Sci-FI VFX Tutorials

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With the upcoming release of Star Wars the Force Awakens, and the premiere of the recent Star Trek films, there have been many visual effects that filmmakers have looked to replicate to bring to their productions. This can be anything from heads up displays, 3D spaceships, weapons, and much more. Looking at these effects as they are, it would be a daunting task to replicate them without prior knowledge. However, using a tool like After Effects can bring your imagination to life by watching the right tutorials. Below, I will highlight a few tutorials based on science fiction visual effects that you can bring to your video projects.

Lightsaber Tutorial

In this tutorial from VideoCoPilot, Andrew Kramer shows us how to use his lightsaber preset which he created using the beam effect along with other filters and expressions. This preset has all the functions you would need to create the perfect lightsaber effect without having to use a solid layer with a mask. This preset also reacts to composition motion blur to create realistic motion. Using an obscure layer as a matte, you can place the lightsaber beam behind your talent when their motion calls for it.

I recently used this preset on a set of commercials and it still holds up eight years after it was initially released. I found it easier to use and manage over a plugin like Saber Blade from Fan Film FX. You can download the preset here and use it on your next Star Wars fan film.

Transporter Tutorial

In this tutorial from SternFX and Red Giant TV, Eran Stern breaks down how to create this infamous Star Trek teleportation effect using Trapcode Particular. Using the path from a circle math, Eran creates a circular motion for the point light which influences the motion path for Particular. Next, he parents the light to a null object so that he can influence the motion even further. With Particular applied to a solid layer and the settings manipulated to emit a solid stream of particles, the transporter effect begins to take shape. Once he has the effect created with Particular, he precomposes it and duplicates it to manipulate other iterations. With a lens flare from Knoll Light Factory and a few animation keyframes, he completes the overall animation necessary to apply to it to his subject.

In a separate composition, he brings the transporter effect and talent to the forefront. Using warping filters and masks, he completes the effect with ease. What I like about this tutorial is the attention to detail that Eran brings to this effect. I’ve seen this effect achieved using particle images from Particle Illusion, which is passable to the common viewer, but this version of the effect really has the Hollywood finish to it. Although it is a dated tutorial, I find it still holds up after all these years.

Hologram Tutorial

This tutorial from PixelBump shows us how to create a Star Wars themed hologram using green screen compositing. He creates three compositions with his keyed talent and changes their colors accordingly using the Levels effect. With the addition of the wiggle expression to create jerky motion, he crafts the colorization needed to create the hologram along with the Venetian Blinds filter. With a combo of offset matte layers and glow filters, he is able to complete Star Wars-esque hologram.

This effect was achieved using native filters and techniques that exist inside of After Effects which makes it accessible to everyone. I recently had to do a hologram effect for a group of spots and I went the third party route using Holomatrix to create the effect. It is always useful to know how to create visual effects when you don’t have access to to third party tools.

These are just three science fiction effects-based tutorials you can use on your next video projects. Try these out and experiment to create something unique.

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Creating Fire Heat Waves in AE CC

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Fire is a common element VFX artists need to work with in television, film, commercial, and web content. In a previous lesson, we looked at where to find fire elements and how to quickly composite them into your scene. In this lesson we are going to take the fire composite one step further and add heat waves into our scene. Adding heat waves is more of a judgement call made by the compositor if he feels the element is necessary. But in the case of a larger, hotter fire, the area above and surrounding the flame becomes slightly distorted from heat rippling in gas form.

To create this heat rippling effect, we first want to create a new solid in our composition (I named mine DISPLACEMENT) and then go to EFFECT > SIMULATION > PARTICLE PLAYGROUND.

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That red funnel is called the CANON. Move the canon to the core of your heat source (in my comp I am using the fire element as my source).

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First thing you will want to do is increase the BARREL RADIUS so that the particles stretch horizontally with the width of the heat source. Increasing the barrel radius will stretch the particles in both X & Y directions. Using the POSITION controls, adjust the particles to begin at the base of the of the heat source (not below it).

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Now we need the particles to increase and match the speed of the heat source (in my case the fire). To do that, increase the velocity in the particle playground settings (aka speed) of the particles. For me, somewhere around 150 did the trick. The particle speed now looks good, but towards the end of the particle’s life it begins to slow and dip back down. I want the particle to continue a smooth trend upward. To fix this, I can reduce the particles GRAVITY FORCE to 0. With the gravity set to 0, there is no source to pull the particle back down to earth.

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The last thing you will want to do with the particle playground itself would be to increase the PARTICLE RADIUS to around seven or so. The size of the particle will determine the size of the wave. Keep this in mind as you decide how subtle or obvious you want this heat wave to appear.

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With our particle system running the way we want it, let’s duplicate it!  We will want to change the duplicate particle from RED to GREEN and adjust the velocity setting slightly so that it doesn’t follow the exact same path as the first particle system.

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We now need to pre-compose these two particle systems together by highlighting both in the timeline and hitting COMMAND+SHIFT+C on the keyboard. Be sure to move all attributes and name this as WAVES COMP.

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To finish, select the WAVES COMP and go to EFFECTS > DISTORT > DISPLACEMENT MAP. Under the effect controls, go to DISPLACEMENT MAP LAYER and change it to WAVES COMP. This will use the WAVES COMP as its reading source for the displacement; thus creating the heat waves. To control the amount of displacement, you can increase and decrease the vertical and horizontal displacement controls to your liking. There you go! Heat Waves!

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Finding & Compositing Fire Elements in AE CC

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Digitally composited fire is a common element that comes up regularly in television, film, commercial advertising, and web content. For obvious reasons, it is much safer than dealing with real fire, and generally it is significantly cheaper than dealing with practical live flames, which always includ additional expensive permits and safety staff on set. That is why it’s a must for VFX artists to understand where to get fire elements for use, how to composite them, and how to add that extra lively touch of heat waves coming off the flames.

WHERE TO FIND FIRE ELEMENTS?

Digital fire elements are easy to find. One of the most common fire element packages comes from VideoCopilot.net’s Action Essentials 2. The package additionally comes with other action elements including: smoke, muzzle flashes, bullet casings, explosions, and more. The 720p version is available for only $99.95, and the 2k version is only $249.95.

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MotionElements.com is another good resource for purchasing royalty free digital elements a la carte style. A quick search for fire video elements brought up hundreds of results ranging in price and quality. What I like particularly about this site is they also offer 30 FREE elements weekly via email, and occasionally fire elements come at no cost to you whatsoever. Check it out and sign up!

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ArtBeats.com operates similar to Motion Elements pay-per-item service. The footage here is generally better, but it also comes with a price. The old adage of “You get what you pay for” is true in this case, and with Art Beats you get the absolute best.

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HOW TO COMPOSITE FIRE

To composite a fire element, we first start out with our scene in After Effects CC. Here, I am using a personal stock photo of a pumpkin farm.

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From there, I am going to navigate to my Action Essentials Fire element on my computer’s hard drive and drag and drop it into my scene.

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To start compositing the fire into the scene, we obviously need to get rid of all the black. To do so, simply right click on the element in your timeline and change the BLENDING MODE to ADD.

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From there we want to adjust the SCALE and POSITION to line up the fire where we want it to go. For me, the fire element is a big too long for what I need so I am also going to use the PEN TOOL and create a MASK only around what I need and FEATHER the edge.

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Right now the fire still seems a bit flat, so to give it some pop I am going to add a glow. To do that, with your fire element selected in the timeline, go to EFFECT > STYLIZE > GLOW. Increase the GLOW RADIUS to your preference (I went around 150).

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In future lessons we will look at adding heat waves and smoke. As they are released, I will also add links to those tutorials here.

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Greenscreen Compositing: Place Talent in Vehicles

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One of the benefits of using greenscreen is the ability to control the environment your talent is placed in. The amount of time, effort, and money it would cost to shoot in certain locations can be very expensive. Luckily, with a little pre-planning and a carefully executed shoot, greenscreen can put your talent wherever you need them to be. One of the unique places to put your talent is inside of a vehicle. The challenges in doing so are many. First, you have to remove the greenscreen through compositing filters. Then, you have to insert a background and any other elements to sell the composite as realistic. That’s easier said then done. With that being said, I will present some tutorials to help filmmakers place their talent inside of vehicles.

Inside of a Car

In this tutorial, filmmaker Lee Whitman shows us how to create a car driving shot using a greenscreen and native filters in After Effects. Using greenscreen for car shots is a common practice in Hollywood because of the difficulties of getting a good shoot of a car driving while focusing on the talent. In the tutorial, he has the greenscreen placed at the back end of the car so that he can key it out easily. From there, he masks out any additional set pieces that can interfere with the key. Using the bundled Keylight filter, he removes the greenscreen background which now allows him to place anything he wants in the background.

Now that he has his talent keyed, he can insert any background he wants. To help sell this composite, he uses some driving footage he captured from the perspective of the backseat, as well as some footage from the roof of his car. Using corner pin effects, the Levels filter, and blurs, he is able to create a convincing effect of his talent driving the car. When it comes to putting a talent in a vehicle, you have to think about the smallest details to make it believable, or your audience will be taken out of the moment.

If you have trouble shooting driving plates for your talent, look no further than the collection of plates from Artbeats. This collection features every perspective you need to make your talent look like they are driving down the road.

Inside of a Plane

In this tutorial, After Effects guru Andrew Kramer shows us how to create a believable tracking shot of two passengers inside of an airplane. First, he uses masking to isolate the talent from the tracking markers he has in place. Using a third party plugin from the Foundry, he tracks his points in 3D space and attaches a null object to them to use for tracking data. From there, he removes the greenscreen as well as the tracking markers to finish isolating his talent. Using high resolution images for his backgrounds, he constructs the inside of a plane which tracks to an outside shot of the plane’s wing and engine in 3D space. Adding elements like his free particle collection and his visual effects collection of Action Essentials, he goes further in making the composite believable.

This level of attention to detail is necessary when creating a shot where the camera moves. A simple key and background replacement for your greenscreen talent would not make this composite believable. Going the extra mile for even the smallest details has a big payoff in the end.

Inside of a Helicopter

On a recent project I worked on, I had to place my talent inside of a helicopter using greenscreen and some props to give the illusion he was flying it. This would have been a challenge had I not done some testing prior to the shoot and followed these steps accordingly:

Step 1: Key out your talent and insert any additional assets

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I first isolated my talent and the empty chair using masks and Keylight as you can see below. I duplicated my footage twice to make color changes to my empty chair and the talent so I can integrate them appropriately.

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From there, I added some stock images of passenger seats and placed them behind my talent. What I’m trying to accomplish with this composite is that this helicopter can carry multiple passengers.

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Step 2: Key out greenscreen helicopter and motion track

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Next, I used this 3D helicopter overlay. The background was blue and the windows were green. To properly key this, I needed two instances of Keylight with one focusing on the green and the other on the blue.

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Since I keyed out the windows, I needed to created the appearance of tinted windows. Using a solid layer and the track matte function, I created the windows. Using the Gradient Ramp filter, I used opacity and the Screen blend mode to fade it down. The last thing I did was created a null object and tracked the motion of the helicopter. I believed this was necessary so that my talent could match the movement of the helicopter, otherwise it would not look as believable.

Step 3: Combine your talent with vehicle asset

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In a new composition, I brought the composition of the helicopter and my talent with seats together. I parented the null object with the helicopter tracking data to my talent.

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Using solid layers and additional motion graphic elements, I created the back of the helicopter area so that it finished the illusion. I put it all together to finish the helicopter composite, and all that was left was to pair it with a background.

Step 4: Gather background asset and modify where needed

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Using a DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone, I flew around at high altitudes back and forth as well as up and down. Capturing the footage at 4K, this would give me the flexibility to scale in or out for my composite. After bringing it into After Effects, I treated the color levels with Colorista 3, and used an adjustment layer to add a slight blur.

Step 5: Finish the effect with background and talent

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Once I paired my helicopter composite together with the drone footage, I was close to finishing this visual effect. One of the few things that can cheapen something shot on greenscreen is edge lighting and color matching. Using filters from Key Correct Pro, I applied the Light Wrap and Color Matcher filters to blend my talent together with the background. With all of these steps combined I came to the result in the video below.

Placing your talent inside of a vehicle can be a very detail oriented composite, but when done right, you can make convincing composites that wouldn’t make the audience think twice. Next time you have a shoot where you have to place your talent inside of vehicle, consider using greenscreen to do it.

Sound Effects

After Effects Add-Ons

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Being one of the longest industry standard post production applications in the world, you would think After Effects would have every function to make your life as an artist easier. With the ability to create vector shapes, rotoscope, track in 2D/3D, and more, it is a pretty comprehensive application. However, on its own it can only do so much. That is why there is a community of developers who have created add-ons for After Effects to make the user experience more bearable than before. These add-ons can make animating multiple layers more efficient, the creation of a folder structure at the project, and other features. I’m going to highlight three of these add-ons.

Mister Horse Previewer

 

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This After Effects plugin is something that should have been in the program from the get go. With this plugin, you can view imported footage, images, and music in a separate panel and see the first frame of compositions. I can’t count how many times I wish I could quickly preview an asset without having to go through much hassle. Ever since I purchased this plugin, I feel more at ease when importing assets into After Effects knowing I can see them on their own without having to open the layer panel view them. You can purchase this plugin for $21 at Videohive.

True Comp Duplicator

 

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This is a script I’ve been using for the last two years and it has been an invaluable asset to my workflow. If you are a heavy After Effects user, you will know how much of a pain it can be to create duplicates of a composition which contain multiple precompositions. It’s not as simple as duplicating it from the project panel, unfortunately. What this script does is create a complete duplicate of a comp hierarchy, including sub-comps.  If a comp is used multiple times, the comp only gets duplicated once and all remaining references point to the first duplicate.  If the comps are arranged in a special folder hierarchy in the project panel, that folder hierarchy is preserved or duplicated (depending on user preference) for the duplicated comps.

Based on the tutorial provided by Lloyd Alvarez, this script is very in-depth and can is definitely a timesaver. The best part is that you can pay your own price to get this plugin.

Text Box Script

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This free script from Motion Boutique creates a rectangular box around a text layer. A modern look for infographics and other motion graphics involves text being inside of a box. This script helps speed up the process of creating shape layers around the length of your text. I’ve used this script on a few projects myself and it has been a blessing to use. All I have to do is create my separate text layers, plug in my parameters for the script, and voila! I have a text box graphic. Grab this script now and see where it fits in your workflow.

Sound Effects

Nodes 2 from Yanobox

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Avengers. Ender’s Game. Iron Man 3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes. These are just a few films that have had the opportunity to utilize the plugin known as Nodes. With the release of Nodes 2, Yanobox has upped the ante with what this plugin can do. This motion graphic tool can import 3D models, interact with the After Effects camera, link text and images to individual nodes, and so much more. The best part is it supports the most popular editing and compositing programs on the market including: After Effects, Motion, Final Cut Pro X, and Premiere Pro. If you don’t believe how awesome and intricate this plugin is, take a look at this demo below:

I’ve had a chance to try out Nodes 2 myself and I was extremely impressed with how quickly I was able to pick it up. Here are a few quick examples of what I was able to create on my own, which to my surprise, rendered very quickly on my iMac. On top of that, I like that I can create certain animations with ease compared to plugins like Trapcode Form or Particular.

Overall, Nodes 2 is an incredible plugin that needs to be experienced firsthand to admire its depth. With this plugin, I am able to create breathtaking and stylized motion graphics that would require multiple plugins and tinkering to achieve the look Nodes can create effortlessly. I’ve always been a fan of the Yanobox plugins, and this Nodes sequel more than lives up to its predecessor. I like how the controls are easy to experiment with, as well as the presets. The presets provide a great starting point and can be manipulated at will. The fine folks of Noise Industries have provided very detailed tutorials for your favorite software application, which you can check out here:

If you are looking for a plugin that imports stunning 3D models, build networks of node structures, and allows you to create an limitless amount of text and image connections, then look no further than Yanobox Nodes 2. At the price of $299, it’s a no brainer purchase that will save you hours of work and allow you to explore more creative depths than you can imagine.

Sound Effects

Best Drones for Filmmaking

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In this new era of filmmaking, getting complex shots has become much easier thanks to technological advances made by vendors across the world. It’s more affordable to get a rising shot thanks to jibs and cranes that are accessible to even the most low budget filmmakers. Getting stabilized shots are easier now thanks to amount of rigs available. Aerial shots have now become cheaper due to the influx of drones available on the market. I want to highlight some drones you may want to consider adding to your filmmaking kit so that you can increase your production value.

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced/Professional $1,3000

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This aerial drone is a new release from DJI and can capture great high quality footage from great distances. What makes this drone so popular is the following:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal camera which shoots HD (for the Advanced model) or 4K (for the Professional model)
  • Captures photographs at 12 megapixels
  • Live HD camera view via smartphone or tablet attached to the remote controller through the DJI app
  • Vision positioning through visual and ultrasonic sensors
  • Intelligent Battery with battery level indicator
  • Worry-free AutoPilot

As an owner of the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, I can attest to the incredible media captured with this camera. Within three days of learning to fly this drone, I was capturing great aerial shots that I would have had to pay a helicopter pilot to capture. With a $1,300 price tag, it is a steal for what you get from this drone. I would personally recommend this model for any prosumer or high end shooter who needs to capture aerial shots of client locations.

 

DJI Inspire 1 $3,399

 

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The DJI Inspire 1 is the more advanced and expensive model of the Phantom models offered. This drone is designed with strong carbon fiber arms and gives the user a full 360 unrestricted view when in flight. The Inspire features:

  • 3 axis gimbal 4K camera which shoots up to 30 fps, or 1080p up to 60 fps and takes photos at 12 MP
  • Optional dual remote control function
  • Powerful propulsion system
  • HD wireless video transmission
  • Vision Position system
  • Intelligent Power Management system

If I had the expenses, I would have considered investing in this. I would definitely say that this model is meant for high end, big budget filmmakers that have the funds to afford it.

3DR Solo Quadcopter $999.95

 

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The 3DR Solo is an all-in-one personal drone with a great ease of use and powerful new features. Within these powerful features are the following:

  • Computer assisted cinematography through the Solo app
  • Attach a GoPro to gimbal harness and stream HD video from your GoPro to your iOS or Android mobile device, at ranges of up to half a mile.
  • Easy to use aerial photography controller
  • Powerful smart battery which displays remaining time
  • Up to 20 minutes of flight time with GoPro attached

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this drone, but based on the preview video above and the feature list, it has a lot to offer. With the ability to mount a GoPro, you know what type of quality you are getting. With a price tag of $1,000, you are getting an advanced video production tool that will give see a greater return.

Overall, these three drone models are great if you want to add aerial videography to your business and skill set. I’ve only began my journey into aerial photography, but already I feel that it has added much value to my current projects. I look forward to seeing what I can do next.

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Luca Visual FX Backgrounds & Overlays

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The team at Luca Visual FX has brought another product to the market which will benefit professionals across Mac and PC platforms. It is the incredible and extraordinary Backgrounds & Overlays. This product is an extremely versatile collection of 100 HD clips which are an indispensable addition to any editor’s library.

It is compatible with the following software:

  • Final Cut Pro 7/X
  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Apple Motion
  • Avid Media Composer
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • HitFilm
  • Sony Vegas

I had a chance to test drive this new product.

What are Backgrounds & Overlays?

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It is a vast collection of 100 Full HD dynamic motion graphic clips designed to be used as backgrounds and/or overlays for a variety of projects. You can use them in promos, VJing, music videos, sports, news, corporate, and much more. On the dedicated web page at the Luca Visual FX site, you can preview the entire collection and see what each background has to offer.

What are some of the best ways to customize these clips?

Editors can use blend modes from their host programs, change the speed rate, scale, crop, position, or add any third party filter or built in effects to customize these clips. Also, stacking several instances of Backgrounds & Overlays allows the creation of complex and beautiful effects by simply using blend modes. Use effects such as blurring and distorting to maximize your customization. In this clip, I created some examples to showcase how far you can push these clips.

To see how these clips can be manipulated and integrated into your projects, take a look at this tutorial where I show you how to use them with footage and text:

Is it possible to get the Backgrounds & Overlays in a different format?

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All files are delivered as .mov files, so as long as the user has Quicktime installed everything should work correctly. If you need further assistance, you can contact customer support here.

Can you list some scenarios where these clips work best in?

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As mentioned above, they can be used for a variety of video projects. Here is a list of effects that I’ve done which you can try out yourself:

  • Video inside of text or shapes effect
  • Text backgrounds
  • Feathered shape overlays
  • Heads up displays
  • Frames and borders
  • Picture and picture background
  • Lower thirds
  • 2D & 3D animation inserts
  • And many more effects

Overall, I believe that Backgrounds & Overlays will be a product that users will turn to when they need to amp up their productions. With the dynamic range of motion graphics, and the fully customizable options that are available, the sky is the limit with creative opportunities. I strongly recommend that you download some of the demo watermarked clips and see what you’ve been missing. They are now available for download on the web page.

The launch price of Backgrounds & Overlays is $49.  Don’t miss out on this versatile product line.

For readers of this article, LVFX is offering a 10% off coupon when you make a purchase using this coupon code: BO2015S

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What is HitFilm?

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With all the editing and compositing programs available for filmmakers on Mac and PC, it can be hard to decide which program suits your workflow. The general understanding of post production is that editing should be handled in one program, where visual effects and motion graphics are handled in another. Programs that utilize this workflow are Premiere Pro/After Effects and Final Cut Pro X/Motion. With Avid Media Composer, professionals cut in the program but usually go to programs like After Effects, Fusion, Nuke, or Motion for graphics work. However, there are programs that have the best of both worlds all in one package. Autodesk Smoke has both editing and node based compositing capabilities. Another program is HitFilm Pro. I want to discuss HitFilm Pro, and why you should consider using it if you want an affordable all-in-one post production software.

What is HitFilm Pro?

HitFilm Pro is an all-in-one editing and compositing program. Designed to handle projects on the small scale to big budget, HitFilm can withstand it all. Bundled with over 180 effects, and the ability to switch between editing and effects smoothly, this program can do some amazing things whether it is in 2D or 3D. Need to motion track titles to a moving object? HitFilm can do it. Need to make your talent look like they are flying through the clouds? HitFilm can do that. This piece of software is pretty comprehensive and is only limited by what you want to create.

What is the general workflow when using it?

First time users can take different approaches to post production when they use this software. Gone are the days of switching between apps to do essential parts of the post production pipeline. Now, you have the choice between doing compositing or editing. In the second video above, Axel Wilkinson shows us a general overview of the HitFilm interface and how users can get up to speed crafting their videos in no time. Switching between the editing tab to the composite tab is something we could only dream of in the past. That reality is here with HitFilm Pro.

What effects can I create in it?

Like I said before, what you create in HitFilm Pro is limited to your imagination. Below is a list of effects and compositing capabilities it possesses:

  • Chroma Keying
  • Live 3D Model Rendering
  • 3D Particle Engine
  • Mocha 4.0 for planar tracking
  • Fire, lightning, and weapon based effects
  • 3D camera projection
  • Color correction/grading

Essentially, it possesses the capabilities of the popular NLEs and compositing programs on the market. Many web-based filmmakers have used created effects with this program, which include Corridor Digital, Film Riot and Freddie W. The effects I’ve seen created by users of this program would blow away even the most capable pros.

Why should I buy it?

There are many programs you could be using to complete your post production work. Many of which are trusted to get the job done by seasoned professionals. However, just because one workflow is trusted and most used does not mean it’s the only one that matters. Using HitFilm Pro will give you the ability to have the best of two disciplines in one program. No need to farm your visual effects out to a separate application. You can do it all in the application by tabbing over. With HitFilm Pro, you finally get the program that let’s you be all things post production without much hassle. When you have the options that this robust program offers, it’s a no brainer.

Overall, the team at HitFilm have created a comprehensive and robust application that can tackle even the most daunting of projects while making it affordable to every filmmaker. Download HitFilm Express 3 for free or purchase the pro version for $299.

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Motion 5 Tutorials

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Since its creation in 2004, Apple Motion has been an application that has evolved quite nicely, despite the fierce competition it faces from other apps like After Effects and Nuke. In its current iteration, Motion provides the plugin architecture for Final Cut Pro X, which means that all FCPX effects are actually Motion templates. With that advantage, users can create just about anything with Motion. Below are a few tutorials where Motion users illustrate how versatile the application is for their workflows.

Creating a Transition for FCPX

This tutorial highlights one of the core features of Motion, which is the ability to create custom transitions. Gone are the days of having to stack layers and utilizing keyframes. With a decent understanding of the Motion interface and its functions, users can create unique transitions to suit their video projects. In this particular example, the author shows users how to create a ripple flash transition from start to finish. When I discovered that you can create transitions and other effects in Motion, I decided to give Motion another try after years of being an After Effects user. I found this tutorial useful because even at the basic level, you can get an understanding of how far you can go with the creation of custom effects.

Animating a Photoshop File

There will be situations where your client wants to create a spot and you have no b-roll. Even worse, you have very minimal images to work with. However, they provide you with a layered, high resolution Photoshop file which you can animate and turn into a motion graphic with a little imagination. In this tutorial, Telemundo editor Brett Gentry shows us how he was able to take a client graphic and turn it into a 30-second spot using a combo of Motion and Photoshop. Utilizing markers, keyframes, and behaviors, he takes what I call a simple “Ken Burns effect” and makes an entertaining spot for an event. I will be first to admit that the Motion interface can be daunting at first glance, but watching how others work in it so efficiently inspires me to learn more.

Creating a Auto Green Screen Keyer with Background

There are projects you receive where the talent was shot on a green screen, and you need to key them out and insert the same background. If this is no more than five people, no big deal. However, if it is multiple talents and it needs to look like they were all keyed and composited the same way, it can become tedious. In the tutorial above, Brett shows us another way he uses Motion to create an auto keyer effect, which will allow him to key not only his talent, but insert/manipulate the background he wants behind them. This is convenient when you need to cut multiple spots or short form videos and time is not on your side. This effect is also a viable solution for the scenario I mentioned above with multiple talents. If you publish enough parameters and include the necessary assets, you can save a lot of time by creating an auto keyer effect in Motion.

Text Behind Glass Effect

I’ve highlighted the effects you can create in Motion for workflow tasks like titles, transitions, and effects, but it is always interesting to see how far one can push Motion to create things you would only expect in After Effects. This tutorial above is a prime example of something I wasn’t sure Motion could create. Editor/plugin author Simon Ubsdell takes a concept that originated in After Effects and creates it from scratch in Motion. Using textures, text layers, blend modes, filters, and behaviors, Simon creates this effect which can be used for promos, documentaries, or identifiers. I have to give kudos for the content that Simon has produced as of late. I’ve always believed the reason Motion wasn’t as popular as After Effects was because of the vast community and gurus that are out there. Seeing a dedicated user showcase Motion capabilities peeks my interest to add this tool to my skill set.

Overall, Motion has matured into a intricate and versatile tool that editors should take the time to learn. The market tends to favor the After Effects user, but every now and then there are jobs for people with Motion knowledge. Knowing this tool can benefit you in the long run.

Sound Effects

Film Impact Transitions Pack 3

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The creators at Film Impact have released a new pack of ten dynamic transitions for Premiere Pro just in time for the 2015 release. These transitions bring with it 3D movement, glows, glitches, flares, mattes, and much more. I’ve been using Film Impact transitions since their inception, and have all three packs in my collection. These transitions add that extra piece of pizzazz without being over the top. I had a chance to play around with these new transitions and see their capabilities. The four transitions below are some of my favorites.

Impact Solarize

Impact Solarize is a transition which takes the incoming and outgoing clip, blends them with a tinted invert and glow effect, then dissolves between them. In the Effect Controls, you can control a variety of parameters such as the glow, width, RGB values, contrast, and dissolve length. I’ve used this transition on recent video projects and it really flowed with the presentation and feel I was trying to establish. Overall, I like that I can change the colors and impact of the glow to get a unique look of my own, or I can use the default setting as is.

Impact Wave

Impact Wave is a transition that makes a wave like motion between your incoming and outgoing clip. I like to think of this transition as a combination of a zoom blur and a cross dissolve. With this transition, you can control the angle, motion blur, amplitude, colorization, and length. I haven’t seen anything like this from other vendors offering third party transitions. It’s very smooth and straight to the point. I highly recommend using it.

Impact 3D Roll

Impact 3D Roll is a transition that rolls your incoming and outgoing clip into a cylinder like motion. You can choose to roll it from a 45 degree angle, horizontally, or vertically. With motion blur properties available, users can choose whether or not they have it enabled, and how much of it they want. Users can also choose between the number of rolls, which ranges from one to three. The amplitude parameter controls the appearance of the roll, which means that a positive value yields the inside of a cylinder look while a negative value will give it a bulgy look. What I like about this transition is how versatile it can be, as well as it’s possible configurations. I’ve used this a lot on entertainment pieces and it definitely enhances the production value.

Impact Flare

Impact Flare is a lens flare transition that moves across the screen while dissolving from the outgoing clip to the incoming. Users have the ability to control a variety of parameters including the color, start/end points, shape, fog, and halo. While I’m a fan of this transition for its dynamic movement and ease of use, it would be even better to have some visual options of the parameters, like fog and halo. Overall, I’ve tried other flare transitions before, and this one renders more quickly and is great for a quick flare transition without a lot of fuss. This transition will be frequently used on some upcoming projects.

Film Impact Transition Pack 3 is a must have if you are a Premiere Pro user. In the time since these transitions have been available, I’ve seen great projects cut with this new pack, and you will have more creative options than before. Pick up this pack for $89, or all three packs for $179.

Sound Effects

Understanding the Roto Node in NUKE 9

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The Foundry’s NUKE is at the forefront for leading compositing programs in visual effects for television and film. Great news for those of you who want to learn NUKE and be ready for professional studio work. There is a FREE, non-commercial version to download. Once installed, you are ready to take on this tutorial and learn the functions of the roto node in a node based compositing program.

PLEASE NOTE* I have covered the topic of rotoscoping in basic and advanced tutorials previously in other compositing programs – Adobe After Effects & Silhouette FX. This tutorial is for those coming in with the knowledge of what rotoscoping is, but need or want to learn the interface of NUKE, since it is a node based compositing program. If you want to learn more of what rotoscoping is, please refer to my older lessons where I spend more time explaining the concept of rotoscoping.

I will break this tutorial down into three parts:

–       Adding the Roto Node

–       Shapes and Splines

–       Keyframing Shapes Over Time

ADDING THE ROTO NODE

Go to the DRAW NODES on the left hand side node bar > CLICK > and select ROTO. In your Node Graph, a roto node will appear. Simply hook up the viewer to the roto node in order to proceed.

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For those of you who are used to stacking layers in other compositing programs, such as After Effects, this might take some getting used to. Though the concepts remain the same, with node tree you are essentially mind mapping your ideas that are connected. I will go into more detail on Node Trees in another lesson.

SHAPES AND SPLINES

In your viewer, you can CLICK and create an anchor point. Continue to click around and you will start creating a shape. You can close the shape by either clicking back onto the first anchor point you created, or by simply hitting the ENTER key at any time.

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With the roto node active, on the left side of your viewer you will see your curves selections. The most commonly used are Bezier and B spline, but feel free to experiment with them all.

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Above the curves selection you will find your selection tools. These will control how and what you select of your splines in the viewer. For example, SELECT POINTS will allow you to select anchor points without selecting the splines themselves. Again, I encourage you to explore and tinker with all the tools to become familiar.

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In your properties window to the right, you will notice a list of shapes you have drawn in your viewer which will help you keep organized and remember which spline was used. Additionally, next to the shape name you have the EYE ICON which turns the shapes visibility on or off. Next to that is the LOCK ICON, allowing you to lock individuals shapes. That way they cannot receive or remove any keyframe data that has been established to that point. Next to that is the COLOR ICON which allows you to double click and choose a new color for that shape. The rest we will explore in a later lesson.

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KEYFRAMING SHAPES OVER TIME

Now let’s take a look at how we can start to animate these shapes across a timeline. By default the AUTO KEY feature is enabled. This is the skeleton key icon you see in the upper left hand corner near your selection tools.

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With this feature enabled, you can look at your frame on the timeline and see there is already a blue keyframe placed there.

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You can take your mouse and move the playhead further down the timeline, and then make adjustments to your shapes. You will notice another keyframe is automatically added (notice at frame one, and then again at frame 20, there is a blue dash representing the keyframe).

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Using your selection tools, you can move each control point individually, or you can highlight some or all of the control points on the shape and move those as needed. Additionally, you can go to your PROPERTIES window on the right and open the TRANSFORM tab to bring up the transform controls on your shapes. This will allow you to create separate transform keyframes on the timeline that handle transform, scale, and rotation.

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Luca Visual FX Hi-Tech Overlays

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The team at Luca Visual FX have been working hard to bring a new product to the market that will benefit post production professionals across Mac and PC computers. It is Hi-Tech Overlays. This product line expands the alpha transitions and overlays that LVFX created in the past. This update brings a new model for users to access the elements they need at a moment’s notice. I’ve had a chance to preview the new library and had a chat with the guys of LVFX. Here are a few questions users may have.

What are Hi-Tech Overlays?

It is an alternative solution to our Hi-Tech plugins for FCPX that provides users of software such as Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, After Effects, Motion, and Final Cut Pro a way to build Hi-Tech mographs for promos, sci-fi, music videos, news and sport, corporate productions, and more.

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I see that you implemented a new system for the users to access the product. Tell us about it.

Yes, all mographs and images are provided in full resolution and the user will download from our web site only what they need any time they wish, right from the moment of purchase. We started working on this new way of delivering a product in December 2013 and hope to provide the easiest and most convenient way for our users to access a vast library of interchangeable mographs and images.

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Will the library be based on a subscription that you pay monthly, or is there a lifetime license?

No monthly subscriptions to pay, but only a single lifetime license that people can easily purchase on our web site. The user will receive unique and safe login details shortly after completing the payment, and will be able to download both Hi-Tech default looks of effects like holograms, displays, sci-fi mographs, fractals, etc., and individual elements to customize and combine as desired. The library also includes High-Tech Elements Vol.1.

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I have issues with Quicktime on my PC. Is it possible to get the Overlays in a different format?

All files are delivered as .mov, so as long as the user has Quicktime correctly installed everything should work correctly.

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Will there be tutorials on how to achieve the results you showed in the demo?

Yes, we have already edited four of them and more will come. They show how to customize not only the elements, but also how to combine them creatively in order to create unique looks. The first four are available on VIMEO.

If I own the FCPX templates of this product, is there a way to get access to this library to get additional elements?

Hi-Tech Overlays is essentially a cross-platform alternative to Hi-Tech for FCPX that will work with more hosts. FCPX users would find in the library what they have already in the form of FCPX templates. There are, however, several advantages in using individual layers. We also intend to expand the library and add more and more elements for our users. Should FCPX users wish to access the library in order to handle individual layers, we recommend to email support@lucavisualfx.com with their request.

What manipulation options would allow you to get the best results with Hi-Tech Overlays (i.e color change, distortion, time remapping, etc.)?

There are tons of ways to modify the overlays. The only limit is one’s creativity. For example, with filters, the user can indeed change the color and distort (some examples can be seen on the demo) but also add glow, blur, and many other stylizations. Another way to create unique compositions is to combine individual elements taken from different categories (i.e. Holograms and sci-fi overlays or Screens and Fractals, you name it), use blend modes to create nice superimpositions and layers. Another great advantage that not even the FCPX template can offer in such extent is the use of any transition you can think of in order to create your own Build-In and Build-Out at the beginning and end of your composition. An example is shown at the very beginning of the demo where all elements come together in different ways. Possibilities are endless!

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Do these elements come with embedded alpha transparency? If they don’t, what would be the best practice for getting transparency?

Yes, absolutely, the alpha channel comes with every single element of Hi-Tech Overlays.

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Overall, I believe Hi-Tech Overlays will definitely be a product with infinite possibilities for the user. The amount of ways you can mix and match the elements will definitely draw the user to think outside the box when they apply mograph to their projects. I strongly recommend that you try experimenting with different colors and manipulation effects to see how far you can push each element. In the process, you may create a unique look that wasn’t thought of before.

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VideoWall Plugins for After Effects

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One of the most common motion graphics you see on broadcast television, as well as motion pictures, is a video wall. A video wall consists of a grid of multiple videos all playing at once. In many examples, this is usually used to highlight a specific theme or subject, and is accompanied by text or other motion graphic elements. Creating video walls manually can be tedious if you don’t know how to start. But, nonetheless, it can be done. If you opt to go the third party plugin route, below are three plugins/tools from different companies for After Effects that can jumpstart your video wall creation.

Coremelt Video Wall Zoom & Panel Vision

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Within the Coremelt Complete suite are two plugins I use to create a video wall. The first one is Video Wall Zoom from the ImageFlow FX collection. This generator creates a wall of images/movies, one of which zooms in to fill the screen, then zooms back down. Another just zooms in to fill the screen. Not only does it come with enough image/movie placeholders, but it also has an animation option that can be utilized in more ways than one. With the multiple image placeholders and animation settings, it can be used as a standalone motion graphic, or a chapter transition between segments.

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The second plugin from the Coremelt Complete set I would turn to for video walls is Panel Vision. Panel Vision is a part of the Shatter collection, which contains “3D” perspective plugins with interesting effects. Panel Vision allows you to tile up to eight source images randomly into any number of rows and columns. It’s great to use when you want to cram four to five videos into a wall with little effort. You can also combine with other plugins like I did in this tutorial below and get a circular shape.

BCC Wild Cards

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BCC Wild Cards is used to generate an array of 3D cards with interesting and convenient animation options. This filter is a part of the Particles category in the Continuum Complete suite. It can be used to divide up one video into rows and columns of cards, or multiple videos into rows and cards. Below, After Effects guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us the possibilities you can achieve when using BCC Wild Cards with multiple videos.

One of the reasons I like this filter for video walls is the ease and flexibility in the control options. They are very straightforward and can have you up and running in little time. I have used it myself when I made a promo for my Premiere Pro project file giveaway, which you can see below.

I highly recommend giving this plugin a try if you want a quality filter for doing a quick video wall animation.

Red Giant Planespace

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Planespace is a compilation of tools that are made to help manage large amounts of 3D layers in After Effects. Within this compilation are Cubic Distribution, Box Creator, Cylinder Creator, and Matrix Creator. One tool in particular that is great for creating a video wall is Matrix Creator. This tool can set up rows and columns with ease along with predetermined animated parameters. I’ve used this tool a few times when I wanted to create a video wall using 3D layers in After Effects, as opposed to having it contained within a filter. With Planespace, I can use an unlimited amount of layers to achieve the look I want. With this ability comes the caveat of slowing down After Effects if you have too many 3D layers.

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Overall, Planespace is great when you want to push the boundaries of After Effects’s 2.5D layers.

These are just some of the incredible tools and plugins you can use to create a video wall for your projects. Feel free to give them a try and add to your arsenal.

Exporting/Compression Applications

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Exporting your edit out of your NLE is one of the many important processes of post production. In the tape-based days of exporting, it could be a very tedious and time consuming process that required a lot of quality assurance. With the digital era of video and web based content taking charge, exporting your videos isn’t as hard as it use to be. As a video producer, it is my job to know what specifications are necessary to deliver to my broadcast and web vendors to ensure that my commercials get aired properly. That is why I need to know all the available media compression applications on the market. I’m going to highlight three applications that I’ve used for the last five years to get the job done.

Adobe Media Encoder

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My go to compression/exporting application for the last four years has been Adobe Media Encoder. In times of fast turnarounds and very specific video types, Media Encoder has been clutch more times than I can count. Since I’ve been using the Creative Suite/Creative Cloud, Media Encoder has been apart of the bundle. Long before Premiere Pro had the ability to export media from the application itself, you had to queue in Media Encoder to get the final render you needed. The latest iteration of Media Encoder is a stable and reliable application that is able to meet vendor specifications much easier than anything I’ve used previously. Whether I need Quicktime files or mp4 files, it gets the job done. Below are a few abilities of Media Encoder:

  • Match Source presets
  • Exporting Closed Caption data
  • Import and export of Avid DNxHD assets
  • Support for new formats such as Sony 4K AVC-Intra (XAVC), Panasonic AVCI-200, DNxHD in an MXF container, XDCAMHD in a QuickTime (.mov) container, and more

Apple Compressor

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The next compression/exporting application I used quite often is Apple’s Compressor. Compressor has been apart of the Final Cut suite for the last decade, and the latest installment is much stronger and efficient than before. I’ll be honest about my use of Compressor. I used it mostly when I needed to make DVDs or seldom used file types. It got the job done until I shifted to an Adobe workflow. It could be that the computer I had previously wasn’t strong enough to harness its true power. Overall, I found Compressor to be a backup in case Media Encoder failed to deliver what I needed. I have found that the latest version of Compressor works great when I edit with Final Cut Pro X. It creates great master files and web ready H.264 files very efficiently and clean. It even creates video files for iTunes app display. In my opinion, it is one of the best compression/exporting applications on the market and shouldn’t be overlooked. Below are a few features of Apple Compressor:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Streamlined workflow
  • Share Final Cut Pro settings
  • Encoding available for Apple devices
  • Broad format support and more

MPEG Streamclip

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MPEG Streamclip is a free application available for Mac and Windows which can open a variety of file types, as well as transcode to a variety of formats. In my opinion, this application was at its peak when most NLEs couldn’t take raw formats like H.264 from DSLRs. With most NLEs now supporting raw format editing in real time, this application has become more of a last resort compression application when you have no other choice. When I edited with Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro CS5, using this application to transcode footage was a common part of my workflow. These days, I help new  filmmakers learn to use it when they don’t have access to the aforementioned applications above. Overall, MPEG Streamclip is still a versatile application and I believe you should have it in your arsenal just in case. Below are a few features of MPEG Streamclip:

  • Lets you play and edit QuickTime, DV, AVI, MPEG-4, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 or VOB files. Transport streams with MPEG, PCM, or AC3 audio (MPEG-2 playback component required), DivX (with DivX 6) and WMV (with Flip4Mac WMV Player).
  • Saves edited movies as MOV files, and (when possible) as AVI or MP4 files.
  • Handles files and streams larger than 4 GB, split in any number of segments, or with multiple audio tracks, and can also optionally handle timecode breaks. It is compatible with MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video, MPEG layer 1/2 (MP1/MP2) audio, AC3/A52 audio, and PCM audio.
  • Supports batch processing: just drag some files in the batch list, choose a conversion and a folder, click the Go button, and MPEG Streamclip will automatically convert all your files.

As you can see, these three applications are very capable of creating deliverables necessary to get your project out. While there are other applications like Sorenson Squeeze, Red Giant Offload, and camera based conversion programs, these programs have shown that they can perform at the top level. Feel free to try them out and find out what works best for you.

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