Display proportions are not set in stone

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Sal R Forum Member • Posts: 59
Display proportions are not set in stone
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Have you ever seen a new device that you could admire for its innovative approach to solving a problem, even though you would probably never purchase one? I did recently when I came upon an article describing a new 16:18 aspect ratio HD monitor that was being introduced by LG at CES 2022. It’s called the Dual Up monitor and is basically the shape of two seamlessly stacked 16:9 displays with a vertical split view function. I can see the benefits for those who already use two monitors in their work, as it seems that combining them into one unit would be easier to view vertically than scanning side-to-side the width of two monitors. Plus, it has the footprint of a single monitor. Content that requires lots of scrolling would also benefit from the screen’s increased height. I can see that it fulfills a need for some, just not for everyone.

Perhaps my enthusiasm was just because I was encouraged to see some bold ”outside the box” thinking in monitor design that targets a specific, albeit smaller, segment of users. Many consider Widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio displays the Swiss Army Knife of displays, but they are far from perfect for every need. As LG’s new Dual Up display design confirms, the only way to really reconfigure a display for specific content is to change its aspect ratio to suit the intended content. Unfortunately, whenever the focus of a design changes it usually comes at a cost elsewhere. In the case of the Dual Up, it is the loss of full-screen, 16:9 video content capability. Since widescreen video is easily accessible via TV’s and laptops, its loss is not a major inconvenience. Although I have no particular need for LG’s new monitor, I can still appreciate its design and understand its appeal to certain users.

My hope for the future is that this outside the box thinking on display aspect ratio will spur some “inside the box” thinking about the flaws in portable photo viewing devices, which are in dire need of a format change. As I’ve already stated, the only way to reconfigure a display for a specific purpose is to physically change its aspect ratio. The effect that the wrong screen aspect ratio can have on specific content is best illustrated in the attached drawing. (Widescreen 16:9 used for Photo Display)  It shows how photographs of different aspect ratios are presented on a typical 16:9, 16”X9” 144 sq. in. display. Having a nearly 50% difference between display height and width, vertical images fare very badly. They use 56% of the display at best and 38% at worst. Horizontal images, though not perfect, fare much better because they match the orientation of the display.

How changing the screen aspect ratio to a 1:1, 12”X12”, 144 sq. in. square display with the exact same surface area as the above widescreen example affects image size is illustrated below. (Square 1:1 used for Photo Display)  In particular, notice the consistent image size per aspect ratio for both orientations and the overall efficiency, measured in the percent of screen used. The best design for photographs should be fairly obvious when the two sets of diagrams are compared.

The amount of the square screen utilized for photos is determined solely by the image’s aspect ratio. Overall image size is limited only by the size of the display because screen orientation is not a factor. Utilizing a square screen, thumbnail images can be placed in grids of 4, 9, 16, 36, or 144 photos in either orientation and offers the same cumulative efficiency as a full screen image of the same aspect ratio. i.e. one 4:3 image or 144, 4:3 images both use 75% of the display.

Although some people may find fault with all images having to be masked on a square display, not realizing or caring how much more masking is required on widescreen displays because of their photo restricting aspect ratio. Besides, if there is any photo editing to be done, where better to place menus, tools etc., than the masked portion which is out of the image area?

Photography, aided greatly by the introduction of camera phones, is more popular now than ever before. Although camera sales have slumped recently, ironically due to the proliferation of camera phones, the number of photos taken each year continues to grow exponentially. Considering the above, it seems that the time is ripe to introduce a more photo-friendly viewer and a square; handhold able, portable device would fill the bill nicely. It may not be for everyone, but then, what is?

Widescreen 16:9 used for Photo Display

Square 1:1 used for Photo Display

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