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Problem using iPad mirroring with an Apple TV and 4:3 Projector

29973 Views 16 Replies Latest reply: Mar 26, 2014 11:23 AM by wilsonc108 RSS
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andreabaer Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Aug 30, 2012 10:05 AM

I'm a teacher and I've been using my iPad 2 in the classroom for about a year and a half. I would use Apple's VGA Adapter to connect to my projector, which worked fine. I just didn't like being tied down, and the dock connector would come loose very easily and lose connection to the projector, which interrupted the flow of the lesson.

So this summer, I got an Apple TV and a projector with an HDMI port so I could start using Airplay Mirroring to get the iPad screen onto the projector. But I'm having trouble with the aspect ratio. Forgive my drawing, but the genius at the Apple store had a hard time understanding my explanation, so I'm hoping this will help show what I mean.


My projector (ViewSonic DLP PJD5133) can be set to either a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio (4:3, 800x600 is the native resolution). My projector screen in the front of the classroom is 4:3, so when the projector is set to 4:3, the image fills up the screen (which is what I want - it needs to be as big as possible so the entire class can see it clearly; plus it means all the output pixels are being used). When the projector is set to 16:9, the image is letterboxed (not ideal unless I'm showing a widescreen video or image).

The Apple TV's native aspect ratio is widescreen, and the iPad's native aspect ratio is 4:3, so if you use Airplay mirroring on a widescreen TV, the Apple TV will pillarbox the image (add horizontal black bars on each side), so that the image will not be stretched/distorted. (I know that it will show widescreen videos and a few widescreen-ready apps without the pillarbox, but the apps I use in class - Keynote, Noteshelf, etc. - don't fall in that category). The effect on my projector screen is a tiny 4:3 image taking up half the area it would have taken if I had used the VGA connection.

So in the Apple TV, I went to Settings>Audio & Video>TV resolution, and chose 800x600 60Hz (the max 4:3 resolution for my projector). Since the Apple TV is natively widescreen, it seems to accomplish this change be stretching the image vertically; but it basically works because the Apple TV home screen fills up the projector screen. However, when I turn on Airplay Mirroring on my iPad, the image does not fill up the screen. The Apple TV still puts a pillarbox on the image, so I end up with a distorted, square image of my iPad screen. It's the right height - the max 600 pixels for my projector - but it's not as wide as it should/could be.

Is there a setting that I'm missing? I understand that the Apple TV has to stretch its home screen image to accommodate the 4:3 resolution, but I think it should be smart enough to realize that if it's receiving a 4:3 image from the iPad and sending it out to a 4:3 TV, it doesn't need to pillarbox the image.

Before you answer - this is not a problem with the projector settings, and my Apple TV is not defective. You could simulate what's happening on your Apple TV, even if it's hooked up to a widescreen TV. In the Apple TV settings, change the TV Resolution to 800x600 as mentioned above (or any other of the 4:3 options). Now go to the Apple TV home screen, and note the amount of space the image is taking up on your screen (on a widescreen TV, it will be pillarboxed, and it will look like it's been squished horizontally). Then turn on Airplay mirroring on the iPad, and you'll see that the iPad image does not have the same width as the Apple TV home screen and it looks square/squished.

Also, while my projector does have a zoom function, it will not magnify the small iPad mirror image correctly (if I were to leave the Apple TV and projector on a 16:9 setting). It cuts off the top and sides. But even if it didn't crop the image, it's a digital zoom, so that option still won't fix the fact that I'm not getting a full 800x600 image on the projector. The same problem would apply if I were to move the projector farther away from the screen (so that the widescreen image takes up the full height of the projector screen, while spilling off the sides). I'll still have a lower resolution image, which isn't ideal since I'm often showing text on the screen through Keynote. Also, widescreen videos wouldn't fit on the screen, and I can't move the projector easily because it's fixed to the ceiling.


Sorry for the long explanation. Any ideas? I'd really appreciate some insight.

AppleTV 2, iOS 5.1.1
  • Winston Churchill Level 10 Level 10 (81,665 points)

    Sorry if my answer is short and sweet, but 4:3 > 16:9 > 4:3 is always going to produce letter boxing and pillar boxing simultaneously. Your projector receives 720 lines of resolution, if the projector was able to zoom accordingly it could overcome the issue, but clearly it can't.

  • Blottie Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)


    We are having exactly the same issue, we rolled out some 30 apple tvs to our staff and lots of them have complained the image is too small due to the odd resolution issue with the airplay function.

    The apple tvs are a nightmare enough from an IT management perspective not supporting proxy servers or enterprise wifi security without this headache!

  • Renaissance Man in Taiwan Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I am also having this same problem. I guess Apple wasn't thinking of us teachers who use 4:3 LCD projectors in class and want Airplay too.


    My guess is the problem is a combination of the way Apple TV functions and the iPad functions.


    When I connect my iPad through the HDMI doggle to an 4:3 HDMI projector, mirroring still produces a small 4:3 image in the middle. So without the Apple TV in the picture, going through the HDMI connector doesn't produce our desired result (a full 4:3 image covering the whole image area). When I connect my iPad to the same projector, but go through a VGA doggle, then everything works fine. So this seems to indicate that somehow the iPad is designed to assume a 16:9 display when outputting through HDMI and a 4:3 display when outputting through VGA. I have not completely tested to see if this hypothesis is true yet (i.e. try the reverse of connecting a 16:9 VGA display through a VGA doggle).


    Anyway, I was surprised that I encountered this problem because Apple TV has been out for a while and I couldn't imagine I was the only teacher in the world wanting to use the Apple TV in a classroom that has the traditional 4:3 LCD projector.

  • Brice Unland Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    Same problem here at our school with our 7 AppleTVs. It's frustrating because, as you said with a VGA adapter it works just fine. As all of us have SmartBoards, we are confined to the 4x3 aspect ratio. Considering the iPad is 4x3 and the AppleTV can do 4x3, it is ludicrous that an option does not exist to make this work.

  • Darien & Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I too am having the same issue. I'm trying to use keynote and other apps to mirror to my church congregation as a part of my sermon talk. I'm also unwilling to use cables when I can go wirelessly through my Apple TV. Praying for a solution to emerge soon!

  • Renaissance Man in Taiwan Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    After some more investigation, the only solution that I've found is that some LCD projectors have the ability to zoom in on the center portion of the display (i.e. make the smaller 4:3 image in the center of the screen that we get going through Apple TV) and make it fill the whole screen. This setting is sometimes in the place that can adjust the "Aspect", and you need to select the one that is called "Wide Zoom", "Wide" or just "Zoom". Each projector is a little different (I've looked at three different projectors that we have at school), and ony the newer ones seem to have this feature.


    If your projector can do this, it works well for mirroring your display, but when you play a 16:9 video on your iPad through Apple TV, because it seems to always assume you are using an HD/16:9 screen, it thinks it is "smart" by then playing your video using the full 16:9 screen. But if you have done the "Zoom" on your projector, then the left and right portions of the video will get cut off. You will need to undo the "Zoom" and return your projector to its normal setting in order to see the full width of the video.


    Let's all pray that Apple will eventually get this right and let the iPad/Apple TV combination work well with both 16:9 and 4:3 displays/screens/projectors.

  • qqmiqq Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    We have the same problem, and not only with ipads. Macbook Air is doing something similar. it can only use airplay with 1080 and 720 resolution, so the image is squeezed on a 4:3 projector. We use AppleTV 3 and Mountain Lion OS. We use ATVPRO from Kanex.


    Apple must get its act together and fix this, they promise gold and green forests, but nothing works.



  • bobwild Level 4 Level 4 (1,510 points)

    AppleTV is designed to output HD in 16x9 and the requirements for the AppleTV state an HDMI connection to an HDTV.


    The way I see it you are trying to put square pegs in round holes and have two options.

    1. get an HDTV or HDTV projector that displays 16x9 and has an HDMI connector

    2. replace the AppleTV with a device that can display 4x3 to your 4x3 TV or projector.

  • qqmiqq Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    If Apple TV is designed for 16:9, why can I set the TV resolution on Apple TV 1024 * 768? But it does not work as a MacBook changes the resolution to 720p no matter if Apple TV is set to 720P or 1024 * 768

  • K SKY Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)



    thanks for your older post about using a thinner cable so that the MacBook Air would display on the outside monitor.  It worked for me, and I had to pass it on to the Apple Genius bar so that Apple could figure what is up and provide more "fixing".  Have you learned more about the issue of the MBA?


    (Sorry I could not figure how to post this to your actual comments about the MBA.)



  • adfgrev Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I had a similar problem and worked out that switching off the "Overscan-Mode" was the solution...

  • tmcdougal Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thank you andreabaer for posting this question.


    I am experiencing a similar problem with AirPlay only, not with straight Apple TV nor with the iPad VGA dongle.


    That is:


    Apple TV -> VGA monitor -- FINE. For example, the Apple TV home screen fills up my VGA monitor, although things are stretched vertically (how do I fix that?).


    iPad2 -> VGA monitor (via dongle) -- FINE. iPad image maximally fills the screen, without distortion. That is, when the iPad is displaying in landscape, it fills the screen completely; in portrait, it uses the full height with appropriate black margins




    iPad2 -> Apple TV -> VGA monitor (via AirPlay) -- BAD. iPad image is squished horizontally, so that there are large black margins on the L & R sides (pillarboxed), and smaller margins top & bottom.


    I have tried turning AirPlay Overscan on and off and tried various resolutions. Provided I can see any image at all, nothing changes.

  • E-Slice Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Was there a fix for this without purchasing a new projector?

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