TV-Safe Graphics for HD Commercials

Now that many local TV stations accept HD files for local commercial “insertion,” editors and crews-of-one are started to bump up against the mind-bending issue of ensuring that the text and graphics in their 16:9 aspect ratio commercials won’t be cut off on the old, 4:3 aspect ratio TVs still used by many viewers.

I recently created the following graphics for a client, and I suspect that many folks will find them useful.

Here’s a 1920×1080 (full HD resolution, 16×9 aspect ratio) image showing the title safe area in an HD image. If you were preparing, say, a corporate video that would be shown on an HD screen, you’d want to make sure that all your text and graphics stayed in the shaded area in the middle. This way, in case the projector/TV cropped or offset the image slightly, no important information would be lost.

However, if you’re doing a TV commercial, infomercial, or other project that is intended for broadcast, you need to make sure that your text not only fits inside the image shown on a 4:3 TV (the gray box) but that it is within the SAFE zone of the 4:3 TV image. Many older TV cabinets physically covered the edges of the screen, and others have drifted off-center over the years.

The easiest thing to do is click on these images to see them full-screen, then download them to your computer and use them as guides for any graphics you need to build. If you have Photoshop (CS3 or later), you can download a PSD that contains all these elements in separate layers here.

  13 comments for “TV-Safe Graphics for HD Commercials

  1. July 16, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Thanks Alex. Really cool of you to make this available and a very handy tool!

    • Alexander
      July 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      Glad you like it! I use this thing for every project I do. Especially now that I’ve started working in Premiere Pro, which doesn’t have default “safe zone” guides like FCP does.

  2. RikiB
    July 20, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Nice tool, great help, thanks for posting!

  3. sven
    August 2, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Legend, thanks for taking the time to share this. ^_^

  4. March 20, 2013 at 5:31 am

    I have learned so much from this site. I can’t thank you enough for your time and effort. I’m doing some Ford commercials right now for “daylight savings specials” this template saved my ass. Look for any Ford 2013 daylight saving commercials and feel all gooey inside.

    • Alexander
      March 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks, Myles! I’m looking forward to 4×3 safe graphics being phased out, and I’m sure you are too. I’ll keep an eye out for the commercials!

  5. August 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you for this Alex. It will definitely com in handy! I TOO will be glad when we
    no longer need it!! Like dealing with 8-Track Cassettes!….

  6. September 26, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for this…with so many discrepancies, its nice to find a simple, clear and consise solution. thank you so much.

  7. November 20, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Do you have the guides if you are using the 1440 x 1081 HDV format?

    • Alexander
      November 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      HDV uses non-square pixels, but the picture still *looks* 1920×1080, even though it’s actually 1440×1080. If you drop this template onto an HDV timeline, your editing software should scale it automatically, so that the guides will be in the right place.

  8. Penny
    October 12, 2017 at 8:45 am

    I have an ECD who thinks it’s fine to stretch titles to 16:9 picture safe. How do I convince him that’s a mistake?

    • Alexander
      October 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

      Choose your battles. This one probably isn’t worth it. 😉

  9. Philipp
    October 27, 2017 at 4:58 am

    there is an updated specification of the EBU relating HDTV title safe:

    Screen safe: 3,5%
    Title safe: 5% of the image

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