Is It Time to Stop Leading With 16:9?

The standard sized "box" TV has served as the de-facto standard for years. But should that remain true as display tech advances?
large 24x9 in aspen home multi layer

The Rise of 16:9: Adopting an “All Around” Solution

As technology advanced and filmmakers began exploring broader cinematic canvases, the 16:9 aspect ratio emerged as a compromise between the narrow 4:3 standard and the even wider cinematic ratios used in theaters. Even early on in cinema history, directors and cinematographers recognized that the human field of vision is naturally widescreen—a panoramic view that mirrors how we experience life.

For a full “scope” (ha) of aspect ratio history, Scientific American has a great article covering the topic.

The shift to 16:9 was simply a way to “standardize” as close as possible between widescreen and more “squarish” aspect ratios.

I’d venture a guess that most modern TV show directors (for example: Apple TV’s “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” series) prefer shooting in Cinemascope. However, because of the wide market adoption of 16:9 TVs many productions ultimately cave for the standard ratio. Of course that’s a blanket statement, and there are certainly some programs that just plain fit better with a 16:9 ratio than a wider format.

Fun Fact: The first Cinemascope movie premiere was “The Robe” in 1953

The grand debut of Cinemascope, the revolutionary widescreen format, hit theaters with the iconic film “The Robe” in 1953. Audiences were treated to a visually stunning experience, immersing them in the epic tale in a way that traditional screens could only dream of. It was more than just a movie; it was a widescreen revolution that set the stage for cinematic innovation.

Why did TVs never move past 16:9?

I’ve always wondered this. If we were able to transition from the 4:3 to the 16:9 TVs that we still have today, why did we stop there? Since Cinemascope has made it into the home more and more, why haven’t we continued to adopt to new “standards”?

Fun Fact: How 16:9 became the official standard for television

During the 1990s, the European Union’s 16:9 Action Plan played a pivotal role in propelling the widescreen ratio into the television mainstream. Following the turn of the millennium, the computer industry followed suit, transitioning from the traditional 4:3 to the widescreen 16:9 format. This shift extended over more than a decade, making 16:9 the predominant aspect ratio for computer monitors, laptops, and LCDs.

There’s a couple of reasons that I can readily identify for the resistance to any change here:

Appealing to a Massive Audience With Highly Standardized Options

One reason why 16:9 has remained the size of all TV’s for so long is because the goal of TV manufacturers is to draw as large of a target market as possible. Which makes a lot of sense when your primary objective is to reduce the entry level price point for the category.

So TV’s rarely appeal to a specific application and are broadly marketed to home theater, gaming, and digital signage. Heck, even the TVs that are “application specific” like some outdoor TVs still utilize the same core tech which results in the same standard size options off the shelf.

Enabling Mass-Production in the Race to Zero

Another reason that 16:9 stays dominant in flat-panel TVs is because of the competitive landscape of the TV market. It has long been characterized by a relentless race to lower prices—a phenomenon often referred to as the “race to zero.” In this environment, manufacturers sought ways to trim production costs to meet the demand of consumers.

If you’re a custom integrator reading this, I can hear you nodding in agreement. Just look at the margins in your portfolio. It’s a wonder how anyone makes a living in this category! So what is the solution? Hang on, we’re getting to that.

So, if standardizing is your main goal, then utilizing a never-changing shape and size really helps with economies of scale. If you can get away with building one tool instead of two, then your manufacturing costs become cheaper.

Unfortunately, none of this really does anything to help improve the experience of the digital display in the consumer’s home or business place. Instead, innovation and technology become centered around “spec for dollar” instead of the level of immersion the display provides.

a large widescreen microled display in a man cave

People Want Experiences, Give ’em MicroLED

So what is the “custom integration” answer to the rigidity of the traditional 16:9 display offering? A display that has an aspect ratio specifically for what you want to watch, not a “standard” for everyone. Enter the MicroLED landscape of built-to-suit systems.

MicroLED is not your typical display system because it’s completely modular. Instead of one single image, the entire system is comprised of smaller “tiles” that are stacked together. The benefit is that the system is configurable to any size and aspect ratio you can imagine.

When it comes time to display content, our processors take the inputs and scale them to the desired output, even offering multiple windowing and layering options like this:

No longer confined to a single application, multitasking becomes a breeze. Picture watching your favorite movie on one side while keeping an eye on the latest sports scores or social media feeds on the other. It’s a symphony of content, all on a single, seamless screen.

Art is a major application for our MicroLED systems. And what better way to illustrate the value of the freedom of any-aspect-ratio-you-want than a user who wants to see view their art in 3-foot wide by 10-foot tall portrait display?

The 24:9 Is Our Go-to Favorite and the Preferred Sales Tool

Back to the topic at hand, the 24:9 shaped display is a unicorn of aspect ratios. It’s amazing to watch the reactions when people see it. It advances out of the realm of “screen” and becomes an experience. And here’s where the magic happens. Big box stores don’t carry it. It’s not on their shelves, and it’s not something customers can casually pick up during a weekend shopping spree.

This aspect ratio, combined with our multi-layering processor enables a rich media canvas that allows for 3 simultaneous 16:9 sources playing at the same time. Then when it’s time to watch your favorite Cinemascope movie, the display flips with the touch of a button.

You Sell What You Show

When you lead with a 24:9 MicroLED, you’re not just selling a product; you’re offering an exclusive experience. Your showroom becomes a haven of innovation, a showcase of what’s beyond the ordinary. Now your true pitch, that is creating amazing experiences for your clients, becomes plainly obvious.

So, are you ready to level up your media canvas?

We think it’s time to change the landscape of the “standard” display systems. This is especially true if you’re an integrator. You lead with the future—where 24:9, 32:9 and other application specific aspect ratios live. It’s not just a strategic move; it’s a statement. Your showroom, your home, your business becomes the epicenter of innovation, and your value proposition becomes unparalleled. Welcome to the era of MicroLED, where you don’t just follow trends; you set them.

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