Shooting "4x3 Safe" Footage
Shooting "4x3-safe" means shooting widescreen footage (usually 16x9) that can also be used for standard 4x3 distribution without ruining the picture composition. It attempts to get the best of both worlds — shots that look good on both 16x9 and 4x3 televisions.
This technique assumes the widescreen footage will be converted to 4x3 by cropping the frame, i.e. chopping of the left and right portions and leaving the centre portion. The idea is simply to frame your shots so the important subjects and action are kept within the centre 4x3 area.
Many widescreen cameras have optional 4x3-safe guides. These are lines that appear in the viewfinder showing the 4x3 safe area. The image below is a simulated viewfinder with white 4x3-safe guides. As you shoot, you need to simultaneously frame the area inside the white lines as well as the entire widescreen area.
The images below show how this shot will look on both aspect ratios:
- 4x3-safe shooting is a compromise. In order to keep the action in the centre, you often find that the widescreen framing can't be as interesting as you would like. In the widescreen image above, for example, the extra screen space at the edges is somewhat wasted. Too much emphasis on the centre of the frame is not best practice for composition, so you may need to be creative to find ways of making both versions attractive.
- If the video project is to be converted using the pan & scan technique, you have more flexibility. In this case your 4x3-safe area doesn't always have to be in the centre.