YouTube has been experimenting with optional HD video for a short time now, and now it's expanding its efforts by upgrading its video player to a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. The wider page is 960 pixels, a much-needed improvement for the new generation of 16:9 content. Videos in the standard 4:3 aspect ratio looks fine in the new player, albeit with black bars on the sides.
Here are two examples of the widescreen player in action. (Note: Right now, you can only view the player on YouTube's site, as it is not yet possible to embed videos in the new player in other sites.)
Here's an SD video in the new player.
And here's an HD video in the new player.
Initial reaction from YouTube users has been mostly positive, although a few users have griped about the black boxes. On the YouTube Blog, a user named "115mL" writes: "I love the wide screen, but hate the black sidings (letterbox I think is what it's called). I think all the old videos should stay at the same old resolution, while the newer ones have wide screen."
And "szurkesonka" writes: "Give us the option to choose between 16:9 and 4:3 for heavens' sake! Now all my videos are either pillar-boxed or window-boxed."
If you ask me, the black boxes for standard-def video aren't a big deal. As long as the SD content retains its original 4:3 aspect radio and isn't stretched grotesquely to fill the new, wider window, life is good. I am wondering, though, if those black bars will stay blank for long. Google's been looking for ways to monetize YouTube, and that empty space is an appealing palate for ads. Now that would be something to gripe about.
This story, "YouTube Goes Widescreen: It's About Time" was originally published by PCWorld.