The Formatting Change You Need to Know

By Special Contributor, June 18, 2015

As audiovisual technology makes advancements, meeting planners need to be aware of the new pitfalls that come with them. One of the most important to avoid is improperly formatting screen ratios as they pertain to presentations.

We all love our rectangular high-definition plasma TVs, which have a format ratio of 16:9. You may also remember old square tube TVs, with a format ratio of 4:3. (If you don’t remember, go to your local pawnshop for a vintage TV history lesson.) This change from square to rectangular has happened with live-event presentation AV too.

The main reason to understand this concept is to ensure video screens at your conference are filled with your presentation—without black borders on the sides, top or bottom. Having black areas in the projection looks unprofessional and doesn’t give attendees confidence that you understand current technologies.

For example, when you’re at home watching your HD TV and an old show or commercial comes on, it does not fill the screen and may look like a square with black borders. That’s old formatting being displayed on a new-format screen. When this happens, most of us often comment, “What’s wrong with that channel?” This same concept applies to live presentations. When a presenter’s media does not fill the screen, it not only looks awkward, but it also means you’re not using the maximum space available
to you on the screen.

Programs used to make and edit videos are now defaulting to the 16:9 output format. However, PowerPoint, Keynote and many other slide presentation programs still default to the 4:3 ratio. There’s a very simple fix: When you begin making your presentation, set your first slide or slide master to the 16:9 format, and it will carry throughout the presentation. Remember to alert your presenters and speakers of this important change as well. A simple communication well in advance of your event will yield streamlined results.

On the backside of this formatting evolution, a lot of venues still use 4:3 formatted equipment, which can be cheaper to use if budget is a major concern. The key is to talk with your AV partner to decide which format will work best for your group and then communicate your decision to all presenters.

Matt Clouser is CEO of Active Production and Design, an Atlanta-based audiovisual production firm he founded in 1993. Contact him at matt@activeproductionanddesign.com.

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