On this week's Creator's Tip, we show how you can remove the black bars around older YouTube videos using YouTube formatting tags. Not only that, we are also going to help you fix the s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g effect that can sometimes happens when the aspect ratio is wrong. How? It's all down to the addition of a few simple formatting tags. If you have a video that's performing really well for you but because you uploaded it a few years ago or you may have made a mistake while uploading that you didn't know how to correct.

1) Add a Tag to Remove Black Bars Around a 4:3 Video

You can ask YouTube to remove these black bars by asking YouTube to "zoom in" to the picture by adding the following tag:


This will tell YouTube to zoom in on the 16:9 area and remove the windowboxing around the video.

Fig 1 Black bars around a video

2) Add a Tag to Stretch Video to Fit Wide-screen

If you meant for your video to show in a wide-screen format but that got lost in translation in the upload, then add the following tag:


This will fix fixes anamorphic content by scaling to 16:9

Fig 2 yt stetch

3) Add a Tag to Remove Wide-Screen Ratio from Your Video

If you wanted your video to display in 720 by 480 pixels but YouTube are displaying it in wide-screen 16:9 aspect, you can fix that by adding the following tag:


That fixes 720x480 content that is the wrong aspect ratio by scaling to 4:3

fig 3

4) Revert Changes, Deactivate

If you want to ever deactivate these cropping effects, you can add the following tag


5) Bonus Tag: Make High-quality the Default Format

If you want your video to always play in high quality then add this tag:


This Defaults to a high quality stream (available based on the size of the viewer's player and the size of the browser window). Use this one sparingly because if you force a video to playback in high-quality and the viewer has a very slow internet connection, or is on a mobile device it could lead to a lot of buffering for them. Sometimes it's best to leave it to YouTube to decide.

Summary of YouTube Formatting Tags

  • yt:crop=16:9 - Zooms in on the 16:9 area, removes windowboxing
  • yt:stretch=16:9 - Fixes anamorphic content by scaling to 16:9
  • yt:stretch=4:3 - Fixes 720x480 content that is the wrong aspect ratio by scaling to 4:3
  • yt:crop=off - Deactivates cropping effects on the video and reestablishes cropped areas
  • yt:quality=high - Defaults to a high quality stream (available based on the size of the viewer’s player and the size of the browser window)
  • yt:cc=on - Forces closed captions and subtitles to be shown in YouTube (Watch Video)

More Useful Links Regarding YouTube Tags, Parameters & Tricks

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