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SDX900 Widescreen question for editing


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#1 redlinematt

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 06:47 PM

Hi, this is kind of a stupid question but no one seems to have an answer for me, I recently shot something for the first time on the sdx900 and we shot on 16:9 widescren format. When I play the footage it is automatically squeezed and stretched, what I want to know is how do I take my footage shot at 16:9, import it to my avid at 16:9, edit it, and then output it to mini dv tape at 16:9 where it plays on a 4:3 tv but does not squeeze it and expand it full frame, I want to keep it in its original widescreen form as it was shot so it plays on a 4:3 tv in widescreen format. Also, I was trying to down convert the footage to mini dv and I was wondering how do i do that and keep it at its true original 16:9 look, when I ran teh video to my mini dv deck it automatically expanded the footage to 4:3 which looks horrible. please email me directly at matt@redlinestudios.net if you have some help for me, thanks so much.--Matt
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 07:30 PM

Hi,

First thing to understand is that there's no fundamental difference between 16:9 and 4:3 video as far as the video deck is concerned. 4:3 is a 4:3 image squashed into a 720x480 frame; 16:9 is a 16:9 image squashed into a 720x480 frame. Unless one of the several channels to tell the VTR what's happening is working (such as the white dashes rendered into the first line of the image by many DV devices) you'll see the image in whatever mode the device considers "normal" - that is, almost invariably 4:3. There is no intrinsic difference between the picture content that can be determined by any way other than looking at it, unless the format has extra flags to mark the aspect ratio.

This is a problem. The only way this usually works well is on DVD, where you can be assured that all DVD players will recognise the aspect ratio flags and have aspect ratio converters (however bad) built in. The problem here is that the DVD player needs to be told what format the display is - again, unless the display and the DVD player have established communication over what format the signal is in, assuming the display is capable of switching. I'd say at a conservative estimate 30% of people have their DVD players or TVs set wrongly - either through having left it at an incorrect factory setting, or by blindly setting it to "WIDESCREEN" because it sounds cool, or because a lot of legacy material and almost all NTSC standard def is 4:3 and people want to make it fill a 16:9 display.

Hideous situation, isn't it? The good news is that it's generally fairly obvious when it's wrong, and it's an either-or decision which is usually easy to solve in a professionally-oriented postproduction environment. DV formats have a flag in each frame to indicate the aspect ratio and most playback devices will interpret this correctly. What they do with that information is another issue, and whether your display interprets it correctly is another still.

One example of this is my GVD-900 miniDV player. If I shoot and master a programme with the NLE set to 16:9, it correctly outputs DV over firewire and the VTR detects it, displaying the image letterboxed on its inbuilt LCD display and outputting the aspect ratio encoding on the video. The thing is, my monitor isn't capable of reading that encoding, so I'm required to manually put it into 16:9. Notice that all that happens when I do this is that it reduces the size of the vertical scan; it's scanning exactly the same picture information, just into a differently-shaped area of the CRT.

By the time you factor in the 14:9 intermediate format currently used in the UK for 16:9-originated material on analog terrestrial broadcast, and the fact that there's acres of material out there that's actually 16:9 letterboxed into a 4:3 frame, you can end up with all kinds of silly situations - a widescreen image with black borders all the way around on a widescreen display, various combinations of stretch and squash, and a technically correct picture display about 10% of the time.

Welcome to the party!

By the way, it's generally considered bad form to request personal replies on public forums. They work best when building up an archive of information for others to search.

Phil
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