4:3 refers to the modes in the GoPro that have a 4:3 aspect ratio as opposed to 16:9 or 17:9. What this means is that it’s more of a ‘square’ frame than the typical HD wide clips. In the GoPro these are all of the 960 and 1440 modes. Why do these modes exist? The sensor in a GoPro is a 4:3 aspect ratio so when you shoot any of the 16:9 modes (720P, 1080P, etc) you’re actually cropping off video that was received on the sensor above and below your current video frame. POV skiing in 1440 may see your skis, the ski run, and the horizon, while 1080P may only see the ski run! You’re losing a lot of important visual perspective. The more view you have, the more immersive the video.
How to deal with 4:3 Footage
The easiest way to deal with 4:3 footage is to crop off the bottom and the top in your editor of choice.
If you’re in Premiere, you’ll want to right click on the clip in the timeline and uncheck “Scale to Frame Size” if it’s checked. Next, go over to the Effect Controls tab after you click on the clip of interest, look for scale under the Motion heading. If your project sequence is 1080P (which it should be), scale the clip to 150% for 960P clips or 100% for 1440P clips. This should pop the clip into the full width of the frame and get rid of the black bars on either side. Next, if you’re unhappy with a straight crop of equal top and bottom, slide up and down the 2nd position value in the same Motion heading – the value that says 540 by default. Careful not to go below 360 or above 720 in the vertical slider or you’ll get black sections above or below your clip.
In Final Cut 7, it’ll scale the height to the frame size by default. Go into the motion tab and scale the video to 100% for 1440 or 150% for 960. You can reframe the vertical by adjusting the 2nd parameter in the “Center” control, or enable Image+Wireframe in your video monitor to manually drag it around. Hold shift while you drag it up and down to snap it to 1 axis movement. Check the 1st value in the “Center” control and be sure it remains zero so you don’t get any unwanted black lines on the left or right of your video.
In GoPro Studio 2.0, if you transcode a 1440P or 960P video and load it into the edit timeline, it’ll crop by default. It’ll automatically scale 960P up to fit the frame size. You can adjust the framing by moving the “Vertical” slider back and forth.
Here’s where we get a little tricky and make the most of the enhanced visual perspective. For the mac users, you can do this in Premiere, Final Cut, or GoPro Studio 2.0. On PC all we have is GoPro Studio so far. Edit: Check out this video for an After Effects template for PC users.
To do this in Premiere or Final Cut, you’ll need a plugin called Elastic Aspect. To use Elastic Aspect you’ll first need an app called FxFactory– it’s basically a shell that holds effects for Premiere, After Effects, and Final Cut (7 & 10). Install FxFactory first, then download Elastic Aspect and either open the installer or drag the installer into the FxFactory program container. To prevent the cluttering of your program’s effects, in FxFactory go up to Actions > Disable Trial Products. FxFactory holds a bunch of trial effects that end up filling up your effects lists inside of AE, Premiere, and Final Cut.
Stretching with Premiere
I’ve got a sequence set up for 1080P. I drop my 1440 clip into the timeline and straight off the bat it should be at 100% cropping off the top and bottom. Double click on the clip in the timeline to open it in the source monitor. Click the Effect Controls tab, swivel the Motion heading down, uncheck ‘Uniform Scale’ and change the Scale Height to 75%, leave Scale Width at 100%. This will stretch your 4:3 clip to fill the 16:9 frame. You’ll notice it looks stretched and fat. We’ll fix this. (Note – for 960 clips use 112.5% Scale Height and 150% Scale Width)
To apply the Elastic Aspect effect, we’ll need to use an adjustment layer above the clip. Go to File > New > Adjustment Layer. The settings should be the same as your sequence (1080P, 29.97, etc). Drag the adjustment layer into the timeline above your video. If you’ve done work in After Effects you should be familiar with the idea of adjustment layers. They are basically blank shells that you can apply effects to. Any video below the adjustment layer will take on the effects applied to the adjustment layer.
Add Elastic Aspect Classic to the adjustment layer in the timeline. The Elastic Aspect plugin comes with 3 varieties of the effect but I find classic to suit the basic example best. You can read more about the different settings/effects at Andy’s website (the creator of the plugin). Once you apply the effect you’ll see that it pinches the center of the frame and stretches out the sides. In most action POV this sort of effect works because the important shapes and forms are in the center of the frame and the sides are less the focus. The effect will show you the protected region in yellow, which is where it’s retaining the original height/width ratio of the image. You can move the protected region left or right to match forms on screen and increase the width (at the expense of more stretch at the edges). Protection override will basically stretch out the protected region from fully protected (0.00) to the original stretched aspect (1.00). Elasticity and tension tweak are two more settings that you’ll want to play with and adjust according to the clip. Be sure to uncheck ‘Show Protected Region’ before you render or you’ll render out the big yellow center section. You should have something that looks like this (I have Show Protected Region checked still):
You may find yourself trying to widen the protection width to protect anything that falls in that area; however if forms and action happen near the center but not in the protected region they will be effected as well. I usually look for a good average location where it hits most of the action over the entirety of the clip, but doesn’t need to be all of it. It always helps me to turn on and off the effect using the ‘fx’ button next to the effect. You’ll see how big a difference this plugin makes. Special tip – I recommend using a different adjustment layer with this effect for each different clip you’ve got in the timeline. This way you can adjust the plugin on a clip-by-clip basis. In the timeline, hold alt/option while clicking on the adjustment layer and slide it over on top of your next clip. Holding alt/option will simply duplicate the whole adjustment layer easily and quickly.
Stretching with Final Cut 7.0
I haven’t been using Final Cut 10, so I’ll only comment on a quick overview on how to utilize this tool in Final Cut 7.0 for now. I’ve got my sequence setup in Final Cut to be 1080P 29.97. I’ve made a ProRes select of my 1440 clip but left the dimensions alone so it’s still 1920 x 1440. When I drop the clip directly into the timeline it’ll autoscale it to fit within the frame, meaning there will be black bars on the left and the right. Double click on the clip to open it in the source monitor. Click on the motion tab and change the scale from 75% to 100% – keep in mind this is for 1440P. For 960P change it from 112.5% to 150%. This should zoom in the clips so the width fits perfectly in the frame but the vertical height is being cropped. Next scroll down to the Distort heading and change the distortion to -33.33 (note the negative). Next, unlike Premiere, you can apply the effect directly to the clip. Go to Effects > Video Filters > Andy’s Effects > Elastic Aspect Classic. Tinker with the settings a bit and you should get something that looks like this (rememeber to uncheck Show Protected Region for rendering):
Stretching with GoPro Studio
GoPro studio is the most basic settings wise but it does the job particularly well when you have clips that need minimal adjustments other than a good stretch. Clips where these work well are board mounted surf shots, helmet mounted bike or moto shots facing forwards, ski POV, bike POV, etc.
First, import your raw 1440 or 960 GoPro clip. Add it to the conversion list as is, unless you’d like to conform the frame-rate. Convert the clip and head to the Edit tab. Click on the clip in the bin on the left. Way over on the bottom right is a box of presets. Click the preset called 4×3 to Wide. This will auto stretch your 4×3 to fit a 1080P timeline and also add the dynamic stretch. The dynamic stretch settings are labeled under the H.Dynamic under the framing controls on the right. Slide it to the left for a more pinched look, to the right to stretch your clip back out.
If you’d like to use clips you converted and adjusted within Premiere or FCP, right click on the clip in the bin on the left and click reveal in finder. These are similar to ProRes 422 files that can be used inside Final Cut or Premiere with ease!
If you want to go one step further there are a few ways we can utilize this plugin to work on more shots. First is the half-stretch.
The half-stretch refers to a clip you don’t fully want to crop, but might look bad fully stretched. This could also come in handy when you’re looking to crop out something that enters the frame just near the bottom or top of the clip (like the handle of a pole). Let’s assume you’ve already done all of the steps above but you want to do a half-stretch. In Premiere, the first thing you do is select the clip in question and swivel down the Motion heading in the effect controls. Increase the Scale Height and adjust the vertical position slider until you have cropped out what you want. Next, since you’ve stretched your image more vertically, the protected region of the elastic effect will be tall and skinny. We’ll want to use Protection Override to stretch it back out horizontally. For this example I stretched the vertical scale from 75% to 88% (about a perfect half stretch – 88 is halfway between 75 and 100). To fix the protected region I set the Override to 0.50 (half back to normal, which matches the half stretch).
If you’re in Final Cut 7.0 go under the motion tab and reduce the distortion value from -33.33. I usually change the distortion with the small arrow on the right reducing 1 value at a time until I get to -20 or so (depending on the clip). Then if you’ve got Wireframe + Image checked in the project monitor you can grab the clip and drag it vertically to reframe.
I’m always thinking about how I can optimize 4:3 clips in this regard. If a clip has too much sky from a handle cam skiing, I can half stretch, frame up the bottom better and get rid of some sky. The more you are able to scale the clip down and use stretching, the higher quality the final output will be since you’re using more pixels.
The next advanced trick is using the protected region creatively. In the following clip you’ll see that a traditional stretch as I’ve described above looks weird – there’s too much prominent form in the frame to only stretch the center. Also, if I crop you’ll see how much visual information I lose.
The answer lay with using the plugin creatively to protect regions that matter and discard (stretch out) regions that don’t. In this case, the trail is blurring by so I don’t really care if the sides get stretched. Be mindful to watch it so it doesn’t look weird in motion. Also the more you protect, the more distorted your edges will be. It’s a fine balance between optimizing the width of the protection region and reducing a distorted look.
When should you shoot 4:3?
Now that you know how to deal with 4:3, when should you use it? I shoot 4:3 under two primary conditions. First is when I know it’s absolutely essential to gain more perspective while the 2nd is when I’m not sure where in the frame the action will take place. You can bet any time I’m wearing a head-cam, mouth-cam, or chest-cam I’ll be running the camera in 1440. It’s just more immersive.
Example Dynamic Stretches
The examples below are taken from the original HERO3 reel project. From left to right the clips are as follows: Original 4:3 frame, fully cropped to 16:9 (losing top and bottom), and the final dynamic stretch edits with the protected areas shown.
This last image shows the actual final stretched frames – you’ll see that most of these aren’t full stretches, I’m doing half stretches to cut out objects in the frame or stretch things vertically a little more to get a more natural look. In the street bike Golden Gate bridge shot I actually layered two instances of the effect on top of eachother to protect the left and right separately. It actually works!
Lastly I’ve added a few final colored and stretched shots from the HERO3 video that were all shot in 4:3 modes! Check them out!