Boris FX: Sharpen an Image

As depth of field decreases, finding precisely the right focus – especially using small monitors – is really hard. The Magic Sharp filter in Boris Continuum Complete 9 (BCC), improves the perception of focus to images that are slightly soft.

NOTE: Although I demo this effect using FCP X, BCC is fully compatible with the following software. This means that whatever you are using for editing, you can achieve the same results with your system.


Earlier this week, the folks at Boris FX asked me to host a webinar looking at a few of the effects inside the latest release of Boris Continuum Complete 9. With over 230 effects, backgrounds and transitions in the package, there was no way to cover all of it in an hour. So we agreed I’d cover their 3D Text Extrusion generator and Image Restoration effects.

The BCC Magic Sharp effect is one of the effects in Continuum. However, it is also available in what Boris FX calls the “Continuum Complete Image Restoration Unit,” which is a less-expensive subset containing just the image restoration tools.

Continuum Complete MSRP: $695
Continuum Complete Image Restoration Unit: $299


This is a shot of me from a recent episode of 2 Reel Guys. (I modified the aspect ratio simply to reduce the size of the screen capture.) This doesn’t look bad at all. It was shot with a Sony EX3 camera, using a good operator, Sony lenses and studio lighting.

But, in comparison with the other two cameras shooting this scene, this shot feels a bit “soft.”

To fix this, apply the BCC Magic Sharp effect to the clip.

Open the Inspector (Cmd+4) and change the Compare to Original popup menu to Side-by-Side.

This displays two images in the Viewer. The original image is on the left with the processed image on the right. Notice that, immediately, the clip on the right looks more in-focus.

Adjust the Compare Wipe setting to slide the two images into better framing.

The Compare Wipe setting changes the display to make it easier to compare the “Before”(on the left) with the “After.”

Most of the time, the default settings will be fine. Notice how the image on the right seems to be MUCH more “in-focus.”

NOTE: There is LOTS of debate on whether and how much to use sharpening. This new tool from Boris FX seeks to make sharpening less in-your-face. Still, everyone’s opinion is different. I’m simply showing how this works and allowing you to form your own opinions. The issue isn’t the effect itself, it’s the aesthetic results of using the effect.

The filter has a variety of levels of sharpness you can adjust – from Fine to Coarse – to get the amount of sharpness you want for your image.

NOTE: In general, you’ll only need to make adjustments to the Fine control. In fact, the two largest settings – Medium and Coarse – are turned off by default.


Our eyes perceive focus in edge detail. If we can clearly see the edges of an object, we think of it as being “in focus.” When we can’t, we think of it as being “out-of-focus.”

This filter isn’t actually “focusing” anything. Instead, it is adding the perception of sharpness to key edges in an image. Since we have control over what types of edges are enhanced, we can tweak a slightly soft image into appearing to be sharper.

As you can see from the screen shot above, when we crank the Sharpen Amount to excessive levels, we can see how it is emphasizing edges to achieve the “in-focus” effect.


Many times, we want images to look a bit soft and “filmic.” And, in fact, I rarely sharpen my images; especially when I am cutting between two different shots  the differences in focus are not apparent because the shots are so different. However, in multicam editing, it becomes very easy for the audience to compare the focus of one camera with another because both cameras are shooting the same thing.

Here, as illustrated in my recent 2 Reel Guys experience, adding a bit of sharpening to one of the images made the entire edit look better and more unified.

The Magic Sharp effect is new with this release of Boris Continuum Complete. Download the free trial and see if this effect can benefit your own projects.

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