… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #481: The Power of a Back-time Edit

Back-time edits are used in situations where you care more about the end than the beginning.

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A back-time edit is one where the Out of the clip in the Browser is matched to an Out in the timeline, then Final Cut calculates where to apply the In.

NOTE: A back-time edit doesn’t play a clip backwards, rather it determines the position of a clip based on the Out, rather than the In.

An example of using a back-time edit is sports, where you care more about the runner crossing the finish line than where they started running. To create a back-time edit:

  • Set at least an Out in a clip in the Browser
  • Set at least an Out in the Timeline, or use the Range tool to set both the In and Out.
  • Type Shift + D to back-time edit the clip into the Timeline
  • – or – type Shift + Q to back-time edit the clip on a higher layer.

NOTE: Setting an Out in the timeline always sets a range. When the edit is performed, the duration indicated by the range in the timeline determines the duration of the edit. The Browser In is ignored.

Experiment with this feature, you’ll discover all kinds of places where this can solve an editing challenge.

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… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #440: Secrets of the Range Tool

Ranges make it easy to set and In and Out.

A range selected in the Final Cut Pro X timeline.

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The Range tool (shortcut: R) is one of those tools in Final Cut that could be useful, but isn’t as useful as it could be. Still, it can help you to quickly set an In and Out.

Select the Range tool from the Tool popup menu. Then, drag to select a region in the Timeline. What you’ve just done is set an In and an Out that applies to all layers within that range.

  • To change the duration, drag an edge – or –
  • Type Control + D and enter the revised duration using timecode
  • To cancel the range, type Option + X

The Range tool is very helpful in creating a back-time edit, which covered in Tip #481, or a 3-point edit, which is covered in Tip #482.


  • The ability to click in the middle of the range to move it without losing the duration.
  • The ability to select and move an edge using the keyboard.

For me, it’s often easier to just use the playhead and set the In and Out manually.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #461: 3 Tips to Shoot a Conversation in a Car

There’s a direct correlation between believability and dollars and/or time.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

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This article first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt. There’s something about the cinematic road scene that is deeply embedded in American film and culture. However, from a DP’s perspective, it can be one of the most difficult and taxing set-ups to tackle.

Green screen. This method involves the least amount of moving (parts, and in general) but the greatest amount of post-production. Leaving the car stationary and setting up a green screen will allow you to control the scene as much as possible. However, it will require some serious editing chops to fill every mirror and window reflection in a believable way that looks natural.

Camera Mount. The car mount method (dash cam, side mount, etc…) would be your best DIY small-production option. It’s also the riskiest in terms of possibly damage to your camera or gear. The small dashboard cam might be the safest shot possible, but it’s also one of the most used. Unless you’re project is embracing a practical DIY approach, it would be worth it to invest time or money into other options.

Tow Car. This is the professional method of choice. The tow car gives you maximum control of your car “set” while in a natural, uncontrolled environment. Tow car production still requires a production team and solid coordination (especially for filming scenes multiple times from multiple angles). But if you can afford a tow car (or makeshift trailer), you’ll get the most authentic cinematic look.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #460: 5 Tips to Improve a Boring Documentary

If your doc is boring, look to your story first.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

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This article first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt. The primary goal of any good documentary is — first and foremost — to inform. However, to inform an audience well, you have to put something together that has all the elements of compelling entertainment. If you find yourself working on a documentary project that’s starting to get boring, here are some quick tricks to help you get back on track.

Work on Story and Structure. Whether you’re just starting out on your project or are deep in the editing process, you should ask yourself the following: If you were to sit down with a pen and paper, could you write (or sketch) out the entire story and structure of your film? If not, why not?

Animate or Illustrate When Needed. Adding custom illustrations or animations to a documentary project can be very appealing to documentary filmmakers. However, overusing animations or illustrations is something to avoid — and it can become expensive and time-consuming, depending on the number and quality of the illustrations and animations.

Add Movement and Transitions. In addition to animating or illustrating B-roll or specific scenes, other smaller editing tricks can actually be quite helpful for speeding up sequences and making the general tone and style a bit more appealing.

Alternate Means of Exposition. Consider letting the mystery of your story develop in some areas. Sometimes, all you need to make a compelling documentary is a few sentences over a black screen to provide all the exposition you actually need. Other things like lower thirds, narration, or interviews can provide the rest.

Make Those Tough Cuts. Documentaries are notorious for requiring tons and tons of filming and footage. At the end of the day, you’d much rather someone watch your film and say “I wish that was longer” than “I wish that was shorter.”

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #457: Low-Tech Perfomance Boost

Dust is the enemy, keep your gear clean.

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My 2015 MacBook Pro was no longer smoothly handling anything; its performance was a fraction of what it was. It felt hot and the fans were racing.

I investigated and followed all the advice, eventually reinstalling everything and resetting the rest. That seemed to help a bit but it never completely solved the problem.

Then, I had a brainwave! I carefully opened up the back and practically choked on the dust and fluff! A couple of minutes of carefully hoovering [vacuuming] the debris has completely taken care of the problem.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #467: Render Settings Improve CPU Performance

These render options allow us to avoid overloading the CPU.

Render options in the Render menu of the Canvas.

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(This is an excerpt from the Motion Help files.) Choose the render quality and resolution of the canvas display, and enable or disable features that can impact playback performance. When an option is active, a checkmark appears beside the menu item. If a complex project is causing your computer to play at a very low frame rate, you can make changes in this menu to reduce the strain on the processor.

The Render pop-up menu displays the following items:

  • Dynamic: Reduces the quality of the image displayed in the canvas during playback or scrubbing in the Timeline or mini-Timeline, allowing for faster feedback. Also reduces the quality of an image as it is modified in the canvas. When playback or scrubbing is stopped, or the modification is completed in the canvas, the image quality is restored (based on the Quality and Resolution settings for the project).
  • Full: Displays the canvas at full resolution (Shift-Q).
  • Half: Displays the canvas at half resolution.
  • Quarter: Displays the canvas at one-quarter resolution.
  • Draft: Renders objects in the canvas at a lower quality to allow optimal project interactivity. There’s no anti-aliasing.
  • Normal: Renders objects in the canvas at a medium quality. Shapes are anti-aliased, but 3D intersections are not. This is the default setting.
  • Best: Renders objects in the canvas at best quality, which includes higher-quality image resampling, anti-aliased intersections, anti-aliased particle edges, and sharper text.
  • Custom: Allows you to set additional controls to customize rendering quality. Choosing Custom opens the Advanced Quality Options dialog. For more information, see Advanced Quality settings.
  • Lighting: Turns the effect of lights in a project on or off. This setting does not turn off lights in the Layers list (or light scene icons), but it disables light shading effects in the canvas.
  • Shadows: Turns the effect of shadows in a project on or off.
  • Reflections: Turns the effect of reflections in a project on or off.
  • Depth of Field: Turns the effect of depth of field in a project on or off.
  • Motion Blur: Enables/disables the preview of motion blur in the canvas. Disabling motion blur may improve performance.

Note: When creating an effect, title, transition, or generator template for use in Final Cut Pro X, the Motion Blur item in the View pop-up menu controls whether motion blur is turned on when the project is applied in Final Cut Pro.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #466: How to Display a Grid in Motion

The grid is a very useful tool for aligning elements.

The View menu from inside Apple Motion.

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Hidden in Motion is the ability to display a grid in the Viewer, which greatly simplifies aligning elements.

To reveal it, choose Grid from the View menu in the top right corner of the Canvas (Viewer).


To adjust grid spacing and color, go to Preferences > Canvas.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #465: What is a Rig?

Rigs simplify controlling effects in Motion.

A new Rig added to a Motion project.

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Rigs are used to pass controls for Motion template effects from Motion to Final Cut Pro X. But they are also useful in Motion, itself, to simplify the control set of a complex project. Instead of making changes by manipulating individual parameters in various Inspectors, you can modify the Motion project using just a few widgets in a single rig.

NOTE: A “widget” is a single control contained in a rig.

A rig is especially helpful when you need to share a complex project with multiple users or when the project is designed to be updated each time it’s used. For example, you can create a basic project for an animated lower-third title that incorporates two text objects and a background replicator.

Each time the project is used, the size and position of the lower third (a replicator in this example) must change to match the length of the text, and the color must cycle through your project’s color scheme. By adding a rig to the project, you can create a small set of controls that modify only the parameters such changes require.


To learn how to build a rig in Motion, open the Help files and search for “Build a Simple Rig?”

… for Visual Effects

Tip #469: What is a Bump Map?

Bump maps provide texture to objects based on grayscale textures.

(From L to R) Bump-mapped image, source image, gray-scale texture.

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Typically, bump maps are used to apply texture to a smooth object.

Bump maps are 8-bit grayscale images. This means that they only have 256 values between black and white. These gray-scale values are used to tell the effects software how to texture an object.

In this screen shot, a texture (right) is applied to a smooth image (center) using a bump map effect to give the final image (left) texture.

In this example, to create the source texture for a bump map, a high-amount of visual noise was applied to a mid-tone gray background using Photoshop.

Bump maps are highly useful in creating texture, but they don’t change the actual shape of an image. This means that if you are creating cast shadows, the shadow will mirror the source object, not the bump-mapped finished effect.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #468: How to Add Lens Flares

Lens flares add life to a scene.

(Background image courtesy: Editstock.com. Lens flare courtesy: Rampant Design Tools.)

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Lens flares occur when the sun, or a light, gets too close to the same level as a lens. In production, we try to avoid them because they can be unnecessarily distracting; and impossible to control. But, adding them later in post, where we can control them, adds life to an otherwise bland scene. The good news is that lens flares are easy to add, regardless of what editing software you are using.

There are two ways to create lens flares: using the computer, or shooting actual light with a camera. My preference is flares shot with a camera look more complex and believable.

Companies like Rampant Design Tools specialize in creating flares, fires and other visual effects in the camera. To add a flare:

  • Put the playhead in the background image.
  • Import and place the flare video on a layer above the background.
  • Select the flare clip and change the Blend mode to Screen.

That’s it. Use standard effects controls to rotate and position the effect to your liking. The screen shot illustrates a before-and-after example of a lens flare.