Using Square or Nonsquare Pixels When Creating Graphics

When you’re preparing to import graphics into Motion, it’s important to be aware of the pixel aspect ratio you’re using and whether your project requires you to work with square or nonsquare pixels.

Graphics created on a computer, whether scanned, painted, or rendered, look distorted on a video monitor unless you account for the different pixel aspect ratio. Fortunately, this is easy to do, since every nonsquare video frame size has an equivalent square frame size that you can use to create your graphics.

To create graphics that look correct when output to video
  1. In your graphics application, create a frame size that’s the square pixel equivalent of the video frame size you’re using.

    See the chart below for equivalent sizes. For example, if you’re working in DV-PAL with a nonsquare video frame size of 720 x 576, your graphic should have a square pixel frame size of 768 x 576.

  2. Create the graphic.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • In your graphics program, rescale the graphic from the square frame size used to create it to the nonsquare equivalent used in Motion.

    • Save your image as is.

Within your Motion project, select the object in the Media tab of the project window, open the Media tab in the Inspector, then choose the correct aspect ratio from the Pixel Aspect Ratio pop-up menu.

Video format
Nonsquare 4:3 pixel size (Motion)
Aspect ratio
Square pixel size (graphics program)
601-NTSC 4:3
720 x 486
720 x 547
601-NTSC 16:9 Anamorphic
720 x 486
853 x 486
720 x 480
720 x 540
DV-NTSC 16:9 Anamorphic
720 x 480
853 x 480
601/DV-PAL 4:3
720 x 576
768 x 576
601/DV-PAL 16:9 Anamorphic
720 x 576
1024 x 576
720i/p high definition
1280 x 720
1080i/p high definition
1920 x 1080

Working with Standard Definition (SD) Video Monitors and Computer Displays

Standard definition (SD) video monitors differ from computer displays in a significant way (aside from interlacing): computer displays represent images using a grid of square pixels, while video monitors use pixels that are rectangular in shape.

Figure. Diagram showing examples of square pixels and nonsquare pixels in SD frame sizes.

SD NTSC pixels are narrower than computer pixels and SD PAL pixels are wider than computer pixels. As a result, a 720 x 486 pixel image looks different on a computer display than it does on a video monitor. For example, if you capture a clip of video with a globe in the picture, export a frame, and look at this frame in a graphics application, you’ll see something like this:

Figure. Diagram showing nonsquare pixels looking correct on a video monitor even while looking squashed on a computer monitor.

The Canvas let you display nonsquare pixel video correctly on the computer’s screen using the Correct For Aspect Ratio command in the View pop-up menu above the Canvas.

Note: High definition video uses only square pixels, so it doesn’t show this discrepancy.