Timelapses & Breakdowns

by kesakalaonu on December 31, 2014

 

A Team NLE

The craft and method of editing is what drew me to filmmaking. Knowing what editors, visual effects artists, and others are capable of doing to tell an intricate story is quite incredible. They are responsible for weaving, manipulating, and inserting assets into frames that help and/or invigorate a story. The best way to see the what the post production process is like is through behind-the-scenes clips on DVDs, or making of featurettes, online. In this article, I’m going to highlight some VFX breakdowns and timelapsed video edits that showcase how much work it takes to bring a film or a video to the masses.

VFX Breakdown #1: X-Men Days of Future Past

One of the top blockbusters of 2014 saw the X-Men mythology returning to top form with this entry into the ever expanding saga. Set in a dystopic future where most of mankind and mutant kind have been eradicated by man made machines know as Sentinels, the remaining X-Men rally together to change the past to ensure a better future before it is too late. To bring the sentinels to life, as well as showcase the various mutant powers that were brought to the screen, required 372 visual effects shots. In the breakdown above, the talented folks of MPC, led by visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers, took upon the task of creating the visual effects of the future mutants and sentinels. Utilizing techniques such as match-moving, rotoscoping, matte painting, chroma keying, and more, they were able to bring various elements to life that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible using practical effects. The photo-realistic effects featured in this film were essential to bringing the audience into this universe.

VFX Breakdown #2: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3, the third entry into Sylvester Stallone’s homage to classic action films, included more actors, as well as more insane action sequences. We saw everything from insane stunts, more explosions, and combat sequences. For this sequel, the folks at Worldwide FX were responsible for about 1200 VFX shots. In the breakdown above, the Worldwide FX team used a lot of matte painting in certain scenes as well as animating 3D vehicles, like the Expendables’s airplane and helicopters. Watching the breakdown, it is surprising how much green and blue screening was used to set up certain shots. Thanks in part to the efforts of the artists, they are able to seamlessly work with the actors involved. The one thing that caught my eye is how well they are able to rotoscope and integrate objects into scenes with lots of moving parts.

Timelapse Edit #1: SNL “Testicules”

This timelapsed edit session done by SNL film editor Adam Epstein features a short starring actor/producer Andy Samberg. Edited using tools from the Adobe Creative Cloud, Adam takes footage coming DSLRs and RED cameras, and puts together a digital short that has the look of a short film. During the rigorous 48 hour edit session, Adam is responsible for all aspects of post which include sorting out takes, multi-camera editing, color correction, motion graphics/visual effects, and audio selection. The crazy part is that he can still be editing and making changes while SNL is airing and get it uploaded just before it ends. The thing that impresses me about watching his edit session is the amount of quality he is able to pack into his shorts in a 48 hour timeframe. Essentially, cutting an SNL digital short is the equivalent of doing a 48 hour film race every weekend for six months. Anyone who can endure that is a masterful editor.

Timelapse Edit #2: Red Productions Christmas Video 2014

For their annual Christmas video, the folks of Red Productions did a timelapsed edit session on their latest video. Just like Adam, they utilized tools from the Adobe Creative Cloud and completed this video within 24 hours. This video featured greenscreen footage, composited objects and explosions, motion tracking, and many other post production facets. What interested me about this timelapsed session was that they were able to turn around a comedic piece in 24 hours. From what I have seen in editing comedy, it may take a little longer as you need to account for pacing and timing of the humor to occur. Cutting all this in a 24 hour timeframe is impressive to say the least. What stood out to me was how easy they made their visual effects look. They had a plethora of visual effects you’ve come to see in internet videos, and it looked really clean.

Those are just a few breakdowns and timelapsed edit sessions that are floating online. It’s always amazing to see how films and television shows achieve such high level visual effects, as well as watch the talented artists put it all together.

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Local TV Commercial Editing Workflow

by kesakalaonu on December 20, 2014

Premiere Pro CS6

In my day job, I produce TV commercials for local car dealerships in Northwest Illinois and various cities in Indiana. On a monthly basis, I deliver over 40+ spots to cable and network providers which are shot and edited a few weeks prior to the start of the next month. If I have commercials I need to produce for the month of January, I will shoot and edit them in December so that we can have them running at the beginning of the month. Aside from the production schedule of the monthly commercials I produce, I use an editing workflow that allows me to be efficient and maintain a level of speed that can handle unforeseen circumstances. I’m going to detail my editing workflow in Premiere Pro and hopefully provide some tips and insight into delivering multiple commercials to multiple vendors.

Setting up the project & gathering assets

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Before I shoot a month’s worth of commercials, I use a template project that has folders and assets which I know will factor into the edit. I change the scratch disks and project save location so I can keep my original template project intact; or I use PostHaste, depending on the project. From there, I add more folders that I may need for auxiliary assets like third party motion graphics and more. I also make sure that I have logos and monthly artwork from each brand I deal with at my agency. Once I’ve set up my project for the month, I wait until the shoot day before I do anything else.

Storage & Preparing the footage

When I’m shooting commercials for clients, I alternate between the Panasonic AF-100 and Sony PXW-X70. These cameras give me best of two worlds, which are interchangeable lenses and small but powerful broadcast cameras. Both cameras record with the AVCHD codec. The X70 also has its own proprietary codec which is the XAVC codec. When it comes to bringing footage from either of these cameras, I typically transcode the clips into Apple Pro Res or Pro Res HQ. Although Premiere can take most formats natively, with the hardware I have available (and based on past experiences) I choose to play it safe using a codec meant for editing. Before I do that, I always make sure to backup the SD card in two locations in sparse disk bundles using the Create Disk Image app.

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Once I’ve taken care of storage and encoded my footage into Pro Res, I move the footage to my network based RAID and import it into my project file so I can begin building sequences.

Building a selects sequence

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I place all of my footage into a sequence so that I can sort out the best takes, as well determine which clip goes with what dealership. I use timeline markers to group my clips together so that I can use the Markers panel and search for dealerships quickly. Once the selects sequence is built, I proceed to use the pancake timeline technique to build my main commercial sequences.

Structuring main commercial sequences & adjusting for time

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Using the pancake timeline technique, I put my selected sequences on top of my main commercial sequences, and drag clips into their appropriate places according to what is written in the script. From there, I add voice-overs, branding graphic assets, running footage, and more to time out each commercial to 30 seconds. If my footage, voice-overs, or other assets don’t meet that length, then I trim until everything does. Once I have my main commercials assembled and timed out, I add motion graphics and finishing touches like color correction/grading.

Motion graphics & finishing

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For motion graphics, I tend to use After Effects… unless I’m not looking for intricate animations. Lately, I’ve been using it for text animations as well as graphic overlays, especially since the update to Premiere Pro CC 2014.1 introduced the feature of Render & Replace. With that function implemented, I can now use dynamic linked After Effects comps and render/unrender them inside Premiere when I want to. In terms of finishing, I level the audio to broadcast specs and fix color balance and/or apply a simple color treatment, along with a Sharpen filter.

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Once I have motion graphics and finishing locked, I begin exporting my main commercial sequences to Media Encoder to get them to my broadcast vendors.

Exporting from Media Encoder and Delivery

Inside of Media Encoder, I set up my commercial sequences to be exported in a variety of codecs. Most of my broadcast vendors take either H.264 or Pro Res HQ. With Media Encoder, I use presets I created prior to encode one sequence to multiple Quicktime movies.

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Once I have exported my commercials into various Quicktime movies, I run one of them through Sorenson Squeeze to encode to WMV for brand compliance. With my Quicktime movies ready for broadcast delivery and my WMVs ready for brand compliance, I deliver each of them to their appropriate vendors and brands. In regards to compliance, if they approve it, then my broadcast deliver is cleared. If it is disapproved, I fix whatever mistake I have and re-export it for compliance and broadcast until it is correct.

As you can see, it pays to have a workflow that allows me the space to be creative, but at the same time meet pressing deadlines. After each month, I examine what worked best, what can be improved on, and if other tools can be added to allow for both efficiency and higher production value. In 2015, I plan on looking for tools and techniques that will allow me to be even more efficient and creative. Below is one of my finished promos for this month.

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Setting Up Multi-Cam in your NLE

by kesakalaonu on December 17, 2014

A Team NLE

As an editor, I’ve been in many situations where I have to cut a project that was shot by multiple cameras. If production sets up their cameras so that I can easily match things up and cut like a technical director, my job is much easier. If they don’t, however, it can be a painstaking task trying to figure when each camera is in sync with one another. You can’t always control the method to which you receive footage from multiple cameras, but it is an essential skill to know how to set up your timeline to do multiple camera editing, also known as multi-cam. I’m going to briefly breakdown the steps it takes to set up a multi-camera edit in popular NLEs such as Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro X, and Adobe Premiere Pro.

Avid Media Composer Multi-Cam

In this video tutorial, editor Jon Christenson shows the basics of setting up a multi-camera edit in Avid Media Composer. This type of edit in Media Composer can be set up using timecode, in & out points, or the start of clips. In his example, he uses a clap from three clips to set a sync point for all clips. From there, he uses multiple bins to sort out his clips he wants in the multi-cam, as well as a bin for grouped clips. Utilizing the Fast Menu in the bin, he chooses Group Clips to create his multi-cam edit. Once he has his multi-cam clip set up, he sets up his buttons to make the multi-camera edit more streamlined and efficient. Then, he can do a multi-cam edit by pressing a key mapped to a specific angle. Although I don’t use Media Composer as much as I should, I have to say they have a robust system for multi-camera editing.

Final Cut Pro X Multi-Cam

In this video tutorial, Apple certified and GeniusDV trainer Jon Lynn shows us how to set up a multi-cam edit in Final Cut Pro X. In this program, you first select the clips you want. Then, you right click and select a new multi-cam clip which brings up a dialogue menu. Once you have your settings, use the Angle Viewer and click on the angles you want to cut to while playing back the multi-cam clip. In my experience, I found this multi-cam system very fluent and easy to use in comparison to Media Composer. Although it has a different paradigm than other track based editing systems, the multi-cam functions in FCPX are extremely robust.

Adobe Premiere Pro Multi-Cam

In this video tutorial, Lynda instructor Jeff Sengstack demonstrates how to set up a multi-cam clip in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. There are two ways to set up multi-cam clip in Premiere Pro. I typically set it up from the timeline level where I have my clips set up as needed. The other method is doing it from the project browser, which is the method Jeff uses. With the clips he has selected in the project browser, he right clicks and selects Create Multi-Camera sequence. From the dialogue menu, he can choose how to sync his clips. Once that is taken care of, you should get a new sequence clip in the browser. Now, he can begin cutting the multi-cam clip in his timeline using the available tools. I’ve found Premiere’s multi-camera abilities to be the best of the track based NLEs. I have used Final Cut Pro 7’s multi-camera function before and found it hard to wrap my head around. Premiere’s multi-cam function always seemed to work for me.

As you can see from these videos, multi-camera editing is relatively easy to set up, depending on your NLE of choice. Trying to cut without multi-cam functions is possible, but can be tedious and frustrating in longform projects. I know from earlier experience, I tried to bypass using multi-cam editing and wasted hours fixing things that could have been addressed sooner had I learned how multi-camera editing works. I highly recommend you learn multi-camera editing in your NLE and save yourself some time on those long and complex edits.

Royalty Free Music

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FCPX Workflow Tips Across the Internet

by kesakalaonu on December 12, 2014

FCPX logo 1 300x300 FCPX Workflow Tips Across the Internet

For the last three years, Final Cut Pro X has seen improvements that have furthered its stake in the NLE world. Since its release in 2011, it’s been meet with criticism and praise from many. Recently, professionals from across the world have stepped up to offer their tips for being efficient in FCPX and showcasing its potential. I want to share a few tips I’ve come across from working professionals who use Final Cut Pro X to get their projects done. After you see what tips these pros offer, you may look at FCPX in a more positive light than before.

Smart Organizing with Keyword & Smart Collections

Written by Braden Storrs, an FCPX editor and enthusiast, this article provides quick and effective organization techniques using FCPX’s library management model. He endorses creating two folders with keyword and smart collections. Within the smart collections, he recommends you name each collection for items that may be common within your project (i.e. multicam clips, dialogue, music, compound clips, notes, unused video, etc.) Once you’ve named your smart collections, make sure that you use specific rules for each collection so that they show up each time you click them.

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In regards to keyword collections, these are project specific, so make sure to create them for specific items in your project as you work. Keep them in a standalone template library file so that you can grab and place them in a new project library to speed things up. Since reading this article, I’ve finally developed a quick and efficient workflow for cutting in FCPX. I finally understand the speed comments made by FCPX editors.

Optical Flow Transition Technique

The next tip I came across online was from FCPX editor T Payton. In this video tutorial, he shows us how to create optical flow transitions to hide edits made on an interview. This technique is popular among Avid Media Composer editors using the Fluid Morph transitions, which allows them to merge jump cuts into a seamless transition. His technique involves the use of speed ramping and exporting multiple times to accomplish this effect. I find the technique to be of great use for those of us who cut a lot of interview bites. However, the amount of steps it takes to achieve the effect could be cumbersome, especially on large projects. The time tested technique of covering jump cuts with b-roll makes more sense than this, unless the client wants a straight cut of a talking head during this interview portion.

Tips for Editing Under Pressure

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This is an article written by editor and FCPX plugin developer Peter Wiggins of Idustrial Revolution. In the article, Peter gives ten tips for editing in FCPX when time isn’t on your side. Having background rendering on, making a snapshot before any radical changes, and hiding waveforms before media import stood out to me, and considering that Peter does a lot editing that ends up on the air relatively quickly, it’s good to know what tips can help you under pressure. Even with the fastest computer and hardware available, you will run into unforeseen circumstances that can interrupt your edit, so it’s always good to know a few handy tips to keep yourself efficient.

These are a small collection of tips I’ve come across the internet for improving your workflow in Final Cut Pro X. As I’ve seen from multiple users, there is no clear cut way for cutting in FCPX, which is why it is so dynamic. Try these tips and techniques yourself, and see if you improve in speed and efficiency.

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Understanding Composition in Post Production

by Garrett Fallin on December 9, 2014

Icons Understanding Composition in Post Production

Composition is absolutely paramount in understanding how to create an image that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also how to create a focal point that guides the viewers eye throughout the frame. In production, the composition is developed through the director’s vision and executed by the director of photography. In postproduction, visual effect artists have full control on how the composition appears.

Andrew Price tackles composition in this 30 minute tutorial exploring the multiple facets that go into making a complete image.

He breaks composition down into three major pyramid blocks: Focal Element, Structure, and Balance.

FOCAL ELEMENT

A focal element is something that immediately draws your eye in a composition (still or motion pictures included). Price argues that the best way to create a focal element are techniques such as: high contrast, motion, faces or figures, guiding lines, framing, geometry, among others. By adding one of these techniques into your image, say by adding a human face or figure for instance, your eye is instantly drawn to that area, thus creating your focal element.

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STRUCTURE

At its core, structure is organizing your elements around a rule. Sometimes, this is following the rule of thirds to organize your elements, and is one of the more common rules to follow. It doesn’t matter what rule you follow as long as there is some form of structure. Your eye does not know where to look in chaos and needs some form of structure. Some common structures include: Rule of thirds, Golden Ratio, Pyramid, Symmetry, and Full Frame.

Rule of Thirds: breaking your frame into thirds along the horizontal and vertical axis. Every intersection is a prime location to put something of interest.

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Golden Ratio: A spiral structure naturally occurring in nature (sea shells, nature, outer space, etc) utilizing a mathematical breakdown in order to create points of interest.

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Pyramid Composition: Great to be used with characters to create a striking figure.

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Symmetry: mirroring structure over either the horizontal or vertical axis. Used frequently with architecture.

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BALANCE

When talking about balance in a composition, the visual weight of the image is evenly displaced. There are multiple items that can add this visual weight to the image, including: Size, High Contrast, Saturation, Faces, and Figures. One quick little test you can perform on your own compositions is what’s called the ‘squint test’ where you literally squint your eyes at the image, causing it to blur and darken. The bright points will be the most pronounced, and you will be able to see if one side appears to have more light than the other, thus finding the balance.

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Mise en Scène

As an extra bit of knowledge, I will also go over what’s called Mise en Scène. For the most part, this is achieved during production when you look at the composition of your scene before you film it; making sure everything is exactly in its place to fit a compositional structure. One of the masters of Mise en Scène is indie filmmaker Wes Anderson. Based on the structures we reviewed earlier in this post, Anderson tends to create a Mise en Scène structure using the symmetry and thirds rule. Here is a short excerpt with Wes Anderson himself going into better detail as to why and how he makes compositional choices.

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Editing Wedding Videos in FCP X

by Garrett Fallin on December 5, 2014

FCPX logo 1 410x410 Editing Wedding Videos in FCP X

Most often, if you are the wedding videographer, you are also the audio guy, editor, colorist, motion graphics designer, and exporting distributor. The nature of this business dictates wearing many hats in order to maintain a sustainable business model. Unfortunately, choosing the right lens and recording the special moment is only half the battle. And although I’m sure you would much rather stay on the production end of things, the footage needs equal attention and care in post production to create a lasting and memorable work. But not to fret. Today I am here to offer a few essential tips to help ease the tensions of importing and editing down your wedding footage in Final Cut Pro X.

–       Importing and Organizing

–       Editing the Footage

–       Exporting

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IMPORTING AND ORGANIZING

For filearchy and organization purposes, if you shoot a lot of weddings, you will want to keep the files separate from your other work. To do this, I recommend creating a brand new library in Final Cut Pro X by going to FILE > NEW > LIBRARY. I even go one step further and label the Library WEDDINGS 2014, as I will refresh and create a new library for 2015, 2016, and so on. Under the new library, I will add a new event (FILE > NEW > EVENT) for each wedding (Smith Wedding, Morales Wedding, etc). At this point, you need to start adding your footage to these events. When I record weddings, I tend to shoot with a three camera set up (one camera on the bride, one on the groom, and one master wide shot showing bride, groom, officiant, and part of the audience). I log each camera’s footage in its own folder, and then DRAG AND DROP the folder onto their own prospective wedding EVENT in FCPX.

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Once you have all your footage logged and filed correctly, you can start to create projects (FILE > NEW > PROJECT) and name each one for the subject shown (for me that’s ceremony, introductions, cake cutting, best man speech, maid/matron of honor speech, first dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, garter ceremony, bouquet toss, and random dancing shots). Each subject needs its own project, as each project is essentially its own timeline to export.

EDITING THE FOOTAGE

Once working on projects, I tend to keep some basic editing formats consistent. First, you can add transitions with Hot Key CMD + T (a cross dissolve will be added at every edit point and break in the timeline).

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I will also tend to punch up the color as needed. If you go to the INSPECTOR under the VIDEO tab, you will find COLOR. Under COLOR, you will see CORRECTION 1 with an arrow (>) next to it (if you hover your mouse you will see SHOW CORRECTION). Click on the arrow to open the correction options.

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You will then be looking at three new tabs: Color, Saturation, and Exposure. With color, I tend to leave it alone as I always white balance with the camera before recording, so I shouldn’t have a need for it in post. For saturation, I like to punch it up a bit by CLICKING AND DRAGGING UP the MASTER SWITCH on the left, controlling overall saturation.

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Saturation controls how vibrant the colors appear, and I increase it since weddings are a bright and happy day of celebration. If you remove saturation, the image turns drab and bleak. If you move the saturation level to 0%  (rock bottom) your image would turn purely black and white, which, in some instances, can invoke a sense of nostalgia or quiet reflection and could be a nice touch for certain moments, like the father daughter dance, etc. There is no one right way to display your image. I can only offer certain insights and tell you my own reasoning.

Finally, with exposure, I also like to increase the contrast a touch by dropping down the shadows (also known as crushing the blacks) and brightening the whites.

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By increasing the contrast, you give the image more pop and definition, which is important, especially if the bride’s dress is white, so she doesn’t get blown out and lost.

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Instead of color correcting multiple clips in your timeline, you can copy and paste the color correction attribute to each clip and keep a uniformed look. To do this, simply highlight the clip that has the attribute you want to copy and hit CMD + C. Then, highlight the clip you want to give the attribute to and hit CMD + SHIFT + V. This will bring up an attribute window. Check color and hit OK.

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As a final touch for certain dance videos, I will hunt down the source audio file and play the master track over the footage, versus using the camera’s audio. I find this allows the viewer to focus on the moment of everyone dancing and having fun, without dealing with warped canned audio and loud chatter.

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EXPORTING

Exporting has been made rather quick and simple in Final Cut Pro X. Simply go to FILE > SHARE > MASTER FILE (Hot Key CMD + E), and a settings window will appear. Go to the SETTINGS tab. Make sure the VIDEO CODEC is set to H.264 for the best compression rate, and ROLES AS is set to QUICKTIME MOVIE. From there, select NEXT > Choose your destination, give the file a name based on the subject (ceremony, best man speech, etc,), and hit SAVE to begin the render process.

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Editing Montages with FCP X

by Garrett Fallin on December 2, 2014

FCPX logo 1 300x300 Editing Montages with FCP X

 

Montages can be more than just a compilation of images and video clips. A montage has the potential to tell an entire story to the viewer. In this tutorial, I will give you some tips and tricks to turn your string of images into a powerfully crafted story that, in my opinion, elevates the consensus of the standard montage expectation using Final Cut Pro X.

–       Understanding the Mechanics

–       Cutting to the beat

–       Recording Voice Overs

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UNDERSTANDING THE MECHANICS

By definition, a montage is “the technique of producing a new composite whole from fragments of pictures, text, or music.” So, in order to create a montage we need images or video clips (or BOTH!), a musical number, and maybe a voiceover recording (pre recorded or written for match recording). The images and videos provide the details, whereas music and voiceover provide the underlying emotion. It is crucial to choose the right audio track as it sets the entire tone and pace for the montage. When creating transitions between images, it’s best to use cross dissolves for unrelated moments (a beautiful beach landscape cross dissolves into a majestic mountain peak). However, if the content relates and there is a story being told, it is better to cut between shots (a beautiful beach landscape cuts to a shot of a couple holding hands walking along the waterline).

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CUTTING TO THE BEAT

You will want to cut to the beat of the music by marking and using peaks and valleys (high and low points) in the audio waveform for precision. If you hold on a shot across the beat, it gives more power and attention to that image.

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In the musical track I chose, there was a peak at every five seconds, so I placed a marker there for a visual aid as I cut my images and video clips to the track. To add a marker simply hit ‘M’ on your keyboard while over the segment of the timeline you want to mark. If you double click on it, you have the ability to change or delete it.

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Find the music you will want to edit to (AudioMicro.com offers a great variety of tracks to choose from) and place markers on the beats peaks (high points) or valleys (low points) you want to cut shots between. Additionally in FCPX, you can make the audio beat the primary line, and the video clips secondary, in order to be able to trim the clips down to match the beat easier. If the audio beat is the first thing on your timeline simply CLICK AND DRAG the beat to the center main track to make it the primary point of editing.

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A final tip on cutting your beat to your images would be to mix things up! If your beat has a very rhythmic peak or valley every few seconds, it would be a good idea to hold some clips longer every so often. If you cut your shot every few seconds, the viewer will then begin to anticipate the edit change and not focus nearly as intently on the images being shown and the story being conveyed.

RECORDING VOICE OVERS

If you have a script for a voice over, then you need to make sure your tone matches the content (if the content is somber make sure you sound somber, and if it is lively be lively). Nothing drags down a montage as quickly as a poorly executed voice over dragging down the entire production. I recommend external audio recording equipment like a Blue Yeti recording mic for high quality performance, but some times you can squeak by recording off the computer mic itself as long as you keep the ambient noise around you to a minimum. Some people record voice overs in their closet to help minimize outside ambient tone and reverberation).

In FCPX, recording voice overs has been made even easier than in past iterations of the Final Cut software. Simply go to WINDOW > RECORD VOICE OVER.

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A new window will open with the controls, and by default the INPUT will be set to your built in mic. If you are using an external mic, this would be the point to change the input to your proper third party recorder. At this point, simply hit the RED RECORD BUTTON. You will receive a three second countdown and you can start speaking from that point forward.

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Montages require special attention to become something great. As long as you pay attention to the content, review numerous successful and failed montages online, and follow these suggestions, you will be able to elevate your work.

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