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Converting Letterbox to Anamorphic

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David Brodie
Converting Letterbox to Anamorphic
on Nov 14, 2008 at 11:39:43 pm

Hello.

I have a 2.5 hour program of music videos that are being finished to DVD. Most material was shot DV NTSC, but various other formats have been incorporated. The videos have all been conformed at 4:3 letterbox, with the letterbox aspect ratio at 1:78.

Because the market for this DVD is mostly in Europe, and I've been told 16:9 televisions are more common there, the record label is asking for anamorphic masters.

What's the best way to convert all this material from letterbox to anamorphic and retain the most quality? Will I lose any vertical clarity by cropping off the letterbox and stretching the image vertically?

I'm working in FCP 6.0.4 in Los Angeles.

Thanks!

D


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Andy Mees
Re: Converting Letterbox to Anamorphic
on Nov 15, 2008 at 3:17:03 pm

>What's the best way to convert all this material from letterbox to anamorphic and retain the most quality?

David, the best way is going to be to take your letterbox master to a well equipped post facility and have them create an Anamorphic master by cropping and scaling using Teranex conversion hardware or similar. The scaling offered by these systems will be superior to anything you can do with your Mac.

>Will I lose any vertical clarity by cropping off the letterbox and stretching the image vertically?

Yes, absolutely. But there is absolutely nothing you can do about this unless you have access to the unletterboxed original and can create your anamorphic master from that.

All this said, you can do a quick and reasonable conversion just using Compressor on you Mac.
In Compressor's Geometry controls set the Source Inset (Cropping) Crop to 16x9 1.78:1, then export as normal.


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David Brodie
Re: Converting Letterbox to Anamorphic
on Nov 20, 2008 at 5:49:30 pm

Thanks Andy.

So I tried a few things to solve this issue. I sent 30 seconds of video to a dub house, and they did a test Teranex conversion. I also used compressor to crop and stretch the video, as you advised, then did a manual crop and resize in Final Cut Pro.

The compressor conversion always vertically stretched the scan lines, even if I deinterlaced beforehand, distorting the video badly. However, the Teranex and Final Cut Pro conversions worked great. I put together a split-screen anamorphic sequence with the left side displaying the Teranex conversion and the right the FCP conversion: I couldn't tell the difference between the two. Of course, this footage started out DV-NTSC, so something of a higher resolution might show more of the differences between the processes.

Thanks for the help!

David




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Andy Mees
Re: Converting Letterbox to Anamorphic
on Nov 21, 2008 at 4:10:48 pm

Hey David

Compressor shouldn't be that bad! As you are resizing you might want to explore Compressor's more advanced resizing settings ... In the Inspector window, look under the Frame Controls tab. You can enable these controls by clicking in the sprocket icon button and then turning them to On in the popup menu. Try setting the resizing to Best (statistical prediction) ... though if you're happy enough with FCP's output then maybe consider this just an exercise in seeing how it compares, rather than a search for the right method.

Cheers
Andy


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