Converting 50i 4:3 PAL to 16:9 Anamorphic NTSC for DVD

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the June, 2008, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Daniel Rain, of Adama Films, sent the following:

Here’s how I converted my 50i 4:3 footage to a 16:9 anamorphic NTSC 29.976 progressive DVD (with somewhat satisfactory results!)


Since some of my clips are shot 16:9 anamorphic and some shot 4:3 full frame, I decided to go with a 16:9 anamorphic DVD–that way the DVD is compatible with both HDTV and regular (full frame) TV users.


Here’s how I did it:


1. In FCP create a DV PAL Anamorphic Timeline from the Easy Presets. Then in the Timeline Settings (hit: apple+0) set Compressor to ProRes 422 10-bit UC.


2. Transfer all the edited clips and graphics from my 4:3 PAL 50i FCP timeline to a PAL 50i anamorphic 16:9 timeline. This way I can use the “action safe” and “text safe” parameters to resize the 4:3 footage. Some of the 4:3 footage I left pillar-boxed, some I stretched out (to 133.33%) to fill the wide screen frame — you can really do anything you want! For example I stretched out all the interviews for consistency and pillar-boxed all the 4:3 aspect ratio film clips.


What’s great about FCP 6 is that all you have to do is drop the clip into the timeline and it will automatically size it to fit.


Some of the clips I had to bump up to 102% so I wouldn’t get dead pixel distortion at the top and bottom of the frame. This “dead pixel distortion” can also apply to footage shot on 16:9 anamorphic because when played back on a full screen 4:3 TV, with black bars at the top and bottom, the dead pixels can vibrate or look really ugly! So check your clips because not all of them have that issue!


3. Export your QT PAL 50i Pro Res Movie. My 40 minute doc was about 12GB.


4. Your next objective is to create a QT NTSC 25P Apple ProRes 422 Movie

–Open your new PAL 50i QT Movie in Compressor. Create an asset that is Apple ProRes 422/Current Frame Rate. Set “Frame Controls” to ON. Set Everything to “Best” and “Output Fields” to Progressive.


–In “Geometry” set frame size to 720 x 480 and “Pixel Aspect” to NTSC CCIR 601 DV (16:9)

Now export project.


5. In FCP create a DV NTSC Anamorphic timeline from the Easy Presets. Then in the timeline setting (apple+0) set the compressor settings to ProRes 422, frame rate to 59.94, below the frame rate control set “output fields” to NONE and then to 10-bit UC in the next tab.


Place your new QT NTSC 25P Apple ProRes 422 Movie on the timeline and export that to your hard drive.


Be aware that the 59.94 frame rate is going to multiply x 2 your project file size. However, I find that this is the KEY to a successful PAL to NTSC transcode that does not a) soften the image quality and b) create all sorts of nasty ghosting affects and jittery affects due to new frames being introduced. After all these tests, I was shocked to find that FCP itself did the best conversion.


6. Open your new NTSC 59.94 16:9 ProRes Movie in Compressor. Then, apply your MPEG2 and AC3 assets on the clip and export. Make sure that the video format is NTSC, Frame rate is set to 29.976, Aspect Ration set to 16:9 and Field Dominance set to Progressive. A good average bit rate for multiple DVD players is 5.5 and Maximum Bit Rate set to 7.2. Of course 2 Pass VBR is good and set Motion Estimation to “Best.”


Rock and Roll!

Larry replies: Thanks, Daniel, for this procedure.


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