I'm using a dslr to shoot with the intention of producing a 16:9 film
I've previously worked in pPAL, so used the full frame with top/bottom letterboxing
Moving to 720p HD means i either have to crop or have pillar-boxing - obviously a crop is preferable for the final look, but i'm finding it hard to frame on-set without seeing crop marks
I don't have any in-camera options to take 16:9 photos - what methods do you use to see cropped images as you take them? I currently use fairly basic nikon capture software, perhaps there is something i could use that would crop on capture?
I use Dragonframe's mask feature as a guide, but then I often crop differently afterwards using Lightbox. Once you've actually got the images shot and can zoom and scroll to find the best cropping options you can find compositions you didn't even see before.
Animator DV Simple is a free frame-grabber tool from the manufacturers of Animator HD. It has crop masking and safe area marks for 16:9 if you have a DV or composite signal from your camera.
This is useful for composing frames. Or you can use the old fashioned low-tech (nique) of striping black electrical tape across your monitor screen. Leaves a sticky mess though....
Also, check the menus to see if your camera has a 16:9 mode - some do.
My DSLRs don't have a 16:9 option, but I don't mind having a bit of room to choose my framing afterwards. The images are usually much bigger than 1920 x 1080 HD, so I have the choice of just cropping the top and bottom and keeping the full width, or zooming in and panning around. If I was shooting at exactly 1920 x 1080 I would probably miss the freedom to re-frame in post.
I load my images into TV Paint for re-sizing and general effects work. You could use After Effects, or even Photoshop. TV Paint doesn't give me an easy way of selecting a 16 x 9 box and cropping accurately. If I have shot it so I want to crop an equal amount off the top and bottom, it's straightforward, I just type in the resolution I want. First I shrink it down to 1920 wide (or 1280 if I'm doing 720p). Then I type in the pixel height I want, 1080, and crop.
If I need to move the picture up or down, I first select an approximate 16 x 9 rectangle, higher or lower in the frame, and crop. Then I do the shrinking of the width and a second crop to the exact number of pixels high.
I wish I could specify a rectangular selection of an exact size, then drag it to position it, and crop, but it's not quite that easy.
With my camera I can set it for 16:9 and select the size image I want - I don't remember what the choices are, but I'm using one about twice as wide as HD, so that gives me a lot of latitude on cropping like you said, I can either reduce the image to HD or slide the cropping rectangle around and just select a part of the bigger image. Or I could set the camera for a higher resolution and have a final image 3 or 4 times HD width (guessing here) and have even more options, but then each image takes a lot more storage space too. I'm fine with it this way.
you can also simply cover your camera monitor with tape...
Dragonframe is what I use and it's the best in my opinion.
I used to draw a line on the glass screen of my old 4:3 CRT monitor at top and bottom to remind me I was shooting widescreen, on my first 16:9 production. Tape would be better on plastic screen.
I had considered tape, but looking at dragonframe etc. i'm more and more convinced that my workflow could be considerably improved in many ways by something like that (not hugely surprising i suppose!) and the masking features solve my problem too (with the added advantage of giving more composition freedom when editing as you say)