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Formatting Images for Videos and DVDs

Few of your scanned images will exactly match the NTSC or PAL screen sizes or 4:3 aspect ratios needed for DVD menus and stills. Most software these days (including Studio and MyDVD) keep your image in its original aspect ratio, adjusting its size to fit the top and bottom or sides of the TV screen. But you have no control over the color or other appearance of the gaps between the image and the edges of the TV screen. Studio puts black there, MyDVD makes the gaps gray for images used in menus, and black for images in slideshows.

Therefore, if you want to have control over the color or other appearance of those edges, you need to place images on a template of the proper size, adding any color frame or other graphic of your choice along the image sides or top and bottom to fill the screen.

Fun House Mirrors

If you use your photos without placing them over a background that matches the NTSC or PAL screen resolution you're working in, some consumer NLEs will distort the images' aspect ratios, forcing them to fill the TV screen (squashing or stretching them like fun house mirrors).

I've chosen my favorite, low-cost image-manipulation software, HyperSnap, to perform this upcoming task. You can download a trial copy for free or the full version for $35 from http://www.hyperionics.com. Or you can use any other image-manipulation software.

Use Graphics-Editing Software to Create a Template for Images

The goal here is to create a template that matches your country's TV standard resolution—NTSC or PAL. Then, in the next task, you'll crop and adjust the resolution size of your images and paste them on the template. Here's how to create a template:

  1. Open HyperSnap (or your image-editing software of choice).

  2. Click the New button, shown in the upper-left corner of Figure 3.18, or select File, New from the main menu. In HyperSnap, a default 400x300 pixel white rectangle displays. That's the correct 4:3 aspect ratio, but not the correct size.

  3. Figure 3.18FIGURE 3.18 I recommend using HyperSnap to crop and resize your images.

  4. Change that into a 720x540 (NTSC) or 768x576 (PAL) rectangle by clicking the Resize button shown in the center of the toolbar in Figure 3.18. Doing so displays the Bitmap Dimensions interface shown in Figure 3.19. Change the Width to 720 (or 768 for PAL) and the Height to 540 (or 576). Click OK.

  5. Figure 3.19FIGURE 3.19 Change the bitmap dimensions to match your country's video standard.

  6. Click the Background/Transparent Color button shown at the bottom of the toolbar in Figure 3.18 to open the collection of 40 color swatches, shown in Figure 3.20.

  7. Figure 3.20FIGURE 3.20 Use the Background/Transparent Color tool to set the template color to black (or a color of your choosing).

  8. If you're creating a DVD for use on PAL TV sets, click the black swatch in the upper-left corner and go to step 7. If you are producing a video or DVD for NTSC (U.S. and Japan), you need to create an NTSC-safe color (see the following Watch Out!). Select More Colors (see Figure 3.20) to open the Color Selection window shown in Figure 3.21.

  9. NTSC Rears Its Ugly Head Again

    The NTSC TV standard has several drawbacks (versus PAL and SECAM). The one that affects the creation of this task's image frame is color.

    To avoid tearing, bleeding, or smearing of colors, NTSC graphics must not be too bright, too dark, or too saturated. (Those who travel from the United States to Europe, for instance, usually notice how much richer the colors are on PAL or SECAM TV sets.)

    To ensure that the black frame you create for your images is NTSC-safe, you need to keep the RGB (red, green, and blue) values less than 230 and more than 16. Step 6 explains how to do that.

  10. To give your template, or frame, an NTSC-safe custom color, select the middle box (Sat—Saturation) shown in Figure 3.21 and type in 17. Tab to the next box (Lum—Luminance) and type in 17 again. You'll note that the red/green/blue color numbers change to about 17 (the Hue number is inconsequential in this case). The Color|Solid box displays this new color (even though it's NTSC-safe, it still looks very black). Click Add to Custom Colors and then click OK to return to the main HyperSnap interface.

  11. More Than One Way to Be Safe

    You can create NTSC-safe colors in HyperSnap and other graphics products using many methods. In the case of HyperSnap, you can create a color by inputting separate values that are greater than 16 and less than 230 in the Red, Green, and Blue boxes. You can also reduce the Contrast setting and increase the Brightness setting.

  12. Click New again, and your rectangle should turn black. This also sets a new default template that fits your TV standard size and aspect ratio. Now when you reopen HyperSnap and click New, you'll always get a 720x540 (or 768x576) black rectangle.

A Frame of a Different Color or Style

If a black frame does not look right with a particular still, you can change the background color. One approach is to place your image on the black background and use the eyedropper Color Picker tool to select a color from the image itself (perhaps along an edge). You can then use the Paint Can tool to apply the new color to the background, blending it more closely with the image and making it look less like a frame or border.

And if a solid color does not appeal to you, you can use any graphic as the backdrop for your template. Simply make sure it matches the screen resolution you're working in: NTSC or PAL.

Use Graphics-Editing Software to Crop and Resize Your Images and Paste Them onto Your Template

Your goal when you scanned your images was to limit the dpi to no less than 72dpi and no more than is necessary to create a full-screen image. In this task, you'll adjust your images so they exactly fit into the 650x490 NTSC or 768x576 PAL viewable area. Then, you'll paste them onto your newly created template. Here's how:

  1. In HyperSnap (or your own image-editing software) select Open (the icon next to New) and locate and open a scanned (or any other) image file.

  2. During scanning, you should have cropped out any extraneous borders or unwanted portions of the original picture. Now you might want to fine-tune that process. Select the Crop tool (see Figure 3.22). Click and drag to define the region you want to keep; then click again within the workspace to tell HyperSnap you've completed setting the cropping boundaries.

Using Undo

If you don't like how you've cropped your image, select Edit, Undo (or use the standard Windows keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Z) to back up one step and start over.

Figure 3.22FIGURE 3.22 Use HyperSnap's highlighted cropping tools to trim out unwanted edges from your image.

Slim Crops

If you crop too much now, you will end up with a fuzzy, out-of-focus image when you place it in your DVD project. When you made the scan, you limited the dpi to save disk space and speed up scanning. If you crop out a lot after saving the scanned image and then expand the image to fit the template, you will lose resolution. Use this last-minute cropping step solely to make minor fixes.

  1. Scale the image to ensure it will fit exactly into the 650x490 NTSC or 768x576 PAL frame by selecting Image, Scale from the main menu. In the Scale dialog box shown in Figure 3.23, either change the width (for horizontal-oriented images) to 650 or 768 (NTSC or PAL) or change the height (for vertical images) to 490 or 576. Do not uncheck Keep Aspect (it keeps your image in its original aspect ratio) or Interpolate (it smoothes pixel-to-pixel color changes when you shrink or expand images). Click Done.

  2. Figure 3.23FIGURE 3.23 Use the Scale dialog box to ensure that your image fits into the template.

  3. Copy your image by selecting Edit, Copy from the main menu (or use the standard Windows keyboard shortcut Ctrl+C).

  4. Click New to open your 720x540 (or 768x576) black, rectangular template.

  5. Paste the image onto this black background by selecting Edit, Paste (or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+V).

  6. As shown in Figure 3.24, drag the image so it's centered over the template. When you're satisfied with its location, click outside the image to anchor it.

  7. NTSC Leaves a Little Room

    After you paste your image into the NTSC template, there should be a little room around the image to compensate for overscan. For the PAL template, the top and bottom of a vertical image will be flush with the top and bottom of the template, and the left and right edges of a horizontal format image will be flush with the left and right edges of the template.

    Figure 3.24FIGURE 3.24 Paste your image onto the template to complete this process.

  8. Save your image by selecting File, Save and choosing a name and file folder location.

Favorite File Formats

You have numerous image types from which to choose. BMP, GIF, JPG, and TIF (the top four in the HyperSnap list) are your best options for compatibility and image quality retention.

The end result of all this effort is a collection of images with dpi resolutions, image sizes, and aspect ratios that will lead to a high-quality, consistent look for all the stills and menu backgrounds in your video and DVD projects.

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