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letterbox movies with mplayer

Non-anamorphic widescreen movies can be a bit of a pain to watch on a widescreen monitor or TV these days. I don’t have very many of them myself, but one I do have is I accidentally bought the original Star Wars trilogy in fullscreen, but it has the original theatrical version in widescreen — albeit in letterbox format. Basically that means that instead of presenting it in 16:9 format natively, it’s widescreen in 4:3. There’s no really easy way to play it on my HDTV since I’d have to break all my normal settings to get it work for just this one. So what happens is it gets pulled more than normal and looks really bad. Fitting fullscreen to widescreen is tolerable, but stretching a picture that is already in scope just does not look good.

The simplest way I’m dealing with it now is just rip the DVD and use MPlayer to play it back correctly. I only need a few switches, and I’m done.

There’s two ways to deal with it. The first, I just crop it myself with this:

$ mplayer -vf crop=704:352:8:64

Here’s a before:

and the after:

You can’t tell from these since I had to rescale them for the blog, but the second one was slightly less narrow than the first by a few pixels. Can be a bit of an annoyance.

The second way is much simpler.

If you’re playing back on a widescreen monitor, just do this:

$ mplayer -panscan 1 -aspect 4:3

And it will frame it perfectly. 🙂

One Comment

  1. Jacob Jacob July 12, 2009

    Hahaha, did you figure that second method out right after you figured out the first? (The mplayer man page is huge, so I can see how that’d hapen…)

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