For years my Samsung TXN3071WHF HDTV has suffered from overscan. Most cathode-ray-tube (CRT) sets make the image too large to fit on the screen so that the edges are cut off. Many newer LCD and plasma televisions can disable overscan, but it is common on older CRTs. Cathode ray tube images tend to “bloom” or expand when bright images are displayed, and overscan makes this less noticeable.
Yes, I still use a CRT. While it is a high-definition set with 800 lines of resolution, it lacks HDMI ports and other modern amenities. Since it is only a 30″ set, I truly don’t need more resolution than that and Hollywood’s refusal to allow DVD upscaling over component video doesn’t really matter to me since a 480p image looks great on a 30″ screen. The good points about my old CRT are its bright screen, wide color gamut, and broad viewing angle.
I sit about nine feet from the screen, so a 30″ screen is acceptable to me, although I’m told I could go all the way up to a 50″ set showing 1080p images from my Blu-ray player and still avoid seeing pixels and have a far more immersive movie experience. (Here is a nifty graph of screen resolutions and seating distances.) I’m a single male, so I don’t mind if a 50″ set overpowers my living room, but I’m sure that most 480i images on broadcast television would look pretty lousy at that size and distance. So I’ll probably wait and purchase a LED-backlit 50″ 1080p LCD television in a couple of years when they will be much cheaper and more video sources are high definition.
Anyway, back to the point. The factory default for my TV is to overscan and the normal user menus offer no remedy. The problem has been especially noticeable when using my Apple TV in 1080i mode, with text falling off the sides of the screen. I also noticed it on election night when viewing HDTV over-the-air digital broadcasts – some of the local race results on the side of the screen were cut off. I hate overscan, since I want to see every bit of the original image, although it seems many people don’t pay much attention to overscan except on their computer monitors when it is most noticeable and truly annoying.
I did an internet search on my old TV and, voilà, found instructions on how to access its mysterious service menu. The secret keystrokes of MUTE-1-8-2-POWER on the remote bring up dozens of settings for the picture size, location, distortions, color, etc. I took the internet’s advice and scribbled down the original settings so I could restore them if need be.
Then I tackled the 480p settings by loading my Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith DVD and activating its THX Optimizer. That option shows test patterns, including a 16:9 circle and edge boxes so you can eliminate overscan while keeping the screen width-to-height ratio properly balanced. Playing around with six of the two dozen settings achieved my goal of no overscan while retaining the proper width-to-height ratio.
Then I switched over to my Apple TV in 1080i mode and again fiddled with the service menu to eliminate overscan and keep the image in balance. Unfortunately I don’t have a Blu-ray disc with test patterns, so I had to do a bit more guesswork on those settings. If later I notice some problems, I’ll rent a Blu-ray test pattern disc from Netflix and do a more thorough fix.
But for now the overscan is gone and I am a happy viewer. The entire images are mine, all mine. And if a cameraman ever screws up and lets a boom mike into the shot, I’ll know it!