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Specifying Basic Composition Settings

In the Composition Settings dialog, you can select the settings that match video formats from a pop-up menu of presets. For a brief explanation of some common presets, see Table 4.1. Choosing a preset automatically enters the selected format’s intrinsic attributes, including frame size, PAR, and frame rate. You just have to enter the composition name, viewing resolution, start timecode, and duration.

Table 4.1. Common Composition Presets







720 × 480



DV standard for North America


720 × 486



Broadcast standard for North America


1920 × 1080



High-definition standard using 16:9 image aspect ratio

Film (2k)

2048 × 1536



Film transfers

Cineon Full

3656 × 2664



Film transferred using the Cineon file format

However, you don’t always set a composition’s settings to match an export format. To create an intermediate composition, for example, you might specify custom values for the following settings:

  • Width and Height—Enter values to set the comp’s frame size (the viewing area of the Composition panel) in pixels. You may position layers outside the viewing area, but only layers within this frame are rendered for previews and export.
  • Lock Aspect Ratio to—Select this option to maintain the ratio of the Width and Height so that entering one value calculates the other value automatically.
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio—In the pop-up, choose the format you want the comp’s pixel aspect ratio (or PAR) to match. An image’s pixel aspect ratio is the ratio of each of its pixel’s width to height and appears next to the format’s name in parentheses. Square pixels have a PAR of 1:1, or simply 1. Other formats use nonsquare pixels, with various PARs. The DVCPro HD 720 format, for example, has a PAR of 1.33.
  • Frame Rate—Enter the number of frames per second (fps) displayed by the comp during playback. Usually, the frame rate you choose matches the frame rate of your output format.
  • Resolution—In the pop-up menu, choose the fraction of the comp’s total number of pixels to be rendered in the Composition panel’s viewer. The Full setting renders all the comp’s pixels, ½ renders every other pixel, and so on. Smaller fractions reduce image quality and the time it takes to render the image. While you work, you can change a comp’s resolution easily by using the Comp panel’s Resolution pop-up menu. (Footage and Layer panels also include a Resolution pop-up menu.)
  • Start Timecode—Enter the number from which the time of the comp is counted. By default, a comp’s time starts at 0, but you can set it to start at any number.
  • Duration—Enter the length of the composition. You can change a comp’s duration at any time, lengthening it to accommodate more layers or cutting it to the total duration of its layers.

To select a composition preset:

  1. In the Composition Settings dialog, choose an option from the Preset menu (Figure 4.5).

    Figure 4.5

    Figure 4.5 Choose an option from the Preset pop-up menu.

    Choose the preset that matches your needs. Presets include common settings for film, video broadcast, and multimedia projects.

  2. Click OK to close the Composition Settings dialog.

    The composition appears in the Project panel.

To change a comp’s settings:

  1. Select a composition by clicking its icon in the Project panel or selecting its tab in the Timeline panel or its name in the Comp panel’s viewer pop-up menu.
  2. Do either of the following:

    • Choose Composition > Composition Settings (Figure 4.6).

      Figure 4.6

      Figure 4.6 To change a comp’s settings, select the comp and choose Composition > Composition Settings (or use the keyboard shortcut, Command-K [Ctrl-K]).

    • Press Command-K (Ctrl-K).

    The Composition Settings dialog appears.

  3. In the Composition Settings dialog, enter new values in the Basic and Advanced tabs and then click OK to close the dialog.
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