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Images added to CS5 timeline are squished

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Jeff Davis
Images added to CS5 timeline are squished
on Sep 23, 2010 at 4:47:19 am

I've carefully created a number of JPGs and PSDs (both in Photoshop CS5) to match the pixel size of my AE CS5 composition, 1440 x 1080. When I import them, they all appear fine in the comp/footage viewer, and their proportions are listed correctly in the Project panel.
When I add any of them to the timeline, however, they're squished into a square. The height is slightly less than 1080 and the width is a lot less than 1440. This happens regardless of whether I import as footage or composition. How do I get them to maintain their size and aspect ratio when adding them to the composition? Thanks.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Images added to CS5 timeline are squished
on Sep 23, 2010 at 3:13:36 pm

When you did your Photoshop work, did you use the presets for TV, or just create a 1440x1080 document?

I think you've run into a concept that may be foreign to you: pixel aspect ratio. Not all pixels are created equal, especially when working with TV images. For some TV resolutions, the pixels are tall & skinny. For others, they are wide & fat. They aren't square very often.

Here are some links that can help you wrap your head around the topic:
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/AfterEffects/9.0/WS3878526689cb91655866c1103906...
http://library.creativecow.net/articles/gerard_rick/pixel_madness.php

For the sake of getting the project done, you can simply make 1920x1080 documents in Photoshop, import them into AE, and add them to your 1440x1080 comp. AE will know what to do with them, and they'll look fine.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Jeff Davis
Re: Images added to CS5 timeline are squished
on Sep 23, 2010 at 8:17:45 pm

Aah, yes. Thanks very much. I was aware of that issue but just haven't encountered it yet in anything I've worked on. Didn't think about it hard enough, I guess. It seems to me the most intuitive way to work would be to create an image (in Photoshop or Illustrator, e.g.) at the final resolution of the comp, but with square pixels so it doesn't look distorted. Then interpret the footage in AE to the comp's pixel aspect ratio. Any cons to that approach?


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Images added to CS5 timeline are squished
on Sep 23, 2010 at 9:53:02 pm

AE is REALLY GOOD at getting pixel aspect ratios right, as long as you work in a defined set of horizontal & vertical resolutions.

You designed a 960x720 square-pixel image? Watch out -- AE knows 960x720 is a resolution used by DVCPro HD cameras, and it automatically assumes the pixel aspect ratio is 1.33, stretching your 4x3 image into a 16x9 image.

The converse is also true. Let's say you work in a DVCPro HD comp: 960x720, 1.33 PAR, 16x9 aspect ratio. You put a 1920x1080 image into it. AE thinks, "Aha! That's an HD resolution! That means this has square pixels!"

The image shows up in the comp looking EXACTLY as it should. It's 16x9. It's bigger than the comp, of course, but it's dead-solid-perfect.

Furthermore, If AE does not see any of that set of H&V resolutions that trigger it to assume it's a certain PAR, it defaults to square pixels. Thus, a 960x600 image is read as square pixels.

[Jeff Davis] "It seems to me the most intuitive way to work would be to create an image (in Photoshop or Illustrator, e.g.) at the final resolution of the comp, but with square pixels so it doesn't look distorted. Then interpret the footage in AE to the comp's pixel aspect ratio. Any cons to that approach?"

A LOT of cons to that. Don't do it. If you like working in square pixels in Photoshop, go ahead. Personally, I like to have a little wiggle room, so I make sure my stuff is a little bigger than what I think I'll need. It's easy to scale down, and it can get butt-ugly if you have to scale up.


I should probably clarify how good AE is with pixel aspect ratios (PAR).

I regularly work in a 960x720 comp -- 1.33 PAR.
I regularly use video that's 720x480, 0.9 PAR.
I draw from a graphics package that's 720x486, 0.91 PAR and 720x540, 1.0 PAR.

Everything comes into the comp looking precisely as it should, and it renders out looking precisely as it should. No muss, no fuss.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Jeff Davis
Re: Images added to CS5 timeline are squished
on Sep 23, 2010 at 11:17:11 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful answer, Dave. Have you ever seen a table laying out these relationships for various comp sizes?


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Images added to CS5 timeline are squished
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:55:17 pm

Sorry, I haven't. But you can always drag a clip onto the Make Comp icon at the bottom of the AE project window. AE responds by making a comp in the proper frame rate, H&V resolution and PAR.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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