--- Steve Green's Letterboxer ---

  • The Problem: You have video in 16:9 format, but need it in 4:3 letterbox format. Isn't there a free and easy way to do this?

  • The Answer: I searched all the forums and couldn't find one, so I made one myself!

  • The Solution: Steve Green's Letterboxer, a custom titling effect that can be added onto Windows Movie Maker to add this functionality. Just download this tiny 6 kb XML file and you're all set! Read below for complete detailed instructions on how to install and use this!

How to install:

  1. Close Windows Movie Maker if it's open.
  2. Save this file as letterboxer.xml into the directory:
      C:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\AddOnTFX
    (You may need to create the AddOnTFX directory in that Shared folder.)
  3. Open Windows Movie Maker.

How to use:

  1. Export your completed 16:9 video into one big clip, and place it in the storyboard/timeline of a new project in Windows Movie Maker. In the menu bar, click on Tools - Options, and then click on the Advanced tab, and set the aspect ratio to 4:3 and click OK. If you watch your 16:9 video in the preview window, it will look squished, with everything tall and skinny.
  2. In the menu bar, click on Tools - Titles and Credits, and click on "Add title on the selected clip on the storyboard."
  3. Under "More Options:" click "Change the title animation".
  4. Select "Steve Green's Letterboxer", which will probably be at the bottom of the Credits list.
  5. Under "More Options:" click "Change the text font and color".
  6. Under "Color:" change both the font and background colors to Black.
  7. Under "More Options:" click "Edit the title text".
  8. Type a period or anything into one of the text boxes (this won't appear anywhere - you just have to put something in because Windows Movie Maker won't let you add a blank titling effect).
  9. Click "Done, add title to movie."
  10. You may need to stretch the effect in the timeline to make sure it lasts during the entire clip.
  11. Export your movie - it will be in 4:3 format with letterbox bars. Not bad, huh?

Additional Notes: (just for the curious)

  • I had video shot in widescreen 16:9 format, and wanted a reliable way to display it in standard 4:3 format. I searched everywhere on Windows Movie Maker forums and other sites, and it seemed like a lot of people had this same problem - you have 16:9, but you try to display it on a TV or upload it to a site like YouTube or iFilm that makes everything 4:3, and you end up with a squished version where everyone looks tall and skinny. The few solutions I saw on the forums involved the use of expensive, resource-intensive programs like Avid or FinalCut. I knew there had to be an easier way.

  • I found some sites about making custom effects on WMM, and realized that some of the built-in effects involved squishing the video. If I could just control the parameters... Then I found Rehan Ahmad's awesome site at http://www.rehanfx.org/customtc.htm which not only describes each of the xml parameters used in making custom titles, but more importantly had the xml for all of the original titling effects bundled with WMM. Working from the "Credits: Video Top" effect which was the best video-squishing one there, I was able to calculate the proper height ratios and then adjust the parameters to resize and move the main video window to create the letterboxing effect.

  • I stopped working on this as soon as I got it to produce the desired effect, but I'm sure some of you ambitious people out there can cut a lot of the fat out of this XML file (including this ridiculously long comment) and make it even simpler. I really can't believe no one else thought of this first or published it!

  • If you do modify this file, I would very much appreciate it if you at least keep my name and email attached to it, because I'm proud of it and would love to hear from people who find this useful! Thanks so much - Steve.

(C) 2006 Steve Green.

Freely available to the public for noncommercial use. Please contact me with any questions or inquiries regarding commercial use.