Favorite New Features of FCP X 10.1

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With the update of Final Cut Pro X to 10.1 (as of this writing, it is currently 10.1.1), the program brought the goods in terms of media management, 4K capabilities, and much more. In my opinion, this update caused more professionals to accept Final Cut Pro X, and to finally start using it. I’m going to touch on some of my new favorite features that were introduced in 10.1.

New Library media management

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I will be honest in saying that when I first got a look at how FCPX managed projects as well as media, it was a complicated process to understand. Gone were the days of project files and scratch disks. These were replaced with events and projects in this paradigm shifting editing software. Events were a collection of media files, and projects were a combination of how you wanted things edited together. Overall, FCPX worked like a database system more than anything else. This method of media management was meant to make media readily available, reduce crashes from too many video clips, and change how an editor could get media from one project to another. While all the intentions of this new system were good, I personally found the process more complicated to get behind than the way FCP 7, Premiere Pro, and Avid Media Composer dealt with media management. What was also hard to grasp was the concept of using third party utilities, such as Event Manager X, to give me peace of mind when I worked on multiple projects. There were many flaws with the original media management system that were hard for me to wrap my head around. However, that all changed when FCPX 10.1 was released and introduced the Library bundles. Adopted from iPhoto, as well as the latest version of iMovie, a library is a container that holds media, events, and projects. If you want to break it down into NLE terms, it is a hybrid between a project file and scratch disk. Best part is, you can specify where to save when you first create one. With the new library model, the concept of projects changed as well. Now, they are treated more like sequences in FCP 7, which will definitely help people who may be on the fence to get behind this software. The folks from Ripple Training break down how libraries work in this clip below:

Through & Rolling Audio Edits

One of the cool new features of the 10.1 update is the ability to make through edits, as well as rolling edits on audio. Prior to this update, if you made a blade edit on a clip, it would split the clip into separate segments. Now, if you make a blade edit on a clip, you will see a dotted line indicating a through edit has been made. If you want the through edit to be joined to its original clip, you select the clip and choose Join Clips in the Trim dropdown menu. Larry Jordan explains these concepts of trimming in the video below:

Another nice trimming addition is the ability to make J and L cuts on audio. In previous versions of FCPX, you were able to make a rolling edit on audio. Now, if you expand the video and audio and use the trim tool, you can roll the audio of one clip into another, thus creating either a J or L cut. The folks at Ripple Training provide great insight into addition in the video below:

Active Clip Indicator

This is a cool new feature which I was glad to see added. The Active Clip Indicator is a white ball that is attached to the playhead. It reveals the effect parameters of the clip the playhead is over without having to select it. Ripple Training provides great insight into this feature as well:

Overall Performance

Under the 10.9 OSX Mavericks, FCPX 10.1 overall performance is extremely smooth; especially for people using either new iMacs, Macbook Pros, or even the new Mac Pros. At first, I wasn’t happy about having to update my operating system to accommodate one piece of software, but since I have, the speed is like nothing I’ve experienced with past Mac operating systems. While I may have my own thoughts on how Mavericks operates, I believe it was a smart move by Apple to make this version of FCPX available only on Mavericks. It gives users not only a next generation editing software, but a free update of their current operating system. With my specs on a 27-inch iMac, I have experienced nothing but smooth and efficient playback. Overall, I personally believe Final Cut Pro X has reached the place where professionals should give it another look. Despite its problematic release almost three years ago, the program has matured into a serious NLE platform that is more than capable of getting things done.

Sound Effects

Title Plugins/Resources for Premiere Pro

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As strong of a non-linear editor as Premiere Pro is, not too many users know how to take advantage of one particular tool it possesses… Title Tool. Having worked in multiple NLEs, I have to say that Premiere’s title tool is very versatile if you know how to take advantage of it. However, if it doesn’t immediately grab your attention, there are third party titling plugins available for Premiere that can help accommodate your editing tasks.

Style4Type

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The brainchild website of video producer Tim Kolb, Style4Type offers free and premium Premiere Pro title templates for users to utilize on their projects. Tim also examines title sequences from movies and television to provide insight into the design and placement. With many templates to download, users will have a vast array of title styles for any project.

PremierePro.Net

Created by Premiere Pro certified trainer Jarle Leirpoll, this site provides presets and title based templates for users of Premiere Pro CS5 to CC. Jarle has released chapters of his upcoming Premiere Pro book on how to use the title tool for compositing and motion graphics. Below are a few pictures of some the templates you can download. You can download some of his project templates here.

FxFactory

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The many developers from FxFactory have created a variety of titling plugins to take the process out of creating from scratch. Although many of their title plugins exist for FCP X, there are a group of developers who’ve made title plugins for Premiere. FxFactory has Manifesto for basic titles, rolling credits and crawls, as well as Star Titler for the Star Wars enthusiast. Yanobox has Motype, which is a title animation plugin that utilizes a variety of motion graphics parameters in 2D and 3D. LucaVisualFX has a Random Text generator for unique title sequences and other features. Finally, SugarFX has Movie Credits and Rolling Credits for creating film style titles with little to no effort. All of these plugins work within the FxFactory engine, which has been ported to Premiere 4 and on. One downside is that it is only available to Mac users.

ActiveText

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ActiveText is a set of ten free title plugins which can simplify the most common types of quick text captions and subtitles. All an editor has to do is use a transparent video layer and drop one in with the ActiveText filter on it. Within seconds, you have a unique title animation that would be close to impossible to create in Premiere without a lot of compositing. Unfortunately, these plugins are only available for Mac users.

NewBlueFX Titler Pro

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A very integrated and flexible tool, Titler Pro is the fast and professional solution to help you create beautiful titles with ease. With a vast array of drag and drop animations, users can create professional looking titles effortlessly. With this plugin, editors can minimize the need to dynamic link titles to After Effects, and can create them within the program. Below is a brief demonstration of what Titler Pro is capable of doing.

There are more titling plugins for Premiere that I probably missed; especially from its biggest companions, Photoshop and After Effects. Overall, if you need a title or title animation in Premiere Pro, there are many ways to go about it. I’m the NLE Ninja asking you to stay creative.

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Using PNG Images in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics

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Learning to search and utilize PNG image files can speed up any visual effects artist and motion graphics editor’s workflow. Whether it’s a quick pre visualization mock-up for a client, or the final render, PNG image files are a great tool to add to any visual editor’s skill set. First, let’s go through a quick run down on what exactly a PNG image file is:

PNG is an acronym for Portable Network Graphics. It is a type of image compression format just like JPEGs and GIFs. One of the great things about using PNG images is that they support lossless data compression. Even though it results in a larger file size, it also allows a perfect reconstruction from the original data file. JPEGs, on the other hand, are considered lossy data compression, which results in a much smaller file size, but the data reconstruction is only a approximation and not nearly as accurate. PNGs were developed to replace and improve upon GIFs, and are currently the most widely used lossless compression format on the internet today.

Now that you have the basics, let’s talk about where to find them and how to make them. The key behind PNG images is that you can save the image with or without an alpha channel. This means that if you search for, lets say, SCISSORS PNG on your favorite search engine, you would be able to get an image of scissors WITHOUT any background to worry about needing to key out later. WITH an alpha channel means there is a background, WITHOUT an alpha channel means no background.

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This can be extraordinarily useful for motion graphics editors who need to animate various objects, and who are working on a tight deadline. Even so, visual effects editors who specialize in matte painting and digital retouching can easily utilize PNG images to add quick layers of depth and realism to their work. For example, Maxx Burman, a VFX artist who worked on AMCs The Walking Dead, used multiple layers of images to build up over the zombie actor’s face to add gruesome textures of torn flesh, exposed bones, and rotting organs.

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The same goes for matte painting when the artist can use images of people, cars, and even buildings to blend it into a landscape scene to create a photorealistic image.

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If you do not find the PNG image you are looking for, you can always create one yourself in Photoshop CC. I’ll show you you how you can do it in two simple steps:

  • Isolate your subject
  • Save as a PNG

 ISOLATE YOUR SUBJECT

Once you import your image into Photoshop, use the QUICK SELECTION tool to highlight everything around your subject, and then hit DELETE on your keyboard.

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SAVE AS PNG

Once your image is isolated, you now can go to FILE >> SAVE AS, and choose PNG as your FORMAT.

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This will present you with a dialogue box about Compression and Interlace. Set Interlace to NONE to make sure there is no alpha channel added to your image. And that’s it. You’re all set!

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Color Keying an Image in Photoshop CC

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As an editor there will be times that you receive green screen footage that needs to be keyed out and retouched in some fashion. The biggest obstacle of most editors throughout this process is finessing the image to eliminate all of the green. Two major issues to resolve are the green halo around a person or object, or the dreaded green spill in a person’s hair. I am going to show you how you can overcome these hurdles in three simple steps using Photoshop CC.

  • Color Range Selection (to get rid of the bulk of the green screen)
  • Adjust Hue Saturation (to remove the green halo)
  • Refine with White Matte Reduction (clean up remaining green spill)

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COLOR RANGE SELECTION

To first get rid of the bulk 98% of the green screen in your image using Photoshop CC, you will want to go to SELECT >> COLOR RANGE.

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You will now have a new window that allows adjustments, along with a white icon of your master image (the white shows what color is being isolated and selected, whereas the black is being ignored). If you pan your mouse over the master image, you will also notice you have an eye dropper tool. At this point, you will want to simply take your eye dropper tool and click on the green screen in your master image. Your icon in the color range window will change a bit, but will still show some gray or black in the green screen area that still needs to be added to your color range selection.

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In order to select the rest of the green screen, choose the eyedropper + icon below the save button in the color range window. Then, go back over your master image and keep clicking in the different color ranges of the green screen until you see your color range icon turn white in the appropriate areas.

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Once finished, hit OKAY. Now your master image will show a dotted line selection around your green screened area.

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Go ahead and hit DELETE.

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Looks pretty good now, right? If we want to make sure there is no more green, a good trick is to create a new layer and make it black behind your master image.

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I notice immediately there is now a halo around my subject, and if I zoom in, I can also see green spill in the hair and beard as well.

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ADJUST HUE SATURATION

To shave off the next 1% of the green screen in our master image, we want to eliminate the green halo around our subject. To do that, we are going to add a HUE/SATURATION layer from our ADJUSTMENTS tab.

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The goal is to isolate the green halo and desaturate it out of the image. In the properties window that opens up, you will want to change MASTER to GREENS.

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Then go to the SATURATION slider and reduce it to about -70 or -80.

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Finally, adjust the slider at the bottom until the full range of green has been eliminated from around your subject.

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REFINE WITH WHITE MATTE REDUCTION

Last but not least, now that we have isolated and desaturated the green spill around our subject, the extra bits are now white instead of green. There is a nice tool that eliminates all white matting. To finish up our image, go to LAYER >> MATTING >> REMOVE WHITE MATTE.

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XEffects Toolkit Review

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As content creators, we are tasked with delivering the best videos in a timely manner. However, obstacles beyond our control can impede that process, such as poorly shot footage, creating motion graphics from scratch, or utilizing footage from a smartphone in an HD project. Luckily, there are plugin developers who understand the woes that editors endure on a regular basis.  They’ve created tools to help in the editing process. The folks at Idustrial Revolution have created a fantastic set of plugins known as XEffects Toolkit. Included in this set of 53 plugins for Final Cut Pro X, are tools that make the hard tasks in editing easier. Just by looking at their promo below, you’ll see tools you wish FCPX came with natively.

I’m going to discuss tools that I find useful in my workflow with some added insight.

Pillarbox Shoulders

This effect is meant for footage shot on your iPhone or smartphone that was recorded vertically. If you are an editor who deals with smartphone footage on a regular basis, and hate when the shooter has their camera vertically, this effect reduces the time you would spend making the footage fit within a 16×9 sequence. This effect works as a title layer which can expand across a long piece of footage. What this effect does, is it first adds a drop shadow to your source footage. Then, it repeats your source clip in the background and blurs it to put the main focus on your source footage. Within the parameters, you can control the image, blur amount, drop shadow, and much more. Here’s my example below.

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Shrinkback

Shrinkback is a cool auto animating effect that scales your footage up and down based on the parameters you set prior. There are three variations of this effect with Shrinkback, Shrinkback Side by Side, and Shrinkback Quad. This effect is useful when you don’t want to keyframe the scale and position of your footage over time. It is definitely useful for showing multiple clips at the same time with the different variations.

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RGB Time Adjust

This effect is a nice VFX filter for the times when you want to see the RGB channels offset in time. With this filter, you can determine which frame you start, the amount of time you offset each channel, as well as whether to enable frame blending. Here’s a picture of my example of a martial artist expert.

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3D Perspective Pro

I’ve come across multiple 3D filters for FCPX; each claiming to be better than the other. However, 3D Perspective Pro has to be the most in depth 3D filter I’ve used. Not only can I control the scale, rotation, and position of the image in 3D, but I can control those parameters as it relates to camera parameter in the plugin. This filter is helpful when you need some quick 3D animation and you don’t want to ship out a clip to After Effects or Motion. I believe the folks at Idustrial Revolution did a great job making this a strong “3D” filter for editors.

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Overall, I believe these tools are must haves for those editing tasks that delay you from getting things done. If you are a diehard FCPX user, I strongly recommend you add XEffects Toolkit to your arsenal. You can trial XEffects Toolkit through FxFactory, or purchase it for $49. Idustrial Revolution also creates many great effects and transitions that are worth checking out. I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you stay creative.

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