Moving The Black Bars on Your Screen

Black bars on your screen are so infuriating! You’ve got this new TV or projection setup, you start a movie or TV show, and suddenly you notice these black bars on the top and bottom of the screen! Sometimes they are even on the sides too! It wouldn’t be so bad if you could just move the image so that it was flush to one edge of the screen. Is that possible? Can you move those black bars (or the image) on your screen? Let’s discuss!

Aspect Ratio

No matter what type of TV or screen you own, it has a specific aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is the relation of the height to the width of the screen. A one-to-one (written 1:1) aspect ratio would be a square. This means that the height and the width would be the same. All TV aspect ratios are something else. Your flat panel is 16:9 (for every 16 units of width you have 9 units of height). The 16:9 ratio can also be written as 1.78:1 (division is fun!). But there are other aspect ratios out there. 2.35:1, 4:3, 1.85:1…the list goes on.

Whenever something is shot in an aspect ratio that is different than the screen size you are viewing, it will display black bars. This is simply because the size of the image and the size of the screen do not match. You could (in theory) ask your display to stretch the image to fit. With images that are close to the same aspect ratio (1.85:1 and 1.78:1 for example), this might be okay. The images on the screen will be very slightly stretched vertically, but you might not notice. With other aspect ratios, the stretching will be very noticeable and probably unacceptable for most viewers. So, can you instead move the image around the screen?

Flat Panel TVs – No

With flat panel TVs, your options of where to place the image on the screen are very limited. It will almost always (we want to say always but there is probably some obscure TV or solution that will do it) center the image. If there are black bars, they will be placed equally around the image. We know of no TV that will allow you to move the black bars so that the image is flush with the edge of the screen.

Projection Screens – Yes!

If you have a projection screen, the answer is definitively yes! You can move the image (not so much the black bars) so that it is wherever you want it on your screen. There are a couple of solutions here:

Lens Memory

Many projectors (front or UST) come with the ability to remember specific configurations. If you have one of these projectors, you can have a configuration for each of the different aspect ratios so that the image is shifted so that it is flush to one edge of your screen. The black bars won’t actually be moved, one of them will simply be projected off the edge of your screen. This is probably the easiest solution for most as it is often something their projector can do that they’ve never explored.

Adjust the Projector

If you have a projector without lens memory, you can adjust the image manually if the black bars are really bothering you. This would require you to (likely) physically interact with your projector to move the image where you want it on your screen. Again your black bars would be moved so that one would be projected off the edge of your screen. Unlike the lens memory, you’d have to readjust it every time you encountered a new aspect ratio.

Move Screen

If you have a drop screen, you can adjust the height of the screen so that the image is flush with the top or bottom of the screen. This doesn’t help if you want to move the image side-to-side. Most drop screens can be controlled via remote (if they aren’t manual). Some powered drop screens even have screen-height memories making this process even easier.


Lastly, there is masking. Masking is essentially covering part of your screen so that the black bars are no longer visible. You are physically changing the size of your screen. While your image (and black bars) aren’t moved, you are changing the aspect ratio of your screen to match the image. With drop screens, this can be motorized and very expensive. With fixed screens, you can get custom options or can put together a DIY solution. Either way, you’ll no longer have to see those annoying black bars.

Take Away

If you have a flat-panel TV, you are pretty much stuck with the black bars on your screen. With a projection system, you often can move the image (which essentially moves the black bars) to where you prefer.

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