How to Create Widescreen DVD Bars in Adobe After Effects

I have been working with Adobe After Effects since CS3. I eventually upgraded to CS4, and I now operate on CS5. After months of editing video in After Effects, I’ve always wondered if there was a “conventional” way to create those black horizontal DVD bars that you see in widescreen versions of film. I’ve discovered a quick and easy method to construct those professional DVD bars!

What you will need:

Adobe After Effects (CS3, CS4, CS5) Test footage (any supported file, any length) 10 mins (approx.)

If you already have a project in progress, skip Step 1.

Step 1. You need to start a New Project. Once you’ve done this, you will need to start a New Composition. In the Composition Settings, chose your desired frame size (W x H), frame rate, comp duration, background color, etc. Click OK.

Step 2. You need to import your test footage. To do so, you can either go to File -> Import -> File — and choose your footage or simply drag your footage into the Project list. Then drag your footage onto your timeline.

Step 3. Go to Layer -> New -> Solid — In the Solid Settings, name the solid “DVD BARS” (avoids confusion on timeline). Click “Make Comp Size” to assure that the solid is the same size as the composition. Click inside the color box and choose black (#000000). Click OK.

Step 4. Your “DVD BARS” layer SHOULD automatically be the top layer on the timeline… If for any reason it is not, (with the “DVD BARS” layer selected) go to Layer -> Arrange -> Bring Layer To Front.

Step 5. Just below the composition viewer, click the button entitled “Choose grid and guide options” then click Title/Action Safe. With this guide on the composition viewer, select the Rectangle Tool. Click and drag the Rectangle Tool from the top of the inner-most box of the guide to the bottom of the same box. You should see a big black rectangle in the middle of your footage (the exact opposite of your mission).

Step 6. Hover your mouse pointer over any part of the outline of the rectangle that you just created until it turns black. Double click on the rectangle outline and expand the sides of the rectangle beyond the width of the composition. Zoom into the top and bottom areas of the black rectangle to make sure the top and bottom of the rectangle are directly on the Title/Action Safe lines. Double click anywhere outside of the rectangle when you’re finished making adjustments. Toggle the Title/Action Safe guide off.

Step 7. Select the “DVD BARS” layer and press the letter “M” to reveal the layer’s masks. In the mask’s drop-down menu, change the mask mode from “Add” to “Subtract”. You should now have your very own widescreen DVD bars!

Hint: For a more customized look, try making your DVD bars a different color than the traditional black.

Happy editing editors!

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