Protecting 16:9 Titles in 4:3 Title Safe

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the September, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]


David Counts asks:

When creating titles for a 16×9 movie that will go to SD DVD should I keep my text in a 4×3 title safe grid? And is the answer the same for DVD menu text created in Photoshop? I generally use Photoshop and AE to create my titles.

Larry replies: David, thanks for the question.

Title Safe is defined by a rectangle drawn 10% in from each edge of the video image. This means that the size of Title Safe varies between 4:3 and 16:9 screen formats.

So, regardless of what application you use to create your titles, as long as you keep all essential text 10%, or more, away from any edge, you are fine.

UPDATE – Oct. 21, 2010

Eric Mittan, from WSIL-TV, sent this in:

Just wanted to pass along some thoughts to David Counts in regards to his 16×9 movie and his question about title safe (and anyone else that works with widescreen material).


I know David mentioned his movie is going to DVD, but he probably wants to save himself some work in case there’s even a prospect of this item going to broadcast or some other distribution medium. Working in broadcasting, our department has worked to follow 4×3 title safe guidelines, even in our 16×9 work. Our market is mostly rural, and most of our viewers purchased Digital Television converter boxes with the government subsidized program, rather than purchase a new High Definition television. What hasn’t been widely discussed in the post-production community is that a number of these boxes shipped set to a default setting that crops 16×9 signals to 4×3 to fit “fullscreen” on the television, rather than letterboxing the content. Since the majority of viewers will use those boxes in their default mode, any titles in a 16×9 piece of media that do not also fit inside of the 4×3 title safe INSIDE the 16×9, will probably be cut off by most viewers’ televisions.


We’ve come to notice that as a network affiliate, the network broadcasts also fit within the same guidelines. The network icon that appears on 16×9 primetime shows sits right in the lower right corner of 4:3 title safe. All lower-third promos for upcoming shows – that all the networks have been using to interrupt what you’re currently watching – all contain their text within the 4×3 title safe, even if the graphic portion of the promo spills out a little.

Larry replies: Thanks, Eric. I appreciate your comments.


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4 Responses to Protecting 16:9 Titles in 4:3 Title Safe

  1. Joseph Owens says:

    So, regardless of what application you use to create your titles, as long as you keep all essential text 10%, or more, away from any edge, you are fine.
    10% is actually “Action Safe” and “title Safe is a further 10% in from there, so you are really dealing with an 80% interior area.

    Things change again if you are protecting for Action and Title Safe within a 4×3 center cut.

    Beware of free advice.


  2. What about Final Cut Pro X? I know I can enable title-safe overlays, but how can I show 4:3 TS/AS zones within a 16:9 project? FInal Cut Pro 7 used to have these little ‘notches’ along its TS/AS overlay that showed a 4:3 cropping within 16:9 content. How can this be enabled in Final Cut Pro X?

    And if it can’t be, any ideas for an effect that would do that without the need to render?

    • Ron Coy says:

      I’m wondering the same, myself. I really can’t afford to lose the 4:3 title safe markers that FCP7 has to make the move to FCPX. Maybe I can design a temporary overlay that shows the 4:3 title safe area that I can then disable when the edit is finished. Broadcast stations still require our graphics to be in 4:3 title safe (why they can’t just letterbox their SD broadcast, I can’t understand… I know of at least one cable company that does just that.)

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