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Alex_B2 posts since 9 Sep 2019 new member
It wasn't all 14:9. Depended on the programme being shown.
I think the first example was Trooping the Colour in 1997? as a kind of experimental widescreen-originated production.
Digital platforms also showed widescreen programming as 14:9 letterbox in a 4:3 frame in the very early days.

Analogue picture quality was degraded when the channels were equipped to support widescreen, especially on the BBC; they could no longer broadcast PAL directly to the viewer, and thanks to a bad engineering decision, all 4:3 content was placed inside a 720x576 16:9 frame within their playout system, reducing the horizontal bandwidth to around 540 pixels and introducing unnecessary image processing artefacts. This policy continues today (even when 4:3 SD content is upscaled on HD channels).
nwtv20038,377 posts since 5 Jan 2003
Granada North West Today
There was no formal date as such, but July 1, 2000 was the date when all adverts started to be broadcast in 16:9 on the main channels (or 14:9 on analogue), as was all continuity for Channel 4 (except kids shows) and I believe this was also the case for the Carlton regions too. Granada regions only had 16:9 continuity before a 16:9 programme.
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Po6xyPop77 (previously Myina) 51 posts since 12 Aug 2019 Banned for 1 week
UTV Newsline
I think the BBC converted on the day Sky Digital officially launched and showed a few evenings of series in 14:9 beforehand (so many Points of View complaints!) I wasn't alive in 1998, can someone check?
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noggin14,440 posts since 26 Jun 2001
There was a test weekend where an entire Saturday evening of entertainment shows was letterboxed to 14:9 using a black mask and appropriate framing during production (quite a while before Digital TV started) as a test to see if viewers complained massively. (Noels House Party was one of the shows ISTR)

Some drama shot on Super 16 was telecined to 14:9-15:9 letterbox (whilst still being edited in the 4:3 domain) before digital TV launched, so some shallow letterboxing was beginning to be seen outside of movies.

BBC News 24 launched in full 16:9 production in N9 (though it wasn't really known as that then) in November 1997, and News 24 content shown on BBC One and BBC World was shown in 14:9 letterbox format. (I think Europe Direct launched from N9 before the official launch of News 24, as the show launched on BBC World prior to News 24 launching)

However the widespread use of 14:9 letter boxing (aka 14L12) started when shows started being made and delivered in 16:9 FHA (full height anamorphic - aka 16F16) This started when the BBC formally launched their digital platforms in approx November 1998 (when News 24 also moved to N8 from N9)

If a show was made in 16:9 widescreen for broadcast in widescreen on BBC One Digital or BBC Two Digital, then it had to be converted to 4:3 format for broadcast on analogue outlets. 14:9 letterbox (aka 14L12) was the most common intermediate ratio used (and the BBC commissioned most shows to be 14:9 safe), however 16:9 sport was 4:3 safe and broadcast as 12F12 (i.e. full-screen centre-cut-out). It was also possible for movies to go out 16L12 (i.e. 16:9 deep letterbox), but initially it wasn't unusual for BBC One analogue and BBC One digital to split and show different copies of the movie on each outlet (allowing for a 4:3 pan-and-scan rather than permanent centre-cut-out from 16:9 to be broadcast on analogue) This facility stopped when (or before) the analogue NTA areas closed I believe, and BBC One analogue became a permanent ARC-ed output of BBC One digital from the DTA (albeit with dynamically driven ARCs).
Last edited by noggin on 10 September 2019 8:15am
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Technologist53 posts since 10 Oct 2018
London London
What noggin does not mention was that the audience complained less on the "test Saturday " than they did normally ..... so the extra call handlers were sent home early....

Having both analogue and digital transmission areas also meant that there was dual messaging so the analogue viewers would never see a trail for BBC knowledge for instance .. but would get either a trail for a BBC 1/2 programme or a generic "move to digital" one.
There was also be separately the fact that analogue was master for many years ...
And to save lots of money on circuits the nations fed Analogue from digital .. and the analogue circuits ceased ...
and of course the nations stopped opting out very soon after digital launched...
Markymark6,959 posts since 13 Dec 2004
Meridian (North) South Today
Also, was it around 2000/2001 when BBC 1 news went to native 16:9 (on digital platforms, 14:9 ARC on analogue) that the regional opts had a 14:9 mask applied (to their native 4:3 output) so they matched on analogue the 'look' of the national news progs they were opting in and out of ?
BillyH1,323 posts since 4 Jan 2003
London London
Some drama shot on Super 16 was telecined to 14:9-15:9 letterbox (whilst still being edited in the 4:3 domain) before digital TV launched, so some shallow letterboxing was beginning to be seen outside of movies.


This includes 'Our Friends in the North' I think, which was shown as far back as early 1996 - presumably it's possible to remaster it in full widescreen but all DVD releases have been 4:3 with small black bars.

Annoyingly my one big TV drama I was in (BBC's 'Victoria and Albert' in 2001) was released on DVD in non-anamorphic widescreen, so letterboxed 16:9 in a 4:3 frame - the image quality's far less than I'd hope for a production so recent, but I should be happy at least it made it to DVD at all.
Member since 26 May 2001
Steve Williams2,781 posts since 1 Aug 2008
There was a test weekend where an entire Saturday evening of entertainment shows was letterboxed to 14:9 using a black mask and appropriate framing during production (quite a while before Digital TV started) as a test to see if viewers complained massively. (Noels House Party was one of the shows ISTR)

However the widespread use of 14:9 letter boxing (aka 14L12) started when shows started being made and delivered in 16:9 FHA (full height anamorphic - aka 16F16) This started when the BBC formally launched their digital platforms in approx November 1998 (when News 24 also moved to N8 from N9)


Yes, that Saturday was in March 1998 when they showed the Generation Game, the House Party and the lottery in 14:9 on analogue. There had been a couple of shows made in widescreen before then - the not very good Stephanie Cole sitcom Keeping Mum, broadcast in early 1997, was made in widescreen and shown in 14:9 on analogue. Obviously you couldn't watch it in widescreen at the time.

The big launch of widescreen shows and 14:9 on analogue came in September 1998, just as Sky Digital was launching - most of the big primetime shows were in widescreen from then on, with shows like Watchdog, HIGNFY, Buzzcocks and most others switching over as they started their new series that autumn.

Also, was it around 2000/2001 when BBC 1 news went to native 16:9 (on digital platforms, 14:9 ARC on analogue) that the regional opts had a 14:9 mask applied (to their native 4:3 output) so they matched on analogue the 'look' of the national news progs they were opting in and out of ?


That was in October 2000 when the news started being shown in widescreen.