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How to Add Cinematic Black Bars to Your Videos Without Adobe Premiere

Cinematic black bars

If you are looking for new ways to make your videos engaging and interesting to watch, try some tricks from the big screen. It might be adding a fresh video effect. Or using a lower third in your videos.

Or better yet – adding cinematic black bars to your videos. All without difficult tools like Adobe Premiere.

In this article, we will show you how to give your videos a Tarantino look by applying a letterbox video effect.

What is a letterbox video effect?

Cinematic black bars might sound very dramatic but this video effect actually has a name – letterbox. It’s the practice of transferring the widescreen video to the standard-width video formats while keeping the film’s original aspect ratio.

Letterbox effect

In practice, the video has black bars above and below it. While in the TV industry this technique allows video producers to adapt the film to different screen resolutions, in digital marketing it opens new creative opportunities for marketers.

Here’s how.

Why square videos for your social channels

The first and foremost advantage of adding cinematic black bars to your videos is that they allow you to repurpose your landscape videos into the square format.

Why are square videos great for your social media channels?

While desktop is still very popular, the majority of social media visits happen on mobile.

Device usage Facebook

Device usage of Facebook users worldwide as of January 2019. Source

According to an experiment conducted by Buffer, square videos outperformed landscape videos in views and engagement. This might have to do with the fact that square videos take up more space on mobile screens than landscape videos. Therefore, people get a better chance to see what the video is about – and interact with it.


Another reason for trying cinematic black bars for your videos is that it costs significantly less to advertize to users with square videos on mobile. Investing some money into advertising with square videos both on Facebook and Instagram will not only yield better results but also turn out to be cheaper.

Types of letterbox effect and how to replicate them in

There are several ways how you can add those cinematic black bars to your videos. Depending on where exactly they are placed, normally videographers speak of three different ways of adding a letterbox effect to one’s videos.

Classic letterbox (margins on top and bottom)

The most common way to add cinematic black bars to one’s videos is to put them at the top and bottom of the video clip. In the movies, the margins that appear around the video clip will just be black.

Cinematic black bars

However, when applying the letterbox effect to marketing videos, you can choose whatever color you want. The margins might match your brand colors or be in contrast with the video clip.

These margins are also a great place to add text to the video. You can share additional information, add subtitles, or even put a joke. In this regard, the video might resemble those meme videos that the Internet netizens are so fond of.

Edit this template

Pro tip: when adding text to the margins, make sure it’s clearly visible to viewers. Choose a contrasting color and easily readable font.

How to replicate the letterbox effect in

In order to create your own videos with cinematic black bars for social media and other channels, here’s what you will need to do.

Step 1. Create a new project.

You want to start by creating a new project. Log in to your account and hit Create project”.

Step 2. Select formats.

Typically, letterbox videos for social channels are square, since the square format yields the best results. Head over to the step “Select formats” and choose a square format for the platform that you are going to create the video for.

Select video formats in

Pro tip: if your video is under 60 seconds, you will be able to reuse it across several platforms. Instagram allows posting an in-feed video of less than 1 minute long.

Step 3. Select the video clip or image. comes with a built-in video library. Choose a video clip or image that you want to add to your video or upload your own.

How to make a meme video

When searching for a phrase, make sure you enter as exact a keyword as possible. The more refined your search is, the better the chance of finding a perfect match for your video.

Step 4. Adjust the visual.

Since the video you find in the library is probably going to be in the landscape format (the standard 16:9), when you adjust it for the square format, that’s where you’ll get those cinematic black bars at the top and bottom of your video.

How to make a meme video - formats

You can zoom in and out of the video to make the bars wider or thinner.

Step 5. Add text (if necessary)

In, you can also add text to the video margins. This will allow you to create a meme effect or add any other helpful information to the video.

Make sure to keep your message clear and concise. You don’t want to overload your viewers with too much information.

Edit this template

Pillarbox (margins on left and right)

The pillarbox video effect is similar to the classic letterbox effect, except the cinematic black bars go to the left and right from the video clip.

Pillarbox video effect

Pillarbox effect might not be as popular for marketing videos as the letterbox. However, it still provides you with great opportunities to apply creativity and make your videos more attractive.

How to replicate the pillarbox effect in

To make videos with the pillarbox effect in, follow the instructions listed for the letterbox effect. When you add a video clip or image, go for the vertical one so that there are margins on both sides of it in the final clip.

Windowboxing (a frame around the video)

Windowboxing is the combination of both the letterbox and pillarbox effect in the same video. This leads to the video clip being framed all around by cinematic black bars (or margins of any other color, for that matter).

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This video effect can help you create some beautiful videos that will really stand out on social media.

How to replicate the windowboxing effect in

In order to create a windowbox effect, you might need to crop your video. This way, you will be able to add a square video clip on top of the square background of a bigger size.

To crop the video clip in, head over to the step Edit and choose the option “Crop”. This will open up the editing field where you can choose which part of the video clip you want to go to the final project.

Crop video clip in

Other tools that can help you create a letterbox effect

While might be the most convenient way to add cinematic black bars to your videos, it’s certainly not the only one. If you are a more experienced video producer, you might try tools like Adobe Premiere or Camtasia to create that letterbox effect for your videos.


Have you tried adding cinematic black bars to your videos? Share in the comments below!

How to Add Cinematic Black Bars to Your Videos

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