Doing Stills the Hard Way

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the June, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Mike Johnson writes:

Some of my students wanted to shoot stop motion then edit in FCP. So they used a digital stills camera and shot their film – at 3648 x 2736 which meant that each frame was 2.7 MB! I searched the web for ways of doing stop motion with FCP and couldn’t find much of use. So we struck on our own formula for getting the stills into FCP since bringing them in directly as stills didn’t work.


We opened the jpegs as an image sequence in QuickTime with a frame rate of 6 fps. The image was too big for the screen and the movie wouldn’t play. But the stills were all there. So we exported it as a movie using photo JPEG as the compression type, setting the frame rate etc. On the size settings we used 912 x 684 (3648 x 2736 divided by 4) . This produced a playable movie. Then in FCP we set the sequence settings to 912 x 684 custom (4:3) square pixel, with a PAL time-base and the audio as DV defaults. Phew! It works. The movie fitted the timeline 100% and there was loads of definition to crop, zoom, pan and scan the frame. Is there an easier way for the next time!

Larry replies: Wow! That’s doing it the hard way.

First, we need to clear up how you are using your stills. Are you using them as scans of images, where doing pan-and-scan is important or as individual frames of a movie, such as clay-mation?

In either case you need to compensate for the different pixel aspect ratios between the computer (square) and video (rectangular).

Here’s an article that describes the differences between video and computer images in more detail, including a complete list of various image sizes for different aspect ratios.

If you want to bring individual frames into Final Cut, go to Final Cut Pro > User Preferences > Editing tab


and set the Still/Freeze Duration to 00:00:00:01. This sets the duration of all imported still images to one frame.

However, an even easier way to do this is to use QuickTime Pro.


Put all your still images in one folder and number them in the order you want them to play back. Then, select File > Open Image Sequence

QuickTime will import all your images in order and allow you to export them as a single QuickTime movie. You can them import this movie into Final Cut and edit it as you would any other video file.

For highest quality inside Final Cut, set Final Cut Pro > Easy Setup to Uncompressed 10-bit (either NTSC or PAL). The file sizes will be huge, but the quality will be as good as it gets.

Your resulting files can then be output to video tape, or compressed for a DVD for final distribution and playback.


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