Make Your Videos Look Great In Quicktime

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the January, 2011, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


As a video editor, one of the reasons I like QuickTime 7 more than QuickTime X is that it gives me better control over my clips.

For instance, this technique doesn’t work in QuickTime X, only QuickTime 7 and earlier. (I’ve taught this technique for a long time in my seminars, but just discovered that I haven’t written about it before.)

Here’s a DV movie. The problem is that the poor hummingbird looks stretched – it is fatter than it should be. (Well, OK, maybe you can’t see that, but his agent called and told me in no uncertain terms that this look was unacceptable.)

The problem, as we have written about before, is that video displays images using rectangular pixels, while the computer displays images using square pixels.

NOTE: To save time, I won’t explain why. Here’s an article that goes into much more detail, if you want to know more.

To fix this display issue, open your movie in QuickTime 7.

Select Window > Show Movie Properties (type Cmd+J).

In the dialog box, select the Video Track

In the middle of the window, turn OFF Preserve Aspect Ratio.

If the movie is NTSC DV 4:3, use the settings illustrated here — 640 x 480.

Also, in the lower right corner, turn ON High Quality, so that the computer displays the image with the same quality that you recorded it in the camera. And turn ON Single Field. This removes the display of interlacing, without actually de-interlacing. This preserves total image quality for later compression.

If the movie is NTSC DV 16:9, use the settings illustrated here.

Here’s a short table that provides settings for common video formats.

Resizing QuickTime Movies for Square Pixels
Format Video Size
NTSC 4:3
640 x 480
NTSC 16:9
720 x 405 (or) 640 x 360
PAL 4:3
768 x 576 (or) 720 x 540
PAL 16:9
1024 x 576 (or) 720 x 405
HD 720
1280 x 720
HD 1080
1920 x 1080

Save your QuickTime file and it will display properly the next time you open it.

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One Response to Make Your Videos Look Great In Quicktime

  1. Really great information here. I’ve been looking everywhere trying to figure out how to correct the aspect ratio from my time lapse installation series. Crazy that of all the info I’ve read on line this you post is the first to mention using Movie Properties. Wish I had found your site a few days ago.
    Thank you!!!
    And cheers!

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