How to Get Rid of Black Bars in Windows Live Movie Maker Videos

Ever notice those annoying black bars on the sides or along the top and bottom of a video? Oftentimes, the culprit is an incorrectly set aspect ratio. In Windows Live Movie Maker 2011, it’s easy to mistakenly save a movie in the wrong aspect ratio, thus creating these black bars in your final product. This tutorial will explain why these black bars appear and how you can get rid of them.

Why Do Black Bars Show Up in My Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 Videos?

When you create a movie with Windows Live Movie Maker 2011, it’s saved as a .WMV file. This .WMV can have one of two aspect ratios: Standard (4:3) and Widescreen (16:9).

These two formats are meant to accommodate the type of display on which you’ll be viewing your videos and slideshows. For example, practically all flat-screen HDTVs are Widescreen (16:9). Older TVs and computer monitors are usually Standard (4:3). Embedded YouTube videos are displayed in Widescreen (16:9).

To understand why black bars appear, it’s best to think of the .WMV file as a picture frame. Just as you need padding in a picture frame if the photo doesn’t fill up the entire frame, the black bars serve to fill in the empty space that is left behind when the video doesn’t fill up the entire frame.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Usually, the video will be blown up to fit the frame, but in order to avoid distorting the picture or cutting off part of the video, the item you are placing inside the frame will maintain its aspect ratio (this is a good thing).

Windows Live Movie Maker

So, with that in mind, black bars will appear in your video for two reasons:

  1. The aspect ratio of your saved Windows Live Movie Maker video (a .WMV file) does not match the aspect ratio of the display on which you are viewing it.
  2. The aspect ratio of the source video does not match the aspect ratio that you chose in Windows Live Movie Maker 2011.

While you can’t always anticipate the aspect ratio of the display on which your video will be viewed, you can ensure that the aspect ratio of your .WMV file matches your source video as closely as possible. You don’t actually have to know what aspect ratio your source files are in, since you’ll immediately be able to see black bars in your Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 video if there is an aspect ratio mismatch. So, all you have to do is choose which aspect ratio looks best.

Setting the Aspect Ratio in Windows Live Movie Maker 2011

If you notice black bars in your Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 preview pane, try the following procedure:

First, click on the Project tab.

Windows Live Movie Maker

In the aspect ratio section, choose either Widescreen (16:9) or Standard (4:3).

Windows Live Movie Maker

Check the preview pane to see if the black bars have been removed or reduced. If it looks worse, simply switch back.

Note that this setting affects the entire video. For example, you cannot set the aspect ratio to 4:3 for one clip and then switch it to 16:9 for the next.

Cropping Pictures to 16:9 or 4:3

The above trick works for most video files, but the issue becomes more problematic with photos and images. That’s because photos are rarely in 16:9 or 4:3. As such, no matter which one you choose, you get black space.

Windows Live Movie Maker

There’s a workaround for this. What you need to do is crop your photos to the right aspect ratios prior to importing them into Windows Live Movie Maker 2011.

To do this, open up your photos in Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011. Double-click to edit it.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Click the Crop tool and go to the Proportion menu. There’s already a preset there for Widescreen (16:9). Select it, if your Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 video is set to widescreen.

Windows Live Movie Maker

If your Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 aspect ratio is set to 4:3, use the 4 x 3 setting.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Now, it’s important that the cropping frame is in landscape mode (i.e. wider than it is tall).

Windows Live Movie Maker

If it's not wider than it is tall, click Rotate Frame in the Crop menu.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Position the cropping square over the area that you’d like to include in your photo. You can drag the corner to scale the crop without altering the aspect ratio.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Click the Crop tool again when you’ve made your selection.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Close the file.

Windows Live Movie Maker

Do this for all of the photos you want to include in your Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 before adding them.

Now, when you add your photos back into Windows Live Movie Maker, they won’t have black bars (provided that you’ve chosen the correct aspect ratio).

Windows Live Movie Maker

Conclusion

By ensuring that your source video or source photos are of the same aspect ratio as your Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 project, you can reduce or eliminate black bars in your final product. Note that this won’t correct any issues that arise from displaying your video on a screen or in a player with a different aspect ratio, but it will remove any black bars from the video file itself. Also note that if your video files are shot in an aspect ratio other than 16:9 or 4:3, you will not be able to remove the black bars completely. For more helpful articles about Windows Live Movie Maker 2011, check out the list below.