If you have ever worked with video, or even if you just own a TV, it is likely at some point you have been exposed to the term 16:9 ratio. What exactly does this term mean and why is it important? This article will explain in-depth the definition of a 16:9 ratio, how to calculate it, and its applications in the LED video wall world.
Understanding Aspect Ratios
A 16:9 ratio is a specific aspect ratio, so we must first define aspect ratio. An aspect ratio is a term that describes the relationship between the width and height of a digital display, written as W:H. For example a 1:1, or square ratio, means that the width and height are equal to each other. A 2:1 aspect ratio means the width is double the height, and so-on.
Pictured above, the landscape example is a 3:2 aspect ratio. For every 3 parts wide, the shape is 2 parts tall. This shape could be 3 feet wide by 2 feet tall, 600 pixels wide by 400 pixels tall, etc. For the square example, as long as width = height then it is a 1:1 or square aspect ratio. The portrait example is 2:3, meaning for 2 units of width, there are 3 units of height. Keep in mind that aspect ratios are independent of size. So a 5’x5′ screen has the same aspect ratio as a 500’x500′ screen (1:1).
16:9 Ratio Defined
A 16:9 ratio (pronounced “16 9”, “16 to 9” , or “16 by 9” and sometimes written as “16×9”) is a specific aspect ratio, where for every 16 units of width, there are 9 corresponding units of height. So examples of 16:9 displays would be 16 inches wide by 9 inches high, 32 widgets wide by 18 widgets high, and 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels high. An image has a 16:9 ratio if its width-to-height ratio is equal to 16/9, or 1.78. A 16:9 ratio can also be represented as 1.78:1.
16:9 is significant because it is today’s standard ratio for film and display. The 16:9 ratio replaced the old 4:3 ratio in the early 2,000s. You may have heard terms such as 1080p HD, 720p HD, and 4K UHD. These terms all refer to 16×9 ratios. For example, a 1080p HD display refers to a screen resolution of 1920x1080p (1920/1080 = 1.78).
How to Calculate Any Aspect Ratio
For the sake of calculation, you can treat an aspect ratio as a fraction, W:H = W/H. For example, 16:9 = 16/9 = 1.78 = 1.78:1. Then you can calculate any aspect ratio with an algebraic formula.
Aspect Ratio Formula
For aspect ratio X:1 where X represents units of width, 1 represents 1 unit of height, W represents units of 1:1 display width, H represents units of 1:1 display height:
W/H = X:1