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iPontificateCreating A "Film-Skip" Effect In Final Cut Pro

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- February 11th, 2005

In a new series I am starting under the Frameline heading, I would like to offer tips and trick when editing in Apple's Final Cut Pro non-linear editing application. I encourage readers to send in other tips or tricks they might have in order to create a collective of information to help develop a strong Mac-based editing community. To kick things off, I thought I would show interested parties a little effect I use to make it look like a video is coming off a film reel, blur and vibration included. I will call the effect "Film-Skip".

This effect tries to emulate the look of the old style projectors one would find in classrooms of yesteryear. Back in the day before those newfangled VCRs were found in every classroom, teachers used to show education films on (gasp!) actual film projectors and reels! Often times the projectors had been in use for nearly 30 years and would skip and stutter the images creating a cool film-skip kind of look (If anyone has a better definition of this, please feel free to let me know). While it is possible to create a myriad of visual effects in Adobe's After Effects, I am focusing on using the available tools found in Final Cut for creating new effects directly within the application itself.

To start things off, you will need an open project in Final Cut, with the video you want to manipulate already laid down on the timeline. Next, go to the end of the chosen clip and move back 5 frames using the left arrow key. 5 frames seems to be an ideal effect duration but longer or shorter lengths can be chosen depending on how long you want the effect to last. Now cut the 5 frame clip apart from the original video clip using the razor tool.

Now you have the small clip to create the Film-Skip effect. Double clip on the clip in the timeline, it should appear in the left slug window. Select the motion tab to enter into the window, this is where you can adjust frame, time remap, and the like. Be sure to select "image + wireframe" in the view menu at the top menu bar. This allows you to visually adjust the image and shows you the track points from frame to frame.

Next, go to the head of the clip, and drop a center point to the image by selecting the green frame marker to the right of the Center tool. Now hit the right arrow key to move onto frame# 2 and grab the image in the right viewer window and move the entire image up half way to the top of the edges of the window. Some of the image will go off the picture safe area, that's OK, its what you want. Go back to the viewer slug on the left, hit the right arrow key again, moving to frame#3. Go back to the viewer window on the right, and grab the image, then move it down, past your original mark point, the bottom of the image should go off the screen. Repeat this process back and forth for the duration of the clip, essentially creating a wave like motion of the image going up and down.

The next step is what gives it the kicker, without it, the image will just bounce up and down for 5 frames. Go over to the left viewer slug and select the motion blur tool to active. You have the option to make the blur percentage amount, I use 247%, it seems to distort the image just enough without totally losing image detail. Below the motion blur tab, select the sample amount tab and boost it all the way to 32 samples. There you go.

Your clip should now have the Film-Skip effect. All you have to do know is render the clip and check to see how it looks on the timeline. Depending on how you want the effect to look, simply experiment with the varying factors to achieve the look you like. This can also be used to create neat transitions between shots or clips by simply doing the steps listed above, but at 5 frames at the head of the next clip. This will create a Film-Skip transition into the next clip, like the film reel jumped into the next cut or angle. You can also use this intermittently through a clip to emulate the film-skip look throughout your video.

If any readers out there have any neat little tips or tricks they feel can help other Final Cut editors, feel free to e-mail the tips to me directly, I will test them out, and post them up for the rest of our readers to try. Good luck, and have fun!


With five years in the entertainment industry, and three years writing for The Mac Observer, works passionately on various genres of film, including documentaries, narrative features, and shorts. He has two feature films under his belt as Director of Photography and Camera Operator, and his current role at TMO is to cover digital media and the film industry.

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