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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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

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.

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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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New Features in FCPX 10.2

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Since NAB happened last week, we were introduced to all the new products and updates to various products for filmmaking. From more efficient user friendly drones, higher end cameras, and software updates, it was a filmmaker’s paradise. One particular update that caught my interest was the release of Final Cut Pro X 10.2. Some of the features that were introduced were needed, and some of them made motion graphics, visual effects, and color grading much easier. I want to highlight three features that I found interesting and offer an opinion on how they will be beneficial to your workflow.

FCPX: 3D Text

One of the newer and greatly appreciated additions to FCPX 10.2 is the ability to create and manipulate real 3D text. Users can tweak animations, materials, reflectivity, and many other options with this new feature. In the past, if you wanted 3D text in your edit, you would go to plugins like Element 3D, mObject, or a dedicated 3D program. From what I’ve seen and played with myself, this is a very intricate feature, and one that requires quite a bit of computing power to truly witness its potential. It would be wise to have a strong Mac on your hands if you plan on utilizing this feature. This 3D text feature is great, and I believe it may minimize the need to run to third party plugins. Many FCPX plugin makes have already stepped up to the plate, such as Ripple Training, MotionVFX, and Stupid Raisins. They offer their own 3D text assets for users to utilize in their projects. I can only see this feature becoming stronger in later updates.

FCPX: Save Effects Preset

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This feature has been long asked for and it finally has appeared; the ability to save effect presets for later use. In the legacy Final Cut Pro, this feature was present along with the ability to save presets in a project. In FCPX 10.2, you can now have saved effects appear in the effects browser, which is much easier than having to do paste attributes all the time. I haven’t had much time to play with this new feature, but if it functions like people say it does, then it is very welcomed.

FCPX: Improved Masks & Color Correction Effect

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The masking feature in FCPX 10.2 now allows their own category in the Effects browser, as well as the ability to keyframe them much easier. The new Draw Mask filter gives you the ability to draw masks which can be linear, bezier, or B-spline smoothing. Also, the Shape Mask now has the ability to convert control points into editable bezier control points. One of the many strengths of FCPX was how strong its masking capabilities were in comparison to other NLEs, and this new feature definitely ramps up its strength. Much more compositing options will now be doable without leaving the comfort of your NLE.

Another new feature introduced is color correction is now an effect. In the Effect Browser, you can choose the Color Correction effect and place it on your effect. From there, it will open up the Color Board and allow for further tweaking. Since it is now treated as an Effect, you can apply color correction before video filters, or insert multiple color correction filters anywhere in the stack of video filters. After you stack and arrange the processing order of multiple corrections and filters in the Inspector, you can save this look as an Effects Preset for for re-use.

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As you can see, the new features available in Final Cut Pro X 10.2 have shown that Apple is serious about the filmmaking community. In time, I hope they address other grievances editors have with the program so that it can be an easier sell to hold outs. Overall, I think these new additions showcase how much potential lies within this program, and I look forward to what they will include next.

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Third Party Green Screen Keyers

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Green screen, or chroma key compositing, has been around since the 1930s. Developed by filmmakers at RKO Radio Pictures, it was used as a method to create complex visual effects that were before its time. Over the years, the process went from a painstakingly analog method to a digital method that can now be done on computers. Programs such as Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, and the like all have the ability to do basic greenscreen/bluescreen keying if your footage is in the optimal conditions. For complex and intricate situations, post professionals turn to programs like After Effects, Motion, Autodesk Smoke, or Nuke. Despite the programs that have greenscreen keying capabilities, there are many third party companies who have developed plugins to handle even the toughest keying processes. Let’s take a look at a few and see what each have to offer.

Primatte Keyer/KeyCorrect

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Primatte Keyer is Red Giant’s premiere keyer solution for post professionals. Within its array of features are some of the following: auto compute algorithm for pulling a perfect key, key correction tools for refining mattes and backgrounds, and color matcher feature for matching the subject to their background. This plugin is one of the most trusted keying plugin on the market amongst professionals in film (Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Harry Potter, and Spider-Man) and television (Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and Disney). This plugin is compatible on Mac and PC with programs ranging from Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Motion. I can personally attest to its strengths and abilities as I’ve used it in my work quite often. I find it great to use when Keylight may not be enough to get the job done. For the price of $499, it is definitely a keyer solution to consider if you do a lot of it. Just take a look at its capabilities below.

If you are fine with keying with Keylight, you can get the tools of Key Correct to assist you. Key Correct lets you create perfect keys from an image shot against a colored background. These tools include a Rig/Wire Remover, Light Wrap, Color Matcher, Alpha Cleaner, and many other tools. I’ve personally used Key Correct’s tools on many projects and found it to perfectly complement Keylight when I may have challenging keys. Having both Key Correct and Primatte Keyer are definitely tools you should consider in your post production pipeline.

Boris Chroma Key Studio

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Within the Boris Continuum Complete set is the Key and Blend unit. This unit automates the creation of precise keys with a minimal amount of adjustment. These filters strip away the complexity of chroma keying by automating matting, edge softening and refinement, and light wrapping and reflections to produce seamless composites each and every time. One plugin that stands out is the Chroma Key Studio. The Chroma Key Studio is an all-in-one keying suite similar to Primatte Keyer. It can do everything from screen enhancement, auto-garbage matte and masking, chroma key, matte cleanup, matte choker, foreground color correction, and light wrap into a single filter. In the tutorial below, Kevin P. McAuliffe demonstrates how versatile this plugin is and why it is a suitable solution for keying within your NLE. I’ve used it myself a few times and it is definitely a time-saver if I’m working in Premiere Pro or Media Composer as opposed to shipping it out to After Effects for chroma keying.

PHYX Keyer

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The final keyer plugin on the list is the one from the Phyxware folks. Phyx Keyer 5 is a set of 10 plugins designed to give you even faster and more accurate keys than ever before. These plugins include the FastKeyer, ScreenCorrector, Lightwrap, and SkinTools. These tools have been used by companies such as AT&T, Autodesk, and Fox Sports. These plugins were also used on the feature film Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. In the tutorial above, you get to witness how versatile and fast these set of plugins are, whether you are in an NLE or compositing program. One thing to note about these plugins is that they function on Mac only and are installed through the FxFactory software engine. I’ve personally used the Keyer and other tools in this set, and I have to say that it is top notch. They really have tools to handle even the most difficult keying scenarios.

You’ve seen these industry leading third party keyers and what they can do. Feel free to download a trial and see what the hype is all about. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

Sound Effects

Using Mattes in Your Edits

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Using matte clips in my edits is something I’ve been doing for a very long time. With mattes, I can isolate a piece of footage and insert other assets. What would be an otherwise boring set of clips looks like a masterful composition. Now, there are many ways to create mattes as well as use them in your edit. However, I want to highlight creative ways using mattes can add flair to your edits. The use of mattes can be done in all popular NLEs such Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and Avid Media Composer as well as in After Effects and Motion. Let’s take a look.

Enhancing Interviews with Travel Mattes

In this tutorial, post production guru Walter Biscardi shows us how to use mattes to enhance talking head interviews with b-roll. In Final Cut Pro 7, he places his interview clip on track 3n. From there, he places his matte image on track 2 with a scale and position adjustment. He inserts his main background on track 1 so that the composite will have an overall theme. With his interview clip selected, he control + clicks on it and selects Travel Matte Alpha. This puts his interview clip into the matte he placed in track 2. To clean things up, he nests his interview clip and matte into their own sequence. With his clips in a nest, it allows him to add a drop shadow which adds a bit of depth to the matte.

Next, he adds his b-roll on track 3 and another matte on track 2. Using the same process as above, he is able to place his b-roll into the matte and adjust it to taste. With his clips matted out, he adds the final touches with a faded title and he now has a much more visually appealing interview than he had before. No need to cut back and forth between talking head and interview when you can see everything at once.

Animated Mattes to Stylize Wedding Videos

In this cool tutorial, Sean Mullen of Rampant Design shows us how to use his popular product, Style Mattes. Style Mattes are a collection of pre-animated mattes which work with all major and popular post production software. Here, he shows us how easy it is to use these mattes in Premiere Pro. With your clip on Track 1 and the Style Matte on Track 2 or above, apply the Track Matte Key to your clip. In the effect controls panel, change the Matte option to Track 2 and choose between Matte Luma or Alpha so that you’ll see your video inside the matte. In a matter of seconds, it is really easy to add these mattes to wedding montages, music videos, documentaries, or any video project you have.

Light Streak Freeze Frame Effect

In this tutorial for Avid Media Composer, Jon Lynn of GeniusDV shows us how to create a light streak freeze frame holdout effect using the Marquee Tool. First, he isolates a frame in the timeline. From there, he creates a freeze frame in the source monitor. With the freeze frame created, he inserts it into the timeline at the point where he wants the action to stop. Next, he creates a new title which opens up the Marquee Tool. Using the shape tool, he draws a matte around the talent. Once the matte is created, he saves it into his bins for later use. With the matte placed inside of his bin, he inserts it into the timeline and does the necessary compositing to isolate the talent in the freeze frame. Using a filter from Boris FX, he is able to add the light streak effect and complete the graphic. One of the things I’ve always found hard to grasp in Media Composer is the amount of steps it takes to do what can be simple compositing. I know some folks like it, where others tend to leave that work to a program like After Effects or Motion. Overall, it is a cool effect when you want to add something special to your projects.

These are just a small collection of ways to utilize mattes in your video projects, and I encourage you to find ways to use them in a way that enhances yours. It’s easy to use them as a crutch for creativity, but when utilized properly, they can be a force to be reckoned with.

Sound Effects

Other FCPX Ecosystem Apps

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It’s been about four years since the debut of Final Cut Pro X. In that time, the application has had 14 updates which took it from what some would say is a beta level software not ready for prime-time, to a professional level editing application which is truly groundbreaking. Also in that time, new applications have entered the FCPX ecosystem to help users have as much speed outside the application as they do inside. I want to highlight three applications and a set of folder templates which I believe FCPX users should get their hands on as soon as possible.

ClipExporter 2.0

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ClipExporter is an application that allows users to send their clips to other post production software like Nuke and After Effects. Utilizing the FCPX xml protocol, users take the exported XML file and bring it into ClipExporter. From there, users can choose between the AE exporter, the Nuke exporter, or create trimmed video clips. Choosing either option gives the user the ability to deal with edited clips as opposed to sending an entire clip for further post processing. If you are trying to take your clips to After Effects, the application will generate a jsx file, which AE will read as a script, and load your clips once you run it. Certain items will carry over like resizing, spatial conform, and other modifications, but titles, generators, and such will not. If you are using the Nuke option, it will create a complete folder structure according to your requirements in Nuke. I personally have not used this application even though I have the first version of it. My workflows don’t usually require intense visual effect work so I haven’t had the chance to put it to the test. The newest version (version two) is streamlined much further and runs about $90.

FCPxporter

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FCPxporter is a new application from the folks of FDPtraining.com. It functions to assist FCPX editors in batch exporting projects. In the tutorial above, you’ll first want to tell the app how many projects you want to export. Next, enable your choice of notifications in your System preferences to have the app tell you when things are complete. Inside of FCPX, choose the timelines you want to export, and choose a sharing destination which you want to make default. Choose your export destination and hit Cancel twice. With FCPxporter open and your project number set, hit the Run button to get things in motion. While the application is running, it will tie up all of your computer’s resources so it is best advised that you let it finish the task before you do anything else. Overall, I think this is a nice application to have if you work on projects where you have to export a lot of timelines, like commercials or similar looking videos. I haven’t had a chance to test it myself, but if it is as straightforward as the tutorial indicates, I will definitely add it to my arsenal.

FCPX Folder Templates

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While this is not an application, these folder templates from FDPtraining.com are great for FCPX users who crave instant organization. They are designed to manage all of your project assets. The folders have preassigned finder tags so they are easy to find, or you can import the finder tags as keyword collections into FCPX. These folders will inspire you to be organized and give you another wow factor for deliverables to your clients. They are especially great because they have a template library that integrates well if you use PostHaste for project creation. In my experience of using this, I’ve found these folder templates to be integral in making me a bit faster when doing projects in FCPX. Take a look at the tutorial below and witness for yourself how awesome these are.

toMotion

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toMotion is a free and handy app for installing and backing up Motion Templates. If you download free templates from FCP.co or other websites, then you usually have to manually install the templates in your Movies folder on your desktop, and this can be a pain if you aren’t tech savvy. With this app, it takes the custom templates and gives you the option to install them into the appropriate folder so it will show up in FCPX. I’ve been using it myself for over a year to install custom Motion templates and it works like a charm. I’ve seen other applications that were designed to do this, but I found this one very straightforward and easy to use out of the gate. What surprises me is how few people know about it as it is free and very handy. I strongly recommend adding it to your arsenal if you want to minimize the time spent installing custom Motion templates.

These are some of the new applications and templates available for enhancing the FCPX ecosystem for die-hard users. Each of these applications serve a particular purpose for facilitating an efficient workflow across the board. Feel free to give them a test run to see if they can work for you.

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Valentine’s Day Theme Tutorials

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be nice to share a few free tutorials for those of you involved in post production. These free items service a variety of programs such as After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Cinema 4D, and more. Feel free to scoop these up before Valentine’s Day so you can make a special video for that special someone.

Creating Flying Hearts with Boris FX

In this Valentine’s themed tutorial, Imagineer Systems Product Specialist, Mary Poplin, shows you some quick ways to get particle effects into your workflow with Boris Continuum Complete. If you are a fan of using particle effects, then I strongly recommend using plugins from the Continuum Complete particle collection. I can honestly say that they are on par with Red Giant’s offerings of Trapcode Particular and Form. On top of that, this tutorial shows you how to take a vector image created in Illustrator, and extrude it in 3D space. With some post effects like vignettes and color grading, you are able to achieve quite an animation. What I found very interesting about this tutorial is that it looked complicated in design but easy to follow. Feel free to download a trial of Continuum Complete and create this animation for your V-Day sweetheart.

Create a Valentine’s Day Themed Animation in Cinema 4D

In this tutorial from AE Tuts, motion graphics artist Stefan Surmabojov shows us how to create custom Valentine’s theme animation using Cinema 4D and After Effects. Starting first in Cinema 4D, we create the heart shape and ending text. Using Cinema 4D’s camera tools and effectors, we are able to produce the emitting hearts and animation in 3D. Before we send it to After Effects, we can touch it up in Greyscale Gorilla’s HDRI Studio Pack to give it a photorealistic look. From there, we refine the look of animation in After Effects using Optical Flares and Trapcode Shine. This particular tutorial can seem daunting if you are not used to Cinema 4D, but it can help leverage your learning curve by showing you how to create something complex in an efficient manner. If after following the tutorial you are not getting the results you want, you can download the files from it and modify it to taste.

Valentine’s Day Particle Animation

In this tutorial by motion graphics artist Abdul Kabir, he shows us how to make another Valentine’s Day animation utilizing Photoshop and After Effects. He starts in Photoshop by creating miscellaneous shapes he will need down the line. With those shapes, he turns them into particles which form a heart with the help of Particular. With a camera added along with a null object, he is able to finesse the animation further. From there, he adds a gradient background and a lens flare reveal to tie everything together. What I liked about this tutorial is the collaborative nature of Photoshop and After Effects. I’ve found in some situations that it may be easier to create assets in Photoshop than in After Effects. Using them together is a powerful combination which I encourage users to do as much as possible.

These are just a small collection of tutorials you can use to create a gift for that special someone in your life. I’ve found that people really appreciate the effort you put in when you use a video over a physical item. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

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