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Okay, I recorded Countdown episodes aired on Rage 10 or more years ago. My problem is that when I recorded them, I had an old tube style television, with a screen ratio to suit 4:3. Fine for back then - I had no problem viewing what I'd recorded. But now, I have a wide-screen television, which stretches out the picture too much, causing the picture to be distorted and annoying. Yes, I can change the aspect on the remote for the television, but I'd rather have the show recorded in aspect 4:3, with the black bars either side of the picture.
When I record Rage now, it's fine because I have set my DVD recorder to play back in 4:3 on both the television and the computer. It's great, just the way I want it. What I want to do is somehow change the aspect ratio of my older episodes, which are stretched to 16:9 at the moment, and re-record them to 4:3.
Is that possible, without losing picture quality? I'm a Mac user. I've tried using Toast Titanium, Handbrake and other converters, and so far can't work out how to do it (I'll keep trying). But I'm so frustrated with trying different programmes. Most of which seem to ruin the quality of the picture in the process.
Following the Countdown Forum, I have noticed many of you are far more technical than me, so I'm hoping someone can help. If you need more information about what I'm trying to do, just ask me. Maybe some of you have already been through this dilemma.
Are your old recordings on VHS tape or digital? Hard disk or optical?
Digital TV, and DVDs, are just an MPEG-2 stream, and have the same pixel dimensions regardless whether it is intended to be presented as 16:9 or 4:3, namely 720x576. The only difference is there's a flag in the MPEG stream that defines what aspect ratio to present the content in. On a DVD there are extra flags in the .IFO files.
So if the recordings are digital and you can access the native MPEG-2 files as if they are files on a computer, it is possible to change the aspect ratio flags in the MPEG-2 stream without re-encoding the image and you can convert losslessly from 4:3 to 16:9 or vice versa. Providing the playback hardware respects the MPEG-2 aspect ratio flags (most do, but some don't) then it should intelligently present the content and if it's 4:3 on a 16:9 screen it should add black bars either side.
If your files are from a DVD recorder (and you want the content to go back onto a DVD) and you want a lossless conversion then it's much, much harder. It can be done but TV DVD recorders often do all sorts of ****** things to what's been recorded, which is why I have never used them and went straight from VHS to digital recording directly to a computer hard disk.
I recorded my first Countdown episodes on VHS. At a later stage, I connected the VHS machine to my DVD recorder via RCA cables, and copied the shows to the hard-drive, initially, and then to DVD, which is what I have now.
Then, when I started using my DVD recorder to tape directly from Rage, I seemingly had no problem, because I had the old telly still, with aspect of 4:3. I didn't know any differently back then. Now when I play those DVDs on my new DVD recorder, and widescreen television, it's in 16:9.
Now, I am in the process of copying my shows from DVD to computer, saving them as mp4 files. Is there anything I can do with these? When I use a USB drive containing the mp4 file and connect it to the telly, it still plays in widescreen. I would like to view them on wide-screen television, as this is far more enjoyable than the small computer screen. So, therefore, I was planning to re-copy them back to DVD, with the aspect ratio correct.
I'm a bit confused by your initial post. It sounds like what's happening, if my interpretation is correct, is that your current TV is stretching and squashing the picture of your old 4:3 recordings to fill the whole widescreen screen, so people will look relatively 'short and fat'.
You say, however, that you can fix this on your TV by using your remote control to change the aspect ratio display. I assume that when you view these recordings on your computer, they are 4:3.
Your older recordings may be stretched to 16:9 on your current TV, but that's only the doing of your TV set. The original recordings, if they were done in 4:3, will remain 4:3 and are not altered by this (only their appearance on your TV is). In which case, you don't need to chance them.
It sounds like your TV is set up now so that you're actually recording rage in 16:9 - i.e. you still see the watermark in the black bar on the right hand side of the screen. If you were recording in 4:3 now, you would not pick this up. Recording rage in 16:9 means that the black bars are part of the recorded picture when 4:3 material is airing.
But to answer your question as to whether you can change 16:9 to 4:3 (for actual 16:9 recordings), yes you can. A program I use (it wouldn't be the only one that can do this), TMPGEnc, can change the aspect ratio from 16:9 to 4:3. This does, of course, result in the file being re-encoded, though, but usually the output file, on the settings I use, anyway, is almost the same size as the original. I've done this for a couple of videos I have received from others that are recorded in that 'squashed' 4:3 stretched to 16:9 format, and it has worked.
If your initial recordings were actual 16:9 (black bars are part of the picture; the aspect ratio is not distorted on a 16:9 TV but would be squished inwards [skinny and tall-looking people] on a 4:3 TV), you can get rid of the black bars either side using Handbrake, but I've only recently started using this. However, the resulting files are usually quite compressed, unless you change the settings.
First of all, thank you Clip Magnet and ohnoitisnathan. I really appreciate you responding with such useful help and knowledge. I enjoy learning more about technology and how to best care for these classic Countdown episodes. If you don't ask, you don't learn.
I have downloaded MyDVDedit, and you may be right, CM. It was last released in 2009, and the programme keeps crashing. I'm sure it's what I need to fix the DVDs. Is there another(replacement) programme out now for Mac? It sounds like the best way to fix it, keeping the quality.
ohnoitisnathan - I see what you're saying. Yes, I want to 'add' bars to the side, which would, in fact, increase it to 16:9, but the broadcast bit is still 4:3. Sorry for the confusion. My DVDs are, as you say, in 4:3 but stretching out to fill 16:9.
I'm going to keep Googling for something - there has to be a way of doing this.
Again, I really do appreciate your help. This forum is just the best!
There's no direct replacement for MyDVDedit. DVD's are going the way of the dodo, so I doubt anyone would be bothered to update the app or create a new one with similar functionality. Full blown professional DVD authoring programmes could also probably do what you want but they cost hundreds of dollars and would be overkill.
As to "When I use a USB drive containing the mp4 file and connect it to the telly, it still plays in widescreen" it's an unfortunate fact of life that some companies and software developers cut corners and fail to properly conformance test their software against the standards. What telly do you have? I suspect the issue here is that anything on a USB stick will be stretched on your TV to fill the screen regardless of its native aspect ratio. Have a look through your TV menus as to settings for playing back USB content. There may be a setting that is telling the TV to fill the screen regardless.
I agree that this seems like it is more of an issue with your TV settings (if it has the option to change the aspect ratio display) than your recorder or previously recorded files.
I've done it!
Submerge is an application which allows you add side bars to video files, effectively forcing 4:3 videos into 16:9. After much searching, I have track down a way of fixing my old episodes so they are no longer stretched wide across the screen ... phew!
Thank you to everyone who helped me out - I truly appreciate it.
Well done... glad you found a solution!