… for Visual Effects

Tip #593: Opacity vs. Levels to Darken

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Lower highlights to “dim” a background, rather than opacity.

Image courtesy of 2ReelGuys.com.
The problem with lowering opacity (left)to dim an image is that the background will show through. Instead adjust levels (right).

Topic $TipTopic

Backgrounds are wonderful, especially for info-graphics. But, all too often, they are too bright. (Especially backgrounds from Apple.) We can “dim” them using opacity – but that isn’t a good idea.

What opacity does is “darken” an image by making it translucent. Since the default background in most NLEs is black, lowering opacity gives the illusion of darkening. However, as you can see from the left side of the screen shot, if there is anything in the background, it will show through. Which kinda spoils the dimming effect.

Instead, use the color grading controls in your NLE and lower highlights about 50% (right image). This darkens a background without creating translucency, or altering colors.


In Photoshop, use Image > Adjustments > Levels to achieve similar results.

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… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #585: Hide Jump Cuts with Flow

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

For best results, don’t change the duration of the transition.

The Flow transition is located in the Dissolves category.

Topic $TipTopic

The best way to hide a jump cut is using B-roll or a cutaway. However, when you don’t have those options, the Flow transition in Final Cut can bail you out of a tricky situation. Here’s how.

The Flow transition is relatively new in Final Cut. What it does is use Optical Flow technology to create new frames that blend the Out of the out-going clip into the In of the in-coming clip.

In doing so, it converts a jarring jump cut into a fast, smooth, 6-frame dissolve.

To apply, drag Flow from Transitions > Dissolves onto the edit point containing the jump cut.


According to the Final Cut Pro X Help:

  • Use the Flow transition with the default duration only. Any other duration will generate unexpected results.
  • The Flow transition duration is always set at 6 frames regardless of the duration set in the Editing pane of Final Cut Pro preferences.
  • The Flow transition is disabled (treated as a standard dissolve) when you apply it to a generator or still image.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #570: 3 Ways to Create Split Screens in FCP X

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The key is to stack clips vertically, then scale and crop as needed.

A freeform split screen, courtesy of MotionArray.com.

Topic $TipTopic

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

Split screen videos can be a fun stylistic choice for a variety of video types, but they also allow you to display more information on-screen than a single clip. With split screens, you can create engaging motion graphics videos with just a little keyframing. In this tutorial, we are going to show you a variety of methods for creating dynamic split screen videos in Final Cut Pro X.

A split screen effect works by layering the footage and changing the shape and size of your video clips, so they are displayed alongside one another. Because of this, It’s helpful to know the layout you want to achieve so you can work out the sizes to make each video.

Option 1: Vertical & Horizontal Splits

Vertical and horizontal split screens are when the screen is divided into two sections, displaying a different clip on each side. For both of these types of split screen layouts, you can use the same method, but just change different cropping settings. For a vertical video, change the left and right crop controls. For horizontal, change the top and bottom crop controls.

Option 2: Multiple Video Splits

To create multiple splits, you can use the vertical/horizontal method above, but you’ll need to add more layers. Creating split screens with more than 2 layers of video can become a little complicated, especially if you want to be precise about your placement.

Option 3: Freeform Splits

Another style of split screen often used in music videos and motion graphics videos is the freehand split screen. Rather than neatly laid out in equal sizes, the freeform style consists of videos arranged in whichever way you want. It will take a bit of playing around to get right, but it’s worth it!


The article, linked at the top, has details and videos illustrating how to create and animate each of these effects.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #569: Tips for Buying Used Lenses

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Used lens are affordable, but be careful.

Lens image courtesy of pexels.com

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Caleb Ward, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

Used lenses provide a cost-effective way to get quality equipment, but know what to look for before you buy.

1. Look at the Focal Length

Lenses are broken up into two categories, prime & zoom. Prime lenses don’t zoom ‘in and out’ but typically let in more light than zoom lenses. They have a fixed focal length.

2. Check the Aperture Number

A good rule of thumb is: the lower the f-stop number the ‘better’ the lens.

3. Check the General Condition

Are there visible signs of use? It isn’t a perfect way to tell if a lens shoots great but it will let you know if the previous owner took care of the lens.

4. Shake the lens

On any lens you will hear a little noise when you shake it, but do you hear anything that sounds extra loose? Listen for screws or broken plastic pieces on the inside as these might be indicators of an unseen problem.

5. Shine a Flashlight Through the Back

Can you see any dust or scratches? If so you will probably have to send in your lens to get repaired which can get really expensive.

6. Does the Focus and Zoom Wheel Turn Smoothly?

Difficulty zooming or focusing can mean the gears on the inside of your lens are messed up…and there isn’t a lot you can do about that.

7. Are the Aperture Blades Closing Correctly?

You will need to connect the lens to a camera to test the aperture blades. It is imperative that they are in good working order. Do they all form a perfectly symmetrical shape when closed? Do they open up all the way?

8. Try the Lens!

Most camera shops will allow you to test a lens on your own personal camera. Put the lens on and shoot some pictures. Zoom into the image and check for vignetting or chromatic aberrations.

9. Ask about a Warranty and Return Policy

Be careful when buying on an online auction site like eBay. Lenses sold “as-is” should signal a big red flag.

10. Know the Seller

Tried and true retailers are the best companies to purchase used lenses from. Not only will they likely have a great return policy but they probably won’t sell sketchy lenses.


The source of these tips – Karl Taylor – has posted a video at the link at the top of this tip. Watch it to learn more.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #567: YouTube Compression Settings for Premiere Pro

Premiere’s YouTube presets are good – provided you first check H.264.

Key compression settings for YouTube in Premiere Pro CC’s Export Settings screen.

Topic $TipTopic

In Tip #561 I shared YouTube’s optimized compression settings. Here’s how they translate into Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

Select the compression frame size that matches the size of your project. There’s no benefit to making the compressed frame size smaller, and scaling it larger will only make it blurry.

Premiere’s settings closely match YouTube’s recommendations. On the Export Settings screen:

  • Set Format to H.264
  • Pick the YouTube preset that matches the sequence frame size. In general, you’ll only need 720p, 1080p or 2160p.
  • Make sure the box to match frame rate is checked.

The audio compression settings are fine for both stereo and mono.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #531: How to Delete Render Files in FCP X

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Any deleted generated media can easily be rebuilt.

This message shows the three categories of media that can be deleted at any time.

Topic $TipTopic

Final Cut generates a lot of files, even for small projects. While all these files are necessary during your edit, they are not necessary afterwards. When you need to recover storage space, here’s what you need to do.

There are three types of generated media that can be deleted:

  • Render files
  • Optimized media
  • Proxy files

NOTE: If, by chance, you delete the wrong thing, Final Cut will automatically rebuild it from existing files. This is a good reason to never trash camera native files until your edit is complete.

There are three areas from which you can delete generated media:

  • Library
  • Event
  • Project

Select the area you want delete files from in either the Library List or the Browser, then choose File > Delete Generated [ ] Files. (Where the brackets are will appear “Library,” “Project,” or “Event,” depending upon what you selected.)

FCP X will warn you that this action can not be reversed, which is true, but misleading. While you can’t undo the deletion, you can create new optimized or proxy media from File > Transcode Media.

And FCP X will create new render files whenever they are needed in your edit.

IMPORTANT NOTE! Do not delete the master files from your camera if you plan to delete optimized media later. Optimized media files are derived from the camera master files. Deleting both would be a very bad idea.


While you can do this during an edit, you don’t save a lot, as Final Cut will rebuild whatever files it needs from what you deleted. The big benefit comes when you are archiving a project. Deleting generated media reduces the size of your archives.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #549: What Is Optical Flow?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Use Optical Flow for clips slower than 10%.

The video quality options in Final Cut Pro X’s Retime menu.

Topic $TipTopic

Optical Flow is a way to generate artificial frames to smooth extremely slow motion video. The ideal way to create extreme slomo is to shoot at a high frame rate, then slow it down. But, if you are editing after production is complete and no high-frame rate video was shot, you need to go to Plan B.

Optical Flow is Plan B.

When slowing a clip, you’ll get the best results by picking a speed percentage which divides evenly into 200. For example, 50, 33, 25, 20, 10, 5 and so on.

There are three choices for image quality:

  • Normal. Use this for speeds of 50% or faster, including fast motion/timelapse.
  • Frame Blending. Use this for speeds between 10 and 50%. This quickly dissoves between each slowed frame.
  • Optical Flow. This creates frames, what animators call “tweens” for very slow motion. Use this for speeds slower than 10%.

The problem is that optical flow often doesn’t work. By that I mean it generates strange artifacts, especially between foreground and background.

Over the years, I’ve found very few clips where optical flow works reliably. I tend to prefer frame blending with speeds at 20% or faster.

For extreme slow motion, the best option – and most reliable – is to shoot a high frame rate.


To apply Optical Flow, slow a clip using the Retime menu, then choose Optical Flow from Video Quality.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #568: YouTube Compression Settings for Compressor

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Compressor’s settings need tweaks for best YouTube compression.

Compressor’s video compression settings panel. Red arrows indicate areas to change.

Topic $TipTopic

In Tip #561 I shared YouTube’s optimized compression settings. Apple Compressor’s YouTube settings change based upon the frame size of the source media. While close, they need some tweaks for best results.


Match the size of your compressed frame to the source frame. There’s no reason to make it smaller and making it larger will only make it blurry.

Select the setting that matches your project frame size from Video Sharing Services. Then, in the Video tab:

  • Turn OFF Multi-pass
  • Turn OFF Add clean aperture information
  • If compressing for 4K, change the Data Rate to Custom, 35000.
  • 1080p and 720p video data rate settings are fine.


  • If compressing stereo, set the Bit Rate to 320 kbps.
  • If compressing mono, set the Bit Rate to 160 kbps.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #576: Retime Audio to Match Dialog

Allen Rowell

Retime clips to match the pace of dialog.

Screenshot showing two alternate audio takes, running at two different speeds.

Topic $TipTopic

You can retime audio to match dialogue to a video clip that was recorded at a different time as shown in this example. The audio recorded with the video clip that I wanted to use had problems that the audio recorded with the reverse angle did not have. I had two good takes of the audio from which to choose but, while the actor’s delivery was pretty consistent, the pacing varied so that words came out faster or slower from one take to the next.

In the screenshot you can see the target clip in the timeline with the two alternate takes as connected clips underneath. By retiming these clips (Cmd-R), and dragging on the retime handles, I made the waveforms line up. The first take was sped up to 111% and the second take was slowed down to 92%.

Then, I played back the edit using Cmd-V and the Audio Inspector to turn off clips and isolate the audio that I wanted to hear under the video that I wanted to use.

Because FCP X does not pitch shift the audio, the result was delightfully usable.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #544: 7 Tips for Better Shooting

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

7 Tips to improve your shooting, from Caleb Pike.

Image courtesy of Pexels.com.
Slate your shots. Labeling makes them easier to find in the edit.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, based on a video by Caleb Pike, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

Here are the tips that Caleb goes through in the video:

1. Transitional Shots

Utilizing transition shots gives the editor the ability to move from scene to scene without using harsh cuts. As Caleb points out you can find very creative ways to develop and film transition shots without the use of “artificial crossovers and fades”.

2. Slate Your Shots

Metadata is pretty important to an editor. It not only helps you, the director, to keep everything organized on set, but it also helps the editor in post. On any film shoot you’re going to go through several takes of multiple scenes, so by slating and cataloging each slate you’ve already begun the metadata collection and organizing for your editor.

3. Overlap Your Shots

Overlapping shots can make editing easier and its gives the editor more options to work with. To do this you want to film specific actions and tasks in several angles, and you want to be sure and film the action from beginning to end in each take. Total pro move.

4. Get It On Film

When shooting interviews or filming a narrative sequence begin rolling before you say “action”, this way you can gather auditory information about the scene or you can ask metadata questions to your interview subjects. Such questions for your subjects would include asking their name, spelling of their name and title. Having this information in audio form can greatly help your editor when setting up interview titles and or just labeling the metadata.

5. B-Roll

As Caleb says, “B-Roll, B-Roll, B-Roll, B-Roll. You can never have enough B-Roll….it doesn’t matter how important it is or whether you’ll actually use it. I’ve always been taught that, “It’s better to have it than not.”

6. Practice A Lot

You can go to school for years to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking, but if you don’t get out there and practice then you’ll never improve as a shooter or editor. So, use any open time you can and begin filming anything you can think of to practice shooting and editing.

7. Keep The Tone In Mind

Know your story. Know what it’s about and the tone you want to set through the visuals. This is extremely important as the tone will most often dictate how the transitions and b-roll will work.


The link at the top takes you to a video where Caleb explains this tips in more detail.