Panoramic View Vs. Widescreen

By Gissimee Doe

A panoramic view is one that allows you to see all aspects of a scene in every direction. Widescreen is a term used for an aspect ratio that allows you to see most or all of a standard film scene on screen. Widescreen aspect ratios are typically used for images and scenes in film, cinema or movies, and television. Panoramic images are more suited to virtual reality -- 360-degree scenes for advertising and on websites. As technology improves, panoramic views are becoming more widespread. There are televisions available that display full 360-degree panoramic scenes on round or spherical screens.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is a measurement of the width of a film scene or image relative to its height. The standard aspect ratio is 4:3 or 1.33:1. This is the aspect ratio supported by ordinary television screens. Widescreen aspect ratio is typically 16:9 or 1.78:1. Film and cinema images are usually shot with aspect ratios of Academy Flat, 1.85:1, and Anamorphic Scope, 2.35:1. The standard television set cannot support these images, resulting in cropping. Widescreen televisions were developed in order to show more of the entire scene in films on a home screen.


Films are subjected to a widescreen process in an attempt to show more of the original images on standard home television screens. The aspect ratios of cinema screens are completely different from those of standard television screens. By offering movies in widescreen format, producers allow television and home entertainment system viewers to have an experience that more closely resembles that of viewing the film in a cinema. On standard screens, this results in black bars at the top, bottom and sometimes sides of the screen, where the image does not fit. These black bars can cause permanent “screen burn” on plasma television screens.

Panoramic View

Panoramic views are exceptionally wide images, typically capturing the entirety of a scene as far as the natural eye can see, left to right, up and down, and often for a full 360 degrees. Panoramic aspect ratios vary from 57:9 to 57:14. Spherical panoramas, which capture a full 360 degrees in every direction, have an aspect ratio of 2:1 or 360 by 180. When viewed as flat, two-dimensional images, panoramic views tend to look distorted. They are best viewed on special screens that allow for full 360-degree views.


Special television units that can display a full 360-degree image have been developed. They use LED (light emitting diode) technology to display exceptionally sharp, wide images. They can display the output of 360-degree cameras and are especially suited to displaying panoramic views. They have been widely used in advertising but are gaining acceptance as home television units.