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If you are creating video to be played back on a television set, you need to know about the safe areas. While you are working After Effects shows you the entire video frame all the way out to the edges; however, if you play this back on a television screen, the very edge of the composition will be lost underneath the bezel. Also, unless your viewer has a flat-screen TV, the outer area might also be distorted. If you click on the Grids and Guides button, you can turn on the Title/Action Safe overlay.
The outer box is action safe, and the inner box is title safe. The idea is that any important imagery you want the viewer to see should be placed inside of the action-safe zone, and if you add a title, you might want to check that it sits inside the title-safe zone. In this case, I might want to scale it down just a touch to make sure it's completely safe. Now you can toggle on and off the title- action-safe zones using the shortcut, the Apostrophe key. Or you can also press the Option key on Mac, Alt key on Windows, and click on the Guides button.
If you happen to be working in a 16:9 wide-screen composition, notice when I toggle on the title- action safe, I see two sets of zones. I see the outer action safe and title safe and the inner action safe and title safe. Now if I know this animation will only ever be seen on a wide-screen TV--perhaps this were a tradeshow where I can control what the audience will see--I can go ahead and place my images all the way out to the outside action-safe zone.
However, if I am working on an animation that will also be seen on a standard 4:3-aspect ratio television, then I need to be aware that the left-hand and the right-hand size will be cropped off for that viewer. They will just never see any imagery on the left- and right-hand sides. This is called center-cut by the way. So in this case, my composition looks good in wide screen but should also be acceptable when the edges are cropped off. Now, in this animation, as I scrub, I can see that all the important information is actually inside the action-safe zone.
Finally, the percentages used for title- action safe can be set under Preferences > Grids & Guides. Under Safe Margins, you can customize the percentage use for action- and title- safe zones, as well as the center-cut safe zones that appear in a 16:9 comp.
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