Morph Cut Transitions

NLEs

Jump cuts can be a pain to deal with when cutting interviews and other types of video projects. Sometimes your talent talks too long or you need to hide unnecessary motion. All conventional wisdom says the best way to hide a jump cut is to use a cutaway or b-roll. I wholeheartedly agree and use that wisdom quite often in my own work. However, there are times when those options don’t exist and you are left with jarring jump cuts that can distract or interrupt the piece. Thanks to technological advances in editing software, there are ways to hide a jump using a Morph Cut transition. I’m going to highlight how each of the three top NLEs on the market are able to do this.

Avid Media Composer Fluid Morph

The Fluid Morph effect predates any other morph cut transition that has been brought to the market lately. In this tutorial, GeniusDV master trainer Jon Lynn shows us how to use the Fluid Morph effect to hide jump cuts on an interview clip. First, he makes blade edits at certain points, and then adds the Fluid Morph effect. In the Effect Mode panel, he changes a few parameters and sets the duration to three frames long. After a quick render, you see that the Fluid Morph was able to hide the jump cut in the interview. From what I know about diehard users of Media Composer, this effect exists in many of their favorite effects bins.

Adobe Premiere Pro Morph Cut

Introduced back in April 2015, the new Premiere Pro Morph Cut transition works to hide jump cuts between edits. Located in the Dissolve category of Video Transitions section, this transition analyzes in the background and attempts to morph frames together to create a seamless transition from multiple frames. From personal experience, I’ve found this transition works best on interviews with static backgrounds and not a lot of motion from the talent. Otherwise, it can be a hot mess when applied. Overall, I see this transition getting better with time as Adobe engineers improve the code base.

Final Cut Pro X mMorph Cut

This recent release from MotionVFX brings Morph Cut transitions to the world of Final Cut Pro X. For just $59, you can salvage interviews from long pauses, stutters, and mistakes. The transition works fluidly to fill gaps and instantly smooth out shots. I haven’t had a chance to try it out myself, but based on the demos I’ve seen, this seems like a must-have for editors who do a lot of interview work. With all the innovation that FCPX has brought to the table, I was a bit surprised that it took this long to finally get this plugin. I’ve seen tutorials where it was possible to do this but it seemed rather tedious in execution. It’s good to see that FCPX has this ability.

From what you have seen here, the Morph Cut method of hiding a jump cut can work depending on the footage and the circumstances on which you use it. While not perfect by any means, it is a method that can be called upon to smooth out an interview or other type of video project. Try using the Morph Cut method on your next video project and see how it effects your final edit.

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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

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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Understanding the Roto Node in NUKE 9

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

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

I will break this tutorial down into three parts:

–       Adding the Roto Node

–       Shapes and Splines

–       Keyframing Shapes Over Time

ADDING THE ROTO NODE

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

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

SHAPES AND SPLINES

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

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

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

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

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KEYFRAMING SHAPES OVER TIME

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

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

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

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

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Understanding Z Spheres in ZBrush

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Z Brush is a digital 3D sculpting, texturing, and painting tool. The most basic shape used for sculpting in Zbrush is called a Zsphere. A Zsphere is the quickest way for an artist to map and sketch out a base mesh. Once the Zsphere is roughed into the artist’s likeness they must then convert the Zsphere into a 3D Poly Mesh in order to continue to refine their model. In this tutorial, I will show you the basics of Zsphere manipulation along with the basic navigation tools for getting around Zbrush. The steps include:

–       Creating the Initial Zsphere

–       Navigating around the Zsphere

–       Developing the Zsphere

CREATING THE INITIAL ZSPHERE

When you open Zbrush, navigate to the TOOL palette in the upper right corner of the program.

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From here, click on the larger golden “S” icon that reads “SimpleBrush” beneath it in order to view all of the tools to choose from.

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Locate the tool that is called Zsphere (third row down on the far right side) and click on it in order to select the tool to make it active. Please note that in Zbrush, a “model” refers to a tool. This tutorial will remain using that same terminology.

In the canvas you will CLICK AND DRAG with the mouse, and as you do so you will see a Zsphere appear and grow larger or smaller as you continue to drag the mouse. Once the ZSphere is a suitable size release the mouse and you will have created your Zsphere.

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NAVIGATING AROUND THE ZSPHERE

The Zsphere may appear to be lop sided or not centered on your canvas, so let’s quickly go over how to navigate within your canvas window. Along the top tool bar you will want to select EDIT & MOVE which will in turn to DRAW.

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To move your tool, the first option is using the MOVE SCALE & ROTATE buttons located on the right vertical tool bar. Simply CLICK & DRAG on top of whichever navigation button you need in order to maneuver around the tool. Hold SHIFT in order to lock movements to 45 degree angles. This is especially important when wanting to get a perfectly straight-on or profile view of your tool.

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Otherwise, you can also use the shortcut keys as follows to navigate:

–       ROTATE: CLICK & DRAG anywhere in blank canvas

–       MOVE: ALT+CLICK & DRAG anywhere in blank canvas

–       SCALE: ALT + CLICK & DRAG which will start MOVE, then release the ALT and continue to DRAG in order to start Scaling. (*a bit wonky I know, I tend to use the navigation keys personally)

DEVELOPING THE ZPHERE

Head back to the top tool bar to keep EDIT on, and now switch MOVE to DRAW again. This will allow you to start building up and developing your Zsphere.

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By hitting ‘X’ on your keyboard, you will activate the shortcut key for SYMMETRY. By doing so, whatever you draw on the right side will be mirrored exactly the same on the left side. This is especially helpful when roughing in something like the human form. I will go into more detail specifically on using and mastering the symmetry transformation in a later tutorial. CLICK & DRAG on your main Zsphere now in order to create two symmetrically corresponding Zspheres.

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You can move and adjust those two new Zspheres by switching back over to the Move transformation:

–       Q – Draw

–       W – Move

–       E – Scale

–       R – Rotate

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By toggling back and forth between DRAW MOVE SCALE AND ROTATE transformations, you will have the basic building blocks to developing your Zsphere. Here I developed a very crude stick figure person.

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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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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.

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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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Media Composer Tips & Tricks

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Of the non linear editing systems I blog about, I rarely discuss Avid, unless I’m comparing it to other NLEs or highlighting new features in updated versions. I decided, that for this article, I want it to be Avid-centric with tips and tricks because there are a ton of them available. In fact, I can honestly say there are more tips for using Avid Media Composer than there are for other editing software. I’m going to highlight a few that stood out to me while using the program. Professionally, I’ve only used Avid about five times, and, in most situations, it was because it was a freelance job that required it. Currently, I don’t use it as much, but I have a lot of respect for those who do, considering it is used to edit major episodic television shows and Hollywood feature films. So, let’s learn some tips and tricks of using Media Composer.

Create Quick Transitions Bin

In this quick tutorial, Genius DV master trainer Jon Lynn shows us how easy it is to create a bin for commonly used transitions. First, choose a transition of your liking and apply it to your edit point. If you want, you can customize it in the Effect Editor window. Next, navigate to the Bins tab and create a new bin called “Quick Transitions.” Make sure you type this out case sensitive or else this process won’t work. In the Effect Editor window, drag the custom transition into the Quick Transitions bin. With that in place, you can click on the Quick Transitions button, click on the drop down menu, and you’ll see you custom transition there.  I have to say that this is one feature I wish Premiere and FCPX had emulated. I know in Final Cut Pro 7 you could create favorites bin and put effects/transitions there, but to have a button able to call them up whenever you’d like would be a timesaver.

Batch Rendering Sequences on Export

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This is a handy tip for those projects that have multiple sequences that need to be rendered. With the work I do for a living, multiple sequences are an every project occurrence. To batch render sequences on export in Media Composer, select all your sequences in their respective bin. Open the Export Settings window and select Quicktime Reference Movie. Click on the Render All Video Effects and hit OK. Now, all your sequences will be rendered in a small Quicktime file to check if things are correct or need to be fixed. You can create a preset out of this in the Export Settings window to save time in the future.

Mapping Editing Workspaces

In this informative tutorial, editing guru and Lynda.com instructor Ashley Kennedy breaks down how to map the Media Composer workspace to your needs. She shows us how to create a custom editing workspace, as well as a workspace for audio editing. Saving a timeline view is as simple as a click at the bottom of the timeline, clicking on Untitled, and choosing Save As. From there, you are presented with a dialog window where you can name your timeline view. She goes into detail explaining how managing the Settings tab can assist in workspaces you may use at various stages of the edit. In my opinion, this is a great video to reference for the times when you step away from Media Composer and forget how to manage workspaces effectively.

Overall, this is a small collection of tips and tricks you can find out about Media Composer. With their active forums and user groups across the internet, you can easily get more acquainted with Media Composer than most NLEs out there. In my opinion, it pays to know Media Composer if you have plans to edit episodic television or major feature films. It is still the dominant editing platform when it comes to delivering those type of projects, and for good reason.

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Understanding Composition in Post Production

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Composition is absolutely paramount in understanding how to create an image that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also how to create a focal point that guides the viewers eye throughout the frame. In production, the composition is developed through the director’s vision and executed by the director of photography. In postproduction, visual effect artists have full control on how the composition appears.

Andrew Price tackles composition in this 30 minute tutorial exploring the multiple facets that go into making a complete image.

He breaks composition down into three major pyramid blocks: Focal Element, Structure, and Balance.

FOCAL ELEMENT

A focal element is something that immediately draws your eye in a composition (still or motion pictures included). Price argues that the best way to create a focal element are techniques such as: high contrast, motion, faces or figures, guiding lines, framing, geometry, among others. By adding one of these techniques into your image, say by adding a human face or figure for instance, your eye is instantly drawn to that area, thus creating your focal element.

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STRUCTURE

At its core, structure is organizing your elements around a rule. Sometimes, this is following the rule of thirds to organize your elements, and is one of the more common rules to follow. It doesn’t matter what rule you follow as long as there is some form of structure. Your eye does not know where to look in chaos and needs some form of structure. Some common structures include: Rule of thirds, Golden Ratio, Pyramid, Symmetry, and Full Frame.

Rule of Thirds: breaking your frame into thirds along the horizontal and vertical axis. Every intersection is a prime location to put something of interest.

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Golden Ratio: A spiral structure naturally occurring in nature (sea shells, nature, outer space, etc) utilizing a mathematical breakdown in order to create points of interest.

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Pyramid Composition: Great to be used with characters to create a striking figure.

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Symmetry: mirroring structure over either the horizontal or vertical axis. Used frequently with architecture.

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BALANCE

When talking about balance in a composition, the visual weight of the image is evenly displaced. There are multiple items that can add this visual weight to the image, including: Size, High Contrast, Saturation, Faces, and Figures. One quick little test you can perform on your own compositions is what’s called the ‘squint test’ where you literally squint your eyes at the image, causing it to blur and darken. The bright points will be the most pronounced, and you will be able to see if one side appears to have more light than the other, thus finding the balance.

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Mise en Scène

As an extra bit of knowledge, I will also go over what’s called Mise en Scène. For the most part, this is achieved during production when you look at the composition of your scene before you film it; making sure everything is exactly in its place to fit a compositional structure. One of the masters of Mise en Scène is indie filmmaker Wes Anderson. Based on the structures we reviewed earlier in this post, Anderson tends to create a Mise en Scène structure using the symmetry and thirds rule. Here is a short excerpt with Wes Anderson himself going into better detail as to why and how he makes compositional choices.

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Video Editing Time Lapses

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The job of a video editor is a very challenging and intense position that sometimes is overlooked by the audience. It is their job to weave hours of footage into a coherent and comprehensive piece of art that is enjoyed by the masses. Most people wouldn’t understand the work that goes into making a 30 second commercial, 30 minute television show, or two hour movie unless they see a behind the scenes package on a DVD or an online featurette. However, there are some editors who have shared the process from start to finish via time lapses. I will share some video editor time lapses from a wide spectrum of works to showcase the amount of time and effort it takes to complete a project.

Television Editor Time Lapse

TV editor Matt Barber shows us the process of cutting an episode of the NBC series, Chuck. Working on Avid Media Composer, Matt spends the first nine days going through the dailies he received from the set, and picking out takes based on set notes building a selects sequence. From there, he creates a director’s cut of the episode to be shown to the director before it goes out to the producers for approval. After he receives notes from the director’s cut, he begins constructing a producer’s cut which will be reviewed by the studio executives. After he has gone through the director, producer, and network for approval, his episode enters picture lock so it can be sent in for audio, color, and VFX finishing. In a span of almost 30 days, it took Matt that much time to get an episode of Chuck to air. If you think that is intense, nothing is more intense and stress inducing than getting an SNL digital short done.

SNL ‘Beygency’ Time Lapse

Film editor Adam Epstein has to work under the tightest of deadlines to get content on air for Saturday Night Live. In most cases, Adam is usually getting content within an hour of the show airing live on Saturday. In this time lapse, Adam shows us his edit of a SNL short called Beygency, which parodies the Adjustment Bureau and singer Beyonce Knowles. Starting Friday afternoon at 4 PM until Saturday morning at 1:37 AM, Adam uses a full Adobe workflow. This consists of tools such as Premiere Pro, After Effects, Mocha Pro, Illustrator, and Photoshop. He uses these to edit, composite, lay audio, and finish the short. Working with footage coming off RED cameras and more, Adam is able to take this short from start to finish for our viewing pleasure. The first time I saw this, I was in complete awe of what was happening in front of me. It’s like watching someone complete a 48-hour film race right before your eyes. Some projects may not have as tight of deadline as an SNL short, but watching them come together is still a joy to watch.

KIPP Post Production Time-lapse

Post production professional Aaron Williams shows us in this time lapse a project he did for the KIPP Academy in Nashville. Within two minutes, you see Aaron start in Premiere Pro pulling soundbites from various interviews to construct the skeleton of the video. Next, he utilizes the Pancake Timeline technique to pull secondary soundbites, as well as b-roll selects to add flesh to the story. In the midst of the edit, he’s doing music searches, syncing audio, as well as using temp placeholder graphics so he can visualize how the edit will look when finished. From there, he moves into DaVinci Resolve to add a color grade to footage followed by After Effects to create motion graphics and visual effects. Once he gets what he needs from these programs, he brings everything back into Premiere to finish the project. I’ve watched this time lapse numerous times and have picked a few techniques for my own workflow that I have implemented to make my life easier. Aaron’s time lapse is a true demonstration of what it takes to construct a video with the highest professional quality. Now that we’ve seen how much time and effort it takes to edit a project from start to finish, we can begin to appreciate how important the role of an editor is. It takes a lot of time to make a commercial, TV show, or movie look the way it does. It also takes talented and wise professionals to make it look so effortless.

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