Resizing Shots in Final Cut Studio: Introduction

There are many situations in post-production which require the picture size of a shot to be unchanged. Unfortunately, the process of resizing digital images is far from perfect. Intuitively it should be a very simple process, like using a zoom lens on a camera to get closer to the action, or even like using an enlarger in a photographic darkroom to make the picture fit a bigger page.

Both of these examples use an optical process that magnifies details that were previously too small to see clearly. With digital images however, you’re limited to what’s already there. And because what’s already there is just pixels, tiny coloured square boxes, when you enlarge a digital image too far you get… big coloured square boxes.

Most of the time this effect goes unnoticed in the digital world. Excluding vector images (which we’ll get to later in this series), the main reason you don’t see scaled-up pixels in digital images very often is because almost every image processing application automatically performs some sort of complicated mathematics, called interpolation, on the raw data to produce the resized result.

Being aware of this interpolation is important for several reasons. First of all, it’s a cheat. Not in the sense that it has five aces up its sleeve, but in the sense that it’s making a sort of guess as to what the hidden details might look like. Very occasionally it will guess wrong, making the picture look worse. Most of the time it will produce fairly convincing results that are passable.

This series isn’t about how to get passable results though. It’s about how to get the best possible results out of Final Cut Studio, because there’s one more interesting feature of image interpolation: there are many different ways of doing it, each of which is useful for different situations and types of source footage. Although it’s incredibly convenient to just reach for the scaling control in Final Cut Pro, using other methods can produce much sharper, more vivid results.

Tip: In general, it’s best to avoid resizing footage whenever possible. At best it’s a time-consuming process, and at worst it can really take the shine off of those beautiful images. However, when working with media from different sources, some form of resizing is going to be inevitable.

Posted: January 22nd, 2008
Categories: Articles, Tips & Tricks
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