The Horse Before The Cart, Part 2

Previously, I wrote about the need to understand the final delivery requirements for your project. Getting deliverable specifications early allows you to make sure your workflow and final finishing will produce the best results when your project is finally delivered. As an example, I wrote about doing the finishing on a project that was completed in 23.98 progressive but that needed to be delivered in 29.97 interlace.

Another issue I’ve dealt with recently has to do with title safe. Title safe is all about making sure most viewers are able to see important aspects of a finished edit. Generally, this concerns type (or title) that’s on-screen—hence the name “title” safe. If words get cut off, the meaning could change. If it’s a piece of required legal, the omission could have drastic consequences. By placing important text within a bounding box that is 20 percent of picture width and height, it’s assumed the text won’t be cut off for most viewers.

With today’s flat-panel displays, you’d think title safe would be an issue of the past. Unfortunately, it’s not. Content is still watched on CRTs and on 4:3 aspect ratio devices. And some flat panel display preferences can be set to crop edges of the image.

So, it isn’t out of the norm to be required to produce content that respects 4:3 title safe. Or you might be able to use the more relaxed 4:3 action safe, which uses 10 percent rather than 20 percent. You might even get lucky and only have to deal with 16:9 title safe. As I mentioned before, it helps to know these specifications early on.

Recently, I learned these specs at the last moment. The simple fix was to reconfigure all the type on screen. This meant going back to the person doing motion graphics and having them redo several animations. While that delayed things, it wasn’t a disaster.

Unfortunately, when the new animations went in, they obscured some important elements of the footage. This was because during the shoot nobody knew there would be a requirement for keeping text in title safe. They knew there would be type, and they composed shots appropriately—but not for 4:3 title safe.

As a result, some shots had to be scaled and repositioned. It worked, but not as well as the original footage. The finished product had changed. It wasn’t terrible, and the viewer would probably never know, but it was a compromise. And it was all due to not knowing the final delivery spec early.