How Does Anamorphic UltraWide 4K Cinema Work?

Over 80% of the most popular movies since 1972 are made in the 2.4:1 cinema aspect ratio – much wider than 4K/UHDTV   

Visit our complete list of articles

  Why Don’t Movies Fiton my HDTV or Screen?
  4K UltraWide – The NewHome Cinema Format
  How 4K UltraWideCinema Works
  The Best Screen Format:2.4:1, 2.35:1 or 16:9?
  How Does AnamorphicCompare to Zooming?

Is your home theater all about getting the most immersive experience? The fact is that over 80% of the most popular movies are made in the UltraWide 2.4:1 aspect ratio for commercial theaters. These movies are meant and created to be the largest experience in your theater but on a flat panel TV or 16:9 projection system they are actually displayed as the smallest experience with the lowest performance. So now today’s most popular projector models also include anamorphic upconversion modes for use with an external anamorphic lens to convert their full performance into the larger 2.4:1 cinema movie format for the highest brightness and detail – all while still providing modes for watching 16:9 content. The anamorphic advantage means these projectors can actually deliver better movie performance than you can get in most commercial theaters.

How does anamorphic projection increase the brightness and detail of movies?

THE ORIGINAL MOVIE SURROUNDED BY UNUSED BLACK DISPLAY PIXELS. Consumer UltraWide 4K movies are delivered using 3840 horizontal x 1600 vertical pixels to maintain their original 2.4:1 aspect ratio (ie 3840/1600=2.4). When displayed in the center of the 4096 x 2160 pixels of a 4K/4096 projector there are 2,701,200 unused black display pixels surrounding the movie.


THE UPCONVERTED MOVIE USING THE REPURPOSED BLACK PIXELS. Anamorphic 4K/4096 upconversion, now an included option in all new 2020 JVC and Sony 4K/4096 home theater projector models, applies digital scaling and possibly other image processing algorithms to convert the movie to a higher resolution of 4096 x 2133 so that previously unused display pixels are repurposed for a total increase of 43%. While no real, additional source resolution is implied, upconversion from real movie content has been proven to not only provide the additional image brightness from those millions of additional pixels but also additional realistic detail and subsequent improved clarity to the projected images. However, this process also leaves the movie appearing vertically stretched by 25%.


THE UPCONVERTED MOVIE ON A 2.4:1 SCREEN THROUGH A PALADIN DCR LENS. The upconverted movie is optically compressed through an external Paladin DCR anamorphic lens to remove the 25% vertical stretch. This restores the original 2.4:1 movie aspect ratio while retaining the significant performance enhancement from the upconverted pixels for greater visual clarity combined with a net brightness increase of approximately 38% over projection of the original movie.


How can you watch 16:9 TV in your anamorphic 2.4:1 4K cinema?

While 80% of the most popular movies are made for your 2.4:1 cinema, new 2020 4K projectors from Sony and JVC also give you many options for watching 16:9 TV programming such as sports without moving the anamorphic lens. All instantaneous. All at the push of a button.

16:9 ClassicComplete content is displayed in its original format with full vertical resolution but reformatted using 3072 horizontal resolution. Sony 4K: “Squeeze”. JVC 4K: “Anamorphic D”. (note 1)

16:9 Wide (Stretched)
Complete content is displayed with full 3840 x 2160 original resolution but with a 25% horizontal stretched appearance to better fill the screen, leaving about 3% of the screen width black on the left and right. Sony 4K: “Normal”. JVC 4K: “Off”. (note 1)

16:9 Full (Stretched)The content fills the entire screen by stretching to 4096 horizontal resolution and cropping about 3% from both top and bottom, resulting in a 25% stretched appearance. Sony 4K: “2.35:1 Zoom”. JVC 4K: “Zoom”.

16:9 Full (Cropped).  The image fills the entire screen with full 4096 resolution and with no stretched appearance by cropping 10% from both top and bottom. Sony 4K: “V-Stretch”. JVC 4K: “Anamorphic C”.

Note 1. When 2.4:1 movies are perfectly framed by your screen then 13 out of 2160 pixel rows of 4K 16:9 content will project onto both the top and bottom screen border. This may impact the visibility of very small characters if they are placed close to the edge such as with sports broadcast scores.

About the Author


Shawn Kelly is the founder and CEO of Panamorph. He is a graduate of the USAF Academy and has used his B.S. in Space Physics and M.S. in Engineering Physics in multiple roles throughout his career in the Air Force and multiple high tech startups. He is the lead or sole inventor of 20+ issued patents relating to optical and image processing technologies and is or has been a member of CEDIA, the Optical Society of America, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Blu-ray Disc Association, the Hollywood Professional Association and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Besides personally taking advantage of just about everything Colorado has to offer, Shawn spends a fair amount of time with his wife watching movies in their own UltraWide home theater and then working with Panamorph’s long-time industry partners to figure out how to make the experience even better for everyone.