Preferred television viewing distance

We have previously mentioned a reference, Recommendation ITU-R BT.500-10: Methodology for the Subjective Assessment of the Quality of Television Pictures, that we could not find. Well, it exists as a Microsoft Word file and is somewhat less helpful than we’d hoped.

The paper provides a table and a graph of preferred viewing distance (PVD) for a range of screen measurements (diagonal and vertical). It’s a nonlinear graph, but for most TV sets in use in real-world homes, a distance of 4 to 5 times screen height (4–5H) is deemed optimal.

The problem? The paper provides no evidence to back up its assertions, which is all they are. Maybe the authors carried out experiments or maybe not, but it is simply not stated in the paper. It is at least implied that actual experiments were carried out (“Figures could be valid both for [analogue and high-definition TV] as very little difference was found”), but those experiments are uncited.

For reference, the following data are adapted from that paper.

Screen diagonal Screen height (H)Preferred viewing distance
4:3 ratio 16:9 ratio
12″ 15″ 18 cm 9 H
15″ 18″ 23 cm 8 H
20″ 24″ 30 cm 7 H
29″ 36″ 45 cm 6 H
60″ 73″ 91 cm 5 H
> 100″ > 120″ > 1.53 m 3–4 H

The graph of preferred viewing distance starts very high for tiny (very short) screens and tends toward the range of 4 to 5 times screen height for nearly all typical home TV screens. (The data tends asymptotically toward 4–5H.)

Diagram of screen height in metres versus preferred viewing distance starts at 13 for screen heights of about 10 centimetres and quickly descends to a near-flatline level of 4 to 5 for screen heights of 50 centimetres to 2 metres