Understanding Screen Aspect Ratio


Aspect ratio is the width of a screen compared to it’s height.

There are aspect ratios that are popular for movies that are shown in cinemas but it is unlikely that these will find their way into events unless it’s a movie preview.

The shape of TV screens and projection screens have changed over the past decade. Almost all of us in our homes now have the more modern wide screen (16:9) TV. These have replaced the old style full screen (4:3) shape TV.

Wide screen TV 16 x 9






Wide Screen 16:9 Aspect Ratio

4 x 3 TV






Old Style 4:3 Aspect Ratio

Surprisingly in the events world there are still numerous 4:3 screens installed in venues as well as 4:3 projectors. In venues that have equipment permanently installed they may have upgraded to the newer technology in their large venues and moved the older equipment to the smaller breakaway rooms. Your presenters will be faced with projectors that are not suited to the content they created.

Why is this important? It looks unprofessional to have the image not fill the entire screen. The image size will have been selected based on the size of the audience and room dimensions. If the content does not fill the screen it means that not all participants will see the image correctly.

Your AV supplier will ask you what aspect ratio is required. As the event organisor you should advise presenters which aspect ratio screens and projectors will be available for them at the venue. It is simple enough for them to create their presentation in the correct aspect ratio if they know ahead of time. Changing the presentation once it is created is possible but does often introduce errors that have to me manually corrected.

If videos form part of the presentation these are not easily changed unless it’s done by the studio that created them and if they are large files it could take hours to render.

Last year we staged a corporate event for our client. Although we had been promised the content for days prior to the event on the morning of the event we did not yet have the video. I offered to collect it from the studio only to be told that it was being created in a different city. Doors were opening at 5 am and by 12 pm we still hadn’t received the video.

I was told it would be sent electronically. I called the studio and asked what was the size of the file. With the available up and download speed the video would have arrived the following morning. I asked for the video to be rendered at a lower resolution and waited for several hours while it downloaded on my computer. I tested it, drove it across the city and walked into the venue with guests already seated.

Decide if some of the last minute changes to videos are really necessary. A small change can result in hours of waiting for the image to render and you run the risk of it not being ready in time.

I find so often that event organisers are reluctant to specify the aspect ratio requirements to the client. The dry run, hours before the event starts is not the time to discover that the presentations are incorrectly formatted.

– Article written by Julian Cohen