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Old March 2nd, 2005, 07:12 PM   #1
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What Would You Do Shoot 16:9 or 4:3?

A few years ago, I was in Southwest Alaska shooting a Fly Fishing Wilderness Camp on the Nushigak and Salmon Rivers. The video was shot 4:3 format on a Sony TRV900 and I was pleased with the quality.

This year with a Sony PDX10, I'm going back to Southwest Alaska for another Fly Fishing Journey. After this trip, I would love to combine and edit (FCP 4HD) footage of video shot from both trips. The delemma is I would like to shoot my upcoming trip in the 16:9 format. With today's plasma and HD sets using widescreen formats, I want to take advantage of video footage shot at 16:9 with my PDX10.

Is combining two different formats a mistake? Should I just shoot 4:3 format on my PDX10? Would editing my existing 4:3 footage and using the FCP4HD 16:9 filter a mistake?

Any thoughts or suggestions of combining these two formats? Good or bad?
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Old March 2nd, 2005, 09:19 PM   #2
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I imagine it depends on how you treat the existing 4:3 footage. Letterboxing it and stretching to make anamorphic is ideal, but you may not be happy with the resolution loss when compared to the PDX-10.

In FCP you can turn your 4:3 into anamorphic 16:9 this way. First select the clip in the browser and using Edit > Item Properties change it to anamorphic 16:9. Now double click the clip so it opens in the viewer. Use the distort property on the motion tab in the clip's window. Change the y-coordinate of the top left and right corners to -320 and change the y-coordinate of the bottom left and right corners to 320.

Now expand the viewer window so you see the gray space around the image. You might want to set the view scale to 50% for this. Next choose Image+Wireframe from the dropdown button in the viewer. Notice that the 4:3 rectangle extends above and below the 16:9 image area. Hold the shift key down and point at the image while holding down the mouse button. You can slide the 4:3 image up and down to frame as desired for 16:9. You can also keyframe this action in the viewer to move as the clip plays, see your manual for info on this.

Now the only problem is that I've never been very impressed with the image scaling which FCP does, but it's simple to use. I suspect you could get better results from something like After Effects, but I don't have any experience there. I do know that bicubic resampling in Photoshop of still frames looks better than FCP's algorithms.

But experiment around a little with your TRV-900 4:3 footage this way and see if you think it will intercut acceptably with the PDX-10's 16:9.
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Old March 13th, 2005, 10:47 PM   #3
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Another option is to place the older 4:3 images into a 16:9 project in their native aspect ratio. There's no rule that says you have to use the entire screen all the time. You could offset the image to one side of a black screen, putting titles next to it in the black area. I'd shrink it down a little so there's black all around. I think that scaling the image to a larger size to make it fit into a 16:9 frame will result in pretty bad looking video, especially when cut against the native 16:9 footage from the PD10.

If you don't like mixing the different sizes I'd stick to 4:3, but some creative use of smaller images inside a 16:9 project might be very effective.
Your mileage may vary.
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Old March 13th, 2005, 10:52 PM   #4
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Or otherwise just do a 4:3 project and drop your 16:9 clips into it which will automatically letterbox them, while the 4:3 clips will remain fullscreen. I see this pretty often on the cable channels these days.
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Old March 17th, 2005, 09:16 AM   #5
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The 16:9 filter in FCP is awesome. Before I got the PDX10 that was my method for making things appear to be of the 16:9 aspect ratio. Even though my other camera (sony trv 33) has true 16:9 capabilities i chose to letter box and "pan and scan" instead, because i like the feeling it gives. Now that I have the pdx 10 I find that combining the letterboxed footage with the 16:9 off the PDX10 actually gives a sweet feel to the videos. Kind of like watching dv footage intertwined in a film presentation. I cant desrcibe how it looks any better, you really just have to do it to find out. But to me it was kind of like the first time i used to 30 FPS setting and comparing it to the regular 60.

Problems? Obviously: A lot of the shot is lost when you letterbox. but if you do the pan and scan correctly, and dont stay on one shot for too long, a 4:3 letterboxed shot mixed into a 16:9 sequence gives a great result that ads something astetically pleasing.

I like the others' suggestions, and they work fine, but personally I have a strong dislike for having a 4:3 shot taking up half the screen when put into a 16:9 sequence. I say this, because it seems to give documentary or story work a corporate or commercial feeling (like the last screen in infomercials with the phone numbers on one side and the shot in the corner). Not only that, but by doing this it requires you to find ways to make the shot work with the flow the rest of the video to avoid making things seem commercial.

In summary: The PDX10's 16:9 is some kind of a god sent. If you have the opportunity to shoot with it you aught to take it. Pan and scan is a friend if used correctly. And that 16:9 filter in FCP is awesome for the same reason.

Hope your trip and your video turns out well.
Best regards,
That'll do pig, that'll do
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Old April 28th, 2005, 11:08 AM   #6
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Personally, I would shoot 16:9. I would side box the 4:3 stuff and just live with it. It avoids the scaling issues, moving the video to one side etc. Although I do like the idea of using the black space normally to the sides of a 4:3 in a 16:9 world for titles or something else. Maybe a crawl of information on how the video was shot or locations of the images we are seeing, etc.

16:9 will help "future proof" your video. It will play correctly once we are all forcibly converted to wide screens. And, there are more pixels to play with, and it makes panoramas look so wide.

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Old June 6th, 2005, 10:55 PM   #7
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I would only use 4:3 if I was shooting for 4:3 televisions used in a video art piece.
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Old June 7th, 2005, 06:17 AM   #8
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Pan and scan question...

Just a few questions about Pan and Scan... Don't you loose resolution when enlarging the 16x9 footage Height wise to the 4x3 format? I'm glad Pan and scan has been brought up due me forgetting about it.. Could be great for interviews with limited camera use.. Alsdo here's a good web site for explaining the pan and scan stuff... http://dvd.ign.com/news/16377.html

Craig Bellaire
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Old June 7th, 2005, 06:49 AM   #9
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Yes you will definitely lose some horizontal resolution. You aren't going to enlarge anything "height wise" however, the PDX-10 shoots at the full vertical resolution of 480 pixels.

For the sake of illustration it will be easier to understand this using the example of square pixels, like an LCD screen or computer monitor. On a screen like that, a 16:9 image would be 854x480 pixels. If you crop that down to 4:3 then you get 480x640. So we have (854-640) / 640 = 0.25. Therefore you are throwing away 25% of your horizontal resolution by cropping native 16:9 to 4:3. On a good monitor this should be apparent, on a cheap one perhaps it won't.

Personally I would not do this as a "way of life," like shooting interviews to be cropped later. It wastes too much precious data. If you're shooting with some sort of high definition camera however, then it's a viable approach if you're going to downconvert to standard definition because you would be going from a 1920x1080 pixel image down to a 720x480 image.
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