Just wondering, if now, as we broadcast free-to-air commercial television digitally, whether to still apply 'Broadcast Safe filters/effects'?

  • Are you referring to safe areas as mentioned by @richard-crowley or to the 'broadcast safe filter' (that deals with signals levels) from FCPX ?
    – audionuma
    May 4, 2016 at 16:38

3 Answers 3


Depends on who you ask. Old traditional people who grew up back in the bad old analog days have the Safe Action Area and Safe Title Area embedded in their brains. But even as old analog TV receivers evolved, there was less and less danger of losing the periphery of the frame to overscan.

With modern LCD, LED, plasma, whatever, TV screens, there is ZERO danger of overscan. It simply doesn't exist anymore. I now use a rule of thumb to keep any text or significant graphics at least 2 or 3% away from the edge, mostly as an aesthetic design rule.

  • Notice that there are still many user watching digital content on a crt screen (for example, many digital tv receiver have a scart output). I have recently been embarrassed by such a digital receiver whose top menus where barely readable (being displayed off screen) on a crt screen.
    – audionuma
    May 4, 2016 at 16:41

There are three different things that get called "broadcast safe":

  • Colors gamut: You don't need to apply an NTSC broadcast safe filter, but you do want to make sure that your colors are all within gamut for the format you are using. If you use out of gamut colors, most of the time nothing happens. However, you run the risk of some very odd, very hard to troubleshoot problems cropping up on air.
  • Title & action safe: In the days of CRTs, there was a portion of the picture that would get cut off. That area varied from TV to TV and grew over time as the tube aged. Non-CRT displays don't suffer from the same issue, so the recommended safe areas are not as large as they used to be, but they still exist. Some modern displays artificially create an overscan and the bezel of some displays can block the edges even at reasonable viewing angles. Recommendations vary from 1% to 5% of the screen should be protected.
  • Center cut safe: 4:3 TVs do still exist in the world. How a 4:3 picture is created from a 16:9 signal varies. Sometimes it is created with a separate air chain by the broadcaster, sometimes the broadcaster downconverts the 16:9 to 4:3, and sometimes the 16:9 feed is downconverted in the viewers home. It is for this last reason that it is recommended that you still keep key elements (e.g., products, people talking, offer graphics and disclaimer text) within the center cut protected area of the picture.

In summary:

  • Use only colors within broadcast gamut.
  • Don't push important elements right to the edge of the screen.
  • Protect important visuals within the center cut safe area.
  • While most stations run limiters on the broadcast signal for limiting video levels, your clips probably will be rejected by tech QA when submitting, so while technically nothing may happen, I wouldnt risk it. Most TV stations have submission guidelines and usually there are a lot of things regulated, data / video levels of the signal only being one of them. May 5, 2016 at 4:51
  • In my experience, after the digital/HD transition, most stations actually removed their legalizers. I even had one Creative Director tell me essentially to stop ruining his "look" because the blue he picked wasn't what he was seeing on air. Also, most local stations and cable systems don't check gamut or safe areas because they lack the skilled staff and equipment to do those checks any more. May 5, 2016 at 21:11

In Australia at least the stations still have strict requirements regarding things like title safe. We still have to make our titles safe for 4:3 CRT receivers, just in case we annoy people watching on their Rank Arena 15" CRT with a set-top-box.

Best bet is to contact the broadcasters you're sending the material to and ask them.

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