One of my favorite effects is a Traveling Matte. This is where you key a shape into a background video and fill it with different video.
In Final Cut 7, it takes four layers to achieve this affect. In Motion, it takes, essentially, one mouse click. So, this week, I set myself the goal of creating this effect in Final Cut Pro X. It wasn’t as simple as I expected, but we can get there – and there are a lot of interesting effects to learn along the way.
This is where we are headed. Here are the steps.
THE BASIC EFFECT
First, create a shape in Photoshop and save it as a layered Photoshop file (PSD). Make sure the shape you want to use is on a layer other than the background. (I used an arrow for this example, but you can create anything; and the color of the shape is not important.)
I saved this as a PSD file and imported it into Final Cut Pro X.
When you import a layered Photoshop file into FCP X, a small stacked icon appears in the top left corner. Double-click the file and it opens into a special version of the Timeline where you can see all the layers at one time.
Select just the layer containing the shape and copy it to the clipboard.
To exit this special Timeline, click the small left-pointing “Go Back” arrow in the top left corner of the Timeline.
In the Timeline, where you want to create this effect, add the clip you want to use as the background into the Primary Storyline.
Put the playhead where you want the shape clip to start and paste it. It will appear as a connected clip.
Because the clip inherits the transparency information from its Photoshop roots, the white arrow immediately keys itself into the background.
Turn on the Transform icon in the lower left corner of the Viewer, rotate and position the arrow so it is pointing at the barn. (Press the Shift key when rotating to constrain rotation to 45-degree increments.)
Above the shape clip, add the video of the clip you want to insert into the shape. In this case, I’m using a very orange clip of the Grand Canyon at sunset. (It made for a nice color contrast.)
Here’s where the magic starts.
Select the top clip (Grand Canyon) and change the Blend mode (at the bottom of the Inspector) to Behind. Don’t worry, nothing appears to happen.
Select the shape clip (Arrow) and set the Blend mode to Silhouette Alpha.
Poof! Instant effect. Play the Timeline and you’ll see video moving behind and inside the shape.
Very cool… except. This would look a lot nicer with a drop shadow — except we can’t add drop shadows to anything other than text in Final Cut Pro X.
So….. we need to get devious.
Select the Shape clip in the Timeline and copy it. Paste it so that now you have a duplicate of the shape.
Drag the duplicate below the original shape. (This duplication process saves us the trouble of matching all the transform settings we applied earlier. Lazy is good.)
We need to turn the lower shape into a drop shadow, which is a trick, because the shape is white.
First, select the top two clips (the Grand Canyon and top Shape) and type V. This makes the selected clips invisible. (Not to worry, type V again and they reappear. For now, though, make them invisible.)
Select the lower Shape, go to the Inspector and set the Blend mode to Normal.
Next, go to Window > Show Color Board (or type Command+6) and click the Exposure icon to select it. Then, drag the Global exposure puck all the way to the bottom. This turns the white clip black.
With the bottom Shape clip still selected go to Effects > Blur and apply a Gaussian blur. Crank up the Amount setting in the Inspector to really soften the edges of the lower shape clip.
Select the top two clips and type V to make them visible again.
Select the lower shape and turn on the Transform settings. Drag the clip in the Viewer to create a drop shadow. Click Done when it is in a position you like.
You can soften the shadow more by adjusting the opacity of the lower shape. Actually, tweak both the blur and opacity until you are happy.
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