doesn't matter that much to me, but these artifacts are... ugh! Guess I need to start looking for a switchbox that does Component and/or HDMI and perhaps a new HDTV TiVo. Good idea about looping the audio-only around, but I thought it through and don't think there's a way to get it all logically working together with my existing setup. So I think my only out is the new switchbox I just mentioned, then move my old switchbox in-between my TV's headphone jack and my powered speakers, just for the audio compressor (using only one of its inputs).
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Re: Widescreen problems with Roku through my first-ever HDTV

Postby stratcat96 » Mon May 02, 2011 10:29 am

Schmye Bubbula wrote:
Now that I've had my first HDTV under my belt for a couple of days, I'm starting to notice the poor quality of Composite cables for the 480i SDTV coming out of my switchbox (TiVo & Roku): blown highlights and washed-out color — I never noticed it on my old CRT TV. Like I said, the lower resolution doesn't matter that much to me, but these artifacts are... ugh! Guess I need to start looking for a switchbox that does Component and/or HDMI and perhaps a new HDTV TiVo. Good idea about looping the audio-only around, but I thought it through and don't think there's a way to get it all logically working together with my existing setup. So I think my only out is the new switchbox I just mentioned, then move my old switchbox in-between my TV's headphone jack and my powered speakers, just for the audio compressor.



The quality issues you are seeing really isn't the fault of the connection it's the TV itself. Standard definition of 480 lines is plenty to fill up a 20in screen. The problem is many (if not most) small lcd HD TVs are using cheaper components that are basically designed to use HD-only for its picture. I remember when I was working as a sales manager at Sears when that particular TV came out (around 3 or 4 years now) and it (along with pretty much every other small lcd) looked pretty bad when switched to SD. Better (or should I say more expensive) sets will look much better in SD (not to say yours is bad at all). If you are able, using a component connection will yield you infinitely better picture results w/o any handshaking issues of the hdmi due to an always-on state. You then can still use the r/w for audio if you choose.
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