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letterboxThe visual effect of black bars on the top and bottom of the screen when a movie with a wide aspect ratio is displayed on a TV that is not as wide. The black bars compensate for the reduced vertical height of the movie frames. This was a common experience on earlier TV sets if the movie was not reformatted for TV viewing (see pan & scan). The term "letterbox" was coined because the wide frame resembles the size of a letter envelope. See pillarbox, aspect ratio and anamorphic DVD.
|Standard vs. Wide Screen TV|
|When a wide screen movie played on an earlier TV (left), the image was reduced vertically, producing the letterbox effect. (Image courtesy of Intergraph Computer Systems.)|
|Still Present on Modern TVs|
|Many major motion pictures are shot in full panoramic format with aspect ratios that are still much wider than today's 16:9 wide screen TVs. As a result, the letterbox black bars are still common.|
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