How To Change Aspect Ratio in DaVinci Resolve - 3 Methods!

Changing the aspect ratio in DaVinci Resolve can be accomplished through three main methods: fully manual, fully automatic, or using custom presets. By understanding the specific needs of your project and following the step-by-step guides provided, you can easily modify the aspect ratio to achieve the desired visual effect in your video editing.

March 8, 2024
How To Change Aspect Ratio in DaVinci Resolve - 3 Methods!
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What Is Aspect Ratio?

At its core, the aspect ratio is the relationship between the width and height of your visual canvas, whether it's a film, a photograph, or any visual media. It’s not just numbers and dimensions; it's the frame that sets the stage for your narrative, the window through which your audience will experience your story.

Consider the vast expanse of a cinema screen. Its wide frame, often a 16:9 or 2.35:1 ratio, beckons tales of grandeur and epic adventures. Now, contrast this with the intimate, portrait-like 4:5 ratio, perfect for capturing the essence of individual stories, emotions, and moments. Each aspect ratio, in its unique way, carves out a distinct emotional and visual space.

Now, you might be wondering, "How do I decide on the perfect aspect ratio?" Well, it boils down to your end goal. Do you want that timeless cinematic wide look? Or perhaps a vertical format for mobile platforms? Each choice crafts a unique visual narrative.

Every video or image has a defined width and height, and the relationship between these two dimensions is termed as the aspect ratio. Commonly, you might have come across values like 16:9 (often used for modern TVs) or 4:3 (reminiscent of older television sets). But there's more to it:

  • 16:9 (1.77): This is the standard for most modern displays, including TVs, computer monitors, and smartphones.
  • 4:3 (1.33): An older standard, reminiscent of classic television and early computer monitors.
  • 2.35:1: Known as the cinematic widescreen, this ratio gives videos that Hollywood movie feel.

Aspect ratios like 2.35:1, 2:1, and 1920 × 1080 are common in the film industry. They represent the width and height of the screen. In other words, they define how wide and tall the video will appear.

Aspect Ratio Width x Height (pixels) Common Uses
1:1 1080 x 1080 Social Media (Instagram, Facebook)
4:3 1440 x 1080 Standard Television
16:9 1920 x 1080 High Definition Television, YouTube
2.35:1 2048 x 858 Cinematic widescreen
9:16 1080 x 1920 Mobile video, Instagram Stories

DaVinci Resolve Aspect Ratio Change Tutorial - Method 1

Imagine you're working with a clip you shot in 4K, which means its resolution is “3840 x 2160”. This is where we craft our vision. Let's break this down step-by-step:

Step 1: Open DaVinci Resolve and look at the bottom right-hand corner. You'll see a gear icon labeled "Project Settings." Click on it.

DaVinci Resolve project settings opened

Step 2: Within “Project Settings”, navigate to “Master Settings” > “Timeline Format”.

Step 3: Here, you'll find an option for “Timeline Resolution”. Choose “Custom” from the dropdown.

DaVinci Resolve timeline settings

Step 4: Now, let’s say you're looking to give your video a vertical feel, popular on platforms like TikTok. You'd swap the numbers. So, instead of “3840 x 2160”, you'd enter the width as 2160 and the height as 3840.

For a cinematic widescreen look of 2.35, a bit of math comes into play. Your width remains 3840, but for the height:Height = Width/2.35 = 1634. However, DaVinci Resolve prefers even numbers, so we'll adjust it to 1634.

Making Aspect Ratio Adjustments

Now, after setting the desired aspect ratio, there's a chance you'll notice black bars appearing on your footage. No need to fret, we have solutions for that!

Step 1: Still within "Project Settings", go to “Image Scaling”.

Step 2: For “Input Scaling”, you have two main choices:

  • If you choose “Scale Entire Image to Fit”, you may notice black bars. These can be adjusted by zooming in or out through the “Inspector” settings.
  • Alternatively, with “Scale Full Frame with Crop”, your footage will be zoomed to fill the entire screen. You might need to adjust the positioning slightly, which can be done using “Position X , Y” in the “Inspector” settings.

Step 3: Once you’re satisfied with the look, click on “Save”.

Finalizing Your Vision with the Right Export

When all is set, and you're ready to showcase your creation, the export settings are crucial to maintain that look you've worked on. Here’s how to ensure that:

Step 1: Navigate to the “Deliver” page in DaVinci Resolve.

Deliver page opened in DaVinci Resolve

Step 2: Under the “Render Settings”, click on the “Custom Export” tab.

Step 3: For “Resolution”, choose “Custom” and enter the width and height you've worked with, let's say “3840 x 1634”.

Step 4: Finally, click on “Add to Render Queue” followed by “Render All”, and your video will start rendering.

Cropping - Method 2

There's a certain thrill in meticulously crafting each segment of your project. Sometimes, you might want to modify the aspect ratio of just one clip, making it stand out or fit a specific narrative beat. In DaVinci Resolve, this is a seamless process. Let's walk through this together, as if you and I are sitting side by side, editing in real-time.

Step 1: Start with your project in the “Edit” workspace. From your timeline, click on the clip you wish to modify. This selects and highlights the clip, preparing it for the adjustments we're about to make.

Step 2: Now, let's head over to our control panel. On the top right corner of your screen, you'll spot the “Inspector” panel. If it's not already open, click on it. The Inspector is like the control room of your clip, offering a myriad of options to tweak its appearance.

Step 3: Within the Inspector, you'll find a section labeled “Cropping”. This is our tool of choice for today. Click on it to expand and reveal the cropping controls.

DaVinci Resolve screenshot with inspector panel opened

Step 4: Here's where the magic happens. For our exercise, let’s focus on creating a letterbox effect. To achieve this, input a value of 100 in both the “Top” and “Bottom” fields. This crops 100 pixels from the top and bottom of your clip, giving it that cinematic feel.

Step 5: Sometimes, after cropping, you might want to reposition your footage to ensure the main subject remains center stage. Under the same Inspector panel, you can adjust the “Position Y” (to move the clip vertically) or “Position X” (for horizontal movement) values to get the perfect framing.

Step 6: After achieving that desired look on one clip, you might want to replicate it on others. Simply right-click on the modified clip and select "Copy". Then, select the clips you want to apply these changes to. Press “Alt + V” (or “Opt + V” for Mac users) to bring up the “Paste Attributes” window.

Step 7: Within the “Paste Attributes” window, ensure all the options under “Video Attributes” are selected. This ensures every change you made to the original clip is copied over. Once you're set, click on “Apply”.

Output Blanking - Method 3

Step 1: Begin by ensuring you're in the “Edit” workspace of your DaVinci Resolve project. Among the various options on the top, locate the “Timeline” menu and give it a click.

Step 2: A dropdown will appear. From here, hover over to “Output Blanking”. This submenu offers a collection of preset aspect ratios. Think of it as a digital wardrobe for your footage, each aspect ratio offering a different 'look'.

Step 3: For our little exploration, let’s opt for the cinematic 2.35 aspect ratio. Once you click on it, you'll immediately see how it alters the frame of your entire timeline, giving it that widescreen film vibe.

Step 4: Now, post the application of the output blanking, there’s a chance you might want to adjust how your footage sits within this new frame. On the right side of your screen, open the “Inspector” settings. Within this, under the “Transform” section, you’ll find the “Y position”. Adjusting this will help you shift your footage up or down, ensuring your subject remains in focus.

Step 5: Depending on your clip and the emotion you wish to convey, you might feel the need to zoom in or out a bit. This can be achieved easily within the same “Transform” section of the “Inspector” settings.

And remember, in the world of post-production, there's always room for iteration. If you ever feel the need to revert to your original aspect ratio, simply head back to the “Output Blanking” menu and select the “Reset” option. This ensures that any changes made are timeline-specific and won't impact individual clips outside of this project.

Previewing Aspect Ratios in DaVinci Resolve

Safe area box settings

Sometimes you just want to take a peek at how different aspect ratios might shape your narrative, without committing to a change. It’s like trying on different outfits before deciding on the perfect one for an event. Thankfully, DaVinci Resolve has a built-in feature known as the “Safe Area” that lets you do just that. Let's dive into the steps, and I'll guide you through this as if we're exploring the software together.

Step 1: Navigate the Workspace: Open up your DaVinci Resolve project and ensure you're in the “Edit” workspace. Glance towards the top of your screen where you’ll find a series of options. Among them, you'll spot the “View” menu. Give that a click.

Step 2: Activate the Safe Area: In the dropdown that appears, hover over “Safe Area”. This will give you an option to turn it "On". Go ahead and select that. The Safe Area is like a guiding grid, helping you visualize different frames within your current footage.

Step 3: Previewing Different Aspect Ratios: With the Safe Area now active, head back to the “View” menu. This time, hover over “Select Aspect Ratio”. A submenu will pop out displaying a list of different aspect ratios. For our example, let's go with the cinematic “1.77”. Click on it.

And there you have it! Your footage will now have an overlay showing how it would look in a 1.77 aspect ratio. Remember, this is just a preview, so your actual footage remains unchanged. It’s a fantastic way to experiment and see which aspect ratio best complements your vision.


What Does "K" Mean in Resolution, and What's the Difference Between UHD and 4K?

The "K" in resolutions like 2K and 4K refers to how many thousand pixels wide a resolution is. For 2K, it's 2,048 pixels wide. UHD 4K, or 3840x2160, is a standard for 4K TVs, while 4K in the context of movies is often 4096x2160. Both are commonly referred to as 4K, even though the numbers are slightly different.

How Can I Add Black Bars to My Video?

Black bars, known as "pillarboxing" (sides) or "letterboxing" (top and bottom), can be added through the "Output Blanking" option in the Color tab. This allows you to create a cinematic look or fit a video into a specific aspect ratio.

Why Can't I Select Certain Aspect Ratios in DaVinci Resolve?

DaVinci Resolve is "Resolution Independent," meaning it can easily scale between different resolutions. However, standard video resolutions must be even and evenly divisible by 4, 8, or 16. If you're trying to use a non-standard resolution, it may not be selectable in Resolve.

How Can I Restore My Timeline to the Original Aspect Ratio?

If you've accidentally changed the aspect ratio and want to restore it, you can adjust the custom timeline resolution in Project Settings using the Resolution button or Shift-9. You can also check the settings under Project Settings -> Master Settings -> Timeline resolution and Pixel aspect ratio.

How Do I Fix Pixel Aspect Ratio Issues in DaVinci Resolve Lite 10?

In DaVinci Resolve Lite 10, if you're facing issues with pixel aspect ratio options like "square" and "cinemascope," you may need to adjust the settings for your specific HD or 2K options.

How Can I Restore My Timeline to the Original Aspect Ratio in DaVinci Resolve 16?

In DaVinci Resolve 16, if you've altered the aspect ratio and need to restore it, you can click the Tools button on the left-middle of your screenshot. If the Aspect Ratio/Display is still wrong, you can change the custom timeline resolution in Project Settings or use Shift-9.