[ This article was first published in the April, 2008, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]
Joseph Cochran sent in the following:
I’m currently finishing up a DVD for an independent film I shot in 16:9 anamorphic on a DVX100a SD camera. I’ve encoded the resulting footage as a 16:9 MPEG-2 streams accordingly. Ideally, I’d prefer to structure my DVD with the 16:9 footage in the Pan-Scan & letterbox display mode so that when it plays on HDTV sets, it will be able to utilize the entire 16:9 screen area. If I were to structure the DVD preferences simply in the 16:9 letterbox display mode instead, then it seems that not only would black letterbox bars appear on the top and bottom of the footage, but vertical black bars would also appear on the sides as well when playing back on HDTV’s–something I would like to avoid if at all possible. Furthermore, I’ve also read in several places that many, if not most, DVD players can recognize SD 16:9 (pan-scan & letterbox) wide screen DVD’s and automatically play them as letterboxed on NTSC TV sets. How true is this?
(So far, I’ve been able to test my pan-scan & letterbox DVD’s out on a few different DVD players and they seems for the most part to hold up… not to mention the numerous wide screen DVD’s that come out of the movie studio system. But I also realize that I’ve only been able to test a small fraction of the DVD players that are out there.)
The thing that gives me pause is that I was recently listening to your tutorial, “DVD Studio Pro 4 Essential Training” in which you suggested 16:9 letterbox display modes and preferences should be used as opposed to 16:9 pan-scan & letterbox display mode and preferences. Why is that?
Larry replies: Joe, thanks for writing.
Just to restate, there are four aspect ratios available inside DVD Studio Pro:
According to the DVD Studio Pro manual, these control how a 16:9 image is displayed on a 4:3 monitor.
Apple’s manual states:
Using 16:9 sources in your project raises a number of issues that you need to be aware of. Your main goal is to ensure that 16:9 assets play back correctly on 16:9 monitors and as expected on 4:3 monitors (and that 4:3 assets play correctly on both monitor types as well). Incorrect settings can lead to distorted video. For example, the video may appear horizontally compressed (objects look “skinny”) or expanded (objects look “fat”).
…The DVD specification and DVD Studio Pro require 16:9 video to be anamorphic. An anamorphic 16:9 video frame has the same number of pixels as a 4:3 video frame. When displayed on a 16:9 monitor, the frame is horizontally stretched to fit the screen, and the content appears normal.
…The most common error is to letterbox your 16:9 video assets before bringing them into DVD Studio Pro. Once a 16:9 asset has been letterboxed, it becomes a 4:3 asset with black bars along the top and bottom of the video image. If you flag letterboxed source video as 16:9 video when encoding it, you will have problems when you play it back later.
So, here’s the way this works:
Remember, these selections are used to determine how your 16:9 video plays back on a 4:3 monitor.
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