Aspect ratio correction using displayutil utility

by editor @ on October 25, 2007

Here’s a tip from one of our readers, Jordan Shinall from Gainesville, Florida.

Jordan tried connecting his Apple TV to an LCD monitor via a DVI connector (using an HDMI-to-DVI connector). His monitor’s resolution was 1440×900; this was confirmed in the settings menu as “1440x900p”. When he changed the display resolution to 720p, the “1440x900p” disappeared from the menu. Not only that. Since the aspect ratio of his monitor is 16:10 and 720p’s aspect is 16:9, the image displayed got stretched vertically.

To remedy this problem, he used a utility called “displayutil” by Jonathan Bringhurst. The utility was meant to be used under OS X but since Apple TV’s OS is a specialized version of OS X, he tried using it anyway.

After many attempts of running the utility on the Apple TV, he stumbled upon the following combination:

./displayutil -r1440x900 -b32
kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk {\’print $2\’}`
./displayutil -r1440x900 -b32

Here is his logic:

Now the important thing here is to type in the display util line first so that it is kept in the bash history. Then when you enter the second line (which just parses the ps output for the pid of the Finder and kills it) hit enter and then immediately hit the up arrow twice and then enter. What you are trying to do is sill the Finder and run display util before it has a chance to restart. If you did it correctly, you should see a grey screen fade in and out for a moment. When the Finder loads again, head into the settings to verify the resolution.

So far this solution worked out for him. There might be a better way. If you think you have a better solution, let us know.

You can download displayutil utility here.

  • Kent


    I just tried this on my old sony SDTV
    ./displayutil -r1024x768 -b32
    And it woks great it says 1024x768i in display settings!
    This combined with the software composite hack lets me have 4:3 aspect ratio and color over composite out.

  • luck

    I’m glad it worked out for you, Kent.

  • It’s great that it helped someone else, and I’d also like to point out that ./displayutil -l will list the “GUI usable display modes” which I believe are the resolutions and bit depths that the apple tv thinks it can output to your display. Also check out ./displayutil -h for some of the other switches that can be used with the application.

  • I didn’t even think about the fact that this could be used to output a correct 4:3 AR on a SDTV! I’m going to try this on a 20″ 480p lcd set that I have when I get home! Thanks, Kent!!!

  • Rasmus2000

    Will this utility make it possible for me to use a 1366×768 resolution(my lcd’s native resolution) with a standard hdmi cable? (no converters and no dvi used)

  • stephane

    Why not trying to send the commands on the same line? With a ‘;’ between them, the shell will send the displayutil command immediatly after the return of the kill command:

    kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk {\’print $2\’}`; ./displayutil -r1440×900 -b32

    You could even use the ‘&&’ : in this case, the displayutil command will be send only if the kill is a success.

    kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk {\’print $2\’}` && ./displayutil -r1440×900 -b32

    No need to use the bash history.

    I don’t have a Mac so I can’t test but this will work with a shell on Unix (at least with bash), so I suppose it will work on MacOS X (and so on Mac TV).

  • Knet

    kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk {\’print $2\’}`; ./displayutil -r1440×900 -b32
    will not work its to quick but if u do this it works fine
    kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk {\’print $2\’}`;sleep 2; ./displayutil -r1440×900 -b32

  • Wow, I’m really happy this app is getting so much use. I didn’t expect it to get more than a few downloads, much less be used for tweaking the Apple TV 🙂

    I guess it’s time to do some research and add some Apple TV specific features.

  • luck

    Jon, thank you so much for working on this very useful utility. Please let us know if you have a new version, especially with Apple TV-specific features. That would be great.

  • Jon,
    Good work deserves use and appreciation. Always good to see open source projects getting attention and encouragement. Kudos and I hope this can evolve into something more, maybe a resolution forcing plugin for the finder.

    Free and open source software forever, ladies and gents. Without the amazing contributions of people like you, Jon, Apple might never have moved on to Darwin. And even though OS X gets only a small amount of my computing workload, Linux is the daily bread in my work environment and I am thankful every day that there are people smarter than me working so hard, expecting little or nothing in return.


  • Tim

    I have tried to do this … My Tube HDTV has overscan which can’t be turned off so this solution would be awesome! (it cuts all the outside edges off). The terminal gives me a syntax error…

    bash-2.05b# kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk {\’print$2\’}`
    awk: syntax error at source line 1
    context is
    >>> {‘

  • Hey Tim, try this:
    kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk {‘print $2’}`

    That should do the trick. the other command should be the same.

    Give it a try and let me know how it goes.


  • Tim

    That worked great! Thanks. I guess Just have to figure out how to make 1136×650 an available resolution. (which is what i have to use on my macbook to get the screen to fit on my tv).

  • Serg

    Jordan, thanks a lot! Very usefull for me!

  • Shawn

    Totally ignorant/noob question, but how does one get displayutil on the appleTV? Are any hacks required prior to this?

    I’ve googled the crap out of this and while I’d love to go to 4:3 on my 36″ crt, I don’t want to brick the AppleTV either. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

  • Jared

    Does anyone have the displayutil utility? I have searched everywhere and everyone keeps referring to the download link above but that site is no longer live.
    If not, can someone please explain step-by-step how to hack the aspect ratio? I’m a complete novice at this so i would need baby steps.

    Any help is much appreciated. I’m sick of everyone on tv looking like sticks.


  • Bill C

    You can find alternative download sites here:

  • Has anyone gotten this to work with Take Two? I put displayutil in /usr/bin and tried:

    kill `ps aux | grep Finder | grep -v grep | awk ‘{print $2}’`;sleep 2; displayutil -r1440x900 -b32

    and also tried entering the commands manually as described in the original post, but neither work. When the finder comes back up, 1440x900p is not an option in TV Resolutions.

  • Major

    Hi all,

    big time new boy..
    I just got my flash new aTV.. only to now understand the difference between composite and component RGB. As this is the only way i can use the aTV, i have been looking at the software hack to enable composite.
    While i have used a friend USB to install some hacks such as Jaman, Files NitoTV and a few others.. i want to sort out the hack that enables me to have full colour with composite instead of Black and white.
    Looking through various guides.. i cant help think what a great patch to implement via USB Patch.
    Does this exist? Does it make sense? here seem a LOT of people out there looking to achieve this and a lot of other clever people doing great things with aTV hacks.
    Anyway, thanks for the hacks – outstanding

  • Raj

    NOOB Question: How do I install displayutil on AppleTV? I’ve downloaded the file but it gives no instructions on where to copy it on the ATV.

  • Axel

    Has anybody tested the displayutil utility with the Apple TV 2? Thanks.

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