16:9 (1.77:1) (16:9 = 42:32) is an aspect ratio with a width of 16 units and height of 9. Since 2009 it has become the most common aspect ratio for televisions and computer monitors, and is also the international standard format of HDTV, Full HD, non-HD digital television and analog widescreen television. It is also used universally (16:9) as the ratio for mobile phone screens. This has replaced the old 4:3 aspect ratio.
Dr. Kerns H. Powers, a member of the SMPTE Working Group on High-Definition Electronic Production, first proposed the 16:9 (1.77:1) aspect ratio at a time when nobody was creating 16:9 videos. The popular choices in 1980 were: 1.33:1 (based on television standard's ratio at the time), 1.66:1 (the European "flat" ratio), 1.85:1 (the American "flat" ratio), 2.20:1 (the ratio of 70 mm films and Panavision) and 2.39:1 (the CinemaScope ratio for anamorphic widescreen films).
Powers cut out rectangles with equal areas, shaped to match each of the popular aspect ratios. When overlapped with their center points aligned, he found that all of those aspect ratio rectangles fit within an outer rectangle with an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 and all of them also covered a smaller common inner rectangle with the same aspect ratio 1.77:1. The value found by Powers is exactly the geometric mean of the extreme aspect ratios, 4:3 (1.33:1) and 2.35:1, √47/15 ≈ 1.770 which is coincidentally close to 16:9 (1.77:1). Applying the same geometric mean technique to 16:9 and 4:3 yields the 14:9 aspect ratio, which is likewise used as a compromise between these ratios.
While 16:9 (1.77:1) was initially selected as a compromise format, the subsequent popularity of HDTV broadcast has solidified 16:9 as perhaps the most important video aspect ratio in use. Most 4:3 (1.33:1) and 2.39:1 video is now recorded using a "shoot and protect" technique that keeps the main action within a 16:9 (1.77:1) inner rectangle to facilitate HD broadcast. Conversely it is quite common to use a technique known as center-cutting, to approach the challenge of presenting material shot (typically 16:9) to both a HD and legacy 4:3 audience simultaneously without having to compromise image size for either audience. Content creators frame critical content or graphics to fit within the 1.33 raster space. This has similarities to a filming technique called Open matte.
After the original 16:9 Action Plan of the early 1990s, the European Union has instituted the 16:9 Action Plan, just to accelerate the development of the advanced television services in 16:9 aspect ratio, both in PAL and also in HDTV. The Community fund for the 16:9 Action Plan amounted to €228 million.
In 2008 the computer industry started switching to 16:9 as the standard aspect ratio for monitors and laptops. A 2008 report by DisplaySearch cited a number of reasons for this shift, including the ability for PC and monitor manufacturers to expand their product ranges by offering products with wider screens and higher resolutions, helping consumers to more easily adopt such products and "stimulating the growth of the notebook PC and LCD monitor market".
In 2011 Bennie Budler, product manager of IT products at Samsung South Africa, confirmed that monitors capable of 1920×1200 resolutions aren't being manufactured anymore. "It is all about reducing manufacturing costs. The new 16:9 aspect ratio panels are more cost effective to manufacture locally than the previous 16:10 panels". Since computer displays are advertised by their diagonal measure, for monitors with the same display area, a wide screen monitor will have a larger diagonal measure, thus sounding more impressive. Within limits, the amount of information that can be displayed, and the cost of the monitor depend more on area than on diagonal measure.
In March 2011 the 16:9 resolution 1920×1080 became the most common used resolution among Steam's users. The earlier most common resolution was 1680×1050 (16:10).
16:9 is the only widescreen aspect ratio natively supported by the DVD format. Anamorphic DVD transfers store the information as 5:4 (PAL) or 3:2 (NTSC) square pixels, which is set to expand to either 16:9 or 4:3, which the television or video player handles. For example, a PAL DVD with a full frame image may contain a video resolution of 720×576 (5:4 ratio), but a video player software will stretch this to 1024×576 square pixels with a 16:9 flag in order to recreate the correct aspect ratio.
DVD producers can also choose to show even wider ratios such as 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 within the 16:9 DVD frame by hard matting or adding black bars within the image itself. Some films which were made in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, such as the U.S.-Italian co-production Man of La Mancha and Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, fit quite comfortably onto a 1.77:1 HDTV screen and have been issued anamorphically enhanced on DVD without the black bars. Many digital video cameras have the capability to record in 16:9.
Super 16 mm film is frequently used for television production due to its lower cost, lack of need for soundtrack space on the film itself, and aspect ratio similar to 16:9.
Common resolutions for 16:9 are listed in the table below:
In Europe, 16:9 is the standard broadcast format for most digital channels and all HDTV broadcasts. Some countries adopted the format for analog television, first by using the PALplus standard (now obsolete) and then by simply using WSS signals on normal PAL broadcasts.
Japan's Hi-Vision originally started with a 5:3 ratio but converted when the international standards group introduced a wider ratio of 5 1⁄3 to 3 (=16:9).