Converting a 16/9 sequence into a 4/3 video

This is an old post from Larry Jordan, FCP instructor

NOTE: This process changed since this was posted. See the update at the bottom. When working with PAL just use DV PAL settings in place of NTSC

Tom Porett, from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, writes:

I enjoy your newsletter greatly – thanks very much.


I have a question about converting a 16:9 format to 4:3 in letterbox format (with bars). If there is an issue of the newsletter that has that info I’d appreciate it.


I am uploading work to Google video and they require 4:3 format only.

Larry replies: Yup, it can be done. In fact, I had a client this morning that needed to convert a DVCPro-50 16:9 sequence into a DV 4:3 video. Here’s how to do it.

1) Open the sequence you want to convert into the Timeline.

2) Choose File > Export > Quicktime movie.

3) In the Save As dialog, change Current Settings to “DV NTSC 48K” — if you are working with PAL video, you would select “DV PAL 48K”. Then, make sure that Make movie self-contained. is CHECKED.

4) The movie will export — and will take a while to do so, depending upon the length of the sequence you are exporting. Use this to rediscover the outdoors and sunshine. Look out a window, or something.

5) When the export is complete, change your Easy Setup to “DV NTSC” (or “DV PAL” depending upon where in the world you live).

6) Create a new project and import your newly exported QuickTime movie. Then, edit it to the Timeline.

Ta-DAH! Your 16:9 image format is retained, but Final Cut has now added black letter-boxing at the top and bottom of the image. You are now ready to output as a standard DV file.

The best part about this process is that no additional rendering is necessary; your file is ready to output as soon as you get it edited into a new sequence.

Fast and easy.

UPDATE – Jan. 2008

As Oren Hercz pointed out:

I just wanted to mention a minor problem I discovered with your “converting a 16:9 sequence to 4:3 video” article. I was following your instructions, using FCP 5.1.2, but when I exported my anamorphic sequence as “DV NTSC 48k” and then imported it into a NTSC DV timeline, I got a stretched image inside black bars (yuck!) I discovered that I had to export using “DV NTSC 48k anamorphic” setting to make it work. I don’t know if this is a change in FCP since you wrote that article, but I thought you might want to know.

Larry replies: You are correct. Apple has now made anamorphic video a specific menu choice in the application. If you are working with 16:9, then please select “anamorphic.”