How to Change Aspect Ratio in DaVinci Resolve (For a Cinematic Look!)

Getting to know the right aspect ratio for your final delivery is very important.

Once you’ve decided, then it’s easy to change the aspect ratio in DaVinci Resolve.

DSLRs, Mirrorless cameras, Action Cameras like GoPros, Drones like DJI Mavics, Smartphones – almost all of them shoot in an aspect ratio of 16:9 (1.77), 4:3 (1.33), etc,.

Based on your needs, you might want a cinematic look which looks wider (aspect ratio of 1.77) or more wider – the Cinemascope look (aspect ratio of 2.35)…

Or you might want a look of older movies (for a flashback scene may be) which requires an aspect ratio of 1.33.

Today, we’ll see how to change aspect ratio of your clips, timelines and projects in Resolve.

In fact, we’ll also look at having multiple aspect ratios in a single timeline.

Let’s get started!


What is An Aspect Ratio?

Aspect ratio is the relationship between width and height of your video. It is expressed in ratio (like 16:9) or in decimal (like 2.35).

Aspect ratio defines the shape of your image or video. Aspect ratio of 1 is a square image whereas an aspect ratio of 2.35 is a wider image (the width is 2.35 times the height which gives you the cinematic look).

The most common aspect ratio is 1.77 (16:9). It is the basis for most commonly used resolutions:

  • 1920 x 1080 – Full HD
  • 3840 x 2160 – 4K UHD
  • 7680 x 4320 – 8K UHD

How to Determine the Actual Aspect Ratio from your Footage Resolution?

Look at your footage resolution. That will reveal the aspect ratio.

Let’s say, the resolution is 4K UHD = 3840 x 2160 (Width x Height).

Now divide Height from Width -> 3840 divided by 2160 is 1.77.

1.77 is the aspect ratio of your video.

 


How to Determine the Project or Timeline Resolution from the Desired Aspect Ratio?

Once you’ve decided the kind of look you want – the wide look, like Cinemascope (2.35) or the ultra-wide look like 2.76 (think of The Hateful Eight), it’s time to set your project or timeline resolution accordingly.

Let’s say you’re going to deliver in ultra-wide aspect ratio of 2.35.

Which means the width is 2.35 times the height.

And let’s say, you shot your footage in 4K UHD which is 3840 x 2160 (Width x Height). 

Your required aspect ratio is 2.35. So divide 2.35 from width of your footage (3840) to get the height. 3840 divided by 2.35 is 1634.

Hence your project or timeline resolution should be “3840 x 1634” to achieve 2.35 look.

Or…

If your footage was shot in Full HD -> 1920 x 1080.

Then divide your width by 2.35 to get the height, which is, 1920 / 2.35 = 817.

Therefore, your project or timeline resolution should be “1920 x 817” for a 2.35 cinematic look.

Keep in mind that, as soon as you update the project or timeline resolution, black bars will be introduced (since you’re reducing your height to achieve a wide screen look).


Related Article:

How to Change Resolution in DaVinci Resolve (Quickly!)


How to Preview the Desired Aspect Ratio Without Actually Applying It

DaVinci Resolve helps us by displaying various aspect ratios and their effect on our footage by a feature called “Safe Area”.

  • Go to “View” -> “Safe Area” -> Turn it “On“.
  • Go to “View” -> “Select Aspect Ratio” -> Select your desired aspect ratio like “2.35“.

Here you can play with different aspect ratios like 1.33, 1.66, 1.77 and so on.

Note how changing the aspect ratio will affect the shape of your image. It’s always a good practice to adjust your video (transform controls in “Inspector” tab) such that the action areas are safe and are not left out when actually applying the aspect ratio.

Once you actually apply your desired aspect ratio, it will introduce black bars on the top and bottom of your video (which is also called as letter-boxing).

 

How to Change Aspect Ratio in DaVinci Resolve? 

You can change or set your own aspect ratios by one of the following methods:

  • Output Blanking.
  • Changing the project or timeline resolution.
  • Cropping individual clips.

Changing Aspect Ratio using Output Blanking

  • Go to “Timeline” -> “Output Blanking
  • Select your desired aspect ratio, say, 2.35.
  • Done!

After you’ve applied the output blanking, you might have to adjust the “Y position” under “Transform” in “Inspector” settings.

Based on your requirement, you might also need to zoom in or out to keep your action in focus.

Also note that you can always “Reset” the output blanking.

Output blanking is a timeline wide change, it affects all the clips (within the timeline).


Changing Aspect Ratio in Master Settings under Project Settings

If you’d like to change the aspect ratio for all the timelines within a project, this is how you do.

  • Click on the “Project Settings” (bottom right-hand corner – cog wheel).
  • The “Project Settings” window will be displayed.
  • Under “Master Settings” -> “Timeline Format” -> “Timeline Resolution” select “Custom“.
  • Enter the relevant height in “For processing” (which is based on your aspect ratio. If your AR is 2.35, then divide the width by 2.35. For example, for a width of 1920, the height for 2.35 aspect ratio is 817).
  • Then under “Image Scaling” -> “Input Scaling” -> select “Scale Entire Image to Fit” or “Scale Full Frame with Crop” based on your need.
  • Click on “Save“.
  • This change affects all the timelines under this particular project.

If you select “Scale Entire Image to Fit”, it will simply introduce black bars. If you select “Scale Full Frame with Crop”, the image will be zoomed to fit the screen. You might have to re-position a bit if needed. 


If you want to change aspect ratio for a particular timeline, then follow the below step.

 

Changing Aspect Ratio for a Particular Timeline

If there are multiple timelines and you want to change aspect ratio of a single timeline, then you can do so by changing the settings for that particular timeline.

  • Go to Media Pool which has all your timelines.
  • Select your timeline and right click it.
  • Click on “Timelines” -> “Timeline Settings“.
  • Uncheck “Project Settings“.
  • Under “Timeline Resolution” select “Custom“.
  • Enter the relevant height in “For processing”, e.g., “1920 x 817” for an AR of 2.35.
  • Then under “Mismatched Resolution” -> Select “Scale Entire Image to Fit” or “Scale Full Frame with Crop”. 
  • Click on “Ok”

Changing Aspect Ratio of a Particular Clip or Clips

Instead of altering the project or timeline aspect ratio, you can simply change the aspect ratio of a clip or a group of clips under “Inspector“.


How to Work with Multiple Aspect Ratios in a Single Timeline in Resolve?

This is a challenging situation.

If you change the aspect ratios using “Output Blanking”, “Master Settings” or “Timeline Settings”, it will affect all the clips in the timeline.

The best way is to not apply any aspect ratio using the above settings, rather change aspect ratio of the desired clips as and when needed.

Let me explain.

Let’s say, you shot your footage at 1920 x 1080 – 16:9 (1.77) aspect ratio. Let this be your project or timeline resolution, so that the entire screen is filled without any black bars (no letter-boxing or pillar-boxing).

Now there might be few clips which need a 4:3 (1.33) old movies’ look. Then you select those clips and change their aspect ratios manually by cropping in “Inspector” tab. Copy and Paste attributes to the remaining clips (as we saw in the last section).

There might be few other clips which need a wider 21:9 (2.35) look. You select them and change their aspect ratios.

And finally, there will be clips which might need letterbox at the start and vanish as the scene ends (resulting in a full screen look as seen in movies like Interstellar). In these cases, you will have to keyframe them over time.

Under “Inspector” tab:

  • Click on Keyframe button for “Cropping” (the keyframe turns red).
  • At the first frame of your desired clip, set a value of “100” for “Crop Top“.
  • Set the same value for “Crop Bottom“.
  • Go to the end of the clip, set a value of “0” for “Crop Top”.
  • Set the same value for “Crop Bottom”.
  • Now play the clip, you’ll see that the black bars gradually vanish – resulting in a full screen look.

The above method will quickly become time consuming if you have a huge timeline with a lot of clips. This is the method I can think of for working with multiple aspect ratios in a single timeline. If you know any other faster method, then please let us know on the comments.


How to Achieve Wide Screen Look without Letterboxing or Black Bars in DaVinci Resolve?

To achieve a wider full screen look, you’ll have to keep the height of your video intact and change the width according to your aspect ratio.

For example, if you want a Cinemascope (wide look) of 2.35, then multiply 2.35 with the height of your video.

For a 1920 x 1080 video, 2.35 multiplied by 1080 results in 2538.

So, your project timeline resolution should be updated to “2538 x 1080”.

Now this might cause black bars on the left and right – which is called pillar-boxing.

Now you’ll have to zoom in to fill the screen and re-position as needed, from the “Inspector” tab.

This will give you a wider full screen look with no black bars in DaVinci Resolve!


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