FCP 7: Resizing 16:9 Video to Fit a 4:3 Frame

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the December, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Daniel Simonya asks:

I am working with stubborn colleagues who all have their own vision about resizing 4/3 footage to 16/9 footage and I like to make an end to it.


For me, resizing 4/3 to 16/9 means that you increase your height from 100 to 133! Some colleagues resize it to 123, 128 end even in 116!!!!


Can you provide me with an explanation that will end this battle for once and for all?

Larry replies: Maybe — it depends upon what you mean by “height.”

The only way to create a 16:9 image from a 4:3 image that retains the correct geometry is to zoom into the image, thus losing pixels off the top and bottom of the image.

You do this using Scale in the Motion tab. The problem with scaling footage larger than 100% is that it makes your images soft because you are enlarging the image pixels beyond the size they were designed for.

Also, as this screen shot illustrates, when you scale the image to fill the frame, not only does the image get soft, but you lose part of your image at the top and bottom of the frame.

As for the correct size to scale to, this depends upon the video format.

HD video is already 16:9, so you don’t need to scale to create the aspect ratio, but you would need to scale to get it to fit into a DV sequence.

You can easily test this for yourself by creating a circle in FCP in one aspect ratio, then trying to stretch it to fit another aspect ratio. There is nothing you can do that will alter the aspect ratio of the image that does not deform the circle – unless you are wiling to lose pixels.

This is because BOTH 16:9 and 4:3 NTSC DV images contain exactly 720 x 480 pixels (PAL is 720 x 576). The only thing that changes is the shape of the pixel — from short and fat to tall and thin. If the two image shapes contained differing amounts of pixels, we could get stretching to work. Because they contain the same number of pixels, stretching won’t.


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One Response to FCP 7: Resizing 16:9 Video to Fit a 4:3 Frame

  1. Brian Barnes says:

    I have occasionally done this with our HVX200 footage, operators sometimes forget to select squeeze rather than normal when shooting SD. I like all pictures going out to be 16×9 so we have zoomed in by 134 on the scale. The pictures were not as soft as I thought they would be, you could always add a little sharpness filter. The main issue having zoomed in is you sometimes need to re frame the shots to get headroom right or even put in a keyframe so that you simulate a tilt to get all the frame seen.

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