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Final Cut Pro 4 editing techniques

Some basic steps to improve your final production

I've been trying some more advanced techniques recently and seeing how they improve the quality of my work.

Apply Colour Correction
Apply some basic color correction to your clips. Often times a consumer grade camcorder will make a poor choice about the white balance in a shot. If there are people in the shot their skin tones often end up looking "dead". You can easily see this if you use the Vectorscope in the Toolbench. The line extending from the center of the scope to the upper left corner represents an "ideal" skin tone colour-balance. Use the Color Correction (or 3-way colour correction) filter to get your skin-tone to align with the "skin tone" line. Colour correction is often the last step in working with video before the final cut is printed to tape.

Edit out camera noise
Carefully listen to your audio and edit out any clicks, pops or other camera sounds from your camcorder. I have a hand-held camcorder and my fingers often make a noise when I press the zoom slider.

Boost bass on audio tracks
Apply some audio filters to boost the bass in sound so that it doesn't sound too "tinny". Listen to the final result on the same speakers/TV that your viewers will to see what the effect is.

Make photos more interesting
Do a Ken Burns pan-n-zoom across the photographs that you are cutting to. Draw attention to the speaker's point by a pan-and-zoom to a relevant item in the photograph.

Know your transitions
Disolve transitions imply "time passes". Only use them if time did indeed pass between two shots.

Audio brings in video cuts
Use J and L edits of audio and video to seamlessly move the viewer from one shot to the next.

Smooth out audio transitions
Apply the 3db cross-fade filter between all audio cuts to smooth out the transitions across shots. Apply the same fade filter as audio ends to smooth out the transition to silence.

Focus on the message
Use simple straight cuts and minimal music to stay focussed on the message and not the medium.

FAQ on using Final Cut Pro

I've accumulated some note over the last few months on using Final Cut Pro. You might find some useful tips here.

Why does the clip I drag from the browser require rendering on the timeline before it plays?
The clip and the timeline can have different codec settings. To see the clip's settings, select it in the browser and press Cmd-9. To see the timeline settings clip in the timeline and choose Sequence -> Settings. The codec must match in both settings.

How to do automatic scene detection on a clip?
Capture a clip in high quality DV-NTSC mode. When the clip is in the browser select it and choose Tools -> DV Start/Stop Detection. The scenes are marked with marker points. Select all the markers in the browser and then turn them into subclips by doing Cmd-U. The clip is chopped into subslips at each of the marker points.

How to reduce the storage space of clips.
Select each clips you want to process. Choose File -> Media Manager and then choose Recompress from the pull down menu. Choose the Photo JPEG setting and then clip OK. The clips will be recompressed into the lower quality setting. Don't forget to use Sequence -> Settings to change the settings for the timeline or else you will have to render every clip after you drag it onto the timeline!

Why do my Photo JPEG clips still require rendering?
I think the clips were exported with the quality setting set too high. The manual says not to export the clips on the "best" quality setting otherwise they won't play back.
Actually it's because all of the timeline settings don't match the clip's settings. You have to do a Cmd-0 in the timeline, then click Load Preset and choose the Photo Jpeg Offline preset to get 320x240, 29.97 fps, square pixels, no frame dominance. Then dragging a clip onto the timeline has no rendering required.

How to recapture low quality Offline clips at full quality.
First we need to create a unique copy of the clips used to make the sequence and delete all other unneeded clips. Use the Media Manager to do this.
  1. Select the sequence you want to recapture in the browser.
  2. Choose File -> Media Manager.
  3. Choose Media: Copy and select the "Delete unused media" checkbox.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Type in a new name for the project, e.g. "My Project recaptured"
  6. A new tab appears in the Browser named "My Project Recaptured". We work in here to recapture the clips.
  7. Select all the clips in the Browser window under "My Project Recaptured".
  8. Choose File -> Log and Capture (or press Cmd-8).
  9. Clip on the Capture Settings tab and verify that the Capture/Input is set to DV NTSC 48Khz
  10. Click on the "Batch" button in the bottom right corner.
  11. The tape in the camera will rewind and the clips will be recaptured in full quality format.
  12. Once the recapturing is done you can select a clip in the Browser and press Cmd-9 to verify that it is in NTSC DV and not Photo JPEG format.
Note: the preset for the Timeline window will still be set to "Photo JPEG" and so the newly captured clips won't play back correctly. As in item 4 above, press Cmd-0 and then Load Preset " DV NTSC 48Khz to set the timeline correctly for full quality playback.

How do I write my movie back to tape?
Select the sequence in the Browser. Press Ctrl-M and then Print to Tape window appears. You can accept all of the default settings. I usually add a countdown timer to the start of the movie. Press record on your camera or tape deck, and then click ok to start recording on to the tape. Depending on your deck you may have to manually stop the tape when the recording completes.

How do I export my movie to other formats?
QuickTime Pro is bundled with Final Cut so you won't need to download it. Choose a sequence to export and choose File -> Export; Quicktime... and then choose the format. AVI format for old windows systems, or Quicktime movie format. I use the Sorrenson 3 codec to preserve the quality on the movie while still saving on space.

You can use the Movie2MPEG program to turn Quicktime files into MPEG-1 movies that can be viewed on Linux and older Windows systems. A Carbon OS X port is available.

I use RealProducer to convert my Quicktime format files into Real format. The free version runs in Classic mode on Mac OS X.

How to brightening dark videos?
Use the filter under Video Filters -> Image Control -> Gamma Correction. Use a value .8 or less.

What is the logging process?
At first I was confused - I thought that when I logged a tape I was capturing the video from it. Logging is the process of determining what on the tape is worth capturing. Cmd-8 will open the log and capture window. Be sure to choose File -> Set Logging Bin to set the log bin for the project.

As you play through the tape, press "i" to set an in point and "o" to set an out point. If you hit the space bar it will pause playback. If something interesting comes up, set a marker. When the scene is over hit F2 to log the clip by giving it a name and short description. It will be saved in the browser with a red line through the tape icon.

As you log through a clip it is very useful to set markers with durations as important things occur on screen. Use the Markers facility in the Log and Capture window by clicking on the revealing triangle. As a good clip starts, pause the tape, type a name into the marker description for the clip, and click the mark-in button. Then play the tape through and keep tapping the mark-out button for the marker to set the endpoint. Once you are done with the out point click on the Set Marker button to record the marker. You can go back later to edit a marker by selecting it from the list, typing in your changes and clicking Update Marker.

Why is setting markers with durations so useful? Because when you are done capturing you can open the clip, select all the markers, hit Cmd-U and all the markers are now turned into subclips ready to be dropped onto the timeline!

One caveat: once you have a subclip you can't take it offline without taking all the other subclips offline from that clip. Lesson learned the hard way.

How to reducing the size of render files.
Use the Sequence -> Render Quality setting to use "Draft" quality for rendering for rough cuts. As you get close to a final cut, improve the render quality to Hi Res and use the render manager to remove all the older low res render files. This saves space early on and allows for faster rendering.

How do I capture from a tape with Timecode breaks?
Ah, the dreaded timecode break, where all of a sudden your timecode field goes back to 0:00:00 on your tape even though you've still got lots of footage left to capture. Timecode breaks are often caused by removing a tape and not allowing the camera to read the previously recorded timecode stamp on the tape.

What I do is I name each tape with a unique tape number, starting at Tape 1 onwards. In the Reel field of the Log and Capture window I type in the tape number. I log all clips up to the timecode break. I then advance the tape manually past the timecode break and type in a new reel name (e.g. "Tape 9 after 32:45:15 timecode break") and resume logging. That way when capturing I know to leave Tape 9 in the camera but just to advance past 32:45:15.


© 2002-2004 Mark Crosbie   shareright © 2002 Phlash