Stupid TVs

Posted: 07.18.05

CE companies better smarten up or they're going to hand the home entertainment market to the PC

You know how dogs can hear high-pitched sounds, and how some of us have really sensitive noses (like me)? Well, I also have a pretty keen video eye and a sense of proportion. That's not a brag, it's actually more of a whine, because when you have sensitivities you tend to get abused a lot. And my acuities are being abused by stupid TV makers.

How? I'll tell you how. Have you noticed how the public, and maybe you too, are just accepting that everyone now looks like a chipmunk? That's right, fat faces. And why? I'll tell you why. Because all the TV makers now are shipping 16:9 aspect ratio sets and those sets are being used to display standard definition TV—net result: fat faces.

Are you going to tell me you didn't notice, or that you don't care? Have you no respect for the pixel? Standard TV pixels are 4 x 3, not 16 x 9. Those stupid TV makers are distorting our precious pixels, and perception.

Figure 1 shows how Bryan Alexander really looks.

And Figure 2 shows how Bryan looks when there's no ad next to him.

Bryan at 4:3.
Bryan at 16:9.

And how hard is it to fix that? The CE companies can easily sense when a standard TV signal is being received, and then they can clip the sides so the display is showing a proper 4:3 image. They could even switch to (ugh) anamorphic mode, which would be fine for talking-head shows like Letterman and CNN as long as they stayed centered (that can be taken coordinate-wise and metaphysically).

So why don't the CE suppliers fix it? Because they're stupid, why else? Would you like to look like that, like a chipmunk? Me neither, not that I have to worry too much about being on TV these days. You know they used to say, TV makes you look fat. Boy, does it today—actually not so much fat as, well, wide.

Projectors are stupid, too

If you have a front projector home entertainment system, don't you find it annoying that it can't figure out what the aspect ratio of the signal is? Come on. If you're sending it an S-Video signal shouldn't it know that's only going to be standard 4:3, and if you feed it a component signal isn't it safe to assume that's going to be 16:9? Jeez, what are those video proc-essors in there for?

PCs are smart

If you don't adjust the viewing size, most programs on today's PCs, those running XP that is, get it right and display the correct aspect ratio of an image or a video. (Try CyberLink's or InterVideo's DVD viewers.) And Longhorn will be even better and be totally DPI-aware—meaning if you have an icon it will be the same size regardless of your screen's resolution or aspect ratio. That's smart pixel management.

So if you want a good, clean, correct presentation then use a PC for your home entertainment system. You can get one now for under $1,000, which, except in China, is cheap given the dollar's demise (although the French have helped it recover with their recent vote).

So either the big shot Asian and European CE makers (we're not allowed to make TVs and such in the U.S. anymore) smarten up and thin up the faces of our favorite talking heads, or they are going to hand the HD market to the PC media centers on a platter. It is conceivable that home entertainment PCs, once the public catches on to them, will exceed all other PC sales, and ironically may postpone the death of the desktop to the laptop. since users like to have nice silver and black boxes.