TV Extras

Widescreen Programming

From September 2005, RTÉ will broadcast the majority of its programming in widescreen format. The cinema industry was the first to adopt the wider screen format, however, due to the benefits of a more panoramic view broadcasters around the world are now adopting wider picture as the format of the future.

In May 2005 RTÉ commenced migrating to 16:9 widescreen production and transmission. The Sunday Game was the first series to be produced and transmitted in widescreen format. All advertising material, Weather, The Premiership, The Den etc are already being transmitted in widescreen and all programmes currently being commissioned by RTÉ will be produced in widescreen also. As the Autumn Schedule returns to our screens many more programmes, including The Late Late Show, Tubridy Tonight, Fair City, Champions League, Rugby and Soccer coverage, Religious Services, Winning Streak and many more will be transmitted in widescreen.

RTÉ are transmitting in 16:9 widescreen on the Sky digital platform and on NTL Digital. These two digital platforms attract over *460,000 subscribers.
*August 2005. Latest figures for digital subscriptions show Sky Digital with 363,000 subscribers and NTL Digital with 102,000 subscribers , a total of 465,000 digital subscribers.

What is widescreen?

Widescreen pictures are broadcast in a way that widens the viewing angle so that it more closely matches the natural human visual field. This results in a panoramic view that when used properly can add a greater perception of the environment and enhance the realism of a programme. One of the significant world-wide standards to be agreed was that widescreen TV would be universally based on an aspect ratio of 16:9. This means the picture will be 16 units wide by 9 units high.

Introduction of widescreen

Widescreen TV cannot be universal overnight. Many programmes, especially archive material, will still be in the traditional 4:3 formatfully, whilst others will be in the new 16:9 format. Because RTÉ transmits on analogue platforms via the RTÉNL transmitter network and on digital platforms via Sky Digital and NTL Digital it is necessary to transmit widescreen programmes in 16:9 to the digital platforms and in compromise 14:9 format to analogue viewers.

The 14:9 format -sometimes known as 14:9 letterbox - is an agreed specification of the European Broadcasting Union. This specifies that programmes made in 16:9 must be produced in a 'shoot and protect' mode of 14:9 to ensure that viewers using conventional 4:3 TV receivers do not lose any essential picture information.

What will the move to widescreen mean to the viewer.

- Conventional 4:3 televisions on an analogue platfrom
Viewers with 4:3 television sets watching analogue transmissions from the RTÉNL transmitter network or other analogue systems, such as analogue cable systems, will experience narrow black bars at the top and bottom of their screen when watching programmes that are being transmitted in widescreen. When watching programmes that are being transmitted in 4:3 format, the 4:3 transmission will fill the full screen of the TV set.

- Conventional 4:3 television set viewing a digital platform.
Some viewers who are viewing RTÉ transmissions from a digital platform may wish to watch television on a 4:3 television set. If a digital Set Top Box is used it is possible to select "4:3 L" format on the set top box Menu, using the remote control with the set top box. The 4:3 L format is the recommended setting to use in this situation.

- Set top box adjustments for use with 4:3 TV sets.
1. Select "Services"
2. Select "System Set Up"
3. Select "Picture Settings"
4. Select "4:3 L" format. This is the recommended mode.
5. "Save" settings.

Widescreen television viewing on a digital platform.

Viewers subscribing to Digital Platforms that carry RTÉ transmissions will experience full wide screen transmission when viewing 16:9 widescreen transmissions. When a programme is being transmitted in 4:3, such as archive programmes that were originally made in 4:3, the widescreen receiver will automatically switch to 4:3 and the viewer will experience small black curtains to the left and right hand sides of the screen. Viewers with a widescreen television on digital platform (NTL Digital and Sky Digital receivers) can now receive 'true widescreen' picture. However, you may need to manually adjust your set box if the picture is distorted.

How do you know if your picture is disorted?

A properly adjusted set will reveal the entire graphics on the screen without any loss of information e.g. if you are unable to see all the digits in an elapsed time clock in a sports programme you should adjust your set box.

How to adjust a set box on a widescreen television on a digital platform.

Follow these five simple steps to adjust your set box:
1. Using your remote select the Services button
2. Select System Set-up
3. Select Picture Settings
4. Select picture format and choose the 16:9 format
5. Save new setting

Why move to widescreen?

As the public service broadcaster, RTÉ is committed to delivering innovation in broadcasting and programming to its viewers. These new picture formats will allow audiences - including those with 4:3 television sets - to continue to receive and enjoy the enhanced viewing platform across all of RTÉ's television services.

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