16:9 Aspect Ratio: What Is This And Why This Widescreen Is So Popular

When it comes to displays, one of the most important things you always need to keep an eye out for is the aspect ratio. Basically, this determines how you consume whatever it is you’re watching – and as you can imagine, it plays a huge part in helping you to optimize your experience as much as possible. 

While there are several aspect ratio options available, the 16:9 ratio has emerged as easily the most prominent. In this article, we’ll look into what the 16:9 aspect ratio is, as well as why it has grown so popular in recent times.

What Is Aspect Ratio?

In its simplest sense, the aspect ratio of a display basically describes the relationship between the width of your content and its height. 

Every device that is used to display content basically has the dimensions for its width and height. In some devices, width readings are larger than height readings – while others have things the other way around. With the aspect ratio, you get to understand how these dimensions stand. 

When you see an aspect ratio reading, it is expressed as a ratio of two numbers. The first represents the width of the display, while the other represents the display’s height. 

Aspect ratios work in different contexts and for different devices. And as you can imagine, different aspect ratios result in varying visual experiences overall. So, you want to be very careful with your choice when handling your display.

Aspect Ratios in Film and Television

When it comes to TV and film productions, aspect ratios have always played a major role in crafting the experience that the audience sees. These productions rely very heavily on the ability of the audience to view and perceive the content, and the aspect ratios play a very important role in that. 

Aspect ratios for film and TV come in different forms. However, most filmmakers tend to use the following:

The Academy Ratio: 

This ratio is marked up as 1:37:1 – or, as we’ve come to know it today, the 4:3 ratio. In the early years of cinema, this ratio was everything. And, even to date, it continues to be prevalent. 

Broader Ratios For Wide Screens:

As the 50s rolled around, more widescreen devices became ubiquitous. As you’d imagine, these devices needed their own ratios. And, this is where we got options like the cinemascope ratio (2:35:1), cinemascope with anamorphic lenses (2:39:1), and the very own 16:9 resolutions that have become so prominent to date. 

TV Standard Aspect Ratios

With the film and TV landscape evolving, devices have also evolved. And, in most cases, you have two aspect ratios that seem to really fit the bill – 4:3 and the 16:9 res. 

However, there has also been an interesting pivot into IMAX recently. More filmmakers are exploring the potential for IMAX to become the next big thing, especially as it provides a more visually striking and immersive experience for many viewers. IMAX movies can seamlessly switch between different aspect ratios, so it is easy to move from, say, the aspect ratio of 16:9 to that of 4:3. 

Defining the 16:9 Ratio

The 16:9 aspect ratio has pretty much become the new standard shewn it comes to producing and releasing content. Much has been said about the aspect ratio of 16:9, but as we said earlier, it represents the fact that you get 9 units of height for every 16 units of width that your screen has.

Most people remember back in the day when the 4:3 aspect ratio was really the standard across the board. This aspect ratio was established around the 1940s, and it pretty much continued to rule the movie and content space well until the 90s and early 2000s. 

At this point, widescreen formats had become quite popular – especially for cinema and movies. So, there was a need for a new aspect ratio that could pretty much handle this format. Thus was born the 16:9 resolution.

Interestingly, there’s a significant chance that we continue to see this aspect ratio be more prominent over time – especially as digital multimedia is starting to become more of a thing.  

Characteristics Of 16:9 Aspect Ratio

As you would imagine, every aspect ratio has the characteristics and features that help them to stand out. With the 16 to 9 ratio, you get some of the following:

The Proper Width For Screens

Easily the first thing you need to know about the 16:9 res is that it tends to be broader than the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio. As such, it offers a much broader viewing experience. 

Everyone Uses It Now 

Like we said earlier, the 16:9 resolutions have pretty much become the industry standard across the board. From TV to broadcasting and even online video platforms, everyone makes use of it. 

Immerse Your Audience In Your Content

With this resolution, you also get the opportunity to achieve a more immersive overall experience. Regardless of the content you’re showing, the 16:9 aspect ratio is pretty solid.

Association With Standard Resolutions 

At the same time, there are several ties between the 16:9 aspect ratio and most of the standard hD resolutions you see around. These include the 1920 x 1080 aspect ratio for FULL HD and the 3840 x 2160 pixels for Ultra HD or 4K.

Working For Online Content

You can also notice that the 16:9 aspect ratio has become more ideal for online video services like YouTube. When sharing videos, content creators tend to choose this aspect ratio as it allows them to better present their work.

Technical Details of 16:9 Aspect Ratio

So we now know and understand how this aspect ratio works. But, we also need to consider the technical details to see how it operates. Here are a few things you should note: 

The Mathematical Representation Of 16:9

For a 16:9 aspect ratio, you are essentially saying that you get 9 units of height for every 16 units of width. When you divide it, you get approximately 1.78.

As we said, there is also a close relationship between the 16:9 aspect ratio and different pixel resolutions. These include 1920×1080 pixels (Full HD), 1280×720 pixels (HD), and 3840×2160 pixels (Ultra HD or 4K), and the links are especially notable in the context of high-definition content. 

How Does This Impact Screen Resolutions? 

Besides the math that works for it all, there are also several impacts of this aspect ratio on overall screen resolutions. These include: 

  • Becoming The Standard For Broadcasting: Today, resolution 16 9 has become the industry standard for content presentation and broadcasting tasks. 
  • It’s Compatible With Different Devices: Whether you’re consuming content on a laptop, a phone, or a tablet, the 16:9 resolution easily allows you to access it without much stress. As you would imagine, this flexibility really plays a critical role in ensuring that this aspect ratio stands out. 
  • Resizing Is Pretty Easy: For most content creators, the goal is to find ways to fit whatever they have into the 16:9 aspect ratio, so it looks much better and they can display it. 

Why Is 16:9 So Popular?

As we pointed out, 16:9 came onto the scene back in the ’90s and has remained the standard. But, why exactly is it that everyone is so in love with this ratio? And why does it seem like content creators immediately consider it when building their stuff? 

Well, here are a few reasons:

It Gives That Cinematic Look: 

There is a very close resemblance between the 16:9 aspect ratio and the widescreen format that you get when you go to the cinema. And as cinemas have become more popular, people have grown more accustomed to 16:9 content. 

The High-Definition Trend 

These days, everyone wants to see stuff in HD and 4K. The 16:9 ratio supports these formats well, so it only makes sense that creators consider it.

It Works With Different Devices

You should also note that the 16:9 resolutions work with just about every device. So, everyone gets a consistent view of content regardless of what they’re using. 

Create Visually Compelling Content

The broader frame available with the 16:9 res also allows creators to be freer and explore more with the way they tell their visual stories. You can use the ratio to frame your shots, and your content is delivered in a more appealing manner. 

Why 16:9 Aspect Ratio Is Important In Film

The landscape of modern filmmaking continues to shift over time. As filmmakers are looking for ways to tell their stories in more creative ways, more of them are taking advantage of the popularity of the 16:9 ratio. 

At the same time, the ratio has also transformed the way movies are being made. Here are a few ways how:

Filmmakers Can Choose Different Platforms: 

It might not be the cinematic standard for now, but the 16:9 aspect ratio works for content because filmmakers can easily use it to produce their work across different platforms. Whether you need something to go on a streaming service, a TV broadcast, or anything else, the 16:9 resolution is pretty versatile. 

Editing Is Generally A Breeze

Filmmakers also prefer the 16:9 aspect ratio because it is considerably simpler and cost-effective from a logistics perspective. Since the format already aligns with the native resolutions for editing software and cameras, the full production process is pretty smooth.

Aligning With The Broadcast Standard 

If you’re a filmmaker looking to create content for theatrical release, then maybe you’d like to release on TV broadcasts or streaming, then the 16:9 aspect ratio should provide an opportunity for you to meet all broadcast standards. 

Transition Isn’t So Difficult To Handle 

Finally, we should also note the fact that moving from other standards to 16:9 isn’t much of a chore. So, if you’ve made your film and would like to make a switch, it shouldn’t be too difficult to handle. 

How 16:9 Enhances The Viewing Experience 

When it comes to sharing and producing content, one of the biggest considerations is the experience of everyone who watches it. Widescreen resolutions like 16:9 provide a more immersive experience than most other options out there, and there are several reasons for that: 

The Broad Cinematic Feel 

Easily the most significant reason why the 16:9 aspect ratio improves the viewing experience is by providing the widescreen format – one that mimics the feeling of being in a cinema. 

Providing Custom Cinematic Shots

Filmmakers can also capitalize on the broad frame of this aspect ratio to build shots that enhance their ability to tell stories. Thanks to the fact that you get a much larger horizontal space, the resolution makes it very easy for you to capture more of your environment and improve your storytelling. 

The Ratio Works With Modern Devices

Another added note is that this aspect ratio works pretty much for all devices now. This flexibility is a major advantage, and it definitely helps improve your available audience.

Everyone’s Familiar With it Already 

One major reason why the 16:9 aspect ratio has become so popular is that everyone wants to watch stuff in landscape view now. So, with 16:9, you have an aspect ratio that everyone is already familiar with. 

Better Detail & Content Resolution 

Remember that the 16:9 aspect ratio has significant links to HD content. So, you can achieve higher levels of detail and resolution thanks to 16:9 format pixels. 

Limitations of The 16:9 Aspect Ratio 

The popularity of the 16:9 aspect ratio has made it pretty considerable. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the aspect ratio is all perfect. There are a few limitations to it, and as a content creator, you’ll need to be familiar with these as well. 

Here are a few of them: 

  • It Might Not Be So Epic: if you’re a filmmaker looking to get a cinematically epic look, you might not necessarily get what you need from the 16:9 ratios. 
  • It Struggles With Landscape Shooting: The aspect ratio is also quite limited in terms of width for specific landscape compositions, so filmmakers want to be careful about that. 
  • Not So Much Vertical Space: Compared to more square-like ratios, 16:9 doesn’t offer as much vertical space as you might need. 
  • Some Content Genres Don’t Work With It: If you’re looking for something that’s more traditionally accurate for some shooting content genres, then 16:9 might not be so suitable. 

Aspect Ratios: The Difference Between 4:3 And 16:9

When it comes to content and video resolutions, the two most prominent options are 16:9 and 4:3. Both essentially came up as content development became mainstream, and they’ve continued to maintain their statuses as standards for filmmakers out there.

But, how do you really differentiate between the two? Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

What Do They Stand For? 

With the 4:3 aspect ration you pretty much have 4 units of height for every 4 units of width on your screen. The 16:9 takes things broader, giving you 9 units of height for 16 units of width/ 

How Does This Affect Shape? 

Thanks to their formats, the 4:3 aspect ratio tends to be more square-like than the 16:9 ratio, which is considerably wider. 

What Are The Visual Characteristics? 

With its box-like look, the 4:3 aspect ratio is most likely better suited to older films – as well as classic video games, TV shows, and more. Its orientation is more vertical too, so it works better for portrait photos. 

Compare this to the 16:9 ratio, which is more horizontally inclined and will be better suited to new-age content. Everyone wants HD standards and digital broadcasts, and the 16:9 aspect ratio conforms to these easily. 

So, for a quick recap, here are some highlights to note when comparing the 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios:


Parameters 4:3 16:9
Actual Definition  3 height units go with 4 width units  9 height units go with 16 width units 
What It Looks Like  A square Broader, rectangular shape
Use Over Time  Was the standard for monitors and TVs in the past  Suits more modern TV and digital broadcast devices
Visual Peculiarities More vertical look, less horizontal space Focus is on horizontal, widescreen spacing 
Video Resolutions 640×480 (SD), 800×600 (Common monitor resolution) 1920×1080 (Full HD), 1280×720 (HD), 3840×2160 (Ultra HD or 4K)


All in all, the 16:9 aspect ratio has become a marvel for content production and display. And when you consider the fact that it is compatible with so many devices, there’s a considerable chance that this trend will only continue. 

If you’d like to learn more about this aspect ratio or you’re considering applying it to your display and content, feel free to reach out to us at NSE LED Cloud. 

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