The transfer to widescreen TV has been taking place over many years. During this period different stations have taken different approaches. Many still only broadcast in square (4:3 ratio), TV in the UK has been moving toward widescreen for quite some time. During this transitionalletterboxing more and more of their material as it becomes available only in widescreen. Some, like the BBC have moved entirely to widescreen (16:9 ratio), or at least that is how it may have seemed.
So as not to anger the many square telly owners that have still been out there the BBC has taken many steps to ensure that these people can still enjoy the content that is shown. While everything may be shot in widescreen, camera staff and directors are made very aware of what square telly owners will be able to see and therefore frame the action appropriately.
Terrestrial BBC signals have actually been broadcast in a 14:9 compromise ratio as well, to ease the transition, getting people used to black borders.
On the BBC family of channels this transition to widescreen is most obvious on News24. Aggregating content from many news agencies from around the world, black borders can often be seen down the sides of pre-recorded material showing a compromised, not quite full, zoom. Also, and the point of this post, the constant graphics along the bottom of the screen have been very carefully arranged to meet the needs different viewers.
The graphics have long shown a clock, a BBC News24 ident and scrolling headlines. These have, till yesterday, been carefully positioned so that people with square tellies in 4:3 Zoom mode would not miss anything. This compromise has meant the graphics have not used the full width of the screen and have therefore had to take up more vertical space. The industry standard for such things, amongst all the other 4:3 ratio news channels, is to run the headlines straight across the bottom of the screen leaving as much vertical space as possible. In widescreen vertical space is at a premium.
As of yesterday all this has changed and BBC News24 (during a wider technical switch to online graphics provided by Vizrt technology) has changed to a single strip of graphics and headlines all the way across the bottom of the screen.
I think that this shows a general shift to a complete 16:9 ratio widescreen environment across the BBC. This makes total sense. They have managed the transition to I think this signals the beginning of a strong move to a more pure 16:9 widescreenwidescreen very well, but the time has come to look forward to a High Definition future, no matter that that may be many years off, in which widescreen will be the only ratio available.
While it will be some time still to come, I cannot wait for the day when I do not have to obsessively change the way the TV is shaped or sit and stew when someone else does not have it set right. I am sure many people that know me will be equally as glad.