… for Codecs & Media

Tip #675: Which Codecs Support Alpha Channels

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Not all codecs support transparency. When you need it, use one of these.

Topic $TipTopic

To include transparency in video, you need to create it in software which supports alpha (transparency) channels. These include Final Cut, Motion, Premiere, After Effects, Avid and many other professional editing packages.

Then, you need to choose a codec which also supports alpha channels. Not all of them do.

Rocketstock has compiled a list, though not all of these are video codecs:

  • Apple Animation
  • Apple ProRes 4444
  • Avid DNxHD
  • Avid DNxHR
  • Avid Meridien
  • Cineon
  • DPX
  • GoPro Cineform
  • Maya IFF
  • OpenEXR Sequence With Alpha
  • PNG Sequence With Alpha
  • Targa
  • TIFF

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… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #641: The Secret is Blend Modes

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The secret is blend modes and a compound clip.

Text, filed with a video, placed over a second video, with a drop shadow applied.

Topic $TipTopic

Here’s a straight-forward technique to put video inside a text clip, then key the results over a second video clip. And, for extra credit, I’ll show you how to add a drop shadow.

This is a three-layer effect using blend modes and a compound clip.


  • On the Primary Storyline, put the background. The blue clip, in my screen shot.
  • On the layer above that, put the video you want to place inside the text. The glowing orange in my example.
  • On the layer above that, on the top layer, put the text.
  • Select the Primary Storyline clip and type V to make it invisible.


  • Select the text clip.
  • Go to the Video Inspector and set the blend mode for the text clip to Stencil Alpha.

The text is now filled with the image on Layer 2


  • Select the background clip and type V to make it visible again.
  • Select the text clip and the video on layer 2.
  • Go to New > Compound Clip.
  • Accept the default name and click OK.

The filled text now appears over the background on the Primary Storyline.



  • Select the compound clip.
  • Go to Effects > Stylize and apply a drop shadow to the compound clip.
  • Adjust until it looks good to you.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #642: Add a Cast Shadow to Text

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

All it takes is changing one setting.

Text, filled with a gradient, with a cast shadow effect applied.

Topic $TipTopic

You can add a cast shadow to any clip, however it is most effective with text. Here’s how to create it.

In my example, I created a text clip and filled it with a gradient. (The color settings are in the Text Inspector > Face.)

  • Select the text clip.
  • Go to the Effects browser > Stylize and apply the Drop Shadow effect.
  • In the Video Inspector, change the drop shadow settings from Classic Drop Shadow to Perspective Back.
  • Finally, using the onscreen controls, tweak the shadow position and settings so it best matches your scene.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #645: Update a Smart Collection

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

To update any Smart Search simply double-click its name in the Library List.

To modify any custom Smart Search, simply double-click its name in the Library List.

Topic $TipTopic Smart Collections are saved searches; though “Smart Collection” is a much cooler name.

Did you know you can quickly update them? Here’s how.

Smile… this is a very quick tip:

To modify any custom Smart Search, simply double-click its name in the Library List.

Make your changes, then simply close the search box.

NOTE: If you click New Library Smart Search (or New Smart Search), you’ll create a new search, as well as changing the old one.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #662: Sustaining a Musical Chord

Brian Thomas

The Retiming bar showing an audio clip slowed 75%.

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Brian Thomas writes:

At the end of a recent video I wanted the music to fade out slowly but the piece I had chosen came to a fairly abrupt end. I tried cutting out various short lengths of that final chord and repeating it a number of times with ever decreasing volume while applying various audio effects but there was always some sort of reverberating echo effect in there – not cool.

Suddenly I had a brain wave: Use the Retime facility on the last chord and stretch it out to the desired length!

Usually we think of retiming (speeding up or slowing down of footage) as applying to the image part of the video but it can be very useful to manipulate independent soundtracks since whatever you do FCP X will do its best to retain the original pitch.

In my case I cut the soundtrack a few frames after the last chord had started, clicked on the remaining part of the chord, pressed Cmd + R to invoke Retiming and then clicked on the small vertical line at the right of the green area of the clip dragging it out to the new desired length of time.

NOTE: Clicking on the downward arrow in the middle of the clip, followed by “Slow” offers some convenient values of 50% or 25% straight off.

Dragging the chord out to 20% still gave me great results.


  • Bonus 1: If you notice a slight absence of the upper frequencies then you may need to apply the audio EQ effect and boost appropriately.
  • Bonus 2: Apply this technique to make a whole piece of music exactly fit your footage – it will still sound right as the pitch doesn’t get altered. Neat, huh!

… for Apple Motion

Tip #643: Change the Default Settings of an Effect

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The rigging, elements and effects in the Aged Paper effect, displayed in Motion.

Topic $TipTopic

Virtually all the effects in Final Cut Pro X were first created in Motion and saved as a template for Final Cut Pro X. This means that, in many cases, if you don’t like the default settings, they are easy to change.

For example, these are the settings for Aged Paper. You can change the look itself by adjusting elements on each layer.

However, if all you need is to adjust a default setting:

  • Twirl down Rig.
  • Select one of the widgets, like Mask Size.
  • Go to Inspector > Widget and adjust the settings to suit.
  • Save the file, give it a name that reflects your changes and save it in a category that makes sense to you.


… for Apple Motion

Tip #648: Keyframe a 3D Move

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Once you set a keyframe, whenever you change a parameter, a new keyframe is set.

Position and rotation keyframes are set in Inspector > Properties for the selected element.

Topic $TipTopic

Behaviors make it easy to animate text. But, many times, the behavior is just too manic – especially for 3D text. In those situations, keyframes are a better choice. Here’s a quick technique.

Keyframes are set in the Inspector. You can use the Record Keyframe control (the big red circle below the Viewer) but, I find that sets too many keyframes which makes editing harder.

Instead, to animate position or rotation:

  • Position and rotate the element to its starting position.
  • Position the playhead in the mini-timeline where you want to set the first keyframe.
  • Go to Inspector > Properties.
  • Twirl down Position and Rotation to review additional X, Y, and Z axis controls.
  • NOTE: I find Y-axis rotation to be the most effective way to display 3D text.

  • Click one of the gray gray diamonds. Gray diamonds indicate frames without a keyframe. Gold diamonds indlcate a rame with keyframes.
  • Change the position of the playhead (FIRST!) then reposition the element. New keyframes are created automatically.
  • Repeat until the move is complete.


  • Move between keyframes by clicking the left / right arrows in the Properties panel.
  • To change a keyframe, position the playhead on the frame you want to change, then reposition the element. Keyframes are modified automatically.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #624: Not All Captions Look Alike


Captions are designed for simplicity, not fancy formatting.

SRT Caption formatting controls in Apple Final Cut Pro X.

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When you import SRT files and XML files that have open caption data in them, Premiere Pro automatically converts these files to CEA-708 CC1 closed caption files. You can then edit these files and burn in the captions as subtitles while exporting using Premiere Pro or Adobe Media Encoder.

However, SRT closed captions are designed for readability and flexibility, not formatting. The Federal Communications Commission’s rules about closed captioning include details about caption accuracy, placement, and synchronicity. They don’t say anything about formatting. Avoid problems – read this.

Captions are designed for readability and flexibility – you can turn them on or off, or choose between languages. Captions are not designed to be styled. All captions, except SCC, are designed to be stored in sidecar files. These are separate files from the media, but linked to it.

SCC captions, which can be embedded in the video itself — well, one language at least – are limited to two lines per screen each with only 37 characters per line. They also require a frame rate of 29.97 fps (either drop or non-drop frame). Yup, limited.

SRT captions are more flexible. SRT captions are known for simplicity and ease-of-use, especially when compared to other formats, many of which used XML-based code. It was adopted by YouTube as a caption format in 2008.

SRT captions only supports basic formatting changes including: font, color, placement and text formatting. HOWEVER, there is no clear standard for these style changes. Even if you apply them to your captions there is no guarantee that the software playing your movie will know how to interpret them.

For this reason, when exporting SRT files using File > Export > Media (screen shot), turn off Include SRT Styling for best playback results on other systems.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #638: Store One Clip in Multiple Events

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

This tip gives you options…!

The same clip of Lindsay in stored in two different events.

Topic $TipTopic

Here’s a fast – but hidden – way to store the same clip in more than one event. This is a very useful technique to help organize shots that may span multiple scenes.

Normally, Final Cut only allows storing a clip in one Event. If you drag it into a different event, the clip is moved from one event to the other.

However, if you select a clip (or group of clips ), start to drag it into a new event, then, while dragging, press and hold the Option key until you drag them into a new event, you’ll copy the clip into the new event.

This process does not duplicate media, it only copies the link to the media; which means that you are not using extra storage to make a copy. Also, these to copies are not clones. Whatever you do to one clip does not affect the other.

NOTE: This works best if you start to drag, then press and hold the Option key until the clips are fully dragged into the new event.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #639: All vs. any

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Any is inclusive, All is exclusive.

The Search Filter dialog, showing options for keyword searches.

Topic $TipTopic

When searching for files using keyword search you have two main options: “Any” and “All.” Here’s what they mean.

When using keyword search – which is a great way to organize and find clips and ranges within a clip – there are four key search options. Here’s what they mean.

  • Any. This displays every clip that contains even one of the search criteria. For example, the screen shot displays clips that contain either “People Video” or “Dancing.”
  • All. This displays every clip that contains all the search criterial. For example, this displays only clips that contain both “People Video” and “Dancing.”
  • Does Not Include Any. This displays every clip that does not contain even one of the search terms. For example, this displays all clips that do not contain either “People Video” or “Dancing.”
  • Does Not Include All. This only displays clips that do not contain all search criteria. For example, this would not show clips that contain both “People Video” and “Dancing,” but would show clips that contain one of these.


Search results are displayed instantly, as soon as you select them. Experiment with these on your own media and discover how they can help you find the clip you need when you need them.