… for Visual Effects

Tip #693: 3 Quick Motion Tracking Tips

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Camera moves – Shutter speed – Depth-of-Field

Topic $TipTopic

Ever have trouble getting good motion tracks for your visuals? The problem usually lies in the camera settings!

Here are three simple steps to follow to improve the quality of the source footage for a motion track:

  1. Make sure camera moves are not too complex and pay attention to parallax.
  2. Shutter speed heavily affects motion blur. Higher shutter speeds minimize motion blur and improve the image quality of visual effects. The recommendation is 1/200th or faster.
  3. Decrease aperture to increase the depth of field. This helps the computer track contrast points.

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… 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 Random Weirdness

Tip #580: The History of Storyboards

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Storyboards are designed to help plan the story before production starts.

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tmray02/1440415101/
A storyboard for “The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd” episode #408 drawn by Tom Ray.

Topic $TipTopic

A storyboard is a graphic organizer that consists of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing a motion picture, animation, motion graphic or interactive media sequence. The storyboarding process, in the form it is known today, was developed at Walt Disney Productions during the early 1930s, after several years of similar processes being in use at Walt Disney and other animation studios.

The first storyboards at Disney evolved from comic book-like “story sketches” created in the 1920s to illustrate concepts for animated cartoon short subjects such as Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie, and within a few years the idea spread to other studios.

Many large budget silent films were storyboarded, but most of this material has been lost during the reduction of the studio archives during the 1970s and 1980s. Special effects pioneer Georges Méliès is known to have been among the first filmmakers to use storyboards and pre-production art to visualize planned effects.

Disney credited animator Webb Smith with creating the idea of drawing scenes on separate sheets of paper and pinning them up on a bulletin board to tell a story in sequence, thus creating the first storyboard. Furthermore, it was Disney who first recognized the necessity for studios to maintain a separate “story department” with specialized storyboard artists (that is, a new occupation distinct from animators), as he had realized that audiences would not watch a film unless its story gave them a reason to care about the characters.

Gone with the Wind (1939) was one of the first live-action films to be completely storyboarded.


Here’s a Wikipedia article to learn more.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #510: 10 Tips for Shooting Visual Effects

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The underlying point of these is to be sure you can work with your shots later in post.

Topic $TipTopic

The CGGeek posted a YouTube video presenting “10 Tips for Filming Visual Effects.” While I don’t agree with all of them, especially because his entire video was shot out of focus, I do agree with most of them.

They are:

  1. Take your camera off the tripod and shoot with camera motion. (This, I think, needs to be taken with a grain of salt, depending upon how much tracking and rotoscoping will be needed.)
  2. Shoot at a high shutter speed for fast moving VFX shots, above 1/500th of a second.
  3. Write down the camera settings: focal length, shutter and frame rate.
  4. Use lots of high-contrast camera markers to simplify motion tracking later.
  5. Lock your camera on a tripod, then add motion later in post.
  6. Avoid pans, zooms and fast camera motion when doing camera tracking.
  7. Always shoot a flat, background plate in case you need to garbage mask your actors.
  8. Take a 360° environmental photo to show the overall scene.
  9. Use the sky as a blue-screen background.
  10. Track both foreground and background, the extra depth improves the results of a camera track.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #519: Use XML to Archive FCP X Projects

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Data stored in libraries, projects, events and clips can all be exported using XML.

Data stored in Libraries, projects, events and clips can all be exported using XML.

Topic $TipTopic

Most of the time, the easiest way to move media, projects and data in Final Cut Pro X from Point A to Point B is to copy the library. However, there are four main reasons to use an XML file instead:

  • To archive a project. The only way to future-proof your projects is to export and save an XML file.
  • To move a project from FCP X to another NLE, for example, Premiere Pro CC.
  • To send project data to or from a media asset management system.
  • To transfer a project online between editors. Provided both editors have the same media, XML files are tiny compared to a library file and transfer very quickly.

Why use XML? First, XML is an open standard – like HTML for the web – that allows us to describe the specifications of a media file, metadata, event, project or library. It is ideal for moving media files between different software or systems. Second, Apple has always considered its Final Cut Pro file formats proprietary; without FCP X you can’t open them. XML provides the best way to archive and/or share your projects for the future.

The process is simple, here’s how it works.


To export the entire contents of a library – generally for archiving purposes – select the library, then choose File > Export XML.

In the Export dialog, notice that the Source indicates it’s the entire Library. Give this XML file a name and location, then select the highest version of XML this dialog supports and click Save.

This creates a portable XML file that can be read by a number of different software in case you ever need to access this library in the future.

NOTE: XML files do not include media. That needs to be archived separately.


  • Here’s a link to my website that details different ways to export libraries and projects for archiving.
  • Here’s a link to my website that details different ways to export Browser clips and events for media asset management, note taking and archiving.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #417: How Do Color Wheels Work?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Color wheels combine precision with ease-of-use.

The Midtones color wheel in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

Topic $TipTopic

I much prefer modifying colors using color wheels than curves. Partly, I think, this is due to long years working with Vectorscopes in video.

In Premiere, when you switch to the Lumetri Color panel in the Color workspace, one of the options is Color Wheels & Match.

Color wheels adjust all three color elements of a pixel: gray-scale, hue and saturation. Each wheel affects one-third of the image: shadows, mid-tones and highlights separately. This gives us a lot of control over different elements of the image.

The slider on the left alters gray-scale; up makes things brighter. The center cross-hair simultaneously alters hue and saturation. Grab the cross-hair and drag it toward the color you want to add. The farther you drag it from the center, the greater the saturation.

The color wheel has a black center when no changes have been made and a solid center when a color adjustment is in place.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #459: Improve Your Visuals with Pre-Viz

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

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.

Topic $TipTopic

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.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #389: Two Fast Ways to Configure a Sequence

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

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

The Change Sequence Settings dialog in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

Topic $TipTopic

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 Random Weirdness

Tip #442: Find the Funny

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Funny takes work.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is an excerpt.

The art of the comedy short film is actually nothing new, and can be traced back to the earliest days of film and cinema with the works of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Here are some tips to finding the funny and creating quality comedy shorts and videos.

The initial planning helps set the tone. The goal is to explore ideas. You can do free association with just yourself and a piece of paper. Ideally, once you’ve “found the funny,” you can start putting those ideas to paper by planning your outline, script, and shots.

A good way to work is to cover your bases and make sure you have every shot you’d need to put together an edit. Then, once the rigid work is done, loosen things up and do as many takes as you can stand.

Another simple trick that can help out in the edit is to shoot several reaction shots. Comedy very much lives in faces.

When is comes to editing, comedy lends itself to quick cuts, especially to reactions.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #423: 7 Reasons to Add Narration

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Narration adds power, speeds action and consolidates back-story.

Narration adds power, speeds action and consolidates back-story. (Image courtesy of pexels.com.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat. This is an excerpt.

For filmmakers, narration is truly a powerful tool — voice-over narration helps us understand what we’re seeing. Regardless of where you are in production, here are seven reasons you should consider using voice-over narration in your project.

  • Beef Up Your Narrative. Adding narration can be a great way to beef up your narrative to turn a section from a weakness into a strength.
  • Accelerate Exposition. Set things up much more quickly than otherwise possible.
  • Add Depth to a Character.
  • Lay Out the Broad Strokes. Especially with sequels, this helps jump start the action by quickly filling in the back-story.
  • Make Your Film More Active.
  • Add Humor to Your Scenes. Similar to making films more active, adding voice-over narration can also add more humor to your scenes.
  • Raise Issues of Reliability. If you are looking to add narration to your project, it’s also worth considering making it less than reliable. An unreliable narrator can cause a very drastic thematic response when the truth is revealed to the audience.