Movies on DVD and VHS are often available in two screen formats: full screen and wide screen. The full screen is where a movie is modified to fit a television screen. If you have watched a video release, you have probably seen the message: “This film has been modified from its original version.”
The wide screen version maintains the same size and shape of the original theatrical version. The reason for the different versions is aspect ratio. Motion picture screens have a different aspect ratio then a television screen.
The aspect ratio (a ratio of width to height) of a television screen is 1.33:1. This means the screen is 1.33 times wide as it is tall. The most common aspect ratio for movie screens is 1.85:1 to 2.35:1. While a television screen is almost square a movie screen is rectangle.
Therefore, a video release must fit the rectangle movie screen onto the square television screen. The wide screen version displays an image with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Some people find this disturbing. Movie buffs and die hard artists prefer the wide screen because it captures the essence of the filmmakers’ vision.
The full screen actually removes the far left and right side of the movie image in order to fit the movie within the television screen aspect ratio. So the full screen, although appearing to be the whole movie, is actually missing information.
Knowing the difference can help you choose the format you prefer. Remember that the wide screen version contains the aspect ratio of the original theatrical release and that the full screen version is where only the middle part of the original theatrical is used to fill the television screen.