Converting a 16:9 Sequence into a 4:3 Video

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the December, 2005, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
Updated: Jan. 2008. ]


This technique grew out of two simultaneous events: a request from a client and a letter from a reader. I’ll let the letter set the stage.

NOTE: This process changed with the release of Final Cut Pro 5.1. See the update at the bottom.

Tom Porett, from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, writes:

I enjoy your newsletter greatly – thanks very much.


I have a question about converting a 16:9 format to 4:3 in letterbox format (with bars). If there is an issue of the newsletter that has that info I’d appreciate it.


I am uploading work to Google video and they require 4:3 format only.

Larry replies: Yup, it can be done. In fact, I had a client this morning that needed to convert a DVCPro-50 16:9 sequence into a DV 4:3 video. Here’s how to do it.

1) Open the sequence you want to convert into the Timeline.

2) Choose File > Export > Quicktime movie.

3) In the Save As dialog, change Current Settings to “DV NTSC 48K” — if you are working with PAL video, you would select “DV PAL 48K”. Then, make sure that Make movie self-contained. is CHECKED.

4) The movie will export — and will take a while to do so, depending upon the length of the sequence you are exporting. Use this to rediscover the outdoors and sunshine. Look out a window, or something.

5) When the export is complete, change your Easy Setup to “DV NTSC” (or “DV PAL” depending upon where in the world you live).

6) Create a new project and import your newly exported QuickTime movie. Then, edit it to the Timeline.

Ta-DAH! Your 16:9 image format is retained, but Final Cut has now added black letter-boxing at the top and bottom of the image. You are now ready to output as a standard DV file.

The best part about this process is that no additional rendering is necessary; your file is ready to output as soon as you get it edited into a new sequence.

Fast and easy.

UPDATE – Jan. 2008

As Oren Hercz pointed out:

I just wanted to mention a minor problem I discovered with your “converting a 16:9 sequence to 4:3 video” article. I was following your instructions, using FCP 5.1.2, but when I exported my anamorphic sequence as “DV NTSC 48k” and then imported it into a NTSC DV timeline, I got a stretched image inside black bars (yuck!) I discovered that I had to export using “DV NTSC 48k anamorphic” setting to make it work. I don’t know if this is a change in FCP since you wrote that article, but I thought you might want to know.

Larry replies: You are correct. Apple has now made anamorphic video a specific menu choice in the application. If you are working with 16:9, then please select “anamorphic.”

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One Response to Converting a 16:9 Sequence into a 4:3 Video

  1. Kass says:

    How would one do this in FCP X?

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