Is It Safe? Part 2

Last time, I discussed what title safe is and why it was originally needed. Inevitably, I’m asked if it’s still applicable. After all, we aren’t using CRTs anymore and with digital, there’s more control over how images are displayed on screen. Last post, I said the answer to that was “Yes” and “No.”

Let me first address the “No.”

It’s true that since we use digitally controlled flat screens for display, the odds of titles being cut off the edge of the screen—turning “Only $9999!” into “Only $99”—are pretty slim. So it doesn’t really make sense to use a title safe guideline that reduces the available real estate for titles by 20 percent in each direction (horizontal and vertical).

SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers) acknowledged this awhile ago and came up with a recommended practice that reduces that cutoff to 10 percent in each direction. But do we even need that? Aren’t TVs showing all the pixels?

The answer to that is, “It depends on the set and also how it’s set up.” Some TVs are capable of showing all the pixels and some still cut off a few rows and columns. Look at your TV to see if it has any controls to change the image size. It might.

Or do a practical test: Superimpose one row of white pixels and one column of white pixels over a black screen and output that to your set. Do you see the white pixels? Try it on other sets. Try a thickness of two pixels.

Okay, that’s a couple of pixels but certainly not 10 percent. But a rule is a rule, some would say. However, notice I said “recommended practice” when I referred to the SMPTE guideline. I pay attention to “recommended.”

All the above indicates that even a 10 percent title safe is still not needed—or to answer the big question: “No.”

But now let me put in a few thoughts about “Yes.”

You have to pay attention to where the deliverables are going. Are they going to a network that has program submission technical specifications that call out title safe? Are they going to a commercial delivery service that specifies a 4×3 title safe for stations that have 4×3 needs? Some still do.

What if you aren’t delivering to broadcast and cable? You might think it’s a definite “No.” But here’s something that shows up time and time again: What if your content is going to a tiny little video content company—YouTube? In this case, you aren’t dealing with cropping, you’re dealing with overlays that appear over the video while it’s playing. Overlays that are beyond your control.

Go to YouTube and watch a video. Note the controller that pops up at the bottom of the screen when the cursor is over the video frame. Is that going to hide some important text before the viewer moves the cursor? What about if you’re creating a pre-roll spot and there’s a Skip overlay that pops up? Will it cover something important?

Although these aren’t really title safe issues in terms of the term’s original usage, it points out that the question, “Is it safe?” might be just as valid now as it used to be.