Seinfeld - Original vs Widescreen Aspect Ratios

Tue 13 Nov 2018, 16:33

Should you watch Seinfeld in the original aspect ratio (4:3) or the newer widescreen (16:9) format? That is a hard question.

On one hand, the 4:3 aspect ratio is the way the show as originally intended to be shown.

On the other, 4:3 looks kind of dated on a modern TV and the quality (DVD tops) is much lower.

But the 16:9 versions you can find on Hulu, Amazon Prime etc are much higher quality! They're 1080p! Much higher than the ~480p of the DVD versions. And you can see a little bit more to the sides!

So why even consider the 4:3 versions?

Well, to get a 16:9 frame from the original 4:3 alot of video had to be cropped:


Wide 1

Or even better, both frames overlaid (courtesy of someone on Reddit, I lost the link, sorry):

Compare 1

Do you see how much is lost from the bottom on the Widescreen version? The top too, but the bottom is most noticable. Elaine's hand is gone in the widescreen version for example.

Another episode:


Wide 2

Almost all of the floor and Jerry's shoe is gone in the Widescreen version. But notice the sides! You are not missing much.


Her head barely made it.


I think we can objectively say that the original aspect ratio is the way to go if you're looking for content.

But on the other hand, the quality is much lower and it looks weird on a modern widescreen TV.

So what do we do? I don't really know. It's up to you!

Personally I think I'm gonna keep both versions and watch whichever version I feel like. Maybe if I'm on my TV I'll watch the Widescreen versions and when I'm watching on my iPad I'll use the 4:3 versions.

Bonus: What About Other Shows?

Investigating Seinfeld and seeing how much is missing, I started wondering if it's the same for Friends?

One of the few mistakes I have submitted to is when a camera is visible in Widescreen version:

DVD Friends 1

Wide Friends 1

But apart from that, you can see that not much is cropped from the top and bottom. There is a little empty space under her elbow in the bottom, and you can see the top of the wall decoration in the 4:3 version. But it is not as bad as in Seinfeld. And compared to Seinfeld, there is a ton more content on the left and right sides (for worse in this case.)

I was wondering if maybe the case is different for the first seasons, but it doesn't seem like it. Here is the very first episode:

DVD Friends 2

DVD Friends 2

Again, there is some empty space under Joey's shoe in the 4:3 version, but in the 16:9 version you can see the guy reading the news paper on the left and the girl studying to the right. So the Widescreen version has way more content on screen.

So for Friends, I think you can watch the Widescreen versions without worrying about missing out on the top and bottom.

Unfortunately, there is another caveat to Friends which is that the DVD versions are "extended" and have alot of extra lines and scenes that are completely gone from the Widescreen versions. Because of that, you can't really win.

Either you'll watch the DVD versions which are really bad in quality, but get more content, or you watch the Widescreen versions which look a lot better and you can see more to the sides, but maybe one of your favorite one-liners is missing. Or maybe an entire plot is missing.

That '70s Show

This is the last show I can think of that I have both standard and widescreen versions for, so I can compare:

DVD 70s 1

Sorry, my encodes for the DVD versions have the subtitle burned in, can't remove it.

BluRay 70s 1

DVD 70s 2

BluRay 70s 2

Here we have a clear winner for the Widescreen version I think. Doesn't seem like anything is lost on the top and bottom, and in fact you see more of the top and bottom on the widescreen versions, in addition to all the extra on the left and right.

There is only one scene I remember that looks a bit weird on the Widescreen version though, and it's the very first episode where Eric is talking about the car. Donna appears a bit earlier in frame than she should.

70s Gif

But apart from that, I think the Widescreen version is the clear winner. Unless you're a purist who wants to watch the show in their originally intended aspect ratio, which I totally respect.