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Graphics for small and large screens (part2)

Technical and Aesthetic Considerations

Technical Considerations

To create graphics for a medium such as TV, the first thing one must do is make sure you are making them in the proper size. Photoshop CS makes this easy. Just use their built-in templates. They have templates for most formats in common use. This will put you into the proper color space, give you safe text and action guides, and also make sure your document is the right size.

When you start a new document in Photoshop, use the corresponding template, found under the "Film & Video" presets.

Photoshop screen grab

Pixel Sizes:

DV is always 720 x 480 regardless of whether its 4 x 3 or 16 x 9. The difference is how the pixels are displayed. PS CS provides templates for both:

  • DV (4:3): NTSC DV 720 x 480 pixels
  • DV (16:9) NTSC DV Widescreen 720 x 480 pixels

The full raster pixel dimensions for broadcast HD are:

  • 1080 ----- 1920 x 1080
  • 720 ----- 1280 x 720

    FYI Many HD recording formats use smaller horizontal pixel sizes and upconvert to the full size upon playback. Here are a few other common sizes:

    • HDV 1080: 1440 x 1080 pixels
    • HDV 720: 1280 x 720 pixels
    • DVCPro100 1080: 1280 x 1080
    • DVCPro100 720: 960 x 720

Most consumer TV sets overscan the image beyond the edges of the frame. This is why it's important to keep important elements (E.g. your text) within the safe text area.

Centercut (ugh) Sometimes abiding by the safe text area isn't enough. Some TV channels center cut the sides off of the 16x9 HD video in order to fit it into a 4x3 SD (standard definition) frame. Producers (like me) hate this as it re-frames the content. In these cases most would prefer letterboxing.

I just finished a version of a 15-second ad for the Children's Museum.

While the lower third is in the 16x9 safe text area, they wanted a centercut version. So I had to bump in the lower third in even closer to the middle for this one. Unless you are making ads for multiple stations, you usually won't have to do this.

Aesthetic Considerations

All the tips and rules you may have learned about visual design apply equally well to graphics. For instance you can apply the rule of thirds to the design of a TV graphic. The idea that foreground elements should create a circular path around the frame for the eye to follow is another example. While a lengthy discussion of composition is beyond what can be covered here, remember to always look for ways to make a strong visual design. Wikipedia has a nice article about visual design.

Symmetrical verses asymmetrical balance

Symmetrical balance

Asymmetrical balance

Something is symmetrically balanced if you can put a mirror down the middle and get something similar on both sides. Symmetrical balance is rigid and formal. It can work well for simple, non-complex messages.

Asymmetrical balance is usually more interesting. It offers many more design possibilities.


On to part 3, Jim's Graphic Tips



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