12 November 2009 - 17:53#04: Changing That God-Forsaken Field Order

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In this episode, we’ll combat the stuttery mess of wrongly imported or ingested interlaced video footage by swapping the field order with the help of the Matte Key real-time effect. Buckle up, this one’s going to get geeky! And don’t forget to check out the show notes for more.

Download 480p | 720p

Download the scanlines for the Matte Key:

HD (1920×1080) | PAL (720×576) | NTSC D1 (720×486) | NTSC DV (720×480)

Learn more about field order:

All About Video Fields by Chris Pirazzi. From a graphics designer’s perspective. But – like us – he hates the mess that is fields.

Digital Video and Field Order by DVMP.

Which format uses which field order?

Generally speaking, it boils down to this:

1080i – upper field first
NTSC – lower field first
PAL (except PAL DV) – upper field first
DV (PAL/NTSC) – lower field first
PAL (Avid DV Codec) – upper field first (Simply because it’s more fun. No, actually because they wanted to stay with the broadcast field order.)

Confused yet? Pop quiz in five minutes!


  • udosauer

    Hello Chistian,

    your solution will add a shift to the whole video of one field. [2 1] [4 3] gets [2 3] [4 *] the first and the last field will be lost, and edits will not be one the edge of a frame!
    To swap the field order if would be necessary to shift the frame one line up (but i think you cant move pixelwise with avid). If you want to change the field dominace you also have to move one field up or down to avoid spatial misalignment. On a pc i normaly use a simple avisynth script to convert a clip and then import it to avid (see: http://avisynth.org/mediawiki/Interlaced_fieldb…)


  • avidscreencast

    Hi Udo,

    you are of course absolutely correct. However, I do think the method shown in the screencast has more benefits than disadvantages. Would you agree?

    While I do recognize that not editing on the edge of a frame can be bad (e.g. with precut footage), I wouldn't think it poses a great problem with raw material?

    I like the AviSynth method, though!

    Thank you verym much, I really appreciate your in-depth comment,

  • Andy

    so I tried to test this by importing some NTSC D1 720×486 footage…but even when I forced the field order to “upper”…my footage looked fine! Is there an auto-correct feature in Avid that is fixing my field order for me, perhaps?

    Also, I assume to make your 720×480 template work with 720×486 footage, I'd need to check “crop/pad for DV scan line” when importing the scanline graphic?

  • avidscreencast

    In case the video is encoded with an Avid Codec, the Import Settings concerning field order will be ignored (because they know better). So maybe that's why you can't see the difference.

    In my example, I exported a small portion of the video as Quicktime with the Animation codec and then imported it with the wrong field order. Worked like a charm ;)

    As for the NTSC D1 resolution, I just added a new scanline image that is 720×486, because I guess otherwise the lowest 6 lines wouldn't be affected by the field order change (I'm in PAL land, though, and do not have a lot of experience with the weird resolution difference of D1 and DV).

    Hope that helps,

  • Andy

    Ah…indeed, I was importing Avid-encoded videos. Shall try an animation QT.

    Thanks for the 486 template, and the great tutorial!

  • Ra-ey Saleh

    Great Tutorial Christian, great workaround. Loved the tutorial and thanks for supplying the Matte Keys.
    Ra-ey Saleh

  • Ra-ey Saleh

    Great Tutorial Christian, great workaround. Loved the tutorial and thanks for supplying the Matte Keys.
    Ra-ey Saleh

  • Ra-ey Saleh

    Christian, your 2 NTSC templates are switched round, i.e if you press the D1 you get the DV and vice versa. Just thought you'd want to know.
    Great work again!

  • avidscreencast

    Hi Ra-ey,

    glad you liked it! Thanks for letting me know of the link mix-up, I fixed it.

  • You seem to enjoy doing these tutorials. I subscribe through iTunes. Thanks for your efforts! Where are you?

  • avidscreencast

    I'm situated in Berlin, Germany.

    And yes, I like making this podcast. There's no money in it, so I guess I better do! :)

    Thanks for watching, I appreciate it!

  • Owen


  • Owen

    Actually this is GENIUS!

  • Matte

    Thank u,i love this site!!

  • Ra-ey Saleh

    This trick completely saved me on my recent Archive heavy project. u00a0Thanks again.nAnd we miss your tutorials! :-)nnRa-ey

  • Bnanapi

    Hey Christian– This matte solution came up about 10 years ago, but your tutorial withncolorful language is the best!nhttp://forums.creativecow.net/archivepost/45/214174

  • Rodrigo Urdaneta

    Wow. Just wow. That is one of the smartest solutions i’ve seen. Thank you so very much for this, you just made it to my editing-guru list :)

  • Davoud

    Hallo Christian, wenn Du das noch liest, dann nimm meine Bewunderung entgegen. Eine kluge Lösung!!