Q. I love my HDTV but sometimes the picture gets these black bars on the side of the picture and I can’t get rid of them. They cut off the picture and it drives me crazy! What can I do to improve the picture? — Helen, Butte, Montana.

Helen, those black bars are not your TV’s fault. They are known as ‘Pillar Boxing’ and they will show up on your screen when your TV is set for a widescreen, HD picture, known as a 16:9 aspect ratio, but the show is in standard-definition, a 4:3 aspect ratio. Basically, the standard-definition picture is not programmed to fit your entire screen.

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There are two things you can do when this occurs.

One, you can go into your TV’s menu and click on the Picture setting. Every TV is different, but you then will look for a setting that says Format or Ratio, or something that conveys that you will change the size of the picture on the screen. When you find this setting, click on the Feature that says Wide or Zoom. This will make every channel’s picture stretch across the entire screen, regardless of whether it’s in SD or HD.

Of course, as you can imagine, this will likely cause your SD picture to look, well, stretched and that can get annoying after awhile. So if you don’t like the stretched look, you can go to number two.

And number two is doing nothing. While the black bars will remain on the left and right hand side of your standard-definition picture, at least the actual picture will look normal.

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Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann