… for Codecs & Media

Tip #731: What is a Watermark?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Watermarks are used to deter theft and trace stolen images.

Topic $TipTopic

Video watermarks are used for branding, identification and to deter theft. Most of us are familiar with the watermarks that are burned into the lower right corner of a video. However, there are actually two types of watermarks:

  • A still or moving image burned into your image
  • A digital code embedded into the media file itself

The first option is easy, but does nothing to prevent piracy. The second is much harder and, while it can’t prevent theft, it can help determine where in the distribution pipeline the theft occurred.

All NLEs and most video compression software allows burning watermarks into video during compression.

A digital watermark is a kind of marker covertly embedded in a noise-tolerant signal such as audio, video or image data. It is typically used to identify ownership of the copyright of such signal. Digital watermarks may be used to verify the authenticity or integrity of the carrier signal or to show the identity of its owners. It is prominently used for tracing copyright infringements and for banknote authentication.

Since a digital copy of data is the same as the original, digital watermarking is a passive protection tool. It just marks data, but does not degrade it or control access to the data.

One application of digital watermarking is source tracking. A watermark is embedded into a digital signal at each point of distribution. If a copy of the work is found later, then the watermark may be retrieved from the copy and the source of the distribution is known. This technique reportedly has been used to detect the source of illegally copied movies.


In case you were wondering, Section 1202 of the U.S. Copyright Act makes it illegal for someone to remove the watermark from your photo so that it can disguise the infringement when used. The fines start at $2500 and go to $25,000 in addition to attorneys’ fees and any damages for the infringement.

Here’s a Wikipedia article to learn more about digital watermarking.

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… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #726: How to Set the Video Scopes

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

In general, set your scopes to Float and uncheck Clamp Signal.

The Lumetri video scope display options.

Topic $TipTopic This article, written by Walter Soyka, first appeared in the Creative Cow forums.

A reader asks: “By default, the Lumetri Scopes in Premiere have “Clamp Signal” checked and the drop-down menu set to “8-Bit” [see attached screenshot]. What do these mean?”

These settings control how the scopes show information to you. Don’t try to match them to specific project settings, but rather use the settings you need for the task at hand.

  • Float displays data based on Lumetri’s internal floating-point processing (0.0 – 1.0 normal scale, plus superblack below and superwhite above).
  • 8-bit displays an 8-bit video interpretation of that float data. This both reduces the precision of the display and effectively limits the waveform range from -7.5 to about 109 IRE, but it does show roughly what the signal would look like after 8-bit digital processing (if that’s part of your pipeline).
  • Clamp signal restricts the input to the scope (but not the actual output of the footage!) to a normal range of 0-255(8-bit) / 0.0-1.0 (float) / 0-100 (IRE). The Lumetri waveform normally uses a variable scale that defaults from 0-100, but can expand when superblack or superwhite colors are present in the signal. During video playback, this can cause the scope to “bounce” as the scale is dynamically adjusted for the data in the current frame. Clamp restores sanity in these situations and keeps the scale constant, but also prevents you from seeing just how much data is beyond the normal display range.
  • HDR is a special monitoring mode that displays a fixed logarithmic scale that goes well beyond the normal range on the high end; it’s meant to be used when grading for HDR displays.

For most cases, I think Float is most appropriate. Turn Clamp off when you’re trying to evaluate the potential for highlight or shadow recovery, and turn Clamp on when you want to keep the scale steady to read the scopes for playback or compare different still frames.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #725: Change Your Look – Use Lighting Effects

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Lighting Effects provide a range of ways to modify the look of a clip with light.

Lighting effects: Source (left), Spotlight (center), Omnilight (right)

Topic $TipTopic

This tip originally appeared as an Adobe Help page article. This is an excerpt.

You can use up to five lights to introduce creative effects. You can control such lighting properties as lighting type, direction, intensity, color, lighting center, and lighting spread. There is also a Bump Layer control for using textures or patterns from other footage to produce special effects such as a 3D-like surface effect.

NOTE: All Lighting Effects properties except Bump Layer can be animated using keyframes.

You can directly manipulate the Lighting Effects properties in the Program Monitor. Click the Transform icon next to Lighting Effects in the Effect Controls panel to display the adjustment handles and Center circle.

NOTE: If a clip is already selected in a Timeline panel, you can drag the Lighting Effects directly to the Video Effects section of the Effect Controls panel.

  1. In the Effects panel, expand the Video Effects bin, expand the Adjust bin, and then drag the Lighting Effects onto a clip in a Timeline panel.
  2. In the Effect Controls panel, click the triangle to expand the Lighting Effects.
  3. Click the triangle to expand Light 1.
  4. Choose a light type from the menu to specify the light source.
  5. Specify a color for the light.
  6. (Optional) Click the Transform icon to display the light’s handles and Center circle in the Program Monitor. You can directly manipulate the position, scale, and rotation of a light by dragging its handles and Center circle.
  7. In Effect Controls, set each light’s properties.


The link above has more details, as well as defining what each setting controls.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #697: What Is the Alpha Channel?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Alpha channels define the amount of translucency for each pixel.

When viewing alpha channels, black is transparent, gray is translucent and white is opaque.

Topic $TipTopic

Just as the red, green and blue channels define the amount of each color a pixel contains, the alpha channel defines the amount of transparency each pixel contains.

A pixel can be fully transparent, fully opaque or somewhere in between. By default, every video pixel is fully opaque.

NOTE: The reason we are able to key titles over backgrounds is that titles contain a built-in alpha channel that defines each character as opaque and the rest of the frame as transparent.

To display the alpha channel in a clip, click the Wrench icon in the lower-right of the Program Monitor and select Alpha. To return to a standard image, select Composite.

While we can easily work with alpha channels inside Premiere, in order to export video that retains transparency information, we need to use the ProRes 4444 or Animation codecs. No other ProRes, HEVC or H.264 codec supports alpha channels.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #724: Background Tasks Window

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

This window monitors everything FCP X is doing in the background.

The Background Tasks window, showing a Share operation in process.

Topic $TipTopic

The Background Tasks window is a great way to monitor what Final Cut Pro X is doing behind the scenes. Here’s how to access it.

Final Cut Pro X is designed to do a lot of its work in the background, so you can keep editing in the foreground without slowing down.

To see what’s happening behind the scenes, open the Background Tasks window by choosing Window > Background Tasks (Shortcut: Cmd + 9).

In this screen shot, I’m exporting two projects at the same time. To maximize system resources, Final Cut exports these sequentially; though from my perspective, I only executed one menu command.

If you need to cancel an operation, click the “Circle X.”

I most often use this to check on projects that can take a while:

  • Transcoding
  • Rendering
  • Sharing

Because this is a floating window, you can open it and move it wherever is convenient.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #713: Color Picker Secrets

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The color picker you get depends upon where you click.

The two color pickers. Which one you get depends upon where you click.

Topic $TipTopic

There are two different color pickers in Apple Motion and Final Cut. Which one you get depends upon where you click.


Click the color chip to view the traditional color picker. Tips:

  • Press the Shift key to lock the color, but adjust saturation.
  • The color wells at the bottom hold an unlimited number of colors
  • To see more wells, drag the horizontal line just above them up or down.
  • To also see more wells, increase the size of the color picker.
  • Click one of the icons at the top to see more ways to choose colors


Click the downward-pointing arrow to the right of the color chip to reveal the color picker first introduced in Motion. Tips:

  • This picker is designed for realtime color picking, simply drag your mouse over the color area, then click the color you like.
  • This option does not support color wells or the different ways to select colors available in the traditional color picker.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #712: How to Export Multiple Projects at Once

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Final Cut now supports exporting multiple projects at the same time.

Select all the projects to export, then choose File > Share.

Topic $TipTopic

One of the new features in the 10.4 update to Final Cut Pro X is the ability to export multiple projects at the same time. This is a feature I use regularly as I create excerpts from my weekly webinars. The process is simple:

  • In the Browser, select all the projects you want to export.
  • Choose File > Share X Projects (“X” will be replaced by the number of projects you are exporting.
  • At which point, the export process remains the same.

NOTE: All projects must export using the same settings. If you need to vary settings by project, you’ll need to export each project individually.


Use the Background Task window (Window > Background Tasks) to monitor the export process.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #708: How To Shoot Great Aerials

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Aerials are punctuation for your project, not the entire script.

A drone in action at sunset. (Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Ryan McAfee, first appeared in Pond5.com. This is an excerpt.

Aerial footage is one of the most versatile types of footage you can use in your projects. In its most basic form, it establishes a location or gives a scope to the story; it can also heighten drama, help transition between locations or subjects, and can add physical and emotional depth to your productions.

The best aerial videographers maximize the utilitarian nature of aerial shots, but also try to push every creative boundary when it comes to dazzling viewers. Here’s how to shoot aerials and use them in storytelling.

In many cases, less is more, and it’s more about maximizing their impact. Show scale, heighten drama, and aerial dolly zooms, aerial hyperlapses, and aerial timelapses also increase the drama just like they would if they were “regular” shots.

Not only do aerials create new perspectives for and enhance the production value of your videos, they can also simply help ease transitions between shots or scenes.

You position the drone or helicopter so that the object or subject is obscured by an object in the foreground, and then reveal it by flying in a direction so it’s no longer obscured. These shots are great for giving importance to the item being revealed, and can also give more context to the scene as more and more is being revealed, like a waterfall being from above.

The article has excellent examples and more comparisons on when to use drones vs. helicopters, along with necessary permits.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #707: The Basics of Lenses

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The right lens makes a good shot great.

A typical zoom lens: Nikkor 18-55 mm.

Topic $TipTopic

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

The job of the lens is to focus the light, so that when it hits the sensor of your camera, there’s a discernible image. This is exactly what the lens of your eye does — focuses light, which hits the retina in the back of your eyeball, so that you can make out the shape of the expensive camera you just bought. 

There are three main things to consider in a lens:

  • Focal length. Focal length refers to how wide or how zoomed-in it makes your image look. Wider lenses make things look farther apart, whereas longer lenses compress the distance between objects, making them look closer together. 
  • Aperture. T-stop and F-stop are different terms for aperture and they mean slightly different things, but for our purposes, we’re going to use the term F-stop. Basically, the F-stop refers to the diameter of the opening of the lens. The lower the number, the wider the opening. The higher the F-stop number, the smaller the opening.
  • Zoom vs. Prime lenses. A prime lens just refers to a lens that’s fixed at only one focal length that you can’t zoom in and out with. The truth is that you’re not going to be doing a lot of zooming in your filming career. A cheaper, higher quality option is to actually use prime lenses and whenever you need to frame your subject differently, either move the camera or change the lens to a different focal length.


The article has more details and illustrations that make it worth reading.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #706: 7 Rules for Better Composition

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Of all these rules, I like the Rule of Thirds the best.

The park bench is framed according to the Rule of Thirds.

Topic $TipTopic

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

As a film editor, one of the biggest limitations is the footage you have to work with. Framing and composition are essential concepts to understand if you want to get incredible footage in the first place.

Here are the seven rules:

  1. The Rule Of Thirds
  2. Symmetry
  3. Leading Lines
  4. Leading Room & Head Room
  5. Depth
  6. Size Equals Power
  7. Break the Rules

The article itself has excellent examples and more details on each rule.