Friday, June 20, 2014

Fixing an aspect ratio on YouTube

We have an older Canon FS200 camcorder that works reasonably well for our purposes.  It stores video on SDHC cards in ".mod" format (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOD_and_TOD), which is essentially an mpeg2 file.  The tricky part is that the camcorder records a wide screen (16:9) video that is letterboxed in an SD (4:3, 480p) frame.  It is all too easy to convert the .mod files into an mp4 video that has a letterboxed video in a 16:9 frame, which means that the wide-format video has been stretched even wider.

Should one upload such an overly-stretched video to YouTube, it turns out that it is remarkably easy to fix on YouTube.  YouTube allows the playback of the uploaded video to be modified through "formatting tags": https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/146402?hl=en.  Adding the "yt:stretch=4:3" tag undoes the extra stretching (adding "pillarbox" bars on the sides of the video), while the "yt:crop=16:9" tag removes the pillar- and letter-boxing bars to show just the 16:9 video in a 16:9 frame.

Whew!

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