Anamorphic Video

The most widely available and most affordable format of digital video is mini DV, which uses a native aspect ratio of 4x3. This doesn’t mean, however, that all video shot on mini DV will only work on a 4x3 screen. Many people, including Nancy Schreiber who shot November, use higher-end mini DV camcorders that offer a true 16x9 recording option to affordably shoot widescreen digital video. 16x9 video recorded on one of these mini DV camcorders uses a process called anamorphic video. To record 16x9 on a mini DV tape, a properly equipped camera records video using a 16x9 chip, and then slightly distorts the aspect ratio to fit the widescreen video into the mini DV aspect ratio. When anamorphic video is played back on a compatible monitor or editing system, it expands to its intended dimensions and displays as proportionally correct 16x9. A number of prosumer cameras have a good quality 16x9 setting, which enables a filmmaker to record 16x9 as described earlier. These include the Panasonic AG-DVX100A (the newer version of the camera Schreiber used), the Sony DCR-VX2100 (the updated version of the camera Kate Davis used to shoot Southern Comfort), and the Canon XL-2 (the contemporary version of the camera Daniel Baer used for The Hotel Upstairs).

Many less-advanced mini DV cameras offer a lower-quality 16x9 mode, which simulates widescreen footage by simply cutting off material from the top and the bottom of a 4x3 frame to create what looks like a letterboxed image. The ...

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