This post contains affiliate links.

I accidentally discovered how to change a movie displayed in the old 4:3 aspect ratio to widescreen with an Apple TV zoom feature.

Using Plex DVR, I record movies playing on over-the-air stations. Many of those stations still play content in the 4:3 aspect ratio for older TVs, which means you have black bars on the sides of the viewing area.

finger over touch area of Apple TV remote

Double-tapping touch surface of the Apple TV remote zoomed the display

While I was watching such a movie via the Plex app on my Apple TV 4K, I wanted to jump ahead 10 seconds. I was clumsy with the Apple TV remote and accidentally tapped (not clicked) the middle of the remote’s touch surface twice. When I did that, the picture zoomed in and filled the TV screen.

The vertical black bars were gone, and I watched the final hour of the movie zoomed in. There were very few times I sensed that something important was chopped off at the top or bottom of the viewing area.

tv scene aspect ratio changed to widescreen

Top: a scene from Cat People (1942) streaming in 4:3 format via the Plex app. Bottom: same scene zoomed to widescreen format by double-tapping the touch surface of the Apple TV 4K remote.

I found this part of my discovery particularly puzzling: the zoom feature is Off in the settings on my Apple TV 4K, yet the double-tap on the remote  still magnifies the picture!  (A post on another blog explains the zoom settings in more detail.) As of this writing, I get the same results on both an Apple TV 4th generation and Apple TV 4K by double-tapping—even with zoom set to Off.

I can also zoom other app’s 4:3 content, such as Dark Shadows on the Amazon Prime app, to widescreen:

zoomed in scene from Dark Shadows

Zooming the 4:3 content of a 1969 episode of Dark Shadows in the Amazon Prime app

Do you get the same zoom with a double-tap on your Apple TV remote?

Clarification:  Many movies and TV shows (such as Cat People and Dark Shadows) were filmed in 4:3 aspect ratio, so the over-the-air stations aren’t cropping those. They do crop more recent movies filmed in widescreen formats, however, to fit the 4:3 ratio.