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Once upon a time I was getting bugged that my TV would cut off the edges of the video when I tried to watch Live TV, or playback Recorded TV on my Windows Media Center. My set up: Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 with a S-Video connection to a Toshiba 32″ CRT television.

From everything that I’ve googled on the issue, this appears to be intentional, and is called overscan. Apparently, the electron gun at the back of the Cathode Ray Tube televisions didn’t used to be very accurate, and couldn’t hit the exact edges of the screen. So manufacturers set the gun to fire wider than it needed to. This cuts off a portion of the video at the margins, but the work around has been for TV producers to define “title safe” and “action safe” areas of the screen and keep everything important in this area when filming.

Newer display technologies like LCD and Plasma don’t suffer from this problem and can output perfectly aligned images. This allows standards like HDTV to be possible. And now, because some programs are starting to be filmed in HDTV and then converted back for regular TV viewing, the “title safe” and “action safe” conventions are being ignored.

I first noticed this while watching an episode of The Simpsons. Text crucial to understanding a visual gag was cut off on my screen, and so I started to look into the problem. I discovered that in order to fix the problem, I would have to trick Windows Media Center. Here’s how:

  1. From the Media Center main menu go to Settings/TV/Configure Your TV or Monitor
  2. Choose Next (Ignore the “Watch Video” part)
  3. Choose Traditional TV/MonitorTelevision as your Display Type
  4. Choose DVI, VGA, or HDMI as your Connection Type
  5. Choose Standard (4:3) as your Display Width
  6. If your Current Resolution is set to 800×600 leave it, otherwise change it to 800×600
  7. Choose Finish this Wizard

This tricks Media Center into outputing without an overscan margin, because it optimizes itself for display on a non-overscan monitor.

UPDATE: If the above does not work, put the following in the registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Settings\MCE.PerUserSettings]
“optimizeFor”=”ComputerMonitor”

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