How to Remove the Black Bands Around a TV Picture


A standard television is four units wide by three units tall, while a widescreen television is 16 units wide by nine units tall. This measurement is referred to as the aspect ratio, and is abbreviated 4:3 and 16:9. Unfortunately, the aspect ratio of feature films doesn't always match. Over the years, there have been many attempts to fit movies onto TV screens, from the full screen pan-and-scan, to adding black bars to the top. All widescreen TVs have a mode for viewing 4:3 video, which puts black or gray bars on either side of the screen. If the film was shot in a format wider than 16:9, you will also see bars on the top and bottom.

  • Look at the location of the bars. If the black bars are on the sides of the screen, it means the TV is set to the 4:3 aspect ratio. If the black bars are on the top and bottom, the image is widescreen, but in a different ratio than your widescreen TV. If there are black bars on all four sides and the picture looks squeezed, it's an image with a wider aspect ratio on a widescreen TV set to the 4:3 aspect ratio.

  • Remove bars on the sides by setting the TV to widescreen mode. Some TVs have an option to switch aspect ratios on the remote. Others require going into a menu or sub-menu. Check the manual for your TV if you aren't sure. If the original image is 4:3, the picture will appear distorted in widescreen.

  • Enable zoom mode on the TV to eliminate bars on the top and bottom. Not all TVs have this feature. Some TVs have different levels of zoom.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are watching live TV, or a DVD of a television show, odds are the original image is 4:3 and it's best to put up with the black bars.
  • Zoom mode will also cut off some of the image on either side of the screen.


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