From 4:3 to 16:9 with Sony Vegas

Sony Vegas offers a preset of how to transform your 4:3 footage to a 16:9 one (you use that if you shot in 4:3 but then you decide you want a widescreen DVD instead). Basically, what this preset does is butchering down your footage by removing large parts of the top and bottom of your image. Some directors don’t like that, and so sometimes they either stretch the image to fill the screen (looks unnatural), or they use vertical letterbox (“old”).

However, there is another way of doing all this, which is the average of all techniques. It involves some cropping and some stretching. This technique is used by Sharp HDTVs. Sharp calls this “smart stretch”, and having looked at a number of TVs and how they go about the problem, it is a much better solution to the completely unnatural look of let’s say, the Mitsubishi HDTVs. So, we are going to apply the trick below using Sony Vegas.

Open Sony Vegas and create a widescreen NTSC or PAL project. Click on each and every clip on your timeline, right click on them and select “Video Event Pan/Crop” and make it look like the picture below. Make sure all the icons and options are selected/unselected as in my picture. For PAL users, the “width” number should be around “900” and the height should be “576”. After you do that, your video will have smaller letterboxing left and right.

Now, click the “track motion” icon on the left of each and every of your video tracks, and change the following for NTSC: width “790” and height “520”. For PAL use “830” and “650” respectively. Make sure the “lock aspect ratio” icon is not selected in the Track Motion toolbar. Then edit as usual and at the end, export using the widescreen DVD template.

Using the suggested technique the aspect ratio is a bit off, but it’s hardly noticeable, and it allows for more visible area. Here are the results of each technique, side by side:

And another sample, showing a real person. A similar technique can be used to export 1920x1080p HD source footage for 2k cinema theaters (2048×1024), for those lucky ones that their indie film was picked up for theater release.


Dan wrote on December 12th, 2007 at 6:30 PM PST:

Thanks for your replies to my question on DVX User regarding conversion from 4:3 to 16:9 and safe areas. I have not yet had a chance to implement your suggestions but I assume they will work.

I hope you have enjoyable holidays.


mikesum32 wrote on December 13th, 2007 at 5:21 PM PST:

So now it’s the Eugenia/Sharp technique ? Pride comes before the fall ;-D I do think I’ve seen it before.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 13th, 2007 at 5:38 PM PST:

The technique is called “smart stretch”. The eugenia/sharp is for clarification as to which one is which. Get a clue.

mikesum32 wrote on December 13th, 2007 at 5:59 PM PST:

Then why not use “smart stretch” ? Did you not see my smiley ;-D ? Don’t try to claim something you didn’t invent, even if it’s implied by accident. I myself call it “mikesum32 is smart alec stretching”.

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 13th, 2007 at 6:29 PM PST:

I didn’t invent the idea of it, smart ass. Although, it seems that I AM the first one who has such a tutorial online. All NLE presets for 16:9 transformations are ALL cropping. At least I did sit my ass down and figured it out on how to do it with an NLE, and wrote a tutorial for it. Even if someone knew about it, it’s not clear immediately how to do it on an NLE. For the work you see above, I do take credit.

So, if you don’t have any constructive and on topic to say, don’t say anything. The idea, and possibly a patent, belongs to Sharp. The tutorial and its result, belongs to me.

nzo wrote on December 14th, 2007 at 12:18 AM PST:

Thanks Eugenia for another great technique. Much appreciated.

Alan Chitlik wrote on December 21st, 2007 at 1:46 AM PST:

Eugenia — Thanks so much for this guide. I have a Sharp HD TV and have always been impressed by the smart stretch. I’ve historically just edited my video in 4:3, but I’m shooting more in 16:9 now, so I need some way to make the conversion look nice and I think you’ve got the answer here.

Thanks again for taking the time to post and share it.


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