How to burn a letterbox DVD?
March 28, 2010 4:48 AM   Subscribe

I am making a DVD with 7, but I am having letterbox issues. How can I burn a letterboxed DVD?

My original footage is all 16:9, and I edited it with iMovie, exported them all as 720p m4v files, and they look fine--both individually and through iDVD test player. All are 16:9, letterboxed. In "Project Info", the Aspect Ratio is 16:9.

All should be hunky dory. But after burning the first DVD and playing it on my (analog, non-letterboxed) TV, it was anamorphic (squished a bit vertically) as well as cropped a bit. Not good. I want the black bands and the top and bottom of the screen--non-squished, non-cropped--for analog TVs. And of course it should be widescreen for a widescreen TV. Can anyone shed some light on this?

Oh, using Leopard on my iMac.
posted by zardoz to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
Best answer: The disc is fine, you need to tell your DVD player that you don't have a widescreen TV. Look in the player settings and find the option for aspect, set it to 4:3, or whatever they call "not widescreen".
posted by Mwongozi at 5:09 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think there's an easy way to do this in iMovie (iDVD, actually, 'cos that's what does the authoring and such…)

Firstly, a bit of background. There's basically a couple of flags in the DVD info (.IFO) files that describe the video, and how players should deal with it. One flag describes the actual video aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9). That's OK, sounds like it's set right.

The other flag is the kicker. It describes how the player should deal with 16:9 content, if the player knows it's connected to a 4:3 TV (usually set in the players settings menu). Variations on these 2 flags lead to 5 different combinations
  1. 4:3
  2. 16:9
  3. 16:9 pan & scan - widescreen on widescreen sets, pan & scan (sides cropped) on 4:3 sets
  4. 16:9 auto letterbox - forces letterboxing on 4:3 sets (if the player is correctly set up)
  5. 16:9 auto pan & scan and letterbox - lets the player decide how to deal with widescreen content
If your description is right, it appears recent versions of iDVD set the flag to the 3rd option (I'm not sure personally; I haven't played with iDVD in ages…)

(I'll leave out my opinions on the fecked-up state of the US market when it comes to anamorphic widescreen and non-anamorphic 'widescreen' discs, the apparent historical lack of players that can properly account for anamorphic widescreen on non-widescreen TVs, and the vast amount of incorrect information floating around on the 'net due to those issues…)

The correct way to fix it is to set the flags on the disc properly. As I said, iDVD can't do it, but myDVDEdit can. See the forum post here for a similar issue. The correct way to make 16:9 discs playable on all TV's is to set it to option 5 (the user can set up their player to act however they want - cropped or letterboxed); but if you really want to force letterboxing on 4:3 sets regardless of the player's setting, you want option 4.
posted by Pinback at 6:08 AM on March 28, 2010

iDVD actually uses option (4) in your list, so all he needs to do is set up his DVD player properly.
posted by Mwongozi at 8:03 AM on March 28, 2010

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