Using QuickTime to Crop Letterbox or Pillarbox from Video Clips

   Posted by David Kirk in Graphics

Removing letterboxing or pillarboxing from video clips typically requires expensive video editing equipment. This tutorial (and screencast) describes how to do this with the inexpensive and ubiquitous quicktime.

A screencast demonstrating this technique can be found at the bottom of this tutorial.

Covering unused screen with black is called windowboxing and is frequently used to preserve aspect ratios when changing video formats.

Letterboxing places blackbars on the top and bottom of the screen and is used to display widescreen format on a standard sized screen. Pillarboxing places black bars on the sides of the screen and is used to display standard sized format on widescreens. While these techniques are good compromises on television screens, often on a computer system these black bars are just annoying.

Quicktime Pro is required for these features.

1. In Quicktime Pro load up your video clip. Find a frame that is filled with a color except for the black windowboxing.

2. From the menu select Edit and then Copy to put the current frame into the clipboard.

3. Open up any image editor. Create a new document and paste in the image containing your frame from the clipboard.

4. Select the letterbox or pillarbox (or both) and fill those sections with white. Select the rest of the image and fill that middle section with black.

5. Save this image as a new gif with any name.

6. In quicktime go to the Window menu and select Show Movie Properties. Select the video track and the Mask box will appear. Drag your gif into the Mask box. Instantly the video clip on the screen will be clipped of the windowboxing.

7. In quicktime select the File menu and then Export for whatever settings you wish.

 

About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
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5 Responses to “Using QuickTime to Crop Letterbox or Pillarbox from Video Clips”

  1. February 24, 2009 at 11:19 am, Dan said:

    Hi Dave,

    I found this really useful and would have never worked it out for myself. Thank you.

    Now I’d like to know how to do the reverse (sort of). I have a video in a scaled size window of 441×248 (16:9). Now, for some reason the video seems to be in some kind of super widescreen format (it’s somewhat squished), and so I’d like to stretch the video but keep the scaled size the same (i.e. keep the window 441×248. So I need to add a letterbox. I have looked everywhere but can’t find how to do this. I have QT Pro and iMovie – and Photoshop on a trial.

    Your help much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Dan.

    Reply

  2. June 30, 2010 at 2:35 am, Kboodt said:

    This was really helpful and worked great IN quicktime. I’m having the problem though that if I export it doesn’t save/apply the mask and if I try to upload to youtube my video goes back to having the black letterboxing. How do I fix this?

    Reply

    • June 30, 2010 at 11:58 am, Anonymous said:

      If your video isn’t the exact size youtube wants, it will process it with the additional letterbox to make it fit.

      Reply

  3. October 23, 2010 at 12:35 pm, Asdf said:

    Can I do this in QuickTime X?

    Reply

  4. November 20, 2010 at 3:20 am, Tom said:

    Now, what if you want to upload that video to Youtube. Youtube doesn’t recognize the mask and keeps the letterbox. How do you crop to the mask?

    Reply

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