How to Convert Video Files for Wide Screen and Normal Screen 

About Screen Sizes

Typically, movies filmed for the cinema have a wider image than those filmed for television; this is because the cinema screen has a different shape than the TV screen, and each movie is filmed so that it best fits the screen it was intended for.
The shape of the screen is defined by a term called "aspect ratio", which is computed as the ratio between the width of the image and the height of the image. If the width is much larger than the height (as in the cinema case) it results in larger aspect ratios (such as 1.77, 1.85 or even 2.35) which correspond to widescreen movies, and if the width is only a bit larger than the height (TV) it results in a smaller aspect ratios (1.33) which corresponds to normal movies.
DVD's and digital movies can be either widescreen or normal screen, so when you're using [product] for converting such movies it's good to know what options you have when you do a conversion for the screen of a different device (for example iPod, PSP, or Zune).  

Available Options

Most often you'll convert both types of movies to normal screen; if the source movie is normal screen too, then you will have no problem - since no aspect ratio conversion takes place, the converted movie will always look like the original.
When converting widescreen movies, on the other hand, they will obviously not fit a normal screen.
To better illustrate the options, we'll consider the following screenshot from a widescreen movie:
Below you can see what effect each of three available options has on the picture; the red rectangle will not show in the final picture, we added it in order to show you the edges of the screen:
  1. Stretch - with this option, the widescreen movie is simply squeezed into the normal screen. If the movie was not too wide originally, this option works fine; but if the movie was wider, then the image will appear more or less distorted (for example circles will appear as ovals due to the squeezing).
  2. Letter Box - this is the most commonly used option; it makes the movie small enough to fit the screen, and adds two black bars (at the top and at the bottom), to fill the extra space. With this option no distortions occur, but you will see less details, because the image is smaller.
  3. Pan Scan - this option does not shrink the movie at all; instead, it cuts away the left and right edges of the picture, making it fit on the normal screen. With this, you get to see more details, but you lose some of the image (the washed out parts will be cut away, you will see only what's in the red rectangle).
 

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