When You get the Dreaded Black Bars in Your Videos

By Michelle Schoen   |  
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Every week I hear from someone who has taken some training from one of my courses and has made the most wonderful screencast. It looks great in Camtasia but when they  produce or upload it it has thick black bars on the left and right or bottom and top. Even when I try to explain why this happens sometimes the student is still confused. I totally get it. It was hard for it to sink in for me to.  But now that I DO get it- I’m going to do good job in this blog post to give you a simple explanation as to why this happens. It’s all about Aspect Ratio. Let me explain.

black bars2    


What is Aspect Ratio?

Aspect Ratio is the ratio of a videos width to its height. Every screen resolution has an aspect ratio associated with it. A few of the most common aspect ratios we see today are 4 by 3 (called standard)and 16 by 9 (called widescreen). It’s quite simple: If the aspect ratio of your video doesn’t match aspect ratio of the display on which you want to show it, you will see horizontal black bars at the top and bottom (called “letterboxing”) or vertical bars on either side (called “curtains”), that’s an example of a video that was recorded at a different aspect ratio than it is being presented.


For Best Results

Presentations, images, and videos can be created in any aspect ratio, therefore it is important for you to be aware of your target aspect ratio during planning so you can create all your original content at a consistent size and ratio that will display correctly where you want to display it.

Just make sure you keep the aspect ratio consistent from recording to Production. If you are want to display your video in a standard 4:3, record at 4:3. If 16:9, record at 16:9. Camtasia makes this easy displaying the most common aspect ratios right in the recorder window.  screen resoutions


Then make the same choice as to which resolution and aspect ratio you will edit and produce at.  Be sure you produce at the same 4:3 or 16:9 and you will be all set to go.

editing dimensions


Doing it this way ensures that no screen real estate will be wasted, and  your video quality will be much better.