Once seen as exotic, since 2009, it has become the most common aspect ratio for televisions and computer monitors, and is also the international standard image format for UHD, HDTV, Full HD and SD digital television. It has replaced the "fullscreen" 4:3 aspect ratio.
16:9 (1.77:1) (said as sixteen by nine or sixteen to nine) is the international standard format of HDTV, non-HD digital television and analog widescreen television systems PALplus and Wide-aspect Clear-vision. Japan's Hi-Vision originally started with a 5:3 (1.66:1) ratio but converted when the international standards group introduced a wider ratio of 16 to 9. Many digital video cameras have the capability to record in 16:9, and 16:9 is the only widescreen aspect ratio natively supported by the DVD standard. DVD producers can also choose to show even wider ratios such as 1.85:1 and 2.40:1 within the 16:9 DVD frame by hard matting or adding black bars within the image itself.
Dr. Kerns H. Powers, a member of the SMPTE Working Group on High-Definition Electronic Production, first proposed the 16:9 (1.77:1) aspect ratio in 1984, when nobody was creating 16:9 videos. The popular choices in 1980 were 4:3 (based on TV standard's ratio at the time), 15:9 (the European "flat" 1.66:1 ratio), 1.85:1 (the American "flat" ratio) and 2.35:1 (the CinemaScope/Panavision) ratio for anamorphic widescreen.
Powers cut out rectangles with equal areas, shaped to match each of the popular aspect ratios. When overlapped with their center points aligned, he found that all of those aspect ratio rectangles fit within an outer rectangle with an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 and all of them also covered a smaller common inner rectangle with the same aspect ratio 1.77:1. The value found by Powers is exactly the geometric mean of the extreme aspect ratios, 4:3 and 2.35:1, ≈ 1.77 which is coincidentally close to 16:9. Applying the same geometric mean technique to 16:9 and 4:3 yields an aspect ratio of around 1.5396:1, sometimes approximated as 14:9 (1.55:1), which is likewise used as a compromise between these ratios.
While 16:9 (1.77:1) was initially selected as a compromise format, the subsequent popularity of HDTV broadcast has solidified 16:9 as perhaps the most common video aspect ratio in use. Most 4:3 (1.33:1) and 2.40:1 video is now recorded using a "shoot and protect" technique that keeps the main action within a 16:9 (1.77:1) inner rectangle to facilitate HD broadcast. Conversely it is quite common to use a technique known as center-cutting, to approach the challenge of presenting material shot (typically 16:9) to both an HD and legacy 4:3 audience simultaneously without having to compromise image size for either audience. Content creators frame critical content or graphics to fit within the 1.33:1 raster space. This has similarities to a filming technique called open matte.
In 1993, the European Union instituted the 16:9 Action Plan, to accelerate the development of the advanced television services in 16:9 aspect ratio, both in PALplus (compatible with regular PAL broadcasts) and also in HD-MAC (an early HD format). The Community fund for the 16:9 Action Plan amounted to €228,000,000.
Over a long period in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the computer industry switched from 4:3 to 16:9 as the most common aspect ratio for monitors and laptops. A 2008 report by DisplaySearch cited a number of reasons for this shift, including the ability for PC and monitor manufacturers to expand their product ranges by offering products with wider screens and higher resolutions, helping consumers to more easily adopt such products and "stimulating the growth of the notebook PC and LCD monitor market". By using the same aspect ratio for both TVs and monitors, manufacturing can be streamlined and research costs reduced by not requiring two separate sets of equipment, and since a 16:9 is narrower than a 16:10 panel of the same length, more panels can be created per sheet of glass.
In 2011, Bennie Budler, product manager of IT products at Samsung South Africa, confirmed that monitors capable of 1920 × 1200 resolutions are not being manufactured anymore. "It is all about reducing manufacturing costs. The new 16:9 aspect ratio panels are more cost-effective to manufacture locally than the previous 16:10 panels".
In March 2011, the 16:9 resolution 1920 × 1080 became the most common used resolution among Steam's users. The previous most common resolution was 1680 × 1050 (16:10). By July 2022, 16:9 resolution is preferred by 77% of users (1920x1080 with 67%; 2560 x 1440 with 10%).
16:9 is the only widescreen aspect ratio natively supported by the DVD format. An anamorphic PAL region DVD video frame has a maximum resolution of 720 × 576p, but a video player software will stretch this to 1024 × 576p.
Producers can also choose to show even wider ratios such as 1.85:1 and 2.4:1 within the 16:9 DVD frame by hard matting or adding black bars within the image itself. Some films which were made in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, such as the U.S.-Italian co-production Man of La Mancha and Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, fit quite comfortably onto a 1.77:1 HDTV screen and have been issued as an enhanced version on DVD without the black bars. Many digital video cameras have the capability to record in 16:9.
Common resolutions for 16:9 are listed in the table below:
In Europe, 16:9 is the standard broadcast format for most digital SD TV channels and all HD broadcasts. Some countries adopted the format for analogue television, first by using the PALplus standard (now obsolete) and then by simply using WSS on normal PAL broadcasts.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||All channels.|
|Croatia||HRT 1**, 2**, 3**, 4**, 5, RTL Televizija*, RTL 2*, Nova TV*, Doma TV*, RTL Kockica* Sportska Televizija**.|
|Czech Republic||All channels.|
|North Macedonia||All channels.|
|Romania||Almost all channels except România TV and local and regional channels.|
|San Marino||All channels.|
|United Kingdom||All channels.|
|New Zealand||All channels.|
|China||CCTV channels 1–15, CCTV-5+, all CGTN channels. Older contents in 4:3 and news contents are stretched on SD variants of these channels as stretching on SD channels is common.|
|Hong Kong||All channels.|
|India||All HD channels. Most SD channels are still broadcasting in 4:3, either fullscreen or letterboxed.|
|Indonesia||All national channels, except tvOne.|
Japan pioneered its analogue HDTV system (MUSE) in 16:9 format, which started in the 1980s. There were also analog NTSC-compatible widescreen broadcasts using the Clear-Vision system. Currently all main channels have digital terrestrial television channels in 16:9. Many satellite broadcast channels are being broadcast in 16:9 as well.
|Mongolia||MNB & MN2, TM Television, TV5, TV6, TV8, Channel 25, Эx Орон, SBN, ETV, MNC, Eagle News TV, Edutainment TV, Star TV, SPS, Sportbox and SHUUD TV.|
|Nepal||Kantipur Television Network|
|Pakistan||All HD channels. Most SD channels are still broadcasting in 4:3, either in fullscreen or letterboxed|
|Philippines||16:9 native:[a] PTV, ANC (both SD and HD),[b] Kapamilya Channel (HD),[b] CNN Philippines, One PH, One News,[b] One Sports+,[b] Hope Channel Philippines, 3ABN, Hope International, INCTV, Net 25, DZRH News Television, TeleRadyo, all TAP DMV channels (TAP TV, TAP Edge, TAP Movies, TAP Action Flix, TAP Sports, Premier Sports, Premier Tennis, and Premier Football), BuKo, NBA TV Philippines, PBA Rush, UAAP Varsity Channel, Golden Nation Network, Metro Channel, SMNI, SMNI News Channel, PIE, AllTV|
|Qatar||All beIN Sports channels, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Mubasher, Qatar TV HD, all Alkass channels.|
|Saudi Arabia||All channels.|
|Singapore||All channels, however 16:9 contents look squashed on older 4:3 sets. Also, all 4:3 contents including news clips are stretched as stretching is common.|
|South Korea||All channels.|
|Sri Lanka||All channels|
|Taiwan||TTV HD, CTV HD, CTS HD, FTV HD, PTS HD, TVBS.|
|United Arab Emirates||All channels.|
|Vietnam||All of VTC's channels, VTV channels, HTV channels and K+'s channels (selected programmes), most of local channels.|
|Bolivia||Always on 16:9: PAT, ATB.|
Often on 16:9: Bolivia TV.
|Brazil||Channels change between 16:9 and 4:3 pillarbox depending of what's airing.|
|Chile||All channels. Expect Telecanal in 4.3 in ident 4:3 letterboxed in commercials|
|Costa Rica||All channels.|
|Dominican Republic||All channels.|
|Mexico||Free-to-air television: Las Estrellas, FOROtv, Canal 5, NU9VE, Televisa Regional, Azteca Uno, Azteca 7, a+, adn40, Imagen Televisión, Excélsior TV, Canal Once, Canal 22, Una Voz con Todos, Teveunam, Milenio Televisión, Multimedios Televisión, Teleritmo, and some local HD stations.
Pay television: U, Golden, Golden Edge, TL Novelas, Bandamax, De Película, De Película Clásico, Ritmoson Latino, TDN, TeleHit, Distrito Comedia, Tiin, Az Noticias, Az Clic!, Az Mundo, Az Corazón, Az Cinema, 52MX, TVC, TVC Deportes, Pánico, Cinema Platino, Cine Mexicano.
|Paraguay||Almost all channels on free-to-air television, especially HD feeds (ex.: RPC, NPY, Unicanal, channel 7 HD). SD feeds (usually found on pay television) are usually letterboxed and downscaled to 4:3 (ex.: SNT & Paravisión).|
|United States||All HD channels. SD feeds are usually letterboxed and downscaled to 4:3.|
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2015)
|Burkina Faso||All channels.|
|Cape Verde||All channels.|
|Equatorial Guinea||All channels.|
|Ivory Coast||All channels.|
|Morocco||All channels except 2M.|
|South Africa||All channels.|