Sci Fi Channel switching to 16:9

By David Knox on November 20, 2008 / Filed Under Pay TV 19

The Sci Fi Channel has its second birthday on December 1 and will celebrate by switching from 4:3 to 16:9 ratio across the channel.

Around half the shows on the channel will be broadcast in true 16:9 detail. Those programmes that are only available in 4:3 will be pillar-boxed with black stripes down the side.

Star Trek: Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine are only available in 4:3,” a spokesperson told TV Tonight.

Star Trek: Enterprise is available in 16:9 full frame along with programmes like Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Angel, Stargate, Stargate: Atlantis and movies.”

Even Buffy is available in 16:9 with the exception of the first season.

Behind the scenes it has taken the channel months to prepare.

“You have to re-order the tapes in 16:9, you then have to go through the keying process and get them to Foxtel for playout.

“It’s something that our viewers have been asking for. They’re very tech-savvy, dedicated and they like to watch their programmes as they were intended.”

TV1, which is also under the same management is considering a switch to 16:9 but with older programmes, a greater proportion of the content is in 4:3.

Also for the birthday month Sci Fi is introducing Eureka at 8:30pm Thursday December 4th.

19 Comments »

  1. Grinspoon November 21, 2008 at 7:03 pm -

    On the 16:9 version of 4:3 shows they should start showing the HD star trek original series. That was made on film and they do have the wide-screen HD versions. For the remastered episodes however they re did the special effects with CG. Which apparently works quite well.

    I don’t mind them cutting off the top of some shows if it works. It seems to for sienfeld and the picture quality is superb compared to what we’ve been used to for the show.

    Biggest tragedy is Babylon 5. The show was made in widescreen. The special effects were not. They were rendered in 4:3 ntsc resolution. They had some idea that when the time came that people wanted the wide-screen versions, they could re-render it all but they then lost all the data so that’s impossible to do.
    So for the widescreen versions, the purely live action footage is nice and high quality, but when you come to any shot that is CG or a composite.. which happens a lot, the quality drops to an enlarged low resolution, cropped version. Because this was ntsc its particularly bad for the end converted to PAL.

  2. David November 21, 2008 at 5:26 pm -

    I wasn’t aware that Buffy was filmed in widescreen for seasons 2 and 3. Regardless, the framing of the shots was designed for 4:3, so you may see the occasional “distraction” outside the 4:3 box, and it will definitely not be as intended by the creators (which was an artistic, rather than logistical, decision).

  3. Craig November 21, 2008 at 8:01 am -

    Interesting info about Buffy, I want S2&3 in 16×9 on DVD, might have to see if I can record them :D

    “@Craig, once again it was recorded to film which itself is already much wider than 4:3.”
    Well that makes sense for Seinfeld, add a bit to the side, cut a bit and bingo 16×9 in HD, Now will they ever be put on DVD? Probably the day after I buy the current DVD box set :lol:

    “Anyway, getting back on topic, if they had a 16:9 frame to work with they would have used it on the DVD too.”
    Not necessarily, look at the first season of House and The OC on DVD its 4×3 but aired in HD 16×9 and my pet peeve is Gilmore Girls seasons 4 to 7 aired in HD 16×9 but are degraded on DVD in 4×3. I’m sure there are many others.

    Maybe we need another poll “what are your TV pet peeves?”

  4. Evil November 20, 2008 at 11:21 pm -

    Craig: Nine’s 16:9 broadcast of Seinfeld _is_ reframed (cut off top/bottom), but most of the time it isn’t particularly noticeable.

    Mike Beckham: MediaSpy’s info is wrong, for one thing it was shot on 35mm Panavision, not 16mm. Secondly, it’s definitely cut off top/bottom, although there is some extra info on the sides it’s not enough to fill the 16:9 frame. There is both less and more (similar to a Super 35 frame, only with less to work with)

    HD masters were made for every episode a few years back (which meant going back to the original film elements and re-editing every episode) for the DVD releases. This re-editing also caused a few hiccups — one episode they forgot to replace the bluescreen during a driving scene with the composited footage This is also why the DVD (and Ch. 9) versions are sped up and higher pitched than the original NTSC->PAL conversions that Ch. 10 aired.

    Anyway, getting back on topic, if they had a 16:9 frame to work with they would have used it on the DVD too.

  5. Rick November 20, 2008 at 8:02 pm -

    Craig, in the United States, FX has been available in High Definition since October 2007.

  6. Grinspoon November 20, 2008 at 6:12 pm -

    When the channel launched, i was honestly dumb founded that it was not 16:9.

    From the point of view, why would you launch a new channel that wasn’t 16:9when bunch of the shows on it are made wide screen, then to the fact it’s a channel who’s audience would be more likely than others to care about the aspect ratio.

    It’s about time. The picture quality has always been quite poor on sci-fi to begin with, so hopefully that clears that up.

  7. David Knox November 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm -

    Sci Fi Channel told TV Tonight Buffy was in 16:9 except for Season 1. It was a specific question.

    Not sure if DVD differs.

  8. Jason November 20, 2008 at 4:45 pm -

    Buffy was 16:9 from Season 4 onwards, the first 3 seasons on DVD are in 4:3 aspect ratio

  9. Mike Beckham November 20, 2008 at 4:34 pm -

    @Craig, once again it was recorded to film which itself is already much wider than 4:3.

    ATNI at MediaSpy gave a good explanation:
    “The widescreen episodes are not resized. Each and every episode of Seinfeld was filmed on 16mm widescreen film, hence why they have been able to produce HD widescreen versions of each episode. If anything, you could say there is more picture information than before, not a loss.”

  10. CAM November 20, 2008 at 4:02 pm -

    16:9 is all very well and good, but why not go HD?

    Many of these programes are produced in High Definition, and the Sci-Fi audience is most likely to have HD Foxtel and HD displays.

  11. Craig November 20, 2008 at 3:55 pm -

    Buffy started in 16×9 from S4 (I have the DVD) of course the original movie is also in 16×9. Stargate SG1 which started in July 1997 has always been in 16×9 and can be bought on DVD in that format.

    As for Seinfeld I don’t know how they did it without stretching the image but on ch9 it look good in 16×9 with no heads cut off or anything, why can’t it be sold on DVD in 16×9?

    Anyone getting anew TV wants there shows to fill the screen so the sooner more channels go 16×9 the better!

  12. Russell November 20, 2008 at 3:51 pm -

    Don’t forget the US does not do 16:9 SD. Just 16:9 HD

    Also many shows were shot, edited and made in HD – even if the parent US network was not airing a HD signal at the time. They did this with an eye to the future, knowing eventually the industry would go HD.

    Most FX shows like Damages, Nip/Tuck and The Riches are made in HD, even though FX itself does not broadcast a HD channel yet (although they plan on it in the future) Likewise for Sci Fi shows like Eureka, have been made in 16:9 HD for a long time, even though Sci Fi USA just launched an HD channel.

    Before this it is very likely that places like Australia saw shows like Nip/Tuck and Damages in 16:9 HD, even though the US auds did not!

  13. Mike Beckham November 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm -

    @Tomothy, If it was recorded on film like Seinfeld it can be transferred into 16:3.

  14. bertrand November 20, 2008 at 1:13 pm -

    Yay. Now we just need other channels to follow suit…

  15. Matt November 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm -

    great news, it will be good to see shows like Battlestar Galactica in WS and not the crappy P and S they have screened it in.

  16. Jack! November 20, 2008 at 12:22 pm -

    How silly is it that they were not showing them in 16:9 … one great way to put people off watching them and heading straight for the DVDs! or the downloads …
    Eureka is a very entertaining show too … quite unusual, different ..
    Jack!

  17. Tomothy November 20, 2008 at 9:31 am -

    About time, thanks Foxtel. Yes, TV1 does have a considerable amount on 4:3 shows but maily in day time, where as FOX Classics which has even more 4:3 was recently made into 16:9.

    TV1, Areana and Comedy are all showing more 16:9 these days and hopefully get upgraded soon. It is dissapointing the the Christian Channel, Expo and TVSN are 16:9 and the popular channels are not.

    “Even Buffy is available in 16:9 with the exception of the first season” Not sure about that I thought it went to 16:9 in season 5 or 6, as the show originally started in 1997 when no shows were widescreen. They could however be modified to 16:9 like Nine has been doing with their late night Seinfeld repeats.

  18. Craig November 20, 2008 at 8:28 am -

    YAY for 16×9 I have noticed of late more scifi shows with black bars all round to make them 16×9 in the 4×3 box.

  19. Chris November 20, 2008 at 7:52 am -

    I bet in 2027 Comedy Channel will still be 4:3….

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