Practical FCPX Tutorials

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One thing I’ve always enjoyed about tutorials, is that they can teach you skills you wouldn’t have known unless by trial and error… or luck. I can honestly say that my skill set comes from what I’ve learned from various tutorials. However, many tutorial authors advise that you use skills you learn from their tutorials as a launchpad to real world and practical situations. Just because a tutorial can show you which buttons or commands to use in a program, doesn’t mean that it will teach you how to be a better storyteller. I do believe that there are people who offer practical tutorials for everyday, real world situations that you may encounter as an editor. In particular, I’ve come across many talented editors who have shared practical tips when it comes to using Final Cut Pro X, as well as Motion. Ever since its release, people have spent more time defending its editing capabilities, versus showing why it’s faster to utilize its workflow. I’m going to highlight some FCPX editors who have willingly shared practical tips and workflows when using Final Cut Pro X.

Chris Fenwick (Digital Cinema Cafe & FCP X Grill)

No one I know has put more effort in showcasing and highlighting how much depth Final Cut Pro X has more than Chris Fenwick. As the senior editor for Slice Editorial (and host of two of my favorite industry podcasts, Digital Cinema Cafe & FCP X Grill) Chris has created a plethora of practical FCP X tutorials he has discovered through his work and experimentation. Below are three tutorials that I personally found helpful in adopting the workflow of FCPX.

In each of these tutorials, you learn something that can be implemented immediately on any project. The “Poor Man’s” dynamic link, as Chris calls it, is great for folks who use After Effects for their motion graphics work and need a workaround for swapping out updated elements without doing a lot of importing. The multicam trick he shows using compound clips to achieve the CNN look, while still being able to cut to different angles like a technical director, is brilliant. Trying to do it any other way now would seem like a time consuming and a frustrating endeavor. Being able to swap out lower thirds, like Dustin Hoye does in the last video, is incredible. Knowing that I can type in the information I need for a subject, and change the look while maintaining the information with ease, is something that will aid in tight deadlines. Tips like these would convince me of the power and ease of a FCPX workflow.

Michael Garber (Garbershop)

Michael Garber is a talented freelance video editor with many years of using Final Cut Pro legacy, and he’s one of the foremost authorities when it comes to Final Cut Pro X. He has written many articles highlighting how his workflow has been accelerated, thanks to learning the features that FCPX has to offer. In this video below, Michael shares a tip for editing audio bits in the magnetic timeline by creating a secondary storyline. By using this technique, the audio segments you edit won’t shift should you need to add an additional piece of footage. Also, the secondary storyline acts as a placeholder for adding additional audio down the line.

Brett Gentry (BeatusMongous)

Brett is a Las Vegas editor/post production manager I discovered recently who cuts content for Telemundo. In his tutorials, he demonstrates techniques in Final Cut Pro X that allow him to cut multiple spots and commercials in very little time. In the two videos below, Brett showcases how utilizing Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5 workflow has allowed him get through projects at an efficient pace.

In the first tutorial, Brett shows us how he was able to emulate the look of a commercial for a law firm that aired in English utilizing the FCPX keyer, simple transitions/effects, stock footage, and custom Motion templates. I believe the only people who have done something on this scale are the folks of Ripple Training with their FCPX promo training course. In the second tutorial, Brett shows us how to create a keyer template effect for clients you may deal with on regular basis. He creates three effects to deal with the multiple camera edits of two tight shots and a wide shot. With these templates, Brett is able to cut similar segments of the same client in very little time. This technique is definitely something I wish I knew about when these programs were released. With the amount of green screen work editors deal with these days, knowing I can create something like this between Motion and FCPX would definitely convince a wayward user of the power of this workflow.

Overall, I believe these editors have provided some great tips and workflows for Final Cut Pro X that would have only been discovered through trial and error, or by purchasing a course. I’ve talked with FCPX editors who have told me how much faster they have become since using the program, but not many of them want to share tips like these gentlemen have. Maybe in time, the FCPX community will provide more practical tutorials like these to really champion how professional and timesaving the FCPX/Motion workflow is.

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Rampant Design Tools Next Gen Elements

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We are entering a new age in digital resolution where 720p and 1080p will seem like standard definition television. Resolutions like 2K, 3K, 4K , and above will soon become the new standard, and no one knows that more than Rampant Design Tools. Sean Mullen is the brainchild of VFX professional and founder of Rampant Design Tools. Sean and his team have created the next generation of drag and drop elements to accommodate editors and artists alike who are working 2K-4K workflows. From light elements, mattes, transitions, and more, Rampant Design Tools can provide you with the touch of creativity you need on any project.

Shot on RED cameras

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These elements were all shot on RED Epic cameras with high resolutions ranging from HD, 2K, 4K and 5K Quicktime movies.

Elements for any project

These elements work on a variety of projects. Whether it be feature films, broadcast television, corporate, weddings, etc, these elements can be incorporated into any project. Utilizing blend modes and your applications toolkit, there are infinite configurations you can come up with using Rampant’s next generation products. The best part is that they can be used for more than one function, whether it’s a quick background effect or transition. One of my favorite elements from this line is Studio Reflections, which you can check out below. This product is definitely useful for high energy events and weddings. One of the other strengths of these elements is their path of delivery. They are available for download or through a USB 3.0 hard drive, which comes in handy when you have to travel between studios and the internet isn’t as strong.

Compatible with all NLEs and compositing applications

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Rampant products is that they are not plugins or something that needs to be installed to function. You simply import them into whichever Mac or PC editing program you are using, and drop them into your timeline. From there, what you do with them is completely in your hands. Another great benefit of these products is that they render fast. You will rarely see your system bogged down by using these elements, as they are not plugins, but Quicktime movies. I’ve used these elements in Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro CC, After Effects, and Avid Media Composer. The integration and render speeds were impressive. I was able to drag, drop, and manipulate to my heart’s content. One product I use often is Studio Mattes. Sometimes creating custom split screens can be a hassle even when your NLE may offer a plugin that does this already. I can group multiple clips together utilizing Studio Mattes along with a track matte option. You can see the versatility of these mattes in the video below.

As a user of Rampant Design products for the last four years, I can tell you that these are must-haves for any editor’s arsenal. These products have helped elevate my projects more times than I can remember. When you use products that are made by editors for editors, you know they won’t fail to impress. I’m the NLE Ninja asking you to stay creative… and to Run Rampant!

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Favorites New Features of Premiere Pro CC 2014

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NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) just took place in Las Vegas, and that means new releases are coming from a variety of vendors in production and post production. One I’ve been anticipating is the update to the Creative Cloud suite of applications. In particular, I am excited for the new features in Premiere Pro CC 8. Within the next update of Premiere Pro, editors will have access to tools, functions, and more that will allow them to be more effective and efficient. In the video below, my good friend and fellow post production professional, Josh Weiss of Retooled.Net, highlights some of the best features coming to Premiere Pro in 2014. I’m going to highlight the features I’m most excited about.

Masking and Tracking

Premiere Pro has come a long way in terms of tools meant for masking. With the release of CS6, plugin developer Creative Impatience created Feathered Crop, Vignette, and Simple Mask plugins that will help editors take care of simple compositing tasks that normally would have required many steps to achieve. With the new built in masking tools of Premiere Pro CC 8, it has finally reached the level that Final Cut Pro 7 had. You can create a rectangle or circular mask which can crop or isolate a portion of your footage. Best part is, that it comes standard with many of the native effects Premiere Pro has, like the Mosaic and color correction effects as seen below. This functionality will definitely speed up simple compositing tasks that most people would farm out to After Effects.

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The added bonus of built in compositing tools is the tracking function that comes with them. As long as I’ve used Premiere Pro, motion tracking either came in the form of After Effects or a third party plugin solution like Boris FX. With this new addition, Adobe developers understand that editors sometimes want to keep certain tasks within the NLE.

Transparency Grid

This has been something that I’ve been asking for since CS5. I’ve even asked product manager Al Mooney to add this on Twitter during a #postchat conversation. Premiere’s partners in crime, After Effects and Photoshop, have had a transparency grid since the Creative Suite days, and this has aided in detecting if a clip or image had embedded transparency. For the longest time, editors did not have this option in Premiere Pro. The only way you were able to detect transparency is if you switched the source monitor to Alpha, and this would show you black for transparency and white for opaqueness. Now, we have more options with a transparency grid which will definitely make life easier.

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Preserve bin structure

This is a feature I discovered via Scott Simmons in his Premiere Pro article. How many times have you ever organized your footage and assets in a structure at the finder level, only to have it broken by importing into Premiere Pro? Well, that is no more. Now, Premiere Pro will maintain your file structure upon import, which will give you more time to spend on editing and creative tasks.

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Track Backward Selection

No NLE I’ve used since Final Cut Pro 7 has had this tool. Not Avid, not FCPX, and not Premiere… until this reveal. Now users can select clips forward or backward in the timeline. This will come in handy for editors with big timelines.

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Live Text Templates with After Effects

This is a feature that Premiere users have been waiting for. For the longest time, we could import After Effects compositions into Premiere Pro via a dynamic link, but making changes was a tedious process. Live text templates is a step forward in the evolution of Adobe video products that will inch it closer to competing with the FCP X/Motion combination that exists now. This feature allows you to edit the text of an After Effects composition within Premiere without all the back and forth. While not completely perfect in execution, this feature will definitely open the door for what we can expect in the future between these two programs.

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Overall, I’m extremely excited to try this next version of Premiere Pro CC. As my top NLE of choice, I’m always amazed at the features each update brings along with it. In my opinion, I believe this version can do everything the FCP 7 can do but better. And with the stronger integration with After Effects, it will put it on par with what FCP X can do.

Sound Effects

Creating Reflections in an Eye Using After Effects CC

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Every good editor and VFX artist aspires to be (or at least should aspire to be) invisible to the viewer. At no point do you want the viewer of your movie, short film, webisode, etc. to stop and say, “Wow that was an awesome matte painting,” or, “That was an incredible digital composition.” You want the viewer to be immersed in the universe the film is creating. As technology has advanced, editors and VFX artists have stepped up and taken a more active role in creating simple yet creative shots cinematographers used to take hours laboring over. One of the most noted of these instances is showing a reflection in someone’s eye. I will show you how to create this effect in three simple steps:

  • Capture Your Footage
  • Composite Your Shot
  • Resize, Crop, and Retouch

CAPTURE YOUR FOOTAGE

The two pieces of footage you will need include: a close up of an eye, and what you hope to reflect in the eye. For me, I aimed to create an iconic image of some enemy reaching towards the person as it reflects in their iris, and for this, I used my lovely assistant (my wife) to play both parts. Using some cheap macro extension tubes on my Canon DSLR I was able to get reasonably close up on my subject’s eye.

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The camera was locked down on a tripod and I had my actress sit down in a chair in order to minimize her movements. I then had her throw on a gas mask, switched out the macro tubes for a cheap wide angle macro attachment, and captured footage of her reaching towards the camera in a menacing fashion.

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By using the wide angle attachment, it created a slight fish eye distortion around the edges. This will blend nicely as the footage will be composited and reflected on an eye, which is curved in nature.

COMPOSITE YOUR SHOT

Now that you have collected your footage, import the clips you intend to use into a new composition in After Effects. Move both clips into your LAYERS WINDOW and make sure the reflection clip is on top.

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With the reflection layer selected, RIGHT CLICK and go to BLENDING MODE >> SCREEN.

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This will begin to blend the two layers together in an organic fashion necessary to create the foundation for our visual effect. Depending on the lighting for your scene, you may also play around with alternate BLENDING MODES such as OVERLAY and COLOR DODGE.

RESIZE, CROP, AND RETOUCH

With your REFLECTION LAYER selected, hit S on your keyboard to bring up the SCALE option, and reduce the SCALE down significantly so that your reflected subject just fits within the iris of the subject’s eye.

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From there we need to cut the reflection layer into a CIRCLE using the ELLIPSE TOOL.

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Hit M twice on your keyboard with the REFLECTION LAYER selected in order to bring up the MASKING OPTIONS. Here you will want to INCREASE FEATHER to blend the edge of the circle cut we just made. Also, reduce MASK OPACITY until you feel the REFLECTION LAYER is appropriately blended into the eye.

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To add more drama to the scene, you can also quickly retouch the clips and add some COLOR CORRECTION. Go to LAYER>>NEW>>ADJUSTMENT LAYER and apply the TRITONE effect. You will be presented with three color ranges to identify: whites, mid tones, and blacks. For my scene, I pushed on the cooler spectrum and moved my mid tones and blacks into the blues, but you can experiment with your own scene for the desired effect.

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Red Giant Universe

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As a plugin enthusiast, I have always been a fan of the offerings of Red Giant Software. They have industry standard plugins in color correction, particles, lens flares, motion graphics, workflow tools, and much more. Another great thing is that the people behind the products are working veterans themselves; such as Aharon Rabinowitz, Harry Frank, Seth Worley, Simon Walker, and Stu Maschwitz. The tutorials they provide are top notch as well as the promos they create. With NAB around the corner, Red Giant is releasing new products under a subscription based model called Universe. Check out the trailer below to learn more.

Universe is a subscription based community where users will have access to free and premium plugins. These plugins are power-based on the GPU of your computer, and offer near-real time quality. They operate from a tool known as Supernova. According to plugin developer Alex4D, Supernova is a development system that uses a javascript-like scripting language to access the Red Giant Universe Library; a collection of image processing libraries whose code is combined together to make cross-platform Universe plugins. Learn more about Supernova below.

While the concept of a subscription model may sound familiar as with the Adobe Creative Cloud, the folks at Red Giant software put a lot of thought and care into how this community would work so it would be something that everyone can partake in. As of this writing, Red Giant is offering a public beta and will probably change things in the coming weeks. There are four plans that are currently on their site. You can sign up for a free membership, which lasts forever, and gives you access to 31 free plugins and more. The next membership is a monthly plan of $10 a month which gives you access to 31 free plugins, 8 premium plugins, and more. The third membership is a yearly plan of $99 annually. It contains the same features of the monthly plan, but at a discounted rate. So instead of paying $120 over a one year period, you pay $99 upfront for the year. You can also choose to pay $399 for a lifetime subscription plan where you never have to worry about monthly or annual fees.

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The plugin offerings are quite incredible on both the free and the premium side. One premium plugin that stood out to me was the revamped HoloMatrix. This was created by Aharon Rabinowitz to reduce the steps it takes to create holograms. Originally, it worked more as an After Effects script with presets available to change the look. Now, it functions fully as a plugin, but is much more responsive. Take a look at the tutorial below how HoloMatrix works now.

One of the free plugin categories that stood out to me were the glows. I’ve played with many third party glow plugins, and while they each have their strengths and weaknesses, I found these glows to be very responsive to parameter change and easy to process, thanks in part to Supernova programming. Overall, I’m extremely excited for Red Giant Universe. I believe it will definitely be a game changer in the plugin industry and will set the bar for how plugins are created and delivered to the masses. I really appreciate the fact that Red Giant took the cloud concept and made it work for everyone. It’s also cool that they offer a strong array of free plugins under the lifetime free membership option, which I’ll be using quite often. I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

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Creating Censorship in After Effects CC

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Censorship is a commonplace practice with today’s television standards. Whether you are an editor censoring some bits from a hollywood film for television, or you work in reality television; censorship is a necessary tool for all editors to know. There are a few common styles that are associated with censorship, including the ‘black bar,’ the ‘blur out,’ or the ‘pixillation’ approach. These can be used on logos, to profane gestures, to nudity, and more. Each director, editor, or corporation may have their own preference, so I am going to show you how to create each style in After Effects CC.

Please note that in order to match the censorship to a moving object, you must track the motion and link your censorship to the tracked footage. I go more in depth on how to track footage in a previous tutorial you can read here.

THE BLACK BAR

Creating a black bar in After Effects CC is a fairly straight forward approach. To create a black bar simply go to LAYER >> NEW >> SOLID. You will be presented with a dialogue box for the SOLID SETTINGS. By default, After Effects sets the color to black which is exactly what we need here, so you may proceed and hit OKAY.

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You will notice now the black solid takes up the entire composition.

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To reduce the size and shape to cover your desired target, you will first want to switch to your SELECTION TOOL by hitting V on the keyboard, or by selecting the arrow on your tool bar.

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You can now CLICK AND DRAG on one of the four corners of the BLACK SOLID and resize it to the desired shape. Also, by clicking and dragging within the shape itself allows you to reposition the solid on your composition.

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THE BLUR OUT

Some reality TV studios prefer to blur out logos or profane gestures in hopes to make a less visually jarring and subtle censorship on their image. To start, you will need to create a new ADJUSTMENT LAYER by going to LAYER >> NEW >> ADJUSTMENT LAYER. No immediate change will be seen in your composition, but if you look in your layers panel, you will see the layer sitting above your video layer.

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An adjustment layer is sort of like an empty bucket that is just waiting to be filled. You need to fill this bucket with the blur effect. To add the blur effect to your adjustment layer go to EFFECT >> BLUR AND SHARPEN >> GAUSSIAN BLUR. In your EFFECTS CONTROLS PANEL, you will see the BLURRINESS is set to zero. Go ahead and increase the number to about 75.

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You will notice the whole composition is now blurred out. To blur just the target, you will need to choose the ELLIPSE TOOL.

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With the tool selected CLICK AND DRAG to create an ellipse in your composition.

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In order to get rid of the hard edge CLICK to HIGHLIGHT your ADJUSTMENT LAYER in the LAYERS PANEL, and then click M on your keyboard TWICE.

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This will bring up your MASKING CONTROLS. Here you can increase the MASK FEATHER to blur the hard edges on your ellipse, as well as increase or decrease the MASK EXPANSION.

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PIXELATION

Another approach that is commonly used in mainstream media to censor nudity and profane gestures is through pixelation. For the most part, the steps to follow are nearly identical to the ‘blur out.’ First, create a new adjustment layer by going to LAYER >> NEW >> ADJUSTMENT LAYER. Next, add the pixelation effect by going to EFFECT >> STYLIZE >> MOSAIC. In your EFFECT CONTROLS, increase the horizontal and vertical blocks to about 30 each.

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At this point, just as with the ‘blur out,’ you are going to use the ELLIPSE TOOL to create an ellipse around your target, and then use the MASKING CONTROLS to blur the edge and control the expansion of the ellipse.

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