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Get With the 16:9 Program

for analog television broadcasting in the United States. All-digital is upon us. Still, the pro AV industry's adoption of widescreen imaging is too slow.

Clients may want to integrate widescreen video content into their presentations, but that will be hard to do if the projection system is set up for 4:3. So we may have a chicken-and-egg situation here—should you wait for the client to request HD imaging or should you be the first to propose it?

I say take the initiative to push your clients to go HD on all future projects. They're seeing enough of it at Best Buy and Circuit City—and probably have at least one new HDTV at home. For those presentations and clips that use 4:3, you can run 'em through a seamless switcher and create a custom side curtain pattern to frame the “old” stuff.

If you haven't tried using a 16:9 PowerPoint presentation yet, give it a shot. It's as easy as defining the page size with a pixel count that works out to 16:9 (848x480, 1024x576, 1280x720, 1366x768, and so forth). If you pick a standard resolution like 1280x720 or 1366x768, your HD projection system should automatically fit the slides to the width and height of the screen.

And wait until you look at Excel spreadsheets in widescreen. No more squinting at super-small text while you try to keep multiple columns of data open. On my 1920x1200 LCD monitor, I can easily see 29 columns that are 58 rows deep, using the default settings for a new Excel sheet—and that's using the 100 percent image sizing option with 10-point Arial font.

Let's not forget the ever-growing number of affordable 16:9 HD camcorders on the market. Your clients may already be using one of these cameras to shoot company footage or contracting with a production company to produce corporate videos. Why not encourage everyone in the chain to stay widescreen from the start?

It certainly helps that virtually all of your new LCD and plasma monitor installations will use 16:9 displays, even if the content shown on them isn't always in the same ratio. Familiarity with a new concept or product goes a long ways to speed up adoption. Airports, shopping malls, theaters, and public concourses are filling up quickly with widescreen electronic digital signage, and we're beginning to take 16:9 for granted in those locations. Why not at work or in the classroom as well?

OK, I'm up on my soapbox here. Let's make 2008 the year we all become proactive about pushing clients to switch to 16:9 projection. After all, the more clients we can convince, the more projectors we'll have to choose from. I've been using 16:9 for PowerPoint for several years now and made the initial push to use 16:9 screens and projectors for the InfoComm Super Tuesday sessions, as well as my own InfoComm classes.

Step out of the box in 2008. Do your next sales pitch on a 16:10 notebook projector, or bring along one of the new, affordable home theater models and mix in some Blu-ray footage with your graphics and charts. Arrange for your clients to see demonstrations of HD conferencing and teleprescence. Have them check out image tiling projection systems at InfoComm and NAB.

Why should consumers have all the fun?

Contributing editor Pete Putman is president of ROAM Consulting in Doylestown, Pa. He can be reached at

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