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Final Cut Pro Quick Tip #43

Anamorphic editing By Stephen Schleicher

Independent filmmakers love it, the promise of HD will make it common practice, and film lovers prefer it.  The 16:9 aspect ratio gives the director a wider field of view that conveys a more cinematic feel.  Unfortunately, a lot of cameras have chips that only capture footage at a 4:3 aspect ratio.  How do we get 16:9 on 4:3?  We squeeze the video using an Anamorphic process.  Final Cut Pro has no problem working with Anamorphic video, and this Final Cut Pro Quick Tip shows you the workflow.

Unless your camera has a 16:9 CCD, the Anamorphic process vertically squeezes the image to fit in the 720x480 space.  This can be done by either using the cameras wide screen option (found in the menu) or by using an anamorphic lens.  The result is your video looks thin and distorted when viewing on a 4:3 monitor.


How Anamorphic video should look...

...the way it looks in a 4:3 format.

Capturing Anamorphic Video
In order for Final Cut Pro to use Anamorphic video, you must first know how the footage was acquired.

If you used the 16:9/widescreen setting found on your camera, there is a good chance all you will have to do is capture the footage following the standard Log and Capture process.  This may work for you because many DV cameras will embed this information in the captured footage.  Final Cut Pro recognizes data stream and will automatically set the footage as anamorphic.

If the Anamorphic footage was acquired using an Anamorphic lens, Final Cut Pro will only see the footage as 4:3, even though it is stretched vertically (the camera data tag is not there).  When you open the Log and Capture window, go to the Capture Settings tab and change Capture/Input to include Anamorphic.

Working with Anamorphic Video
After you capture your footage, you can check and see if Final Cut Pro tagged the footage correctly by scrolling right in the Browser window to the Anamorphic column.  If the footage has been recognized correctly, you should notice a check mark next to the clip.

If it appears that the clip has not been captured correctly, you can turn on the Anamorphic setting by doing the following:

Step 1:  Select the clip in the Browser and then from the Edit menu select Item Properties>Format.

Step 2:  Place a check in the Anamorphic row if your footage is 16:9.

You can also change the format settings by placing a check in the Browser Window Anamorphic column.  This will correct the data tagging/interpretation mistake.

When you open a clip, the Viewer Window will display the clip in the correct aspect ratio.

However, if you wish to view your footage on a video monitor as you work, you will need to have a monitor that has an option to switch between 4:3 and 16:9.  Most new professional monitors have this capability.

Anamorphic Sequences
There are a couple of ways you can use 16:9 footage in Final Cut Pro.  The first is to simply place the 16:9 clip in a 4:3 sequence.  Final Cut Pro places this clip in the Timeline in letterbox format meaning you will have black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. 

The advantage of following this workflow is you can view the sequence on a standard monitor, or use Print to Tape for viewing on a consumer set.

The disadvantage is your letterboxed sequence will be a lower resolution than the original footage because you are only using 360 lines instead of 480.  The other disadvantage is you must render all 16:9 clips in the 4:3 environment.  If you have a lot of footage, this could take a while. 

Because of these issues, you should only letterbox your 16:9 footage if you are delivering for viewing on consumer equipment.

The other method of editing your footage is to use a 16:9 sequence.   An Anamorphic sequence is created like any other.  In the Sequence Settings window, the frame size settings should be set at the video frame size (720x480 for DV), but you want to place a check in the box for Anamorphic 16:9.

The advantage here is you will continue to use the full resolution of the format.  You also do not have to worry about rendering your clips in the Timeline. 

The disadvantage is you need a monitor to display 16:9 as I previously mentioned.

When you are ready to undertake an Anamorphic project, Final Cut Pro will be ready for you. And with the information gained from this Final Cut Pro Quick Tip, youll already know the workflow.

For a complete list of all 43 Final Cut Pro Quick Tips, be sure to visit my site at www.mindspring.com/~schleicher.


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Stephen Schleicher has crossed the country several times over the last couple of years going from Kansas to Atlanta , Georgia, and Southern California. In his time traveling, he has worked as an editor, graphic designer, videographer, director, and producer on a variety of video productions ranging from small internal pieces, to large multimedia
corporate events.

Currently, Stephen shares his knowledge with students at Fort Hays State University who are studying media and web development in the Information Networking and Telecommunications department. When he is not shaping the minds of university students, Stephen continues to work on video and independent projects for State and local agencies and organizations as well as his own ongoing works.

He is also a regular contributor to Digital Producer, Creative Mac, Digital Webcast, Digital Animators, and the DV Format websites, part of the Digital Media Online network of communities (www.digitalmedianet.com), where he writes about the latest technologies, and gives tips and tricks on everything from Adobe After Effects, to Appleā??s Final Cut Pro, LightWave 3D, to shooting and lighting video.

He has a Masters Degree in Communication from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. As a forward thinker, he wrote his Thesis on how Information Islands and e-commerce would play a major role in keeping smaller communities alive. This of course was when 28.8 dialup was king and people hadnā??t even invented the word e-commerce.

And, he spends what little free time he has biking, reading, traveling around the country, and contemplating the future of digital video and its impact on our culture. You can reach him at schleicher@mindspring.com

Related Keywords:anamorphic, final cut pro, widescreen, letter box, 16:9, schleicher, final cut pro quick tip

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