… for Visual Effects

Tip #459: Improve Your Visuals with Pre-Viz

The more you think about your shots before you start production, the better your production will be.

Original concept art for “2001: A Space Odyssey;” courtesy of Dr. Robert McCall.

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This article first appeared in RocketStock.com. This is an excerpt.

Pre-visualization is critical for any visual project. The script is your foundation, while the art for pre-production is the frame that rests upon that foundation. Previsualization, or Previs, is a process of visualizing the scenes of a film before production even begins.

Concept art enables the producer and director to think about the look of a scene, as well as use it early in pre-production as an asset for the pitch, which is the process of selling your idea to a production company.

Concept art is the overall look and feel. Storyboards provide a shot-by-shot breakdown. The great thing about storyboards is that you don’t have to be a master artist to create them. In fact, all you really need is enough visual information that makes sense to you as a director. There is a great interview from AFI with Steven Spielberg where he talks about the importance of storyboarding. He also discusses how he begins the process by using stick figures and cues and then gives this rough draft to his sketch artist, George Jensen, who fleshes out the final storyboards.

When developing concept art and storyboards, you aren’t just developing them for the director and production crew. You’re also developing them for the VFX team that will work to make things happen in post. In order to make sure you film everything correctly during production, sometimes you have to take those concepts or storyboards and run tests to see if it will all work.

The article in RocketStock is filled with examples and film excerpts. It is worth reading.

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… for Codecs & Media

Tip #458: Video Compression Settings for YouTube

Compensate during compression for social media recompressing your files by adjusting bit rates.

Social media compression defaults in Apple Compressor.

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YouTube, and other social media services, always recompress your data. This is necessary to support all the different playback devices, software and codecs in the real world.

If you send YouTube a perfectly compressed file, it will still recompress it – because it has to convert it to all these different codecs. In doing so, because there is not enough data, it will damage the quality of your audio. To prevent this, we need to create a “mezzanine,” or middle, compression file so that when YouTube recompresses the file it has some bits it can throw away. H.264 is an excellent choice for this intermedia codec, provided you use a high-bit rate. Higher bit rates won’t hurt, they’ll just create larger files which will take longer to transfer.

NOTE: Both Apple Compressor and Adobe Media Encoder have default compression settings for social media. In most cases, their defaults should be fine.

Here are the settings:

Compressed Frame Size Bit Rate
720p At least 10,000 kbps / 10 mbps
1080p At least 15,000 kbps / 15 mbps
4K At least 20,000 kbps / 20 mbps

NOTE: These settings work for all frame rates up to 60 fps.


Tip #455 explains audio compression settings for YouTube

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #455: Audio Compression Settings for YouTube

YouTube always recompresses media, so send it a larger-than-normal file.

Audio compression settings for a stereo MP3 file for YouTube.

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Last week, in Tip #451, I presented compression settings for audio you were posting for a podcast. YouTube and other social media settings are different, however. Here’s what you need to know.

YouTube, and other social media services, always recompress your data. This is necessary to support all the different playback devices, software and codecs in the real world.

If you send YouTube a perfectly compressed file, it will still recompress it – because it has to convert it to all these different codecs. In doing so, because there is not enough data, it will damage the quality of your audio.

To prevent this, we need to create a “mezzanine,” or middle, compression file so that when YouTube recompresses the file it has some bits it can throw away. MP3 is an excellent choice for audio-only files. AAC, which is part of H.264 compression, is a good choice when you are compressing audio with video.

Here are the settings:

Setting Mono Stereo
Codec for audio-only MP3 MP3
Codec for audio with video AAC AAC
Sample rate for audio-only 44.1 KHz 44.1k Khz
Sample rate for audio with video 48 KHz 48 Khz
Bit-depth 16-bits 16-bits
Data rate 160 kbps 320 kbps


Tip #458 explains video compression settings for YouTube

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #452: What is OGG

Ogg is an open-source container format for media assets.

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Ogg is another compression format you may have heard of.

According to Wikipedia, Ogg, like MXF and QuickTime, is a free, open container format maintained by the Xiph.Org Foundation, which is based in Massachusetts. The creators of the Ogg format state that it is unrestricted by software patents and is designed to provide for efficient streaming and manipulation of high-quality digital multimedia. Its name is derived from “ogging”, jargon from the computer game “Netrek.”

The Ogg container format can multiplex a number of independent streams for audio, video, text (such as subtitles), and metadata. Versions of it are supported on Windows, Mac and other platforms.

Because the format is free, and its reference implementation is not subject to restrictions associated with copyright, Ogg’s various codecs have been incorporated into a number of different free and proprietary media players, both commercial and non-commercial, as well as portable media players and GPS receivers from different manufacturers.

Here’s a link to learn more: xiph.org

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #404: 6 Tips to Crop Images More Effectively

Settings for the Crop tool in Premiere Pro CC.

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This article, written by Logan Baker, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

The Crop tool is an important tool in the video editor’s toolkit. Here are six tips to help you get more out of it.

  • Add a Crop. The Crop tool is located in Effects > Video Effects > Transform > Crop – or just search for “crop”. Then, drag it from the Effects panel onto your clip. You can crop using the Left, Right, Top, and Bottom parameters. These parameters are also animatable using keyframes.

NOTE: You can also crop using Adjustment Layers.

  • Wide screen. Add classic wide screen bars to the top and bottom of your image. (An adjustment layer will do this to your entire sequence.)
  • Text. Animate a crop to imaginatively reveal your text.
  • Create a split screen. Stack the clips you want to see, then apply the crop to the top clip.
  • Create a spicy transition. First, make sure the upcoming clip is atop the tail end of your current clip. Then, add the crop effect to both clips. For the bottom clip, enable the zoom (in the crop effect), then raise the bottom by about fifteen percent, with your keyframes set toward the end of the clip. This’ll stretch out the video downwards. Then, for the top clip, animate the bottom from one-hundred percent to zero percent. This’ll bring the clip down, following the first clip.
  • Reveal effects. Apply effects to your clip, then nest them. Duplicate the nest and stack it above the clips with the effects. Remove the effects from the clips in the top nest. Then, wipe between the two nests.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #393: How to Create Effects Presets in Premiere

Effects presets save time when you are reusing your effects.

Select effects categories, then Control-click to reveal Save Preset option.

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Saving effects presets can save a lot of time, if you find yourself using the same effects settings over and over. But creating them isn’t obvious. Here’s what you need to know.

  • First, select a clip and make the effects changes you want to save into a preset.
  • Next, Cmd-click the category names containing the settings you want to save. (See the screen shot.) For example, if you changed the Position setting, then Cmd-click Motion.
  • Control-click one of the selected Categories to display the Save Preset option.
  • In the Preset dialog, name and describe the preset.
  • Scale applies the effect to the entire length of a clip.
  • Anchor to in point and Anchor to out point use the duration from the beginning or end of the clip when applying the preset to future clips
  • Click OK to save the preset.


  • Presets are stored in Effects > Presets.
  • To delete a Preset, select it in the Effects panel, then Control-click and select Delete.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #389: Two Fast Ways to Configure a Sequence

While you can customize your settings, these tips are faster.

The Change Sequence Settings dialog in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

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Premiere’s Sequence Settings panel is daunting. Even experienced editors scratch their heads over some of these options.

Fortunately, Premiere has two fast ways to configure a sequence – provided you have a clip that’s in the format you want to edit.


Drag a clip from the Project panel on top of the New Item icon in the low right corner of the Project panel. This creates a new sequence, configures it to match the clip and edits the clip into the start of the sequence.


Create a new sequence using any setting option. Then, DRAG a clip from the Project panel into the new sequence.

A dialog appears asking if you want to change the sequence to match the clip.

NOTE: If you use a keyboard shortcut to edit a clip into the sequence, the clip will match the sequence settings.


Once a sequence has a clip in it, many of the Sequence settings can’t be changed.

For those situations where the first clip you want in your project does not match the sequence you want to create, edit a clip that does match into the sequence first. After you add a few more clips, which locks the settings, you can delete the first clip.

These two tricks are far faster than wrestling with the sequence settings themselves.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #439: Tips on Using the Position Tool

The Position tool allows you to move any clip anywhere – even to leave gaps.

The Tool palette in Final Cut Pro X.

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When Final Cut Pro X was first released, editors were aghast that the Magnetic Timeline prevented them from leaving gaps in the timeline. Leaving aside the issue of why you might, or might not, want to leave gaps, the answer is that since the beginning, FCP X has had the ability to create gaps in the timeline. It just isn’t obvious. Here’s how.

To access the Position tool, click the small arrow to the right of the Arrow tool at the top center of the Timeline. You can also use the keyboard shortcut of P.

With the Position tool:

  • When you drag a clip, the clip doesn’t spring back. Instead a media block of black video, called a gap, is inserted between the end of the previous clip and the one you are moving.
  • When you trim clips, it leaves a gap.
  • When you drag one clip on top of another, the edge of the new clip overwrites the old clip.
  • When you move a clip, any opened space is filled with a gap. This means that using the Position tool does not change the overall duration of a project.

Over the years, as I work in both Final Cut and Premiere, I’ve learned that the Position tool emulates older editing interfaces where dragging creates gaps and one clip overwrites another.

Final Cut gives us the ability to choose how our clips behave when we move them.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #438: Secrets of the Precision Editor

The Precision Editor is a great way to learn about trimming clips.

The Apple Final Cut Pro X Precision Editor.
An edit point opened for trimming in the Precision Editor of Final Cut Pro X.

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The Precision Editor in Final Cut Pro is an incredibly useful teaching tool in Final Cut Pro. If you haven’t played with it, you are missing a treat. Here’s what it does.

To access the Precision Editor, double-click any edit point in the timeline. The Out-going clip is displayed on top.

The darkened portions of each clip are the “handles,” extra media that we need for trimming and transitions. Trimming ends when we run out of handles.

  • To trim the Out, drag the top white line.
  • To trim the In, drag the bottom white line.
  • To roll trim both clips, drag the middle white line.

This is the best illustration of trimming I’ve ever seen, making it understandable even to people who are new to editing. I use it in every class.

To close the Precision Editor, press the ESC key.


The reason I don’t use the Precision Editor for my own trimming is that it does not allow me to trim audio separately from video; which is a technique I use all the time.

Still, from a teaching point of view, the Precision Editor is unequaled.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #437: Secrets of the Skimmer

The skimmer has a hidden feature.

Type Control – Y to reveal the skimmer info panel.

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The Skimmer in Final Cut Pro X allows us to quickly review clips in the Browser. But, did you know it has a hidden feature that’s just a keystroke away? It does.

Type Control – Y.

This displays the skimmer info panel, displaying the name of the clip and the timecode location of the skimmer. This makes controlling the skimmer much more precise.