Make your movie fill the full HD TV screen with Windows Live® Movie Maker

29 Nov

Don’t let the fact that it’s free fool you. The Windows Live® Movie Maker has an impressive array of features to bring your still photos to breathtaking life.
In a matter of minutes you can create a movie out of any collection of vacation, event or theme photos. As you work on your movie project, you will most likely view your results in the Windows Live® Movie Maker "Preview Window". Your movie will look great in this window, but the finished product will not automatically fill the full screen when played on your HD TV.

To make a really polished movie, one of your goals should be to "fill the screen." This does not happen automatically when making a movie using photos taken in the typical horizontal or landscape orientation common to the majority of today’s digital cameras. The problem is that the default size setting for photos on most digital cameras does not match the size of the typical computer or HD TV screen. This is because they are both set to different size standards, known as "aspect ratios." The aspect ratio is the relationship of an image’s width to its height.

Here is an example you may be familiar with: At the cinema the screen is exceptionally wide in relationship to its height. The cinema screen is almost 3 times wider than it is tall, or a ratio of approximately 3 to 1. When you watch such a movie created for the theater on a typical HD TV screen at home, your movie is forced to fit into a screen narrower in width than it was designed for. The ratio of your HD TV’s width to its height is only about 2 to 1. You see this difference as a thick black band across the top and bottom of your TV:


Many dedicated video cameras automatically capture video in the same format that fills the width and height of the standard HD TV, but most dedicated "still" cameras, most of which also shoot video, do not by default. By contrast, the standard aspect ratio of your typical digital camera is only approximately 1 ¼ times wider than it is tall, or a proportional ratio of 4:3.

The diagram below illustrates this:



The default setting for Windows Live® Movie Maker is 4:3, so your standard digital photos taken at their native setting will fill the full Windows Live® Movie Maker Preview Window. You can find this setting on the Project tab in Windows Live® Movie Maker:


But if you plan on displaying your movie on an HD TV screen in full screen 16:9 format, then using a photo taken in the 4:3 photo format in your Windows Live® Movie Maker movie will result in large black bands on the left and right sides of the movie frame:


There are two ways around this. One is to check your camera’s settings and see if the aspect ratio can be changed from 4:3 to 16:9. The other is to use your computer to crop your photos to an aspect ratio or proportion of 16:9. The Windows Live® Photo Gallery crop feature handles this easily.

Open your photo for editing by double-clicking it or pressing the "Enter" key once you’ve selected it, and then click the "Crop" menu on the Edit ribbon at the top of the screen. On the dropdown list that appears, choose "Proportion>Widescreen (16×9)." Note that in the process you will lose some of the height of your photos when converting them to 16:9 proportions.

Before applying crop:


After applying crop – a portion of the top and bottom of the photo are now gone:



You can now place this photo in the Windows Live® Movie Maker and it will fill the screen completely:



This problem has now been solved, but there may be more problems in the form of photos taken in the "portrait" style, which results in the photo being taller than it is wide. Using "a landscape," or horizontally oriented photo in your movie will result in a completely filled screen. "A portrait" or vertical photos will not fill the screen, unless you crop it to landscape/horizontal proportions.

Portrait style photo:



Portrait style photo placed in Windows Live® Movie Maker 16:9 format:



The huge black bands and small photo really detract from the impact of the scene. The solution is to again use the Windows Live® Photo Gallery to crop the photo to 16:9 proportion:


…and then place the photo into your Windows Live® Movie Maker movie:



Once all your photos are in landscape/horizontal 16:9 proportion you can begin making your movie. I use the Windows Live® Photo Gallery to select my photos, and then using the ribbon I select the "Create" Tab, and select the "Movie" button. This automatically loads my photos into the Windows Live® Movie Maker and I can then begin editing my movie.

I travel frequently and use the Windows Live® Movie Maker to share my adventures with my friends and family. I hope these tips help you to create captivating movies for the people you share your movies with!


Techspert Jason
MS Zaandam


11 Responses to “Make your movie fill the full HD TV screen with Windows Live® Movie Maker”

  1. Joyce December 1, 2011 at 1:42 am #

    This is a great idea but didn’t work for me. I cropped a portrait photo to 16.9, put it into the movie maker and it didn’t fill the screen; had two wide black ribbons either side, so what did I do wrong?!

  2. Jason Techspert December 5, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Windows Live Photo Gallery doesn’t automatically refresh a photo after it is edited. You see the changes, but the Movie Maker will still read the original photo. One way to circumvent this is to close both programs, then open back up the Windows Live Movie Maker. You should now see your photo fill the 16:9 Preview Window.

  3. Ann Wagener February 24, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    My problem is with the .wmv extension. I have 2 dvd players that will not play my Windows Live Movie Maker. How do I change the extension to .jpg?

    • haldigitalworkshop March 21, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      Unfortunately there is no way to convert the file in Windows Live Movie Maker. The default (and only) option is to save the file as a .wmv. If you’d like to change that file there are plenty of file converters that can be downloaded online to change .wmv files to .avi or a number of different file types. Unfortunately, I don’t have a recommendation on any either though.

      • Ann March 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

        Thanks for replying to my question regarding movie maker file extensions. I will research further.

  4. Ivan February 27, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    Is it possible to crop all at the same time with same dimensions? Or do I manually have to crop each picture one at a time. I plan to do a time lapse with my video camera unfortunately my camera only takes pictures at 4:3 ratio. 😦
    This means I have to be precise to where I crop each photo.

    • haldigitalworkshop March 21, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Ivan, Unfortunately at the current time in Windows Live Photo Gallery there is no way to crop more than one photo at a time. However, if you don’t want to be extremely precise while manually cropping, you can crop to a proportion very easily. When you have a picutre to crop, simply double click on the photo. When the photo appears, make sure the ‘edit’ tab is highlighted. On that tab you will see a crop option. Rather than clicking on the actual crop button, click on the small arrow directly underneath crop. Once you have left clicked on this option you can then choose to crop by proportion, in which you can then choose from a variety of propotions. Hope that helps!

  5. Doug June 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    What about video? Mine has black on all sides. How do I get video to fill the screen on an HDTV?

    • Jason January 27, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

      You raised a great question. To fill your HD output screen, you have to make sure your video has enough resolution to fill the screen. A video shot at 800×600 does not have enough substance to fill a 1080 screen of any width. The minimum video size you would need to fill a HD screen is 1080×768.

  6. Hong Kong Buzz August 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for honhg kong

  7. Jerry Arrant February 2, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    I have successfully completed a movie. I now need to know how to burn the movie to a CD or flashdrive to run on my DVD player

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