How to Make a Widescreen Movie without any HD Camera whatsoever

Since the early 2000s, I’ve been creating standard squarish (TV shape) movies with my camcorder, but earlier this year I discovered that my movies could have been widescreen all along. The whole planet is moving to widescreen video, and much of the planet is already there.

In the future, a widescreen display will be your only choice for playback, which means that every movie you’ve ever made that is not widescreen will either be cropped, which means you will loose parts of the image; resized, which results in the video looking stretched; or left with huge, distracting black boxes on both sides of the video. Do yourself a favor and switch to widescreen recording as soon as you can.

It’s Easy: HD Camera Optional

Many people will think that they need to purchase an HD camcorder to do this, but that is not always the case. Granted, a HD camcorder will look much sharper than a standard camcorder; but it’s quite possible that your current camcorder is capable of good quality widescreen video, and you simply don’t know about it. The difference between standard camcorders and HD camcorders only becomes noticeable to the average user when the video is above DVD resolution. On the web, a standard camcorder set to widescreen can be ample quality for the aspiring video creator.

Note: I am going to refer to iMovie throughout this article because I write about what I have experience in. Besides that, I will make these tips as general as possible.

Set Phasers to Widescreen

Many SD (standard definition) cams have a widescreen mode, though many camcorder owners do not realize this. How you set it depends on your camcorder, but it’s usually rather easy to switch to widescreen video in the camcorder’s menu. If you’re having trouble, read your manual, of course. Once you’ve set it to widescreen, your video may look distorted or squished in your viewfinder. This is normal and is simply your camcorder’s way of showing you all of the image. Keep in mind that you’re shooting video that is closer to how the eye sees: wider than it is tall. Experiment and get a feeling for some of the possibilities this new shape offers you. Many people discover that it is much easier to hold more people in frame in widescreen mode than in standard mode.

Import the Video

Importing widescreen video into a computer works the same as standard video. Most video editors, such as iMovie, support widescreen, but if your video editor does not, your video will probably look distorted when you import it. When creating a new project in your editing software, be sure look for an option that says widescreen. For instance, in iMovie you simply choose “DV Widescreen” from the format menu presented to you when you create a new project. As always, this will vary greatly with the type of software you use.

Be Smart about Exporting the Video

Now that your video is edited, export a compressed movie file to your desktop. When you export from iMovie, it will ensure that the movie stays widescreen. In other apps, I suggest you search the manual if you have questions, but in iMovie it’s pretty straightforward. I encourage you to be smart about exporting video. Test your final file before you upload it to a video sharing site. If you have many options for quality, you may want to take time to experiment to discover what different settings can offer you.

If you have made it through these steps alive, you will now have a widescreen movie. Congratulations, you have created a decent-quality widescreen movie without spending money on a new HD camera. Even more importantly, just think how glad you’ll be when you sit down to watch the video in all its widescreen glory on your widescreen TV and leave the distorted view behind.