… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #1333: Set vs. Scale to Frame Size

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

For greatest flexibility, always choose “Set to Frame Size” when scaling images.

When scaling an image, the best option is to select “Set to Frame Size.”

Topic $TipTopic

When placing an image, or video, that has a different size from the sequence, Premiere provides three different ways to scale it. But not all these choices are good ones.

When the clip frame size and sequence frame size don’t match, Premiere offers three options:

  • None. This places the image at 100% size in the timeline, regardless of the sequence frame size.
  • Scale to Frame Size. This scales the image to fit in the sequence frame, but does not change the Scale setting in the Effect Controls panel. This means that you don’t know how much the size of an image has been changed.
  • Set to Frame Size. This scales the image to fit in the sequence frame AND changes the Scale setting in the Effect Controls panel to indicate how much the image size changed.

You can create a default setting using the Default Media Scaling menu in Preferences > Media. Or you can set these individually for each clip by control-clicking the clip in the Timeline. (See screen shot.)

If you want to create “Ken Burns” style moves on stills, None is the best choice.

Otherwise, use Set to Frame Size. This fits the image into the frame and shows how much it was scaled in the Effect Controls panel.

NOTE: I can’t think of any reason to use Scale to Frame Size.


Image quality degrades if you enlarge an image much more than 100%.

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… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #1334: Frame Hold vs. Frame Hold Segment

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

When pausing the action, a frame hold segment provides the most flexibility.

The Frame Hold options available for each clip.

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In the past, when we needed to freeze the action, we created a stand-alone freeze frame by exporting a still, then, reimporting it and adding it to the Premiere timeline. But, there’s a much better way: Frame Hold.

A Frame Hold is attached to the source clip, rather than a separate piece of media. To create it, put the playhead on the frame you want to freeze, then control-click the clip in the timeline. Scroll about half way down to find two options:

  • Add Frame Hold
  • Insert Frame Hold Segment.

Add Frame Hold freezes the frame at the position of the playhead and replaces the rest of the clip with the freeze. This is useful when you want to create a freeze, then add a transition.

Insert Frame Hold Segment inserts a two-second freeze at the position of the playhead, then returns to the original video. This is useful when you want to pause the action – say to add a graphic – then return to the action.


You can trim the duration of the Frame Hold Segment as long as you use the yellow trimming tool. Rolling the edit point will break the sync between the two shots.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1338: Adjust a Smart Conform

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Smart Conform is a good start. But you’ll need to use keyframes to make it perfect.

Video Inspector > Transform with keyframes applied to change position.

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Smart Conform converts clips in one aspect ratio to fit inside a project using a different aspect ratio. It does this by analyzing the content of the media, then scaling and repositioning it to best fit in the new project.

To create a Smart Conform:

  • Create a new project with the aspect ratio you need.
  • Edit clips into the new project, as usual.

NOTE: Do not allow the project to change aspect ratio when you edit the first clip into it.

  • Finally select all the clips in the timeline and choose Modify > Smart Conform. In just a few seconds, FCP conforms all selected clips.

The good news is that Final Cut scales and repositions the clips quickly and, most of the time, does a pretty good job.

The bad news is that, unlike Premiere, Final Cut does not motion track the image, which means that as the subject moves over time, the framing may need tweaking.

However, you can quickly tweak your shot – even animate the tracking – by selecting each clip, then, in Video Inspector > Transform, add keyframes to reposition the video as needed to correct any positioning errors.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1339: Adjust Thumbnails in Timeline

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

We can now adjust the height of timeline thumbnails using this slider.

The Timeline Appearance panel.

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It’s a small thing – but this new feature in the 10.5 update to Final Cut Pro can improve the look of your clips in the timeline; especially if you are editing on a very large screen.

  • Open a project into the timeline.
  • Click the Timeline Appearance button (top red arrow in screen shot) in the top right corner of the timeline.
  • Click the thumbnail icon (middle red arrow) to collapse all timeline clips into thumbnails.
  • Slide the bottom slider (bottom red arrow) left and right to change the height of the thumbnails.

On very large screens, the thumbnails may get too small to see. This adjusts them so that even on a large screen, you can still see the names of your clips.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1340: Something Playful

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Luma keys use grayscale values to determine which pixels are transparent.

Tree image courtesy of Melissa Chang, Pexels.com

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We are all familiar with chroma-key, removing the green and replacing the background. But, what if there’s no green? I was playing with a Luma key and rediscovered an old effect.

A chroma-key selects pixels based on their color value. A Luma key selects pixels based on their gray-scale value.

NOTE: In the old days, we used luma keys to superimpose white text on a black title card by shooting each card with a camera then using a luma key to combine the title with a background image.

Here, I have a silhouette of a tree against a white sky.

I stacked the tree above a gradient background and applied Effects > Keying > Luma key.

By default the Luma key removes black. Click Invert to get it to remove white.

NOTE: You can see the settings I used in the screen shot, along with the finished results.

Just because there’s no green in the shot, does not mean you can’t create interesting effects. Luma keys are very old, but still highly useful.


Experiment with different backgrounds. I only used a gradient because it was easy to illustrate this effect.

Also, unclick Invert and fill the black branches of the tree with a background.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1324: Test Compressed Image Quality – FAST!

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The Difference blend mode is a fast way to see how much your compression settings are damaging your images.

Two frames – one compressed and the source – compared using the Difference blend mode.

Topic $TipTopic

The most important concept you need to understand about video compression is that the process of compressing a file ALWAYS removes data during compression. Always. This means that the more you compress a file to reduce it’s file size, the more data is removed.

Once removed, you can’t put this data back. This is the reason you don’t want to re-compress an already compressed file. Another important note is that different movies, codecs and bit rates yield different results.

There’s a very fast way to compare the quality of a source file with the compressed image.

The process is simple: Using Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, or Premiere Pro, compare a frame from the source file with a frame from the compressed file using the Difference blend mode.

Perfectly matched frames are solid black. Frames with lots of differences – such as the screen shot – show lots of ghosting, especially around edges. This technique is a good way to test different compression technology and see which one works the best for your projects.

Here’s an article the explains this technique in detail and provides illustrations of the results from a variety of compression settings and software.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1322: What is Hardware-Accelerated Encoding?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Hardware compression sets the standard for both speed and quality.

The Effects panel in After Effects, showing which effects are accelerated.

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In the past, when we needed to render or export a file, the software in the NLE did all the work. This worked fine, but took a long time. As video production became more of a mass market, there was incentive for hardware developers to incorporate video compression circuits onto the CPU.

This was MUCH faster than software compression, but, for video pros, still not fast enough.

Now, video compression is moving from the CPU to the GPU. For example, according to Adobe, Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Media Encoder can take advantage of available GPUs on your system to distribute the processing load between the CPU and the GPU to get better performance. Currently, most of the processing is done by CPU and GPU assists in processing certain tasks and features.

The Mercury Playback Engine (GPU Accelerated) renderer is used to render GPU accelerated effects and features.
Here is the list of GPU accelerated effects in Adobe Premiere Pro. To identify the GPU accelerated effects, navigate to the Effects panel and look for the Accelerated Effects icon.

Apart from processing these effects, the Mercury Playback Engine (GPU Accelerated) is used for image processing, resizes, color space conversions, recoloring and more. It is also used for timeline playback/scrubbing and full-screen playback using Mercury Transmit.


A wild card in hardware acceleration is the new Apple silicon chips. In the past, hardware acceleration for both H.264 and HEVC was handled by the T-2 chip.
With the move to Apple silicon, all compression is now done using the M1 chip.

From a quality point of view, my studies show that for most compression, hardware acceleration looks the same as software compression, yet processes files much more quickly.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1325: Why Is an Audio Fade Called +3 dB?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Audio is a Strange Beast

Four different fade shapes available in Apple Final Cut Pro.

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Unlike video, audio levels are logarithmic. For example, whenever the audio level increases (or decreases) around 10 dB, the perceived volume is doubled (or cut in half). These log values also have an impact in cross-fading between clips.

A +3 dB transition adds a 3 dB increase in volume to both clips in the middle of a cross-fade. If the software did not add this “bump,” the cross-fade would sound fainter in the middle of a transition, then louder at each end.

When fading to or from black, a straight-line (linear) transition is best. When cross-fading between two clips, both of which have continuous audio, a +3 dB transition will sound better.


Some software allows you to change the shape of the curve manually. These rules still apply, but manual adjustments allow much greater control over how the transition sounds.

Still, the general rule of audio is: Whatever sounds the best to you IS most likely the best.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1312: The Comparison Viewer Saves Time

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The Comparison Viewer is very helpful when doing color grading to match shots.

The Comparison Viewer (left) with buttons displayed on bottom.

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I discovered this tip while researching a recent PowerUP webinar covering the new features in Apple Final Cut Pro v. 10.5.

The Comparison Viewer displays two timeline images side-by-side, which can simplify color grading or other tasks where comparing two images is helpful (see screen shot).

To display the Comparison Viewer, go to Window > Show in Workspace > Comparison Viewer (Shortcut: Control + Cmd + 6).

There are two buttons at the top:

  • Timeline. This displays the last frame of the previous clip, or the first frame of the following clip relative to the position of the playhead in the timeline. Switch between views using the Previous Edit / Next Edit buttons at the bottom.
  • Saved. This saves up to 30 still frames, captured at the position of the playhead in the timeline, then displays whichever you select in the Comparison Viewer.

I find using this very helpful whenever I do color grading.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1313: Copy a Library as Proxy-only

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Proxy-only libraries are small, fast and easy to share.

The “Copy to Library” dialog box, with settings to create a Proxy Library.

Topic $TipTopic

I discovered this tip while researching a recent PowerUP webinar covering the new features in Apple Final Cut Pro v. 10.5.

A new feature in Final Cut 10.5 is the ability to create a proxy-only Library. This is extremely useful when you need to share a library with a remote editor who doesn’t already have access to the project’s media.

Here’s how.

  • Control-click an existing library you want to share in the Library List to the left of the Browser.
  • Choose Copy to Library > New Library

NOTE: You can also copy one library into another library, for example, to consolidate files.

  • In the resulting window, check the Proxy checkbox.

This copies all library databases, events, projects into a new library. It duplicates any existing proxy files – though doesn’t create new proxies – and vastly reduces the size of the new library, making it much easier to send via the web to another editor.


There are a number of other settings in this window. Read more about what this can do in Apple’s Final Cut Pro Help.