Importing Still Images into FCP 5

Posted on by Larry

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


The spur for this article came from Billy Miller, who wrote:

I just found your site through Ken Stone and I love it!


I have a question in regarding the article “Prepping Still Images for Video.” Here is the paragraph I’m referring to:


“Also, if you want to zoom in, you need to import an image at a larger size than full-screen so that you have room to zoom without pixelization… If I plan to pan or zoom, I import it at 1440 x 1080 x 72. This allows me to zoom to double the image size without problems. Image quality is good.”


I found that in Final Cut Express HD when I import an image at 1440 x 1080 x 72 FCE interprets it as 16:9 wide screen and squashes it. I’ve been importing at 1441 x 1081 x 72 to alleviate this problem. Why does this happen and can I turn this feature off somehow?

Larry replies: Yup, you’re right. Things changed with FCP 5.

When I was writing my book on Final Cut HD, I wrestled with figuring out the best size to scan graphics that I wanted to import into Final Cut.

The folks at Neotron Design ( were really helpful in providing both an outstanding scanning template and lots of good advice on the best way to scan graphics for video.

As a result of which, I made the recommendation in my first book to scan all graphics at 1440 x 1080 x 72, as that size was small enough not to choke Final Cut, yet large enough to allow moves around inside the graphic.

Well, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself until FCP 5 was released. One of the big features of FCP 5 is it’s support for native editing of HDV video. And, the HDV frame size is 1440 x 1080. Sigh…

This means that when I try to import a graphic, FCP, ever helpful, assumes its an HDV still frame which has a default 16:9 aspect ratio. Getting Final Cut to recognize it as an oversized 4:3 image to be edited into a DV or SD sequence is a major pain in the patoot.

Complicating the whole issue is that when importing a still image into Final Cut, you need to compensate for the difference between the square pixels used on a computer versus the rectangular pixels used in video.

More research was called for and I discovered all my favorite sizes seemed to duplicate one or another HD frame size. Deeper sigh…

Anyway, after a lot of tinkering, I found a new image size that imports as a 4:3 image, properly compensates for pixel dimensions, and is relatively easy to remember. Plus, it’s not too big for Final Cut to handle easily.

Ready? It’s 1800 x 1350 x 72 dpi.

I’ve been working with this size for a while now, and it seems to work fine.

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