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Ask The Expert: I want to use an older video scene (4:3) in a project which has newer video at 16:9 - how can I mix without showing black borders?

QUESTION: I want to use an older video scene (4:3) in a project which has newer video at 16:9 - how can I mix without showing black borders? I have tried Panorama Zoom but the subjects (teenage girls) end up stretching sideways.  I saw in a webinar or demonstration you covered up a 4:3 scene with a border or some mask - how is this done?

See the streaming video from the August 2011 Webinar where Chet highlighted the many options (and some really creative options) for mixing aspect ratios - video here.

ANSWER:  I believe this is a question many of us will be wrestling with more and more as we incorporate what I call 'Legacy footage' (older video at 4:3 aspect ratio) in with newer video which is the wide-screen or 16:9 format.

You could use Panorama Zoom - which you will find under Special in the Edit Menu in Smart Edit 6 (and higher) as well as all versions of the Bogart OS ... but that does stretch the video, as you discovered.  You could adjust where the stretching occurs with the slider in Panorama Zoom but  I am going to teach you here how to move the 4:3 video into your 16:9 project while keeping the 4:3 aspect ratio.

And I will share how I sometimes add a border to the scene to cover up the black border on each side (which are called pillar-boxes).

  1. Load the 4:3 video into a project that is set to the 4:3 aspect ratio. 
  2. Open the Clipboard (under 'Special' in the Edit Menu).
  3. Before loading your Scene/s into the Clipboard - click on the 'Options' button at the bottom of the Clipboard Menu
  4. Adjust the  options behind 'DV 4:3<=>16:9' to select 'Borders'
  5. Then load your scene/s into the Clipboard
  6. Enter the other project - with the 16:9 footage already in it (or at least one 16:9 scene in it)
  7. Open the Clipboard and select, then Import the scene/s you wish to bring into this project.
The scene/s should appear with the black borders on left and right side, the Pillarbox effect.  This shows the video in it's full, original size & aspect ratio.

To 'hide' the black borders/Pillarbox effect:

(requires BorderX, BorderX2, or one of the other BorderX products to be loaded and active on your Casablanca editor)
  1. Click to select one of the 4:3 scenes in the Scene Bin
  2. Click on 'Special' and scroll down to select the BorderX program you wish to use (I am using BorderX for this tutorial)
  3. On the right menu - the Scene option should show 'full size' (click on it if it says 'reduced size' and change to 'full size')
  4. Left click on 'Select Border' and the Image Pool show open up with BorderX in the Product option (top left).
  5. Click around and select a mask (image) which will fit well with your project & the scene (your video scene will appear inside the black portion of the mask).
  6. Make sure the 'Colorize' option has no check mark, the Mode is set to 'Positive' and the Alpha slider is set to '100'.
  7. Left click Ok
  8. Left click 'Full Size' to see a full size preview of your scene inside the mask. you can scroll the Frame slider to move thru the scene to ensure your primary subject/s are within the visible space.
  9. Select a different border if that one did not work well
  10. Left click 'Ok' two times once you are happy with your border selection and the program will create a new scene in your Scene Bin with the masked effect.


Tips & Tutorials by the Casablanca Expert, Chet Davis