Center-Cut Safe and Why It Still Creates Headaches [Part 1 of 3]

Annoyed and wondering why there are still so many different ways you see content framed on TV?


It’s estimated that 10-15% of the TV-viewing public are still watching on standard def TVs, and although the number of people with HD sets is growing rapidly,

many of those are still viewing an SD signal!  (Reminder: “Digital” does not mean HD!)


And the problem doesn’t just lie with viewers;  TV stations themselves are still trying to figure out how to manage the ever-changing HD landscape. Maybe that

explains why I still often see a 16:9 image on a 16:9 screen completely surrounded in black (postage-stamped) by a certain major network!


But what does this all mean for the TV/film directors creating new HD content?  How do they make sure that viewers who might still have  old 4:3 TV’s, see

everything they should be seeing?


Until TVs are universally 16:9, or at least a lot closer to it, directors have to take into account how their productions will look on the small(er) screen and shoot

everything for center cut, action-safe (ie: fit everything into the center of the screen.) They need to make sure the on-screen talent, especially, is not chopped off

when the picture is viewed on the smaller screens, and ensure their phone number, web address and legal copy, if applicable, is all visible.


Squeezing all the important content into the middle of the screen can tend to feel like there’s a lot of extra space being wasted, but until you can guarantee

enough people are seeing the ‘big picture,’ it’s what we have to deal with.


Meanwhile, I still get calls from producers on-site at a shoot: “Do I still have to worry about being center cut safe?!” and my answer, for now, is still “yes.”


Want to chime in, or do you have a nightmare center cut story?  Share it below!




The outer [“action safe”] white box indicates all from the HD picture that will be seen on a standard def 4:3 TV screen.

Read : Part 2 | Part 3

1 Comment

  • bobo

    Maybe if viewers keep getting their images cut when watching 4:3 video they will decide to upgrade their tv!

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