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Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?

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Joe Quinn
Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 10, 2013 at 11:41:03 pm

This is something that has been a problem many many times, and I've always found a temporary solution, but never fully understood the underlying issue. Sometimes, when you import a rectangular photo or video, FCP will stretch or squish it into a different aspect ratio. Likewise, when you export a video, the result will sometimes have the same sort of stretching/squishing.

There are more codecs to choose from than I expect anyone would ever use, which can be confusing, but then to add to the confusion, you have the option of viewing your image in square or rectangular pixels. This latter thing is especially cryptic because "rectangular" could mean literally any possible aspect ratio, including square (from a mathematical perspective).

One thing I want to mention in case it could help others with similar problems, is that if you are preparing layered images in photoshop to import into FCP, you can avoid all sorts of nonsense by just putting tiny dots in the corners of each layer (unless it doesn't have a transparent background, in which case this is unnecessary).

So now let me focus on the particular problem at hand. I should mention I'm currently running FCP6 and DVDSP4.

I have a bunch of skits I want to make a DVD out of. The skits were shot in widescreen, but when I edited them, I worked in a 4:3 aspect ratio with the movies letterboxed (in particular, the "DV NTSC 48KHz" codec). I later realized that nowadays 16:9 is much more common, and if played full screen on a typical moniter, my letterboxed videos would get a black border on all sides - not exactly the "full screen" I want.

So, I created a new project, changed the capture and sequence presents to the "DV NTSC 48KHz Anamorphic" codec, and imported my videos. I then made a sequence for each one, and for each one, I dropped it into the timeline, and when asked if I wanted to change the sequence's settings to match the video, I hit "No." I then scaled the video up so that the letterbox bars were cropped out and the image filled the frame (the magic number to scale by to achieve this is 134). Since it then looked just like I wanted it to in my viewer, I exported my videos like this, choosing Export > Quicktime movie, and leaving the settings at "Current settings."

The result: all my movies as squished horizontally, but not to a 4:3 aspect ratio, to something somewhere between 4:3 and 16:9. I then noticed that if I go back into final cut and, in the top left button in the viewer, uncheck where it says "Show as square pixels," I get the same squishing effect. But nowhere can I find an option for which pixel style to use when I export. I also tried changing the settings in the export menu to match my codec and there was no change.

Apparently, FCP is defaulting to exporting my video to display in Quicktime with the pixels squished into a different aspect ratio than they are in the project. What's even weirder, is if I import these movies into DVDSP, after doing the necessary things to make a widescreen DVD, I can make them look normal by choosing (in the top right settings button) to display my pixels as *rectangular*, not square! (Meanwhile in FCP, it's the square setting that makes them look normal.)

Nothing about this ever makes sense to me. It seems I can probably get my DVD to look as I want by messing with these pixel settings, but if I want to do anything else with the movie files, they are going to be squished.

Does anyone understand what is going on here? Moreover, why would there even be an option to change the aspect ratio of the pixels? I would think that if you wanted to export a video in a different aspect ratio from the one it's already in, in the project, that you should have to make some very deliberate and bizarre choices in the settings. In fact, to alter the aspect ratio from how it looks originally, you should have to do something really weird. To the contrary, after messing with it for hours, I cannot find a single way to make it NOT do this! I remember my boss yelling on many occasions at my old editing job: "Where is the button that says not to ruin my images when I go from one program to another!?!?!?"


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Rafael Amador
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 11, 2013 at 2:21:13 am

[Joe Quinn] "Apparently, FCP is defaulting to exporting my video to display in Quicktime with the pixels squished into a different aspect ratio than they are in the project."
FC is doing nothing wrong.
Is QT who can not interpret properly your pixels aspect ratio, so looks distorted on QT Player.
Don't worry, the movie is OK.
When you bring it to DVDSTP, check the "16x9" button.
rafael


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Mark Suszko
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 11, 2013 at 8:22:43 pm

Just wanted to say Rafael that you are on FIRE with lots of helpful knowledge this week, and I'm steali - er, learning - lots from reading your answers to people's problems. Thanks very much.


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Rafael Amador
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 12, 2013 at 3:37:47 am

[Mark Suszko] "Just wanted to say Rafael that you are on FIRE with lots of helpful knowledge this week, and I'm steali - er, learning - lots from reading your answers to people's problems. Thanks very much."
Thanks Mark. A bit of flattering now and them is appreciated :-)
Trying to answer is the best way to learn.
Rafael
PS: BTW, I also post lot of wrong/inconsistent answers. Just read the thread on top of this one.


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Joe Quinn
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 13, 2013 at 5:57:10 am

I really appreciate your reading my post and trying to help but it might be a little early for the flattery. As I said, I had already found that I could get the files to behave as desired in DVDSP. I just don't understand the part where they don't play correctly in Quicktime.

It doesn't help a whole lot to know which application's fault this is, but in my opinion, if I click on an option to export a movie tailored for a particular program, e.g. export > Quicktime movie, and then the movie doesn't play correctly in that program, then final cut has failed to account for something.

I'm resigned to the idea that I might have to export separate files for use in DVDSP and use in Quicktime. Now, what do I have to do to export an SD NTSC 48KHz 16:9 video so it will play correctly in Quicktime? For instance, what if I wanted to post such a video on youtube? Surely you don't need an HD camera just to make a proper widescreen file (I hope).


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Rafael Amador
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 13, 2013 at 10:45:25 am

[Joe Quinn] "it might be a little early for the flattery."
You are right.
No reason for flattering just for explaining something that is a fact and that has been explained in this forum a million times.

[Joe Quinn] "It doesn't help a whole lot to know which application's fault this"
Is not about who to blame, but about understanding the problem and knowing the workarounds.

[Joe Quinn] "in my opinion, if I click on an option to export a movie tailored for a particular program, e.g. export > Quicktime movie, and then the movie doesn't play correctly in that program, then final cut has failed to account for something."
Millions of editors have been working for years on those conditions and no one so far have died.
You should write to Apple and complain about all this mess. I'm not the person to whom you have to complain.
Don't kill the messenger. We have been using the same tools than you and suffered the same shortcomings, so instead of complaining about them, you better ask how to get the job done.

[Joe Quinn] "I'm resigned to the idea that I might have to export separate files for use in DVDSP and use in Quicktime. "
When you make a movie you may need a different version for each distribution format. If you want to distribute for iPhone, Bluray or web streaming you may need different versions. That's part of the editor tasks.

BTW, when you have a problem and need help, you better start by telling which FC/QT version you are using. If you had FC.7/QT.7, you wouldn't be experiencing that distortion in QT Player.
if you want QT display properly the NTSC-DV/16x9, go to the "Picture properties" (Cmd-J) > Video Track > Visual settings, and set the Scaled Size; 854x480. Then uncheck "Preserve Aspect ratio".
Same size for YouTube: 854x480 Squared Pixels.
You will have to deinterlace.
rafael


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Joe Quinn
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 16, 2013 at 4:24:50 am

I really do apologize if I came off like I was just complaining and ranting at you, I appreciate your trying to help me. I was just trying to explain the nature of my frustration with the problem. It seems natural to put in a little criticism of the program but I didn't mean for that to take over.

So.. I'm running FCP version 6.0, QT version 7.6.9. My DVD is finished now and works just fine. Now I'd like to know how to export an NTSC SD video in widescreen format that will play properly in Quicktime. Hopefully it's possible to make a single one that plays properly in all versions of Quicktime.

Thank you for your time. Sorry again for coming across as a jerk. Hopefully you can relate to becoming so frustrated by something that just doesn't make sense to you...


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Joe Quinn
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 16, 2013 at 7:22:57 am

In the interest of not wasting your time, I want to report that I got this working properly, informed by some of your comments. So for any other readers on FCP6 with the same issue, this should work:


-First de-interlace the movie you want to export (for SD NTSC, it should be lower field dominance) - if you don't do this you'll get some ugly striations during motion.

-Then select the movie and hit File > Export > Quicktime movie.

-In that menu, hit the Settings pull down bar, and scroll all the way down to the bottom to choose Custom.

-In there, change the pixel ratio to 864 by 486. Select Square under pixel aspect ratio and check (or leave checked) the box there for Anamorphic 16:9. And the Field Dominance here should be set to None. The rest of the options should be correct assuming your settings already agreed with your video before, so hit Okay.

-Now when you hit Save back in the export menu, you should get a full res copy of your video that plays without squishing in Quicktime (or at the very least, Quicktime 6).


If there's anything I got wrong or missed there I'd like to hear it, but my videos are lookin good on my computer.


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Rafael Amador
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 16, 2013 at 10:51:24 am

Hi Joe,
he problem of the wrong display is about the lack of proper aspect rate flagging in the QT files.
For many years when you exported an Anamorphic movie from FC, QT displayed wrongly the picture because the application had no way to know which kind of pixels where used, so displayed everything as Squared Pixels. But not only QT was mislead; when importing the movie back to FC, FC couldn't know that the movie was 16x9. Being the movie NTSC-DV, by default interpreted the pixels as NTSC 4x3, not Anamorphic.

This has been fixed, but I can't tell you on which FC version. Anyway you SHOULD update your FC.6.0 to the last version (FC.6.8?). FC.6.0 was very buggy.

[Joe Quinn] "-In there, change the pixel ratio to 864 by 486. Select Square under pixel aspect ratio and check (or leave checked) the box there for Anamorphic 16:9. And the Field Dominance here should be set to None. The rest of the options should be correct assuming your settings already agreed with your video before, so hit Okay."
A couple of things:
- You better keep the original 480 horizontal lines, so no need for horizontal interpolation. Make 856x480 or 854x480. The image will keep sharper.

- Avoid making the de-interlacing with QT. His de-interlacing filter is very bad. You can try "Jess Deinterlacer"; is free: http://jeschot.home.xs4all.nl/home.html
rafael


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Joe Quinn
Re: Why would FCP assume I want to alter the aspect ratio when importing/exporting?
on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:28:20 am

Cool, I'm downloading that de-interlacer you recommended. But I think I'm just going to hang on to it for next time, unless one of us notices an obvious problem with the demo DVD I made (this is a sketch comedy project, doesn't really require the image to be perfect).

As for the # horizontal pixels, there's a problem there. Unless I'm really missing something, for something to be 16:9 aspect ratio in square pixels, it's dimensions need to be proportional to the ratio 16:9. But 480 is not divisible by 9, so to do this with 480 vertical pixels is physically impossible. To put it another way, 480 divided by 9, times 16, is 853 and one third, and obviously you can't have a third of a pixel. Would you recommend settling for this (probably imperceptible) distortion rather than altering the number of horizontal bars? Also, if so, the nearest whole number is 853. Is there a reason it would be preferable to use 854 or 856 instead?

I'll probably try this on one of the videos just to see if there's a significant difference, then think about replacing all the files on my project..


I also noticed that the files made in the way described above work with no squishing in DVDSP just as well as the others I had. But one other unrelated question. What do you think are the best settings to use if you want to prepare something for Youtube (or other internet streaming) in this format?

As always thank you for your help.


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