Video Series [#3] - Have You Checked Your Aspect Ratio Lately?

Education & Training with Tech Training for You!

In videography (and photography), there is a concept that you need to be familiar with and it is called aspect ratio. An aspect ratio is the the comparison or ratio of the width to the height. In digital camera photography, most shots are in a 4:3 (4 by 3) ratio. This means that the width is just slightly bigger than it's height (1.33, or 33%). Older televisions also used this ratio. Have you noticed that HD and widescreen are now 'the norm'. The aspect ratio for widescreen is 16:9 (16 by 9, 1.78 aspect). The width is now much wider than the height.

We'll come back to aspect ratios is a moment, but let me highlight first what I call the iPhone phenomenon. I see way too often people with iPhones shooting video and not turning the phone into "landscape" mode. That may be ok if you ONLY ever did playback on the iPhone... but what if you want to see it on your HD TV or post it on YouTube? Uh oh, Houston we have a problem! You are going to end up with a video that doesn't match the frame you are trying to fit it into and you are going to waste screen real estate and you get those ugly black boxes on either side (called pillarboxes). So in terms of our football weekend (super bowl), we'll call this a "15 yard penalty" mistake.

football game photo credit Flickr/Ryan Dingman 

Ok, got that off my chest. Now let's get back to aspect ratios. If you have any choice in the matter, you'll always want to shoot in HD/widescreen modes. Here's an example of what happens if you don't. In the image shown here, you'll see I grabbed whatever camera was nearby to capture a moment of my son playing a computer game while busily munching away on his apple (ain't he cute!). My digital camera shoots video, but only does 4:3 videos. When you post it online, it doesn't match the 16:9 aspect ratio of the video frame. There are those pesky pillarboxes again. Now you could choose to crop and zoom the video, but that's not always going to be an option because what are you cropping out? It is best always to plan ahead and shoot in 16:9 widescreen format. Most video cameras now do this by default... but something that you will want to consider if you shoot video with a digital camera which may or may not have widescreen option setting.

Here's a little video I found on YouTube this morning that talks about compensating for aspect ratio using special keyword tags when you post to YouTube. It gives you option to crop and/or zoom whenever you are working with aspect ratios that do not match the frame size. (Use my link above to see the written version of this video for your reference)

Appended to post Sept 2012 -- check out this very humorous look at "saying no to vertical videos"

If you are ready to get serious about using video in your marketing plan, consider coming to my premium online class called "Video Essentials for Business." That link will take you to the page to tell you more about the class. The class is a set of pre-recorded training videos to teach you what you will need to know to produce quality videos for your YouTube channel. I hope to see you in class! :)

To read more posts about video editing, check out my list of posts in this video series

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Craig Daniels
Tech Training for You! - Staten Island, NY
Technology Instructor/Project Consultant

Cindy, yes when you are doing your youtube edit video properties page, you paste it into the tags box

Feb 05, 2011 03:57 AM #8
Ricky Khamis
Amerifirst Financial, Inc. - Mesa, AZ
NMLS 173141 | CADOC 173141 - 480-339-1565

Craig excellent post I am always teaching agents about HD video and pics but haven't discussed Aspect Ratios.  Thanks for the post buddy.

Feb 05, 2011 04:59 AM #9
Wade Mattingly
WEICHERT Realtors--Bluegrass Living - Lexington, KY

Man, this is the 5th blog I've read on video and photography.  It is gonna take forever for me to learn all this stuff.

Feb 05, 2011 05:04 AM #10
Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886
Phoenix Property Shoppe - Phoenix, AZ
Arizona's Top Banana!

I Love the guys video - he makes it so easy to understant yt:quality=high!

You are teaching all of us lots of good stuff - keep it coming! 

Featured in BananaTude - Tudes great weekend project for all us  - except for game time!

Feb 05, 2011 05:35 AM #11
Steve Scheer
Realty Oasis - Metro Brokers - Highlands Ranch, CO
Highlands Ranch Real Estate - Denver Real Estate

Aspect ratio is not something I had given much thought to, but will now.  Thanks!

Feb 05, 2011 05:47 AM #12
Shar Sitter
Rooms With Style - Minneapolis, MN
Home Staging and Redesign Minneapolis/ St. Paul, M

Vaaarrooommm......did you hear that? That was your post zooming right over my head. Ha, I have so much to learn!! Thank you, even though I feel even more stupid now. lol

Feb 05, 2011 06:14 AM #13
Nyssa Smith
Keller Williams Advantage Realty - State College, PA
REALTOR, State College Area Real Estate

This is a great tip Craig!  Thanks!  Glad you're part of this VBloggers group!  =)

Feb 05, 2011 10:02 AM #14
Nyssa Smith
Keller Williams Advantage Realty - State College, PA
REALTOR, State College Area Real Estate

Oh yea, and I bookmarked this page, too!  Thought I might need to come back here from time to time!!!

Feb 05, 2011 10:02 AM #15
Debra Davis
Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners - Snellville, GA
Realtor - Atlanta, Decatur, Snellville, Loganville

Thanks Craig for another good tutoria. I read all of your helpful posts.

Feb 05, 2011 01:24 PM #16
Robin Dampier REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker King - Hendersonville, NC
Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source

Ahh, now the aspect thingy is much clearer.  I keep having the issue on my 3 or 4 year old wide screen TV.  I keep playing around with the aspect but it seems to either be cutting of banners or whatever at the top or bottom of the picture.  Oh well, now I at least have a better understanding of aspect and the black pillar and letter boxes.  Thanks.

Sue of Robin and Sue

Feb 05, 2011 04:14 PM #17
Phil Leng
Retired - Kirkland, WA
Phil Leng - Retired

Hi Craig,

That was a very useful tutorial.

I use a flip for video, but when it broke, I used my camera video, my phone video and saw what you mentioned...


Feb 05, 2011 07:20 PM #18
Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Oh, great info, thanks! Who knew! Well, you knew, and now I knew...

Feb 05, 2011 11:36 PM #19
Glenn Roberts
Retired - Seattle, WA

Outstanding, Craig. This should really help correct a problem I've run into.

Feb 06, 2011 01:02 AM #20
Marilyn Tolhuizen
McColly Real Estate - Crown Point, IN
Real Estate Specialist - 219-616-7069 - NW Indiana

Great lesson Craig-but oh dear I accidentally went to You Tube to watch the video so I could save it and now it's an hour later!!  You Tube is wonderful but is the black abyss of time waster.  I just upgraded from the iPhone 3 to the 4g and have just started making videos.  Thanks for the tips.

Feb 06, 2011 03:27 AM #21
Dan and Amy Schuman
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Solon, OH
Luxury Home Specialists

I really enjoy your helpful posts, Craig. We just had this happen recently and I thought there was a problem with YouTube. Now I know it is on my end.

Feb 06, 2011 06:10 AM #22
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Great video and video tips!  And very simple to understand.  Thanks so much!

Feb 07, 2011 08:53 AM #23
Peter Pfann @ eXp Realty Pfanntastic Properties in Victoria, Since 1986.
eXp Realty, Victoria BC - Victoria, BC
Talk To or Text Peter 250-213-9490

Hi Craig,

awesome stuff again, although we do not have I phones, the great information about aspect ratio's is very helpfull for what our plans and ideas are for future vid., thanks again

Feb 07, 2011 01:24 PM #24
Dave Gubler
Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Lake Forest, Ladera Ranch - Lake Forest, CA
Realtor | Orange County

How do we get the iphone to shoot in widescreen?  Just flip it sideways before shooting?

Feb 09, 2011 07:59 AM #25
Craig Daniels
Tech Training for You! - Staten Island, NY
Technology Instructor/Project Consultant

Dave - that should do it! here's a maclife article with that point and a few more

Feb 09, 2011 09:59 AM #26
Joe Sosky
KW Commercial - Vancouver, WA
Commercial Real Estate Broker - (360) 816-9652

Just got my Verizon IPhone.  Thanks for the pointers Craig. Very helpful.

Mar 27, 2011 02:34 PM #27
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