So as I've always understood it in 4:3 world safe action is 90% full screen and safe title is 80% full screen. Since the screen is wider than it is tall, the left and right "margins" are slightly wider than the top and bottom, but not too noticable. That's all fine, but in the wider 16:9 aspect ratio, the difference between these 90%/80% margins become even more drastic and noticeable. The margins on the left and right are now much wider than the margins on the top and bottom.
My question is whether safe title and safe action are still 90% and 80% in the wider 16:9 aspect ratio? For one, the difference between the top and bottom margins seems overly obvious. But also, I would think that modern non-tube monitors have much less "at-risk" area around the edges, so you should be able to fill the screen a little more with confidence. No?
As I understand it, safe title is a way for video content producers to allow for flaws in the final video delivery system. Typically, consumer video displays overscan the NTSC signal, leaving many edge pixels out in the cold, if you will.
I've noticed that with our satellite system, content producers have pushed out to the edges, beyond typical safe title areas, of my high definition signal. My guess (not at all scientific, mind you) is that as LCD and Plasma video displays improve, and olders CRT sets get sent to the junk pile, then industry safe area may decrease.
But for now, 10/20% probably is safest.
Maybe you could count the vertical pixels of safe area, and re-adjust your 16:9 horizontal safe areas to maybe 7% and 14%, to create a more evenly spaced, usable area (please don't use my math -- just off the top of my head).
Our studio has Sony PFM-510 plasma monitors. Since they have a bit of overscan in them we build our graphics inside the monitor scan we see. We have a crt HD monitor for fine tuning but what I see at home is about the same. We letterbox downconvert for our current analog channel and 10% on the sides is safe. We may use only 5% on the top & bottom because in the letterbox it looks dorky to have it higher.
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