by Lee Rickwood

While this article does not go further than CS5 Extended, many of techniques of using Photoshop for video also apply to newer versions.

Photoshop for video helps create and modify images specifically for a video. And this is just the beginning.

CS5 Extended

The latest version of Photoshop, contained in the Extended Package of the Creative Suite 5, continues its support for many of the video tools and features described below, and as found in previous or standard versions of Photoshop CS5. The software is up to version 12.0.4 or later in its numerical naming convention.

Check with Adobe as upgrade options and special offers change often. If you own a registered copy of Photoshop CS2, CS3, or CS4 or Photoshop CS3 Extended or CS4 Extended, you can move to Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard or Design Premium at upgrade pricing, for example. But do you need to, if video is your main business or and primary concern?

Adobe continues to try and make the program as useful for videographers as it is for photographers, and one of the ways it’s doing this is support for new video formats and flavors. Not only are high end HDTV formats supported, but also popular mobile or online video formats like 3G, FLC, MOV, AVI, DV Stream, MPEG-4, and FLV formats.

Handling all the various video flavors out there is a challenge, so it’s nice to see Adobe continuing to do battle on this front. There are other software tools, conversion programs and compression algorithms out there, so Adobe is not the only one doing it.

Adobe has been updating and improving the way it handles video with different pixel sizes (that ol’ non-square vs. square pixel bugaboo.) It’s changed its internal math calculations and processing algorithm to better deal with the way pixels are sized and ratios calculated. Some graphics or sequences from older version, being worked on in the newer version, can generate an error message as a result. Not to worry; it’s subtle, and you should be able to work on all versions with little or no objectionable visible changes.

Another advantage with later Photoshop version is support for 64 bit processors. Photoshop will run in either 32-bit or 64-bit environments, including Windows XP, but CS5 users ”“ with a 64-bit PC ”“ should get noticeable improvement in performance speed and processing ”“ as much as 10X in some instances! On 64-bit operating systems, there’s essentially unlimited RAM, through a wider data path and more capable addressing system On 32-bit systems, most apps are limited to 4 GB of RAM (and in practice this number is actually smaller).

If you are working with, or adjusting, the grayscale, RGB, CMYK, and LAB color spaces in images at 8-, 16-, and 32-bit depths, you’ll work much faster. Color management (and most other functions) is greatly sped up with full 64-bit processing. In fact, the on screen color picker seems to go faster, too.

Some added features include a nice ability to work with a ”˜Rules of Third’ grid, so you can crop or position elements of an image and be confident they will be seen in their entirely, whether on 16:9 or 4:3 screens. There is a very handy new text and voice search function, which lets you search for spoken dialog in your video assets. New text creation tools, such as 3D extrusion, have been added and they can work with multiple title lines much more quickly now, with line-by-line previews or changes as easy and a series of down arrow clicks.

Your own video workflow is the best determinant of when to upgrade, and to what. If you are stuck when trying to work with some of the newest video formats out there, Adobe’s enhanced file format support may help.

If you have a new 64 bit system, the newest software version will make good use of your increased horsepower and memory capabilities.

But if you are happy and productive with older, or ”˜liter’ versions of the software, stay where you are.

When Adobe Systems announced a new improved version of Photoshop (back in October of 2003), they not only changed the program, they changed the naming protocol, as well.

Photoshop 8.0 did not follow Photoshop 7.0 – Photoshop CS did!

The new name said: “Not only is Photoshop new, not only is it available on its own, but it is available as part of Adobe’s new Creative Suite’ – hence, the CS.

The fact that Photoshop is bundled and even more tightly integrated with other Adobe programs is in itself significant, but Photoshop CS is a major upgrade on its own.

It includes several new features: the File Browser function is now accessed through a button, not a tab. Preview panes are enlarged and it’s easier to see and select images.

Particularly for videographers, the new program includes special features and functions, not the least of which is its ability to correct pixel aspect ratio for non-square pixels, those extracted or captured from digital video sources.

As such, some tried and true Photoshop for video tips need updating or revising for the latest version:


Creating an Image for Video Use

Before: In Photoshop v 6.x and prior:

Select >File, >New.

Create a canvas with size of 720 pixels width by 540 pixels height and a resolution of 72 dpi.

Design the graphic.

To have layers recognized in Premiere or After Effects, save the graphic as a PhotoShop (.psd) file.

Re-sample (do NOT resize) the image to 720 pixels wide by 486 pixels high at 72 dpi and export as a file type recognized by an editing system (TIFF or PICT, for example.)

After: In Photoshop CS (v 8.0):

Select >File, >New.

Choose from among several presets, including DV, DV, NTSC or PAL video formats. Also make note of color profile and Pixel Aspect Ratio drop down menus for (square) standard definition 4 x 3 and (non-square) widescreen 16 x 9 imagery. By default, non-square pixel documents open with the Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction enabled. This scales and previews the image as it will appear on a video monitor.

(Using the new templates in Photoshop CS is great; it’s just about the easiest way imaginable to make sure imported imagery will be video-friendly.

But wait…what about that warning message that pops up each time? Well, that Adobe saying that anything copied to or created using the selected file template will be rendered into non-square pixels, and optimized for video. Just click OK; it’s a background function.


Legalize It!

Always use Photoshop’s NTSC Filter (in 6.x and CS versions ) to “legalize” colors for TV. This helps avoid color-related image artifacts, such as highly saturated reds and blues.

Select >Filters >Video>NSTC Colors.


Tips for Viewing Pixel Aspect Ratios:

To turn off scaling correction and see the image as it appears on a square pixel monitor, like a computer, click >View, > Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction. With a non-square pixel image open, and with the Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction on, select >Window, >Arrange, >New Window (type in name of document). Once that new window is active, choose >View, >Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction to turn the correction off; toggle between the two windows.


Creating Graphics for DV/D1.

DV footage is made up of rectangular (non-square) pixels. Computer generated images are made of square pixels. In almost every situation, that holds true, and it can cause problems. DV has a 4 x 3 frame aspect ratio, a 0.9:1 pixel aspect ratio, and a screen resolution of either 720 x 480 (NTSC) or 720 x 576 (PAL). D1 (another video format a.k.a. CCIR-601 or ITU-R 601 ) is a non-square pixel aspect ratio. D1 has a screen resolution of either 720 x 486 (NTSC) or 720 x 576 (PAL), and a .9:1 pixel aspect ratio. DV and D1 images are composed of rectangular (non-square) pixels, not the square pixels for most Mac OS and Windows systems. Graphics applications usually create square pixel files, so most graphics imported into a D1 or DV project have a square pixel aspect ratio. When importing an image created by a square-pixel graphics program into a video editing program, the square pixels are scaled to the non-square pixels for video encoding. This scaling results in a distorted image. Photoshop (now as CS) supports non-square pixels. It offers video presets to choose from when creating a new document. Photoshop CS also now previews work in different pixel aspect ratios on command.

Photoshop For Video CS5 Video Presets
(shows associated pixel aspect ratio)
Photoshop CS preset file sizes for video Pixel aspect ratio
NTSC DV 720×480 (with guides) D1/DV NTSC ( .9)
NTSC DV Widescreen 720×480(with guides) D1/DV NTSC Widescreen (1.2)
NTSC D1 720 x 486 (with guides) D1/DV NTSC (0.9)
NTSC D1 Square Pix 720 x 540

(with guides)

PAL D1/DV 720 x 576 (with guides) D1/DV PAL (1.066)
PAL D1/DV Square Pix 768 x 576 (with guides) Square
PAL D1/DV Widescreen720 x 576 (with guides) D1/DV PAL Widescreen (1.42)
HDTV1280 x 720 (with guides) Square
HDTV1920 x 1080 (with guides) Square

V.Photoshop For Video Scale To Fit

When you have to put an image into a video preset canvas that is larger than the preset canvas, press Ctrl T (Windows) or Cmd T (Mac) for Free Transform; the picture can be scaled to fit, and the necessary square to non-square conversion happens in the background.


Safe Title/Safe Action Guides

Some say our television standard, NTSC, stands for Never Twice the Same Color – it can also easily mean Never Twice the Same Composition!

It’s a frustrating fact: no one can truly guarantee just how a program will look on someone’s TV set – the color may be different, and even the overall display area can change from set to set. To the rescue comes title guides, showing the area on a TV screen inside which titles and text will safely appear in most cases; about 80% of overall screen size is OK. For on-screen action, about 90% of the screen is safe to use in most cases. In Photoshop version 7.x and earlier, broadcast TV safe title or safe action guides were not featured. So good work-arounds and tips to make your own became popular. Among the DIY approaches, here’s one for creating safe action and safe title overlays:


1. Create a new file with pixel dimensions 720 x 534 for NTSC square pixels. PAL users should specify 768 x 576 pixels. 2. Make sure the rulers are visible:

(>View, >Show Rulers).

3. Control-click (Mac) / right-click (Windows) in the top horizontal ruler to set display units to Percent. 4. Select Snap to Guides to make it active

(>View>Snap To>Guides).

5. Make the Info palette visible

(>Windows>Show Info).

6. Use the Move Tool (Windows keyboard command V) to drag out a guide from the left edge towards the right by clicking in the vertical ruler. You can constrain the X value to increments of ten per cent by press the shift key. Release it when the guide reaches 90%. Repeat this process to drag another guide to the 10% mark.

7. Using the Move Tool click on the horizontal ruler and drag out a guide to the right. Pressing the shift key constrains the X value to 10% increments; release the guide when it reaches 90%. Repeat the process to drag a guide to the 10% mark.

(Occasionally, the Y value changes slightly to a different percentage when the mouse is released (like 90.1%). It shouldn’t be a major problem if you are off a wee bit. 8. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (keyboard command M) to click and drag an area defined by the guides. 9. Invert the selection.


10. Fill the selection with 100% black.

11. Unlock the Layers Palette.

12. Change the layer opacity to 50%.

13. Rename the layer and lock it to prevent changes.

14. New content layers can be added below the title safe overlay layer.


Now, of course, with the video-friendly features of Photoshop CS added in, things are much easier:

Choose >File >New >Presets for safe TV action and title guide lines. Text should always fall inside the text (innermost) box; critical on-screen action should be inside the action (outermost) box, but imagery should always extend from edge to edge on the screen (or canvas).


To hide the guides, hit Control H (Windows) or Command H; hit the keys again to turn the guides back on.


Scanning Tips

– Bringing flat art images into Photoshop for video use whenever possible, start with a good quality image, and scan it two or four or more times larger than necessary (larger than the target resolution). For example, a corporate logo or other such art should be scanned at 300 dpi. Older photographs, or smaller, grainier images, should be scanned at 600 dpi or higher.Of course, these settings are way beyond what video really needs – 72 dpi. The extra pixels will be useful when adjusting sizes, adding motion, creating new backgrounds or transparencies, and when applying other special effects.


Using Logos

All logos should have an alpha channel for keying over video. If necessary, you can add a alpha key channel to logos or images without a default by picking the logo out from its background.When the background is white, this can be a straightforward process to isolate the image, but even with Luma key capability, the final result may not be that good, even after tweaking it with Threshold and Cutoff controls

A great alternate approach is to replace the white with green; the green screen key capability in Adobe Premiere Pro is really good; it will read anything green as a zero value element.

Create a new path layer with the Pen tool around the logo itself, copy it and take it over onto a plain background.

With a good green color preset in the Picker, use the Paint Bucket to fill the white background. It’s a crude tool, but using the Zoom Tool/magnifier, Fill, Spray or Paint tools can be used to get rid of all the white.

Then, in Premiere Pro (or other editing application with good green screen chromakey capabilities), open a new title, and import your graphic into the Title Designer. Select >Insert logo.

In the Effects control screen, select >Green Screen Effect, and use the Threshold and Cutoff commands to fine tune; you can also select >Smooth and set it to High for best results.



Extracting Elements from an Image

A very popular technique for video these days makes still photographs come alive on screen, showing a foreground subject moving against a static background. Adding small touches, like smoke rising from a cigarette, supports the deception and brings a realistic sense of motion to static images destined for video use.Here’s one approach:

Use the Path Tool or Pen Tool to create an outline and select the figure in the foreground.

The Feather setting in the Select menu can be used to apply a softer edge.

Once the figure is cut from the background, paste it into a new foreground layer (a blank space in the background will be left, where the foreground element used to be.) In the layers palette, turn off the foreground element visibility and select the background layer. Use Photoshop’s Cloning Brush or Healing Brush, clone the background image into the edges of the blank area. When you move the foreground element in After Effects, for example, the background will appear complete and the cut will not show.

The Extract features is another approach:

Extract is very handy when you need remove a subject that’s surrounded other elements or textures, like a person standing in front of plants in the background, or even alongside people. Basically, a border is dragged-and-dropped around the selected element in an image; the area to be extracted is then filled.

To use Extract Image:

1. Open an image.

2. Select >Image >Extract (>Filter >Extract in CS) and a working dialog box will appear. 3. Select the pen (Edge Highlighter Tool) to draw around and highlight a border on the object to be extracted. 4. Use the bucket tool to fill the area that you want to keep. 5. Click preview and tweak the options to get the best results. Preview extracted images against backgrounds of different colors. Either the fill or the background can be highlighted by making choices in drop-down menu next to Show. 6. Click OK and the chosen image will be isolated.

7. Clean up the edges of the subject with the History Brush or the regular eraser. Experiment with brush size, border sharpness and the preview mode; even the tiniest detail, like a strand of hair or a leaf on a tree, can be included in or excluded from an image. An eraser and touch-up tool are also available.


Cutting Through the Background:

Whenever you want to cut or remove part of a comp background, one in which the background is a default color, just name it anything other than “Background” (the default name Photoshop applies)!Simply double click in the Layers palette; a dialog box for naming the “new Layer’ will appear.

Once it is renamed, any cuts or deletions to a selected area will become transparent to the background.

This is very handy for putting simple text or logos over video; or when creating masks and traveling mattes.


Images Get A Level Playing Field

Another important enhancement tool that you should use with every photo you plan on bringing to video is “levels.” Levels are the image adjustment tools in Photoshop that allow you to control the white, grays and blacks.Depending on the monitor you use, and the color space settings applied to your work, you may want to limit or otherwise control the display from Photoshop.

Select >Image >Adjust >Levels (or >Layer >New Adjustment Layer) to control and adjust the black and white levels in your image output.

The default Output is usually 0 and 255, as indicated by dialog boxes and two drag-able triangles. Most monitors will display images destined for TV more accurately with settings of 16 and 235.

Click on the preview box to quickly and easily see the overall corrections and adjustments.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to see exactly what pixels are being used for white and black adjustments. If so, hold down the Alt key (on a PC; the Option key on Macs) to show image threshold as you drag the slider back and forth. The image will be re-mapped in high contrast to help the differentiation.