YouTube videos with black bars became a problem in 2008 when YouTube switched to a widescreen mode. Although it was a beneficial move as the video player became bigger, it left a lot of videos with horizontal or vertical black bars. That isn’t a very pleasant viewing experience for anyone. The video will look something like this.
If you want to fix this problem, you don’t have to edit your video again to re-upload. That won’t be a practical option as your YouTube video would have already gained some engagement if it’s already live. Fortunately, YouTube has provided solutions to tackle this problem. Let’s read on to find out more about it and how to remove black bars from YouTube videos.
Why do black bars appear on YouTube videos?
Let’s first understand what is an aspect ratio of a video. It is simply the ratio of the width of the video to its height. What it means is that if the aspect ratio does not align with that of YouTube’s video player, then the video does not fit in. The black bars are there to cover up that extra space.
Before 2008, the aspect ratio of YouTube was 4:3, which is the same as that of standard definition televisions in the US. Old movies also had the same aspect ratio. But after YouTube’s update, the aspect ratio was switched to 16:9 which gave YouTube’s default player a widescreen mode. All the existing videos on YouTube were cropped or displayed with bars to acclimatize with the new development. This is how black bars appear on videos.
16:9 also happens to be the aspect ratio of modern HDTVs. This ratio does not hint at the number of pixels or whether the video is high definition or not. It just means that for every 16 inches of width of the video, it is 9 inches tall.
As the widescreen mode kicked in, the default YouTube player measured 640×385 pixels with the video being 640×360 pixels. However, the embed code allowed 425×344 pixels, which followed the 4:3 format.
You also must have noticed that the black bars either appear above or below a video, or on the sides. When there are horizontal stripes above and below a video, they are called letterboxes while the vertical black bars are called pillar-boxes. When a 4:3 video is made to fit into the widescreen, you see pillar-boxes on the video.
There can also be other situations where black bars are possible. In case you’re using third-party plugins for your site, make sure that the aspect ratio of your videos synchronizes with that of your embed code. Another reason for black bars is when videos are not responsive. Ensure that your videos are mobile-friendly so that they can adjust to different screen sizes. Whatever the scenario, you should look for ways to remove black bars from YouTube videos for a better viewing experience.
Getting to know the aspect ratio
The first step to remove black bars from YouTube videos is to get to know the aspect ratio. While you upload the video, find out what aspect ratio does it follow. This is important to know where the inconsistency lies when it comes to the aspect ratios of the video and the video player.
In order to find out the aspect ratio of your video, simply right click on the video while you play it and go to “get info” if you’re using a Mac or “properties” on a PC. You’ll get the exact pixel dimension of your video file here.
We recommend you to use a 16:9 calculator if you want to determine the appropriate dimensions for your video before you upload. For instance, if the video player where you’ll upload the video is 656 pixels wide, then how do you find out the height? By using a 16:9 calculator, you can easily find out that the correct height is 369 pixels.
How to remove black bars from YouTube videos?
If you’re dealing with the problem of black bars because you have a lot of 4:3 videos up on your channel, YouTube does give you the leverage to tackle it. You’ll be able to crop or stretch the video, whichever applies so that it can fit it into the video player. You need not re-upload the video. Let’s find out the different ways of fixing this problem.
Crop out the video
YouTube’s way of fixing the black bar problem is surprisingly simple. Just drop in additional tags in the tags section while you edit the metadata of your video. If you have a 4:3 video letterboxed within the YouTube video player, you have an easy option to crop your video. This will zoom in on the video so that it fits the 16:9 aspect ratio.
Simply, use the tag yt:crop=16:9.
This will slice off any material outside this range, basically the black bars at the top and bottom. This is also the tag that zooms in to shrink widescreen content for any reason.
Stretch or squish the video
You can stretch your videos to get them to fit YouTube’s video player. What if your content was widescreen but has been squashed to 4:3? This will distort the content and may even affect the quality of the video content. Add the tag yt:stretch=16:9. Check whether your video gets the desired effect or not.
The second aspect of this problem is that if the video you were uploading is a 4:3 and it’s stretching itself up to fill up the 16:9 space. The tag you’re looking for here is yt:stretch=4:3. This works best if the video appears stretched out by adjusting the aspect ratio to what it should be.
Fix the video quality
You can also insert a tag that will help you out with the video quality. This will have your video default to a high-quality stream so that your viewers can have a good viewing experience. Just use the tag yt:quality=high. Make sure you have made a high-quality version available.
The best way to tackle the black bar problem is to upload videos with the appropriate aspect ratios. In most cases, including YouTube, it’s going to be 16:9. However, Instagram, for instance, supports square videos for the normal feed while vertical videos for Instagram stories. Similarly, there are different aspect ratios for the social media platforms available.
Now, that you know how to remove black bars from YouTube videos, sweep out all the black bars from older videos in your channel so that your audience can have a good viewing experience.
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Niharika Datta is a Content Writer at Vidooly. She started her career as a Human Resource professional but is now pursuing her love for writing. Though she writes about a myriad of ideas, her personal favourite is writing about the latest trends in the content and digital marketing world. An ambivert by nature, she likes to grab a snack with a warm cup of coffee in the company of a good book or a close friend.