Why do I get black on the sides of my videos?

In this video I show you why you get black bars, or black sides, on your videos, and also why some videos are squishy or stretched looking.

I teach you how to get rid of black bars, but also why they are not always a bad thing.

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What are Black Bars?

Black bars happen when there is a mismatch between the proportions of your video and the video player. It can look like the image below.

This is typical of what happens when you create screen capture videos for software demos. As, it’s not always possible to fit the software interface “neatly” into a 16:9 proportion without a lot of fiddling.

This is what black bars look like on a YouTube video
This is what black bars look like on a YouTube video

To get rid of Black Bars on YouTube, you need to create your slides shows and videos in a 16×9 format, because YouTube uses the 16×9 player proportion.

16:9 video player frame

If you are not using YouTube, then you still need to match your video proportion to your video player proportion. Eg: If you are using a 4:3 layout on your slides and then recording them in video format, you need to play them in a 4:3 player. This is possible to do if you can control your web video player on your site or online courses. So if Black Bars bug you, then adjust your video player settings.

Begin with the end in mind

Slideshow Software

To create a 16:9 proportion video, choose your presentation size when you set up your slides using PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, Open Office, etc. Programs like Explaindio, use 16:9 as the default.

Sizing for 16x9
When you create your presentation, choose a 16×9 proportion. Refer to the chart below if you need some specific measurements.

Setting things up in Video Editing Software

If you are using a screen capture or video editing software, you need to set up a 16×9 proportioned canvas size.

You can also create a custom canvas size. This is handy for screen capture videos because you can’t always fit everything into the window at 1280 x 720.

These are the options I get in Camtasia.

Camera Videos

By default, if you shoot camera videos, the canvas size automatically (usually) fits the size of the imported video clips. But that’s easily changed. For example, if you shoot your video in 1920 x 1080 size, you can change your canvas to 1280 x 720 (or whatever you need) and scale your video clips to the smaller size when you add them to your video editing timeline. That will save you time and space when you render (export) your video too. (If you want more editing tricks, check out my YouTube video on Fake zooms and Jump cuts.)

Webcam Videos

Your webcam may not be 16:9 if you have an older model. It’s then probably 4:3. If you want those videos on YouTube, then you’ll have to live with the Black Bars. And that’s much better than trying to stretch your video to fit because you don’t want it looking like this!

Yikes, stretching your video makes people look “wide” too


Stretched and squished videos are really hard to watch. Your brain doesn’t like it!

Squishing a wide video into a 4:3 window isn’t any better.


Rule of Thumb

Decide on your final video size before you start recording or editing.

Here is a handy sizing chart of 16×9 video sizes – and you can download the pdf for reference

Keep in mind that if you don’t need super high resolution videos in your online courses or blog posts, you can make smaller versions. This is very true of text only slides, or talking head videos. The only types of videos that need to be really large are when you are teaching software, because the menus are quite small and people like to view those full screen.

If you need a specific size, it’s a simple math proportion to figure it out yourself.

Feel free to download this sizing chart for reference. Click to access pdf, and then print or use the “download” feature of your browser.

Click the image, or download the pdf right here!


If you have any questions or comments about creating proportional videos, please leave them below.