… 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.

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… 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 Random Weirdness

Tip #1323: 15 Image Composition Techniques

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Better composition creates stronger emotions and deeper audience involvement.

(Image courtesy of SmartPhotoEditors.com.)

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This article first appeared in SmartPhotoEditors.com. This is a summary.

With many technological breakthroughs in cameras, professional photographers have access to more tools and accessories than ever! But it’s still the person behind the camera that makes the real difference. That makes it more important for professional photographers and their techniques such as the composition techniques to click the best of the best clicks.

Though professional Photoshop services are there to enhance the images, the main objective of composition is to click the best snap so that it captures the scene as intended and reaches the post-processing table. This blog post will walk professional photographers through many different composition techniques that can be implemented, even when using a smartphone!

The article then illustrates and discusses 15 composition techniques:

  1. Rule of Thirds
  2. Rule of Odds
  3. Rule of Space
  4. Golden Triangle Rule
  5. Centering the Object
  6. Depth of Field
  7. Balance the Elements
  8. Leading Lines
  9. Patterns and Textures
  10. Filling the Frame
  11. Frame Inside a Frame
  12. Leaving Negative Space
  13. Going Minimalist
  14. Contrast Background
  15. Left to Right Rule of Photography

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1328: Rewrites & Script Doctors

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Script doctors have many roles – but one goal: Make a film as good as it can be.

Carrie Fisher, talented script doctor.

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This article, written by Jourdan Aldredge, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

In the world of screenwriting, there are many, many moving parts. You might think writing a script is as easy as sitting down and putting pen to paper (or, more accurately, opening a laptop and typing away). However, for small indie features to big-budget blockbusters, developing a screenplay can take years and often involves many different writers.

One of the most notable titles for a script revisionist is the infamous “script doctor,” who seems to have magical screenwriting powers in the industry. In this article, let’s take a moment to explore these script doctors and break down who they are and what they actually do.

According to a most basic Wikipedia definition, a script doctor is “a writer or playwright hired by a film, television, or theater production to rewrite an existing script or polish specific aspects of it.” The definition goes on to include examples of specific parts of a script that can be rewritten, including: “structure, characterization, dialogue, pacing, themes, and other elements.”

For those exploring the art of revision and script doctoring today, the basic elements of a script doctor rewrite will usually fall into these distinct rewrite categories.

  • Brainstorming and Basic Ideation: These script doctors help early on in the process with some of the big picture ideas through brainstorming. They can help lay out the basic elements of a story, define the emotional crux, then leave the majority of the actual script to be written by a single writer.
  • Story and Character Changes: Conversely, at times a script doctor may be needed after an initial idea is laid out, but to help further develop and refine a project’s central story and characters.
  • Alternate Scenes and Endings: Similarly, a script doctor is often needed to come in towards the end of the creative process to help wrap up a film that might be stuck on the ending. This is one reason you often see alternate versions or endings in a film that was doctored or rewritten at the last minute.
  • Audience Feedback Revisions: It’s standard practice for big-budget features to use test screenings and audience feedback to judge if a project is ready to go, or might need revisions to its script or direction. Script doctors can be brought in with the goal of taking audience feedback to help revise a script to better meet audience expectations and demand.
  • Final Production Polish: Perhaps the most common form of script doctoring comes as a last stage in the script process as a means to help “polish” or “punch-up” a script with extra flourish. These revisions are often minor and quick without changing the crux of a story.

This article has more details on the process of script doctors and fixing scripts, along with a variety of links to learn more.


Two famous script doctors: Aaron Sorkin and Carrie Fisher.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1329: Sony a7R IV & DJI Gimbal Change Football

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Small package, with great portability and 4K source images.

Mike Smole and the “poor man’s steadicam.”

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This article, written by Daron James, first appeared in NofFlmSchool.com. This is a summary.

The Sony a7R IV is changing NFL broadcasts. As first reported by SVG, the Week 15 tilt between Seattle and Washington had the crew using what they dubbed as “The Megalodon,” according to a tweet by reporter Mike Garafolo, where a Sony a7R IV was paired with FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens and mounted to a DJI Ronin-S gimbal.

Camera operator Mike Smole called it the “poor man’s Steadicam,” and it was used to capture endzone celebrations to mix in with the broadcast.

Crews had already been using the Sony Alpha cameras to capture warm-up and arrivals shots, but Fox used the Sony Alpha as the 11th camera in the Seattle-Washington game.

The indie package was outfitted for live television with a field monitor and a wireless transmitter that would send a 1080p signal to the camera truck, where it was color corrected to match the broadcast cameras. In all, the rig costs about $10,000, which is pennies in comparison to a broadcast camera.

No Film School spoke with Mike Davies, SVP, technical and field operations at Fox Sports. He told us the feedback has been tremendous.

Read the entire article for more technical details and links.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #1331: Fast Answers to Hard Questions

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Fast Answers to Hard Questions

(Image courtesy of ToolFarm.com)

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Toolfarm has published 45 “Burning Questions” tutorials covering a range of products and techniques.

Topics include:

  • Burning Question: How to Make The Super Moon in Post
  • Burning Question: How Do I Quickly Give My Project a Letterbox Look?
  • Burning Question: How Do I Edit and Export with My NLE for TikTok?
  • Burning Question: What is a Cinemagraph and How Do I Create One?
  • Burning Question: What is Reverse Stabilization?
  • Burning Question: Is there a smooth, easy way to wipe my hard drive and start fresh?
  • Burning Question: How Do I Remove Flicker from my Footage?

All tutorials are free on the Toolfarm website – linked above.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #1327: Filmworkz Launches New Site & Pricing

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

From image repair to image enhancement, Filmworkz can help.

Logos for the six DVO tools from Filmworkz.

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Filmworkz.com announced a new website along with six new color grading tools. While their descriptions are a bit pretentious and somewhat obtuse, if you are interested in color grading, this site is worth visiting.

They have created six DVO’s (Digital Video Optics). These tools work with DaVinci Resolve, Mistika Boutique, Scratch and Nucoda running on Mac, Windows and Linux platforms. These tools are available singly for $15 (US) per month, or $59 US per month for all six.

And, as part of the launch of their new website – https://Filmworkz.com – they are offering 7-day free trials.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #1330: How to Start a VFX Studio

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Start with experience, grow organically and pay attention to your pipeline.

Outpost VFX UK (Courtesy of Outpost VFX.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Ian Failes, first appeared in VFXVoice.com. This is a summary.

Like any business, getting a new visual effects studio off the ground can be a monumental effort. The tasks of hiring talent, setting up pipelines, bidding for work, and managing the intricacies of VFX production are not trivial ones. That said, the wider availability of accessible VFX software and collaboration tools have perhaps made the task of getting started as a studio and delivering shots somewhat easier than ever before.

VFX Voice asked the founders of four relatively new visual effects studios – CVD VFX, Mavericks VFX, Outpost VFX and Future Associate – how they began as independent operations, how they took up often unexpected opportunities, what hurdles they had to overcome to get their studio going, and what advice they had for others who might be looking to start their own VFX company.

The one constant among the studios VFX Voice spoke to is that they all began as startups by visual effects supervisors who had already gained experience elsewhere. Brendan Taylor, for example, started Mavericks VFX in Toronto in 2011 after working for several years with MR. X.

“When we were just compositing, it was fine,” states Taylor. “The real challenge came when we introduced 3D. Any inefficiencies we had with 30 artists were going to be doubled with 60 artists. And one of my senior artists shared with me that experienced VFX artists are very concerned about the pipeline of the company they go to. If it is an inefficient pipeline, and they have to work harder at doing small tasks, they can’t spend as much time working on their craft, and they hate it.”

Asked what his main piece of advice would be to others thinking of starting a VFX studio, Taylor identifies advice he received from another visual effects industry member – that he should straight away engage a great team of lawyers. “When you get into the legal and business affairs of DreamWorks and Disney,” says Taylor, “it can be daunting and scary. We could have saved a bit of money to go with a smaller law firm, but there’s something to be said for the letterhead. ”

The article provides in-depth interviews, images and links.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1306: 5 Photo Books to Inspire Cinematography

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Five exceptional books to spur your visual creativity.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

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This article, written by Lewis McGregor, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

It can be hard to find the right place to look for cinematography inspiration. Let us narrow your gaze to five exceptional photo books. These are five of my current favorites, [specifically] because of how well they spark the flames of inspiration for aspiring photographers and cinematographers looking to emulate raw, naturalistic images.

  1. Where I Find Myself by Joel Meyerowitz ($65)
  2. I Can Make You Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell ($60)
  3. Girl Pictures by Justine Kurland ($50)
  4. The Atmosphere of Crime, 1957 by Gordon Parks ($40)
  5. Intimate Distance by Todd Hido ($65)

Finding More Resources

The Cinematographer’s Archive is an Instagram account formed by Jordan Buck and James Rhodes, and acts as an insight into what’s on the bookshelf of working cinematographers. From commercial to feature DPs, there’s a wide variety of collections to scour through.

However, be warned! Some of the more fascinating photography books are out of print and, therefore, hard to find, expensive to purchase. You may find yourself falling down a late-night eBay rabbit hole chasing after some of these books.

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1308: The Academy Film Archive

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

From Collections to interviews to A.frame, the Academy Film Archive is a great resource.

The Academy logo.

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The Academy Film Archive, part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is dedicated to the preservation, restoration, documentation, exhibition and study of motion pictures. The Academy Film Archive is home to one of the most diverse and extensive motion picture collections in the world.

A new section is A.Frame. “Every new movie has a story. Whether it began as an idea many years ago or took hundreds of artists to bring to life, these stories unfold through the people behind the lens. It is in this spirit that we have created A.frame, a new way to appreciate the movies you love and discover your next favorite.” (Academy website)

In addition to A.Frame, there are other facets that make the Film Archive worth exploring, one of my favorites is Collections.

  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Cecil B. DeMille
  • Dalton Trumbo
  • David Lynch
  • And many, many, MANY more

Link: https://www.oscars.org/film-archive/collections