… for Visual Effects

Tip #592: Make Zooms More Interesting

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The Anchor Point affects both scale and rotation effects.

Image courtesy: Ed Greene and Greene HD Productions (www.greenehdtv.com/)
In Premiere, slide the circle (red arrow) to move the anchor point.

Topic $TipTopic

All of us a familiar with how scaling works: as you scale an image it gets larger or smaller. But, there’s a little known setting you can tweak that will make your zooms or rotations much more interesting.

The Anchor Point, which exists in both Premiere and Final Cut, is the point in an image which determines the center of rotation and/or scaling.

By default, both programs put the Anchor Point in the center of the frame. But, you can modify the point, which changes how an image rotates and/or scales.

  • To adjust this in Premiere (screen shot) select a clip, in Effects Control click the word “Motion” to enable on-screen controls, then slide the circle. (See screen shot.)
  • To adjust the anchor point in Final Cut, select a clip and go to Transform in the Video Inspector.

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… 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.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #594: What Is Feathering?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Feathering softens edges in images, shapes or masks.

The feathered edge of a mask. The top half shows feathering out, while the lower half illustrates feathering in.

Topic $TipTopic

Feathering softens edges. When you soften (feather) an edge, the softening has to go somewhere. This means that you can feather OUT from the edge (top of screen shot) or IN from the edge.

Think of feathering as “blurring the edges.” It affects the edge, but not the rest of the image. Feathering has three components:

  • The direction of the feather
  • The amount of the feather
  • The shape of the ramp from the edge to the surface

Each NLE has options which allow you to adjust each of these parameters.

However, feathering will not allow you to extend an image beyond its original borders.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #581: Create Colorful Lighting for 3D Text

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Colorful lighting is one menu choice away, and you can customize it to suit.

A sample lighting effect and the settings that created the colors.

Topic $TipTopic

There’s a hidden lighting secret in Motion for 3D text that is worth learning: colored light! At the top of the screen shot is an example of lighting 3D text with colored light. Here’s how to create it:

  • Create any 3D text.
  • Select the text in the Layers panel.
  • Go to Inspector > Text > Appearance, then twirl down Lighting and enable Environments.
  • Show the contents of Environments by clicking the word Show to the right of the word “Environments.”
  • Change Type from Field to Colorful.
  • Change the Rotation to pick out the colors you like.
  • For more control, twirl down Rotation and modify each of the axes. The effect changes with each. I’ve found that changing X rotation creates some very dramatic underlighting.

When you get the look you want, ah, stop tweaking. The screen shot shows the settings I used to create the lighting effect at the top.


… for Apple Motion

Tip #582: Make a Better Background

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Backgrounds, to be useful, need to be slow, dark and soft.

The Goo background before (top) and after (bottom) after effects are applied.

Topic $TipTopic

The problem I have with most of Apple’s default backgrounds is that they are too BRIGHT and too in-focus for text. Well, yeah, they are too busy, too.

Fortunately, this is easy to fix. Here are some ideas to try when you need to bring a background back under control. I’m going to work with Library > Content > Backgrounds > Goo, but you can pick anything.

  • It’s moving too fast. Select the Clouds layer inside Goo, then go to Inspector > Generator and change Speed to 0.07.
  • All the edges are waaay too sharp. This is because this effect is simply the Cloud generator with a Posterize filter applied. Select the Goo layer, apply Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur and, in the Inspector, manually type in an Amount of 150.

NOTE: If you try to use the slider, it will stop at 64. Manually typing in numbers allows you to enter much larger values for almost every parameter.

  • It’s also too bright, so, with the Goo layer selected, apply Filter > Color > Levels and make sure it is placed below Gaussian Blur in the Layers panel. Adjust the mid-tone slider so that the background gets as dark as you need. If there’s a lot of light shades, pull down the highlights a bit, too.

NOTE: You could do something similar by adjusting Opacity, but that actually makes the background transparent. Levels makes it darker without adding transparency.

As with all effects, adjust the settings until you are happy. In the screen shot, the top image is “before,” the bottom image is “after.”

… for Visual Effects

Tip #572: Tips to Create Better Titles

“Less is More” and pay attention to brand guidelines.

A good title doesn’t have to be complex to be compelling.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip, written by Kevin Luiz, first appeared in RedSharkNews.com. This is a summary.

You don’t have to be a master motion graphics guru in order to create effective, and importantly, thematically relevant looking titles for your videos. Here’s how to approach graphical title design even if animation and typography isn’t your primary skillset.

When devising how you’d like to integrate type font, lower thirds and other graphic elements such as logo animations or plates, make sure to request the company’s brand guidelines. This may seem like a “duh” to most, but I can’t tell you how many editors I’ve come across who purposely ignore these sheets to impose their own stylistic agendas. As a general guideline, I’ll spend about an hour sifting through a client’s outlets to get a sense of style before I dig into graphical work.

Theory & Visual Motifs

The theory behind design and motion graphics is to enhance a brand or product and leverage these designs to present information not conveyed in the visual or audible language of film. These elements can also serve as thematic undertones to prop up and assist in the visual motif of your work.

Make It Your Own

When I create motion titles, I might find a piece of footage that has some dead space to the image on one side or the other. I’ll then title the film and position it in that dead space. This does three things; it conveys a piece of information, it adds balance to an image, and it pulls the viewer in as their attention is demanded scanning the image from left to right.

Jack of All Trades. Master of None

With all of these resources being so accessible, you don’t necessarily need to be a master level graphic designer to accomplish a polished “look”. However, I believe you do need to have a really deep understanding of the overall product you are trying to create as well as the information you must convey.

Motion graphics can be very powerful and, with a bit of taste, can really make your products feel like a completed package. In closing, everything in moderation, but don’t be afraid to add a flair of style to your work with some slick graphics if the product calls for it.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #573: Create a Speckled Light Effect – Cheap

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Dappled light makes portraits much more interesting.

A sample dappled light image, courtesy of PetaPixel.com.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip, written by Michael Zhang, first appeared in PetaPixel.com. This is a summary.

If you’re looking for at-home photo ideas, here’s an 18-minute behind-the-scenes video by photographer Irene Rudnyk showing how you can get dappled light for a portrait shoot with a small budget and studio space.

In searching for interesting lighting, Rudnyk stumbled across a tutorial by photographer Jake Hicks on emulating dappled light — like what you get through leaves on a sunny day — in the studio.

You’ll need to buy a set of glass blocks. These wave pattern glass blocks are commonly used for windows and walls in showers, bathrooms, and basements. They may cost around $4 each (or less if you find a deal or buy in bulk).

Watch the video here.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #579: What Do “Looks” Do?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Looks are designed for fast and easy color grading – and applied effects.

A Blue Steel look applied to a clip. (Image courtesy of Hallmark Broadcast Ltd.)

Topic $TipTopic

Looks are color-correction and effects presets that quickly change the look of a video clip to something different.

These exist in both Premiere (Lumetri > Color > Looks) and Final Cut (Effects Browser > Looks).

In Final Cut, these are some looks that purely affect the color (i.e. Film Noir), but the majority emphasize an effect more than a look (Rain, CamCorder, Aged Film). Final Cut is trying to help editors who know what they want, but don’t know how to achieve it, get the effect they need for their project.

In Premiere, looks are much more color oriented and there are far more of them, close to eighty, depending upon how you count. You select them from the Creative section of the Lumetri color panel. Premiere is trying to help solve sophisticated color grading challenges without understanding color.

The good thing about all of these looks is that there isn’t a whole lot to adjust. If you like the effect, use it. If not, you can try tweaking, but mostly you just delete it and try something different.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #550: Find Animated Settings in Motion – Fast!

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

This menu is located in the top left corner of the Keyframe Editor.

The Curve menu in the top left corner of the Keyframe Editor. The pop-up menu is outlined in white.

Topic $TipTopic

As projects get more complex, tracking which elements are animated and how they are animated gets tricky. Fortunately, Motion has a menu option that quickly allows you to see any modified settings or keyframes applied to a selected element.

With your project open, display the Keyframe Editor (shortcut: Cmd + 8). Next, select the element with the settings you want to review.

Then, in the top left corner, click the Animated menu. Here, you have several options:

  • All. Shows all settings for the selected element, whether modified or note.
  • Animated. Settings which have keyframes applied.
  • Modified. Setting which were changed from their defaults, whether or not keyframes were applied.

Other options limit the settings that are displayed to minimize visual clutter.


Tip #555 illustrates how to create custom curve sets, so you see exactly the settings you need.

… for Apple Motion

Tip #555: Create Custom Curve Sets in Motion

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Custom Curve Sets allow us to see just the parameters we want.

A Custom Curve Set, showing parameter settings for Position, Scale and Opacity.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip originally appeared as an Apple KnowledgeBase article. This is an excerpt. In Tip #550, we illustrated how to access the default curve set in Apple Motion to see which settings have been modified or animated. However, we can also create our own custom curve set.

In the screen shot, I created a new curve set, then added Position, Scale and Opacity settings to it. This allows me to see just the changes to those key settings for the selected elements for the duration of the Motion project.

In addition to using the built-in curve set views, you can make and manage your own view using the last two options in the Show Curve Set pop-up menu: New Curve Set and Manage Curve Sets. As you create and store custom parameter sets, they appear in the Show Curve Set pop-up menu (at the top of the parameter list in the Keyframe Editor), allowing you to switch between them. Deleting, duplicating, and modifying custom sets is done in the Manage Curve Sets dialog (accessible from the Show Curve Set pop-up menu).

To create a custom curve set:

  • In the Keyframe Editor in Motion, click the Show Curve Set pop-up menu, then choose New Curve Set.
  • In the dialog that appears, enter a name for the set, then click OK.
  • After you create a curve set, you can choose it from the Show Curve Set pop-up menu.

To add parameters to a custom curve set do one of the following:

  • After you create a custom curve set, drag a parameter name from any pane in the Inspector into the Keyframe Editor parameter list.
  • In the Inspector, click the Animation menu for the parameter, then choose Show in Keyframe Editor.
  • The Animation menu (a down arrow) remains hidden until you position the pointer over the far-right side of the parameter row you want to modify.
  • The parameter is added to the custom curve set.

To remove a parameter, drag it out of the list.


To delete, duplicate or manage the display order of custom curve sets, select Manage Curve Sets from the Cuve menu.