Staying Safe During The Action

The Safe Area is an overlay guide used in video production to describe the areas of the television picture that can ultimately be seen when delivered on the screen. This ensures that the most important parts of the picture are seen by the viewers. If a video editor or motion graphics artist fails to keep titles and important elements within the safe area, it’s possible that some content could be chopped off when viewed on certain TV screens.

The displayable area on early TVs varied because of manufacturing problems and sometimes caused the image to increase in size and get brighter during the lifetime of the television set. Producers didn’t always know what the final picture would look like since the visible edges of the image varied from household to household. In order to deal with this issue, producers defined safe areas on the picture that kept the important content on the screen.
Newer TVs such as plasma and LCD, have screens that are able to show most of the picture outside of the safe areas. Since wide screen HD became popular, there’s another reason to keep important actions and text in the safe area. Many videos are broadcast in HD but there must be an alternate version for those watching in standard definition. One simple way of streamlining projects is through the use of the 4:3 Center Cut. This is where you use the title and action safe area is based on a 4:3 frame in your HD 16:9 composition. Some software (such as After Effects) has an interior center cut guide to help with this practice.

center cut

I’m currently using this technique on our latest medical Onlivemation project. This allows DDA Video and DDA Medical to be able to offer the same video in virtually any format. If the client decides they also want a BluRay version, we’ve got it covered. If the client decides on a larger web-based video interface, no problem. Not only does this give our client more options and flexibility, it helps build our always expanding high definition medical portfolio as well!