A DVD that has been enhanced for widescreen is referred to as being anamorphic. Different from normal widescreen presentation, an anamorphic transfer actually compresses the picture, so pixels that would made taken up the whole vertical portion of the screen instead only take up part of it. This makes little difference to viewing the movie on an ordinary low-definition television set, but on a computer monitor or high-definition TV, it can provide substantially better vertical resolution than a non-anamorphic DVD will.

More and more studios are beginning to release their DVDs in anamorphic format, largely because videophiles get annoyed with them when they do not.

(This term is not to be confused with anthropomorphic, which sounds similar but means something entirely different. :)

How to tell if a DVD is enhanced for 16:9 mode

As detailed above, a DVD that has been made by an anamorphic transfer (aka an 'enhanced for 16:9 DVD' or just 'an anamorphic DVD') will have higher picture quality.

However, it can be hard to tell from the cover if a particular disc is anamorphic. It's not uncommon for the cover information to be missing, misleading, or even flat out wrong.

Here's how to test if a disc is anamorphic:

  1. Set your DVD player to '16:9 Television' mode.
  2. Set your television to 4:3 mode. (If you have an ordinary television, this is the normal mode. If you have a widescreen television, 4:3 mode is the one with big vertical black bars down the sides. Either way, make sure you're not in any kind of 'automatic' mode - you want to force it to stay in 4:3.)
  3. Play the DVD.
  4. Observe the results. If the picture is vertically distorted, making everything appear unnaturally tall and thin, then the disc is anamorphic. If the picture is not distorted, the disc is non-anamorphic.

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