This pretty much sums up how video professionals feel about the new Final Cut Pro X

I’m back! Prepping Graphics Tutorial

Hello Hello. It’s been quite some time since my last blog post. Work has been busy, but it’s finally back to a manageable pace. I’ll kick off my first blog of the year with a tutorial covering static graphics made in Photoshop that are intended for use in Final Cut Pro.

First, create a new Photoshop project. The canvas should be the same size as your video frame and consistent with the pixel aspect ratio. In this example, I’ve got my project set up for SD Widescreen video:

Then make your graphic. Here I just made an ugly smiley face, but you may have to export a still image from FCP to use as a place holder in Photoshop if you’re creating something like a lower third. Notice the transparency around the smiley face and also notice the drop shadow. I’ve simply made my graphic the way I want to it appear on in my video.

Next we have to add the Alpha channel. The Alpha channel is what allows FCP to know that there is transparency. Without the Alpha channel, FCP would replace the transparency as solid white.

Go to the toolbar at the top of your screen and go to Windows > Actions. Now look for a folder called “Video Actions.” If it isn’t there, go to the top right corner of the Actions window and click on the tiny icon that looks like three horizontal lines. In the menu that opens, you’ll find “Video Actions” at the bottom. Once you’ve opened the Video Actions folder, click on “Alpha Channel from Visible Layers,” and then click the play button at the bottom of the Actions window.

A menu will pop up warning you that the alpha channel will be created based on the visible layers. So be sure any layers you don’t want in the final graphic are not active in the Layers palate. Then click continue.

You have now added a perfect Alpha channel. You can go to the Channels palate and turn it on to see how nicely it came out. Notice the perfect ramp transparency in the drop shadow (actually, that will be more obvious when it’s over top of video).

The last thing we have to do is save this as a .tiff file. I like .tiff because you can maintain the layers. So if later I find I need to modify my graphic, it’s as simple as opening it in Photoshop, making the changes, recreating the Alpha channel, and then saving. The file will update automatically in FCP.

The reason why I don’t like bringing .psd files into FCP is because they want to open in FCP as their own sequence with each photoshop layer on its own video track. Then you have to copy/paste all those layers on top of your other video tracks. It’s much messier in my opinion.

Go to File > Save As. In the dialog box, change the format you’re saving to as TIFF. Give your file a name, select where you’d like to save it, then click Save. Another dialog box pops up. Select the options I chose here, but notice I DID NOT select the “Save Transparency” option. This will actually confuse FCP if you choose it.

Click OK and your graphic is good to go. Import it into FCP and see how it came out.

As you can see, this is an award-winning graphic. Just look at that perfect drop shadow. Who woulda thunk making graphics for FCP was so easy?

As usual, feel free to email me with any questions. If it’s a good one, I may use it for a tutorial.

Face the music

There is a right and wrong way to handle sound in Final Cut Pro. Whether you are working with sound effects or music, FCP wants a 16-bit 48kHz .aiff file. If you are stuck using an .mp3, you can convert to the proper format in iTunes, however, the conversion doesn’t increase sound quality, it simply converts to a format that makes FCP happy. If you’re lucky enough to have real CD (not a burned one that probably has .mp3s) you can also use iTunes to convert those files (CDs are usually 16-bit 44.1KHz).

While you’re in iTunes, go to iTunes > Preferences. This brings up the Preferences dialog box

Make sure you are in the General pane and click on import settings. This brings up another dialog box.

Change everything to what you see here, then click OK in all the dialog boxes:

Go to your iTunes library, locate the song, then RightClick > Create AIFF Version. This will create a new file in your iTunes Music Library folder. 

If you’re importing music from a CD, it will be converted to 16-bit 48KHz .aiff while importing.

Exporting for DVD with Compressor

We’ve all been there: We just finished editing our masterpiece, but now what?! Well, if you want to export for the web, I’ve already gotcha covered with my web compression tutorial. But not everyone’s intended delivery is for the web. Many people want to export for DVD as well. In fact, I am willing to bet delivering via DVD is desired more than delivering via the web. So it only makes sense that I show ya how to do it.

Being a blog targeted toward Final Cut Studio users, the programs used will be Final Cut Pro and Compressor. What I’m going to show you will work for both HD projects outputting for DVD as well as SD projects outputting for DVD.

First open your project in FCP. With the timeline of your final edit selected, go to “File > Export > Quicktime Movie.”

Of course, this brings up a dialog box with some important options.

(A) The first thing you want to do is name chose a name for the file FCP will spit out. As you can see by the name I chose in my example, I made a video for the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory.

(B) Next, choose where you would like this new file to live when FCP is done exporting. The last few settings are the important ones.

(C) Choose “Current Settings,” which refers to your timeline settings. There really should be no reason to select anything other than “Current Settings.”

(D) If you’re exporting for DVD, I don’t see why you wouldn’t include Audio and Video with this file

(E) This option allows you to include meta data for chapter markers and compression markers (if you added any), which is for more advanced DVD authoring, and therefore, a later blog post. For now, since this is a 5 minute video I chose not to include any markers.

(F) This last option seems to confuse people, but it’s really quite simply. If you check mark this box, FCP will create a stand-alone file that can be taken to any computer and viewed (as long as that computer has the right video player and video codec installed). 

If you leave this box UNCHECKED, FCP creates a file that ONLY POINTS TO YOUR ORIGINAL MEDIA. That is important to understand. This file simply tells a program where to find the original media in order for that program to do its thing. For example, if opened in Quicktime, this file will tell Quicktime where to find the original source media so that Quicktime can playback the video. If you take this file to another computer and that computer does not have access to the original source media, then Quicktime will not be able to play back the video.

So which do you choose; self-contained or non-self-contained? Well, if you’re going to be encoding for DVD on another computer, then you need to make a self-contained file (if that computer doesn’t have access to the original media). If you will be encoding for DVD on the same computer you were editing with (or on a computer that DOES have access to the original media), then you only need a non-self-contained file. (If you’re still confused [or if I’ve confused you], check mark this box to make a self-contained file [can’t go wrong with a self-contained file]). 

As you can see, I’ve left it uncheck because I’m not going to encode on a different computer.

Once you’ve chosen the settings that work for you, click Save. 

When FCP is done exporting, you can drag the new file to the Compressor icon in your dock. This automatically opens the file in Compressor.

You should already see your file loaded in the Batch window. If for some reason you don’t, go to “Add File” in the top left corner and find your file. 

Go down to the Settings tab. This contains presets that you drop onto your imported file. Look for the “DVD: Best Quality 90 Minutes” folder. This folder contains 2 presets. One preset is for creating a .ac3 file, which is an audio file. The other preset is for creating the MPEG file, which is the video file. Drag BOTH of these presets to your file in the Batch window. (If you’re project is longer than 90 minutes, then you’ll need to choose one of the presets made for longer videos).

Click on the audio preset that you that you just dropped on your file. This will load it in the Inspector window so you can make adjustments.

First go to the Encoder Pane and find the Audio tab. At the bottom of this tab you’ll see an option for “Dialog Normalization.” This is for leveling audio if you’re encoding many different videos that have different audio levels for the same DVD. If you don’t need to do this, which you most likely don’t, change this to -31dBFS to leave your audio untouched.

Still in the Encoder Pane, go to to the Preprocessing tab, change the “Compression Preset” to “None.” For some reason, this setting defaults to an option ideal for theater viewing. That’s rarely the case, so you’ll have to change it.

That’s it for setting up the .ac3 file for output. 

Now go back to the Batch window and click on the MPEG setting to load that in the Inspector window. 

First go to the Encoder Pane and click on the “Video Format” tab. Make sure the four options - Video Format, Frame Rate, Aspect Ratio, and Field Dominance - match your intended output. If you have to change any, you’ll have to click on the little gear to enable making changes for that setting. For me, I had to change the Aspect Ratio to “16:9” and Field Dominance to “Bottom First.” 

Next, still in the Encoder Pane, go to the Quality tab. 

"Mode:" should be set to "Two pass VBR Best." This means Compressor is going to analyze your project twice to see how best to compress to MPEG-2. The VBR means "Variable Bit Rate." That means the bit rate will increase during fast motion and it will decrease when there isn’t much moving in the video frame. 

To get the best Two Pass VBR, I change the Average Bit Rate to “6.8 Mbps” and Maximum But Rate to “8.0 Mbps”. 

Now, if you’re video is close to 90 minutes long, you may have to decrease these data rates, but these should be able to fit about 80 minutes onto a single layer DVD. 

Now, some people don’t know this, and even I only recently was informed of this, but you can get even better settings than this.

Change the Mode to “One Pass CBR.” This grays out the Maximum Bit Rate option because CBR means Constant Bit Rate. There is no fluctuation like VBR. So if you choose One Pass CBR and set the Average Bit Rate to 8.0 Mbps, your entire video is encoded at highest bit rate possible rather than just the moments with fast motion. This should allow for about 60 minutes of video on a single layer DVD. 

Note: Encoding at higher than 8.0 Mbps can be problematic for some DVD players. So if you encode at a higher data rate, you will run the risk of your DVD not working. 

(A) Next go to the Frame Controls Pane. In order to make changes in this Pane, you need to click on the little gear and change the Frame Controls menu to “On”

(B) Take a look at the Resize Filter option. If you’re project is HD, you are down converting to SD for DVD. So change this option to “Best (Statistical Prediction).”

(C) There should be no reason to change the Output Fields setting, so keep that as “Same As Source”.

(D) The Deinterlace option only has to do with…deinterlacing. Again, no reason to mess with this. If you’re video is already progressive scanning then you don’t need to deinterlace. If your video is interlaced, deinterlacing will actually reduce the quality anyway. So when you choose “Same As Source” in the option above, Compressor will ignore whatever is chosen in this option.

(E) The “Anti-Alias” and “Details Level” sliders have to do with Up-converting SD to HD, which you’re definitely not doing here. So leave these alone.

(F) Rate Conversion: Again, no need to mess with this. The Frame Rate option in the Encoder Pane should match the frame rate of your FCP timeline. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t. So if they match, Compressor will ignore whatever setting is selected in the Rate Conversion option.

So in a nutshell, if you’re not down converting HD to SD, then you don’t even have to turn Frame Controls on.

Finally, go to the Geometry Pane.

Don’t change anything in here. Just make sure the Frame Size and Pixel Aspect Ratio match what you’re trying to output. If they don’t, go back to the Encoder pane and make sure the Video Format and Aspect Ratio options are set correctly, then check these settings again.

 

That It! Go to the Batch window and Click Submit. A dialog box appears, click Submit in that too, and Compressor will begin doing it’s thing.

If you’re really bored, you can watch the progress bar in the History window. Otherwise, go grab a beer (and it better be a good one. none of that Budweiser crap).

I hope that clears everything up. If you have any questions or suggestions for future tutorials, leave a comment or feel free to email me at:

robgrauert@hotmail.com

I’m rendering a timeline at work right now, and I have plenty of late nights coming in the near future, so I figured this is a good time to post a quick tip since I’ve failed miserably at keeping my blog up to date.
This tip has to do with cutting a clip that’s already laid out in your timeline. So this is useful if you have to shorten your project or make changes for a client or anything really.
If you’ve used FCP for more than a couple hours, you’ve probably already discovered the blade tool, which is probably the most common tool used for cutting clips. Generally the editor will select the blade tool by clicking on it in the tool bar or by pressing the letter “B” (remember the letter B). From there, he or she will simply drag the cursor over the playhead, and if snapping is turned on, a precise cut will made after a single click of the mouse. Then of course you delete the portion of the clip you don’t want anymore. Doesn’t sound too complicated, but here’s faster way…
In your menu bar at the top if the screen go to Tools > Keyboard Layout > Customize. This should bring up the window to customize your keyboard shortcuts. In the search bar at the top right corner, type “Add Edit.” Add Edit is a function that places a cut wherever your playhead is located in the timeline. By default the command is set to Control + V. 
Control + V is kind of weird if you’re looking for efficiency, so we’re going to change it to “B,” which like I said, activates the blade tool, so it makes sense that we will change it to make the cut immediately. To change the shortcut to “B” all you have to do is click on the shortcut in the right hand column and then press the letter “B.” It’s that simple! And now you will literally be cutting at the speed of light…or electricity, but that’s fast too!
All you have to do now is press “B” once you have used the arrow keys to move the playhead to where you want to cut. There are 2 things to note though. Number 1: If you have multiple layers of video on top of one another, this command will cut all the layers at once, including your audio tracks. To avoid this, FIRST highlight the clip you want to cut, THEN press “B.” Number 2: Be aware that this will make you SO FAST that your boss or client will continue to demand even MORE from you in a shorter amount of time. So use with caution, lol.
Back to work…

I’m rendering a timeline at work right now, and I have plenty of late nights coming in the near future, so I figured this is a good time to post a quick tip since I’ve failed miserably at keeping my blog up to date.

This tip has to do with cutting a clip that’s already laid out in your timeline. So this is useful if you have to shorten your project or make changes for a client or anything really.

If you’ve used FCP for more than a couple hours, you’ve probably already discovered the blade tool, which is probably the most common tool used for cutting clips. Generally the editor will select the blade tool by clicking on it in the tool bar or by pressing the letter “B” (remember the letter B). From there, he or she will simply drag the cursor over the playhead, and if snapping is turned on, a precise cut will made after a single click of the mouse. Then of course you delete the portion of the clip you don’t want anymore. Doesn’t sound too complicated, but here’s faster way…

In your menu bar at the top if the screen go to Tools > Keyboard Layout > Customize. This should bring up the window to customize your keyboard shortcuts. In the search bar at the top right corner, type “Add Edit.” Add Edit is a function that places a cut wherever your playhead is located in the timeline. By default the command is set to Control + V. 

Control + V is kind of weird if you’re looking for efficiency, so we’re going to change it to “B,” which like I said, activates the blade tool, so it makes sense that we will change it to make the cut immediately. To change the shortcut to “B” all you have to do is click on the shortcut in the right hand column and then press the letter “B.” It’s that simple! And now you will literally be cutting at the speed of light…or electricity, but that’s fast too!

All you have to do now is press “B” once you have used the arrow keys to move the playhead to where you want to cut. There are 2 things to note though. Number 1: If you have multiple layers of video on top of one another, this command will cut all the layers at once, including your audio tracks. To avoid this, FIRST highlight the clip you want to cut, THEN press “B.” Number 2: Be aware that this will make you SO FAST that your boss or client will continue to demand even MORE from you in a shorter amount of time. So use with caution, lol.

Back to work…

Hiiiiii

Welcome to Command + R, a blog aimed toward young Final Cut Pro users who are looking for guidance with Final Cut Studio as well as getting started in the video industry.

My first real post coming up soon!

ps. If you don’t already know, Command + R is the keyboard shortcut to render video in FCP, which can take quite a bit of time.