|The video recorded on a non-anamorphic DVD. Notice the black bars at the top and bottom of the frame. These are actually present in the signal.
||The video recorded on an anamorphic DVD. Notice that the image appears "squished" horizontally, while retaining its full vertical resolution. Notice that there are virtually no black bars visible in the signal. Normally, you would never see the video in this state. The only time you would see this "squished" picture, is if you were watching the disc on an improperly set-up DVD player, using a Standard 4x3 TV - the player thinks you have a Digital 16x9 TV. A quick adjustment in the player's menu would correct this problem.
|Non-anamorphic video as it appears on a Standard 4x3 TV. This is the familiar letterboxed image you're used to.
||Anamorphic video as it appears on a Standard 4x3 TV. The DVD player performs a mathematical downconversion on the video signal, in effect combining every 4 lines of vertical resolution into 3 until the correct aspect ratio is achieved. The black bars at the top and bottom of the image are generated electronically, completing the image. Visually, it's nearly indistinguishable from a non-anamorphic (letterboxed) DVD image.
|Non-anamorphic video as it appears on a Digital 16x9 TV. The gray bars are generated by the TV to fill in the unused portions of the screen. Using the TV's "zoom" mode, you can magnify the image to fill the screen electronically, but at the cost of degrading the image quality significantly.
||Anamorphic video as it appears on a Digital 16x9 TV. The "squished" image recorded on the disc (seen at top) is sent directly to the TV, which stretches the video signal horizontally until the correct aspect ratio is achieved. As you can see, the image fills the frame, while retaining its full vertical resolution. The picture quality is stunning.
Anamorphic vs. Non-Anamorphic DVD (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio Film)
The following is a comparison of anamorphic and non-anamorphic (letterboxed) widescreen DVD video, as displayed on Standard 4x3 and Digital 16x9 TVs. For this demonstration, we've chosen to use snapshots of actual DVD video from the film Good Will Hunting (aspect ratio is 1.85:1). Buena Vista's U.S. DVD version (on the left) is non-anamorphic. By contrast, Alliance's Canadian DVD release (on the right) is anamorphic.