Pixel Aspect Ratio

« Back to Glossary Index

What is Pixel Aspect Ratio?

Pixel Aspect Ratio Definition

Pixel aspect ratio (PAR) refers to the proportional relationship between the width and height of a pixel in digital video. It describes how a pixel’s shape differs from the traditional square.

What is pixel aspect ratio for?

Pixel aspect ratio helps ensure that videos display correctly on various screens and devices. While a square pixel (1:1 PAR) is standard for most modern displays, some systems, especially older ones, use non-square pixels. By understanding and setting the right PAR, videographers ensure that the video doesn’t appear stretched or squished when played.

image of pixels

What is the pixel aspect ratio used for?

Pixel aspect ratio is utilized to:

  1. Maintain Video Integrity: To ensure videos retain their intended appearance across different playback devices.
  2. Compatibility: Make sure older video content with non-square pixels is correctly displayed on modern devices.
  3. Optimal Viewing: Guaranteeing that viewers experience the video as the creator intended, regardless of their screen type.

A Glimpse into the Evolution of Pixel Aspect Ratio

As display technology has evolved, so has pixel aspect ratio. Earlier TV systems, like PAL and NTSC, had non-square pixels to fit broadcast needs. However, with the rise of digital screens and HD displays, square pixels (1:1 PAR) became dominant. Recognizing the differences helps videographers handle diverse content with ease.


Why is pixel aspect ratio important?

Pixel aspect ratio ensures that videos maintain their intended appearance across various devices. A wrong ratio can make a video look distorted.

Does aspect ratio affect pixels?

Yes, the overall aspect ratio (like 16:9 or 4:3) combined with the pixel aspect ratio determines how a video fills a screen. Both play roles in how content is displayed.

What pixel aspect ratio should I use?

For most modern displays and digital content, a 1:1 pixel aspect ratio (square pixels) is recommended. However, if you’re working with older video formats or specific broadcast needs, you might require a different PAR.

Pixel aspect ratio is a fundamental concept in videography, ensuring videos look their best across all platforms. As technology continues to evolve, understanding and correctly applying PAR remains essential for videographers.

« Back to Glossary Index