FCPX to AE & Avid to AE

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Very often in the editing process, we get to a point when we need to shift from cutting and assembling our edit, and into the stage of refining it with motion graphics, visual effects, or color grading. Most modern NLEs have the tools that can do such tasks, but depending on the complexity of these finishing techniques, you may need to turn to a program like After Effects. It’s no secret that After Effects is one of the industry standard compositing/motion graphics applications that professionals of all tiers use to complete a project. Getting timelines or footage from Premiere to After Effects is an easy task that can be accomplished in multiple ways. However, if you an editor who uses Final Cut Pro X or Avid Media Composer, getting your timelines into After Effects may be a bit of challenge. However, there are dedicated workflows and applications available for editors of those programs.

FCPX to AE (Automatic Duck XImport)

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This new plugin from Wes Plate brings the functionality of bringing Final Cut Pro X timelines into After Effects. The original Automatic Duck plugin allowed users to send Final Cut Pro 7 & Avid Media Composer timelines to After Effects for polishing and other effects. The process works by creating an XML in Final Cut Pro X. From there, open up After Effects and navigate to Import>Automatic Duck Ximport AE. A dialogue menu will appear and you can navigate to the location of your XML file. Select your XML file, decide whether or not to modify settings, and hit Return. The translation will produce a folder and composition based on what you named your timeline in FCPX. Open the composition and you can see what transferred and what didn’t. This plugin will read third party plugins like Boris FX, Coremelt, and others. The ones that probably won’t carry over are any FCPX Motion template based plugins, like those from MotionVFX, Ripple Training, or Pixel Film Studios.

I personally haven’t had a project to test this plugin, but when I do, I plan on trying this workflow to see if it is another solution I can have in my arsenal.

Avid Media Composer to AE

In this video tutorial, post production guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us how to roundtrip Media Composer sequences to After Effects and back. First, he right clicks on his sequence in the project panel and selects Export. In the Export settings, he selects Options and chooses AAF along with AAF Edit Protocol. He also selects Include Video/Data Tracks, enables the Link option, and sends the AAF file to the desktop. Inside of After Effects, he goes to File>Import> Pro Import After Effects. In the dialog menu, he navigates to the AAF file and modifies the settings to accommodate his file. This allows for After Effects to create a composition that looks identical to how his timeline was cut. From there, he breaks down how to export from After Effects using the DNxHD codec. Once he exports it out, importing it back in Media Composer is a smooth process based on the DNxHD codec he used.

I’ve cut on Media Composer in the past, and from what I see here, this is a very similar process to getting FCP timelines to After Effects. The only difference is the name of the file intermediate you use to get your timelines from one place to another. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of how Avid has compositing situations and its continual lack of blend modes boggles my mind. However, this tip is handy for anyone who deals with Media Composer on a regular basis.

From what you can see here, getting your timelines from FCPX and Media Composer to After Effects is not as hard as it looks. Knowing how to use these methods can be beneficial for those situations when you need to hand off your timeline to a visual effects artist or animator. There are probably other methods than the two I highlighted here, so feel free to find those so you have a backup plan.

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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

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

Quick Blemish Removal in After Effects CC

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Most people, including myself, have some sort of blemish, scar, or imperfection they wish they could keep from showing up on camera. After Effects CC has developed a new matte tracking process that makes removing unsightly blemishes a breeze. In this tutorial I will show you how to complete the effect in three simple steps.

–       Creating the Matte

–       Tracking the Matte

–       Removing the Blemish

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CREATING THE MATTE

To start, lets create a new composition with our footage and take a closer look at what needs to be retouched.

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In this clip I can see we need to do some blemish removal in the cheeks and along the jaw line. Additionally, if you notice near the right ear (stage left) there is a long stray hair we can also quickly take care of with this technique. For now, let’s focus on his right cheek (stage left).

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Essentially, the process is simple but time consuming. We need to focus on each blemish individually, and create a sample clean area that matches the blemished area to be superimposed and smoothed over on top to create a seamless appearance. To do that, first DUPLICATE THE SOURCE FOOTAGE. We will need to duplicate the source footage EACH AND EVERY TIME we need to create a new blemish cover. Then, create a mask that isolates the blemish and the extends out to take a sample of the clean surrounding area; just as this picture shows in detail.

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TRACKING THE MATTE

By isolating the blemish in the matte it creates a great tracking marker for the program to follow. Now, RIGHT CLICK on the matte and choose TRACK MASK.

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A window in the lower right will now appear with TRACKER CONTROLS

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The default method tracks position, scale, and rotation which will be fine for this example. Next to ANALYZE, select the forward arrow and allow After Effects CC to track the mask throughout the duration of the clip.

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In your timeline, this will create a series of keyframes tracking the mask to your subjects movement. It is important to have a perfect track in order to ensure the blemish cover moves along with the subject to create a seamless and clean appearance. If the track was unsuccessful, some helpful tips would include:

–       Analyze frame by frame and move the mask manually back on point when it loses its subject to ensure a locked track.

–       Start at the end of the timeline and analyze backwards (sometimes starting with a different point in time helps the computer algorithm lock on better and understand your point of focus).

REMOVING THE BLEMISH

Once you have a mask sampling a clean area of the skin and tracked that mask to the subjects face throughout the duration of the clip, it’s time to get rid of that blemish! Using the directional arrows on your keyboard, or clicking and dragging with your mouse, move the mask on top of the blemish area

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You are probably saying, “That just moved the blemish over with the mask! It didn’t fix anything!” – well – we’re not done yet. At this point, open up the mask tools by having the mask selected in your layer window and hit MM on your keyboard to open up the entire tool set.

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REDUCE the MASK EXPANSION so that the blemish sample disappears and you just have a small sample circle to use.

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INCREASE the MASK FEATHER to smooth out the sample’s circle edges, thusly blending it into the face, creating a smooth and clean finish that follows the face throughout the clip.

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You now just successfully removed ONE blemish. Depending on your subject, you may have more to go. Just repeat the process as described as many times as necessary to create the final retouched image.

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Timelapses & Breakdowns

 

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

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

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

VFX Breakdown #2: The Expendables 3

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

Timelapse Edit #1: SNL “Testicules”

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

Timelapse Edit #2: Red Productions Christmas Video 2014

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

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

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Editing Wedding Videos in FCP X

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

–       Importing and Organizing

–       Editing the Footage

–       Exporting

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IMPORTING AND ORGANIZING

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

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

EDITING THE FOOTAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EXPORTING

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

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Editing Montages with FCP X

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

–       Understanding the Mechanics

–       Cutting to the beat

–       Recording Voice Overs

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UNDERSTANDING THE MECHANICS

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

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CUTTING TO THE BEAT

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

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

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

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

RECORDING VOICE OVERS

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

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

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

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

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Creating a 3D Opening Card in After Effects CC

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The image of an opening book or card in a movie, TV show, or commercial is nothing new. With the advancement of visual effects, this can now be created in a variety of dedicated 3D modeling programs or, in this case, advanced compositing programs such as Adobe After Effects CC.

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I will show you how to achieve this effect in three simple steps:

–       Source Images and Setup

–       Creating and Rigging the Card

–       Animating the Movement

SOURCE IMAGES AND SETUP

First, you will need to find images that can be combined together to create the final look of your card. Therefore, since a card is paper, you will need an image of paper. You can source your image by doing a quick GOOGLE search, or if you are working on a professionall project and need royalty free images, you can take a photograph of the paper you will be using yourself or join a royalty free stock image site such as thinkstockphotos.com or photobucket.com.

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In After Effects, once you find the images you will be using, create a new composition (I made mine 1080 HD and five seconds long). If you have a background image, you will place that first (scale and position to fit) and possibly add a light vignette to the overall composition.

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CREATING AND RIGGING THE CARD

At this point you can place the first paper image (scale and position as needed) into your composition.

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It looks a little flat so why don’t we first add a black solid (LAYER>NEW>SOLID). Use the rectangle masking tool to create a shape slightly larger than the paper image, feather the edges, and place it underneath the paper to give a subtle shadow effect.

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This first page will be our inside page. We can add now add some text (Use the text tool in the toolbar > color and font at your own preference).

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Now we can create the top cover page that will be animating open in just a moment. Simply duplicate the first page (Command+D on the image layer) and move it to the top in the layer panel.

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Create more text that will go on the cover, and then you will be ready to move towards animating the card.

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ANIMATING THE MOVEMENT

Turn both the cover page and cover text into 3D layers. We will be controlling the cover page for the animation, so go ahead and parent the cover text to the cover page using the pick whip.

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With the cover page selected, you will see the page has an XYZ axis in the middle.

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This is the anchor point of the image and it will act as the hinge where the page will bend. Using the Anchor Point Tool (From Toolbar or shortcut key ‘Y’) move the anchor point to the far left of the page (place the green Y axis arrow right along the edge of the page).

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Open the rotation controls on the cover page (have the layer selected and hit ‘R’), and key frame the Y axis increasing over the time of the composition in order to create the visual effect of the card opening to reveal the inside contents.

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Animating Numbers in After Effects CC

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Sometimes you need to create a motion graphic showing numbers increasing or decreasing for a percentage, calculation, statistic, or whatever the reason may be. There are many programs that can help you achieve this effect. However, in my opinion, I would argue After Effects is your best program to create this animation. As much as After Effects is known for its post production compositing abilities, it was originally created as a motion graphics program. Today, I will show you how to increase numbers in an animation using After Effects CC in three simple steps:

  • Create Placeholder Text
  • Add the Slider Effect
  • Add the Expression

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CREATE PLACEHOLDER TEXT

First, we need to create a placeholder text before we begin. It’s a placeholder because the Slider Effect we will be applying next will eliminate anything we type in. Select your TYPE TOOL from the tool bar. Choose your font and size from the text assets window, and then type in your placeholder text.

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To clarify, this text is broken down into three sections where only one of them is changing. The first sections is ‘CALCULATING.’ The next section is ‘100,’ which is the PLACEHOLDER text – this is the only bit that is important in completing this motion graphic effect. The last section is ‘%,’ and the reason I did not combine this section with the ‘100’ is to reiterate that once we apply the slider effect, it will eliminate anything we type into that section.

ADD THE SLIDER EFFECT

Now that you have your placeholder text, go to the EFFECTS & PRESETS window and type in SLIDER. CLICK AND DRAG your slider effect and add it to your placeholder text.

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At this point, go to your layers window. Open the settings on your placeholder text layer by twirling open the triangle icon next to the sections TEXT and EFFECT > SLIDER CONTROL.

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Go to your SOURCE TEXT and ALT CLICK on it.

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You will immediately notice your canvas preview has disappeared and new icons in the Source Text controls will appear. The WHIRL icon will allow you to CLICK AND DRAG your SOURCE TEXT and PARENT it to the SLIDER CONTROLS.

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You can now go to the Effects window for your slider controls. Notice that your placeholder text will follow whatever you set the slider to.

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Your source text and slider are tied together and can be keyframed and animated to increase and decrease as you see fit. The only issue here is, by default, the slider animation (when tied to the source text) will additionally add in a decimal system.

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ADD THE EXPRESSION

If you only want to display whole rounded numbers, you will need to make one final adjustment. In order to resolve the decimal issue, first ALT CLICK on the SLIDER CONTROL STOPWATCH in order to pull up the effects natural input expression.

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So the natural expression is this:

effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”)

In order to round the system of numbers to the nearest whole number, you need to alter the expression to look like this:

Math.round(effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”))

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PLEASE NOTE, the ‘M’ in Math MUST be capitalized in order for After Effects to properly interrupt the expression coding.

There you have it! A number system you can keyframe and animate to increase and decrease as you see fit.

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Basics in Controlling Text Animation in After Effects

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Text animation is everywhere in film and TV. Text controls exist in nearly every post production and image manipulation software ranging from entry level NLEs such as iMovie, to Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Nuke, Cinema 4D, Maya, Avid, and more. We will be exploring After Effects today in its ability to:

  • Create and Manipulate Basic Text Form
  • Animate Text Using Position, Scale, and Rotation
  • Additional Resources and Plug Ins

CREATE AND MANIPULATE BASIC TEXT FORM

Start by creating a new COMPOSITION. Observe on the right hand side the TAB labeled CHARACTERS.

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This CHARACTER WINDOW will be what we use to control the TEXT we write with. Starting from the top and working down, this window allows you to choose the FONT, line variation, color, size, spacing, stroke, height, and width.

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Once you have adjusted the settings to what you feel will be the best fit, go up to the tool bar and select the TEXT TOOL (CMD+T).

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Click inside your COMPOSITION and type out your text. If you find you want to make further adjustments, highlight your text and inside the CHARACTER WINDOW you can make the necessary adjustments in order to create your desired text layout.

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ANIMATE TEXT USING POSITION, SCALE, AND ROTATION

When first learning how to control text, one must learn to keyframe the text and control simple 2D functions such as Position, Scale, and Rotation. POSITION – when you have your text layer selected in the layers window, hit ‘P’ on the keyboard. Position is what controls the location of your text in the composition and how it moves throughout the timeline. In order to create a KEYFRAME, you must CLICK the STOPWATCH icon next to POSITION under your TEXT in the LAYERS WINDOW.

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Once you CLICK the STOPWATCH, a yellow diamond will appear on your TIMELINE.

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If you move further down the timeline, and then move your text’s POSITION in the COMPOSITION, you will notice another KEYFRAME appears on the TIMELINE marking the POSITION at that exact moment. As you add more keyframes in your composition, you will also notice a TRACK will be generated showing you where your text’s position is moving over time.

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SCALE – when you have your text layer selected in the layers window, hit ‘S’ on the keyboard. Scale is what controls the size of your text throughout the timeline. For instance, if you want your text to be very small and slowly grow larger over time, you would set a keyframe early in the timeline with the scale set on a lower number, move down the timeline and increase the scale number. Depending on how close or far away the keyframes are on the timeline will dictate how fast or slow the scaling will take place.

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ROTATION – when you have your text layer selected in the layers window, hit ‘R’ on the keyboard. Rotation is what controls the text’s angle throughout the timeline. If you want your text to spin and twirl as it emerges, or even simply be displayed at a 90 degree angle, then the rotation is what you need to control. Just like position and scale, rotation is controlled throughout the timeline by setting a series of keyframes. Here, rotation is measured in degrees, and as you increase the number, it will range up to 360 and then clock over to one, signifying one complete rotation, and so on.

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Stay tuned as I cover more advanced techniques of animating text, including fade on and off, opacity, and using Z space to create 3D Depth and movement.

Red Giant Universe

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

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

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

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

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

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Favorite New Features of FCP X 10.1

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

New Library media management

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

Through & Rolling Audio Edits

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

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

Active Clip Indicator

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

Overall Performance

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

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Top 4 FCP X Training YouTube Channels

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With the release of Final Cut Pro X, the industry was shaken up and also put people in a compromising position: either embrace the new editing paradigm, or go to the other A-list NLEs. Three years later, a large group of professionals have embraced the editing software and have gone out of their way to help others understand it as well as they do. From the many discussions I have had with editors seeking training, many have said that YouTube should be the last place to look for professional training when you want to learn a new software. There is a lot of bad information out there, and if people don’t research properly, they may end up learning a technique or two that actually does more harm than help. However, there are certified and working professionals who offer high quality training on YouTube… if you look hard enough. In my search, I’ve come across a handful of individuals on YouTube who offer Final Cut Pro X training that have allowed me to look at it in a brand new light. I will provide you with a list of four channels that provide excellent FCP X training.

MacBreak Studio

This channel hosts weekly videos exploring how to get the best of Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5. Hosted by Ripple Training founders, Mark Spencer and Steve Martin, you will receive a wealth of knowledge that you can use right away on your projects. In my personal opinion, this show is what Videocopilot is to the After Effects community, but aimed at the FCP/Motion community. Many of their videos show you how to work faster and efficiently in FCP X by taking advantage of what is under the hood. They also feature intricate Motion tutorials to showcase how capable the program is when compared to other motion graphics applications. Below is an example of how FCP X users can master the Range selection tool.

I highly recommend you subscribe to this channel if you want to get more out of Motion 5 and Final Cut Pro X. You won’t regret it.

GeniusDV

Run by Master trainer John Lynn, GeniusDV provides training for not only Final Cut Pro X, but Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro. What I like about this channel is that Jon runs through the basics of using Final Cut Pro X in a quick fashion that leaves me with more information than I originally had. The pacing and tonality in his voice allows you to learn how to use a function of Final Cut Pro X in minutes. In this video example, he shows you how to take two video clips and create an interesting face off composite.

Overall, I believe his channel is great if you need fast and efficient training on learning the basics of FCP X.

Dan Allen Films

Hosted by award winning UK filmmaker, Dan Allen, this channel provides tutorials on Final Cut Pro X from an independent filmmaking perspective. Many of his tutorials explain the ins and outs of Final Cut and Motion, but he also provides methods for getting your edits out of Final Cut Pro to send to other applications such as After Effects. Aside from workflow tutorials, Dan has done reviews on third party applications and plugins for FCP X such as those from Noise Industries and more. In this tutorial below, Dan explains how to replace clips you would send out for VFX back into FCP X.

Although Dan is young, he is a very wise and experienced filmmaker who shouldn’t be overlooked. He has a strong following with over 25,000 subscribers. Hitting the subscribe button on his page will pay off in the long run.

Web Video Chefs

Hosted by industry veterans Amani Chanel and Chip Dazard, Web Video Chefs is a strong source for editors to turn to, not only for Final Cut Pro X, but for mobile video and other video related items. On this channel, you can learn how to import various types of media into FCP X, edit mobile phone video with FCP X, and much more. I’ve picked up valuable FCP X shortcuts and tips by watching Chip and Amani’s tutorials, and I didn’t hesitate to hit the subscribe button once I saw more. The best part about Web Video Chefs is that Chip is a certified FCP X trainer, and Amani is a multi-year veteran in photojournalism and producing, so you know you will get the best tips available. In this video tutorial below, Chip shows us how to import Sony XDCam media into FCP X.

Those are four of the strongest YouTube channels to learn FCP X. Of course, there are more out there, but these channels demonstrate that you can find quality, professional training on YouTube if you know who to look for. All these channels are just a subscription away. I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

Coremelt Complete Review

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Coremelt is a company that is headed by visual effects veteran Roger Bolton. They create plugins for Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. The main suite of plugins is known as Coremelt Complete. Within this suite of plugins is a collection of easy to use and intuitive tools for motion artists and all types of editors. Coremelt Complete is composed of eight categories: Gadget Essential Utilities, Pigment, Luminous Glows and Blurs, Shatter Grunge and Stylized, Delta V Grunge Transitions, TRX Filmic Transitions, ImageFlow FX, and Vee You. Each category is a toolkit that addresses miscellaneous post production needs, such as motion graphics, color grading, visual effects, and more. I’m going to provide a brief summary of some of the categories with plugins I use often in my workflow.

Luminous Glows and Blurs

These set of plugins allow you to add a variety of glows, blurs, mattes, and miscellaneous stylized effects to your footage. Some of my favorite effects are Core Glow, Plasma Ribbon, and RGB Trails. These are some of my go-to effects when I need a quick boost in style, and don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to create them from scratch.

Core Glow allows you to set separate colors for the inner and outer glow in order to create a “hot core” style of glow. It has a variety of parameters which allows the user to create a unique look of their own.

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Plasma Ribbon creates a flowing fluid stream of light with many controls for the type of twisting, colors, style of ribbon, and speed you want. This is ideal for use as a motion graphics elements like titles and lower thirds.

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RGB Trails creates ghost-like trails behind movement in the image with different lengths in each color channel. Think of it as a repeater/echo effect but across the red, green, and blue channels as opposed to the video itself.

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Delta V Grunge Transitions

This set of 30 transitions are motion graphic, stylized, and grunge based. They are meant to enhance and add that additional pop to your workflow. My go-to transitions are Channel Change, Random Crop, and Random Cloud.

Channel Change is a transition that applies a static and interference pattern to simulate changing channels on an old-school TV set. This transition works best when its duration last between 6-8 frames.

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Random Crop is a transition that crops your source clip down to a random size, then the target clip grows back from a random size to full screen. I’ve used this transition quite a bit in my edits. I find it to be modern and stylized all at the same time.

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Random Cloud is a transition that pulls out, revealing a cloud of random arrangements of source and target clips before zooming back to target. You have the ability to control many of the parameters: diagonal, horizontal, and vertical.

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ImageFlow FX

These are a set of predetermined photo and video animations that can be used for DVD menu backgrounds, motion graphics promos, documentary photo montage, titles sequences, and many more uses. With over 30 plugins to choose from, you will have limitless possibilities for using multiple pieces of media at once in your project. My favorites are Filmstrip, Card Flow, and Layers to Camera.

Filmstrip is a generator that creates a scrolling film strip of images in the folder, or from your timeline. You have the ability to position the film strip in 3D space using the built in controls. One drawback is that it’s not infinitely long, so modify with caution. I’ve utilized this generator when I wanted to show a scroll of client logos and other miscellaneous objects.

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Card Flow recreates the animation of the popular iTunes “Cover Flow” effect with frames, masks, and random crop options.

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Layers to Camera gives your images or videos the 3D animation as if the images were flowing toward the camera with a controllable depth blur effect, as well as adjustable random x, y, and z position. This is one of my favorite generators to use when I don’t want to create this from scratch in After Effects and need something quickly.

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Overall, Coremelt Complete is a Swiss army knife of effects that can take your projects to the next level. I can honestly say they are among my top five favorite third party plugin suite, and I depend on them regularly. You can try it out for 14 days yourself and see how awesome it is. I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

 

Assemble FX 1: 3D Swap Transition in Premiere

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Prior to Premiere Pro CC getting the ability to have drag and drop transitions from 3rd party developers, creating or using those filters usually came at a cost or a disadvantage. One of the things I picked up from studying high end transitions and effects was that you had to break it down into three essential components of mattes, filters and keyframes. When you look at transitions and effects this way, they are not as daunting as they appear. If you experiment with Premiere’s effects through trial and error, you can learn to take advantage of all it has to offer. If it weren’t for studying Premiere, I wouldn’t have arrived at effects like these below.

One approach I’ve used in the past for creating effects was placing them in project templates. The drawback is if I want to use an effect or transition multiple times, it would be much more difficult to do so. I’ve decided to showcase a different approach to creating effects that can be applied quickly and used multiple times. It’s called Assemble FX. It operates based off presets that I created. Follow along in the video tutorial below to apply them to your footage. For the first Assemble FX, I will show you how to create a 3D swap transition. This involves taking two clips, creating reflections for both of them, and then swapping their position in 3D space.

The inspiration for this comes from a native transition found in Final Cut Pro X ,which does the exact same thing. In the video below, at 3:21, you can see that the transition contains the following elements: two clips with reflections and a gradient background.

With Assemble FX, the plan is to minimize the time you spend creating effects and transitions like these, and to be able to use them multiple times. This reduces the perception that Premiere is more than capable of doing complex animations without having to run to After Effects, unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you follow along with the video tutorial below and install the presets in this link, you can create this finished product that you can modify for your own uses.

This effect is the first in the line of Assembly FX and will not be the last. Look for more challenges on how far you can push Premiere to do really cool things. I’m the NLE Ninja with Audio Micro asking you to stay creative.

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