Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
monovich

HD to SD: Center Cut vs Letterbox

Recommended Posts

I've got a post house telling me that a spot I mastered in 720p has to work center cut SD because of demands from broadcasters that they will only accept one master file (as opposed to a HD 16x9 and a letterboxed 4x3).

 

Has anyone else run into this? I want the SD version to be letterbox but they are saying it has to be center cut. Is this BS or typical? I see letterboxed SD spots all the time so something seems fishy to me, like maybe the post house is lazy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I've run into this before too. I think it depends on where the spot gets trafficked or something? I'm not sure how it works. I'd always prefer that SD get's letterboxed, but alas, we still have to deal with retarded center-cut. I just worked on the a the new Sprint campaign and everything we did had to be center-cut. Can't wait for the day that disappears!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's normal from my experience. It's a pain but broadcasters want one version that works on all TVs.

 

I'm guessing one day the industry will dump 4x3 but there are still so many old TVs around I don't think it's going to happen any time soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I the only one that doesn't understand why they'd still need an SD version if we're making everyone down-sample anyway? I realize that 4x3 TVs are still fairly prevalent, but when I'm visiting my grandparents (my only exposure to a 4x3 experience) most of the commercials and shows are letterboxed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's network by network. Some networks (HBO, Showtime, A&E, USA to name a few) use a letterboxed downconvert. Others require SD centercut. The reason is really philosophical. Some networks think that letterbox on an SD monitor makes the picture too small. So they opt for centercut on HD. It's a fair opinion even if you don't agree with it.

 

Also, even the networks that letterbox require centercut for their off-channel buys. Many networks will not accept letterboxed commercials. And there is truly nothing worse than seeing HD graphics cut off on the side on an 4x3 screen because the designer forgot to think about centercut. Makes you look like an amateur.

 

So until we finally witness the death of the 4x3 screen, we're going to be stuck with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok. Thanks for the replies. This sucks donkey bollocks but I guess that's the way it is. The bummer is that it completely torpedoes the whole point of 16x9 if you have to cripple it for 4x3.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey man! That is total BS. The specs for center cut and letterboxed are the same. Its just someone being stubborn or wanting it their way. I have worked on dozens of broadcast spots that have gone either way and probably a quarter of them were changed at the last minute when the client realized how shitty the 4:3 center cut looks. Sometimes even after they had been airing. It does depend on the network as some of them dont want to run letterboxed, but it also depends on the client. If its someone big enough, they can have it their way or pull the spot and the ad dollars.

 

4:3 center cut should go the way of the dodo though

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally I'm agnostic on the whole problem.

 

The real problem is the existence of two very different viewing formats and the fact that time and budget rarely allows for the creation of two separate versions. Anything else is just personal bias.

 

I, for one, am not convinced of the whole wide-screen is better—more cinematic—bias that a lot of designers have. Aside from aesthetic considerations (I personally love films composed for 4:3 - The Passion of Joan of Arc and Elephant being two great examples), there are just as many problems with the letterbox down-convert for SD.

 

Personally I find the difference in relative type sizes to be a HUGE problem. Type that feels elegant in HD 16:9 feels underwhelming when letterboxed for SD. If you make it feel right for letterboxed SD, it feel gigantic in 16:9 HD. Centercut SD actually does a much better job of preserving relative type sizes. Of course, centercut has many obvious problems for widescreen framing and composition. But I'm just saying it's a mistake to assume that there is no reason why people still want centercut and anyone who asks for it is an idiot.

 

Until 4:3 screens disappear, we're going to be stuck with centercut.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The specs for center cut and letterboxed are the same.

 

Not true, letterboxed has a larger, rectangular title safe, whereas with center cut you're dealing with a square pretty much dead center of the screen.

 

We usually have to make everything 4:3 safe and deliver SD spots letterboxed, but that's when they're not running HD at all. Also, it's by request of client/traffic person/agency. For local stations I've delivered both files, but since we pretty much only use DG, it's just 4:3 safe HD files that they take care of the conversion for. The problem is that, even with big national spots, they all get butchered and what is right for one often changes for the other. The stations and networks are all over the place with their implementations.

 

Hell, I even watched two blocks of commercials during a major series premiere the other night that didn't have any VO or spoken parts playing back, just the music. Lips were moving but you couldn't hear anything. What makes us think they can get HD down conversions right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...