Are you curious how to add top and bottom bars (letterboxes) in Premiere Pro? Well, before showing you the answer I recommend you why are letter boxes used. If you have missed the article about the 16:9 aspect ratio you can read it over here. Let’s just to summarize why the 16:9 aspect ratio was born.
Well, for that answer we need to turn back to Film’s little brother television. In the late 1980s, when the plans for the HDTV standard were born, Kerns H. Powers, a SMPTE engineer suggested this new aspect ratio as a compromise. 16:9 was the geometric mean between 4:3 and the 2.39, the two most common extremes in terms of aspect ratio. This means that an image of either aspect ratio would have relatively the same screen area when properly formatted in 16:9 standard with with letterboxes. And so out of a compromise, the 16:9 aspect ratio was born – the default widescreen aspect ratio for all video products from DVD’s to UltraHD “4K” formats.
Why are top and bottom bars (letterboxes) important?
Beside the fact that they are sometimes annoying when viewing a film I think they have an artistic effect as well. My personal opinion is that they create a certain mood. Additionally the usage of letterboxes will create a wider angle effect. But what I think is their most important role is that they concentrate focus. In a normal footage there can be certain elements which can distract attention. The use of letterboxes can move you attention towards the more important parts of the scene.
Although professional videographers will create a scene into minute details, this isn’t the place for example when you are at a concert. You will not have always the best lens at your hands and will not be able to frame the footage. Using the letterboxes or top and bottom bars you can eliminate certain elements, like the reflectors at a concert.
How to add top and bottom bars (letterboxes) in Adobe Premiere Pro?
While there are multiple ways of doing it I will show you one way I consider to be the easiest. Although in After Effect creating letterboxes is quite easy, in Premiere Pro this is not an obvious task. For that I will create a new project and create a new sequence.
And here is where the trick comes. We will apply an effect from the effects panel. We will search for the crop effect. This will allow us to crop the footage from all 4 directions. Therefor we can add letterboxes or if we want we can add pillar boxes. If you are not familiar with this term, the pillar boxes are the vertical variant of letter boxes. This means that we can add, if we want, boxes to the left and right side of the footage.
Returning to the letter boxes we will need to specify the amount we will want to crop from the overall footage. The values which we need to specify are in percentage. As a consequence you will need to do the math if you want a particular aspect ratio to achieve.
As you can see in the screen capture from above if you want you can apply different amount to every position you want. For the sake of this example I applied a 15% crop from the top and a 20% crop of the bottom. For sure we will use the same amount for top and bottom parts in order to preserve symmetry.
You should pay attention!
The crop effect crops the video you insert into the timeline and not the sequence. If you want to crop the sequence my suggestion would be to render and export the project to a video file. Afterwards you should apply the crop effect on the resulted video. This is advised if you work with multiple video sizes on your sequence. This way you will obtain the same crop amount.
As you have seen now you know how to add top and bottom bars (letterboxes) in Premiere Pro. Although this is not an obvious task if you are not familiar with Premiere Pro, it is an easy procedure. While there are certainly other possibilities for this to be achieved, I liked this solution better as it easy.
I invite you to share in the comment section the way you add top and bottom bars in Premiere Pro. Also I would be happy if you gave me a feedback about this article. Whether you liked it or not, I appreciate all your comments.