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