Display Action / Title Safe Zones

Posted on by Larry

Action Safe and Title Safe boundaries were invented decades ago to solve two problems with televisions that had picture tubes:

  1. The magnets in the back of the picture tube were not always aligned properly, which meant edges of the image were cropped.
  2. As a TV set got older the magnets would slowly zoom into the center of the image, a process called “pin-holing,” causing increasing portions of the image around the edge to get lost.

Even today, we still need to pay attention to these issues because not everyone has yet upgraded to an LCD TV set. And, when you are digitally projecting an image, overshooting the edge of an image is common.

So, to help us prevent having portions of our image – like the phone number of a sponsor – disappear because the edge is no longer visible, all versions of Final Cut and Adobe Premiere allow us to display two boundaries to help us align our images. This makes sure that essential portions of our image can be seen on virtually all TV sets.

Action Safe: This boundary is 5% in from each edge of the frame. All essential action, and actors, should be inside this outer boundary.

Title Safe: This boundary is 10% in from each edge of the frame. All essential text, logos, graphics, and titles should be inside this inner boundary.

So, now that you know what these are, how do you display them?

FCP X

Click the Switch in the top right corner of the Viewer and toggle Show Title/Action Safe Zones on or off.

In Final Cut Pro X, the boundaries are shown as yellow rectangles. Action Safe is the outer rectangle, Title Safe is the inner rectangle.

FCP 7 AND EARLIER VERSIONS

If you are using FCP 7, select either the Viewer or the Canvas and do one of two things:

  1. From the popup menu in the top right corner of either the Viewer or the Canvas, select Show Title Safe – this will toggle the display of the two rectangles either on or off.
  2. Select View > Show Title Safe.

In Final Cut Pro 7, and all earlier versions, Action and Title Safe are displayed as cyan rectangles.

ADOBE PREMIERE PRO

In Premiere Pro, click the small fly-out icon in the top right corner of the Program monitor and select Safe Margins.

In Premiere, the zones are displayed as white rectangles with a small hash mark indicating the vertical and horizontal centers of the frame.

WEB VIDEO

These boundaries are essential for any video going to DVD, cable, or broadcast — in other words, anywhere except the web.

However, I’ve also found that these boundaries are useful for web video as well. We’ve grown up watching video that honors these boundaries, it is ingrained in how we perceive television.

Text that touches the edge of an image creates a very uncomfortable feeling in the viewer; generally, this is something we want to avoid.

So, when I’m creating video for the web, I don’t need the excess protection that Title Safe affords. Instead, I frame all essential text, logos, or composites so that everything is contained inside Action Safe.


Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Display Action / Title Safe Zones

Newer Comments →
  1. Julia Green says:

    This is material you have already taught me, but for those who
    are just learning, it’s very clear to understand!
    Thanks!
    JAG

  2. Thanks Larry for this information. I have been going crazy trying to figure out why my movie playing on a HDTV from a dvd was cutting off about 5% of my frame all around. Now that I know why this is happening, how do I fix the issue in FCPX?

    I downloaded your DH_WideSafeX and can see where the action part is been cut-off.

    Thanks in advance for you help – Sam

  3. Sam:

    You can’t “fix it,” you can only adjust for it. That’s why all editors display “Safe Zones.” To display them in FCP X, click the switch in the top right corner of the Viewer and check “Show Title/Action Safe Zones.”

    Make sure all essential action is contained inside the first rectangle, and all essential text and logos are contained by the inner rectangle.

    Larry

  4. Thank you Larry for your quick response (on the weekend yet). I guess the best practice here would be to make two movies. One formatted for the computer and the internet and one formatted for a dvd.
    My plan is to duplicate the project and than make a compound clip of the whole move and resize it to fit within the action zone.

    Thanks again – Sam

    • Sam:

      Keep in mind – and this is VERY important – you are NOT scaling the movie to fit inside action safe.

      You ARE making sure that all graphics and text are inside Action and Title Safe!

      Scaling the movie will create black edges, which will be visible to viewers. Scaling is bad – repositioning is good.

      For this reason, you don’t create two movies. You create one movie with all elements properly positioned inside the guides.

      Larry

  5. Again, Thanks Larry – It is obvious that I am new to this. I am a photographer and have just in the last year started working with video. Seems like this would be a good topic for an article. I was very surprised to see the edges of my video being cut off when playing on an HDTV from a DVD. Everything looked perfect when played on a computer (nothing cropped).

    Do you have any suggestions in putting together a video through an app such as Final Cut Pro X to deal with the issue of %5 of the frame been cropped by the tv, or is this something that everyone has to live with.

    Thanks again – Sam

    • Sam:

      We’ve been living with this since TV was invented – it’s just how TV’s work. Remember, you DON’T resize your image to fit, you just make sure in your framing, titles, and effects work to keep all essential elements – like people, logos, and text – inside the Action and Title Safe boundaries.

      If you want network television on your computer, you’ll see they honor this framing in everything they do – because computers and TV display video differently.

      Larry

  6. Toby says:

    In FCPX is it possible to change the colour of the title safe boundary rectangles? I don’t like the yellow – Harder to properly see. I much prefer the aqua blue rectangle colour in FCP7 and wonder if there’s a colour option somewhere in the settings?
    Thanks
    Toby

  7. Helen Perret says:

    Help required…..Please!…Thanks to an editing job my 16 year old son took on we also learnt about action/title safe zone. Too late for the project I think, as he discovered when he burnt the first dvd! He is editing a school play which runs for about 2 hours to be produced on dvd to sell. The person filming did not respect the action-safe zone and has zoomed in on frequent occasions and the action is at the edges. When my son finished editing (he uses FCP) he was only working on his Mac and everthing was visible and we saw the problem when we watched it on TV with the DVD he burned. He has tried as a last measure to create a regular black rectangle that represents the action-safe zone and re-rendered the Three Acts like this. Now this version DVD no longer loses as much action but there is stuttering to the images when there is movement. This has been a massive job for him, he has had to work his own way through syncing the sound track and many issues ( massive files!!) but please could you suggest anything he can do with the action safe problem..other than what he has already done. The poor lad is self taught but is determined to get this DVD out to people who missed the play..hope you can help.
    Helen and Ossian Perret.

    • Helen:

      Adding the black rectangle is the best option. However, there should not be any stuttering. If there is, then, somehow, your son has changed the frame rate of the video. Have him check his sequence settings to match the frame rate of the composited video with the frame rate of the original video.

      All he needs to do is take is OLD sequence. Turn it into a nest and scale the nest about 10%. It is an easy fix, and won’t affect frame rate or audio sync.

      Larry

      • Helen Perret says:

        Thanks, we will check that, although he says he hasn’t changed the frame rate.
        Thanks for a very quick reply,
        Helen.

  8. jay says:

    Hi,
    what’s a tiny mark on action safe and title safe frame in Final Cut Pro? each title safe and action safe in FCP have 4 marks (2 on the top, and 2 on the bottom). Can anyone explain?
    Thanks,
    Jay

  9. mimoFilms says:

    Very useful, thanks. I was wondering if the action save area would be enough for a video produced for the web. And you gave me the answer.

  10. Larry, I know you answered this somewhere, but how do you control the action/title safe when using the Ken Burns plug-in. I’m having a problem where my Ken Burns animated stills are getting cut off on my LED TV. All of my interviews contain action within the action safe, but the Ken Burns stuff seems to create the issue. Thanks!

    • Starting and ending positions are completely determined by the position of the Green and Red rectangles. As the Ken Burns Effect always lasts for the entire duration of the clip, to keep essential elements inside Action Safe, simply make sure your rectangles are sufficiently large.

      Larry

Newer Comments →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Larry Recommends

Final Cut Pro X 10.4

FCPX Complete

Edit smarter with Larry’s brand-new webinars, all available in our store.

Access over 1,900 on-demand video editing courses. Become a member of our Video Training Library today!

JOIN NOW

Subscribe to Larry's FREE weekly newsletter and save 10%
on your first purchase.