FCP 7: Getting Smoothcam to Work Faster

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the April, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Bob Cusumano writes:

I recently shot a wedding for a friend and the clips were quite long as you can imagine. I made a bunch of sub clips for editing sanity. However, I came across this problem and I’m hoping you can help. I tried to apply the motion stabilizer to one of the subclips and instead of analyzing the subclip, FC started to look at the master clip. I double clicked on the subclip in the timeline to load it in the viewer and I loaded it in the viewer from the browser and got the same results. What am I doing wrong?

Larry replies: Bob, you didn’t do anything wrong, but you are not playing into the strengths of Smoothcam. The Smoothcam (Motion Stabilizer) filter looks at the ENTIRE clip in order to work. Otherwise, you would need to reanalyze a clip every time you trimmed the In or the Out.

The best workaround when you want to stabilize a very short portion of a very long clip is to export just the portion of the clip you want to stabilize as a self-contained QuickTime movie, then reimport it into Final Cut.

The only disadvantage to this approach is that creating a new QuickTime movie will change the timecode of the clip, which means that if you need to recapture it from the master source for some reason, you may have problems.

UPDATE – April 4, 2009

Eric Mittan adds:

While exporting a portion of the clip individually by setting an in and an out and using File > Export > Quicktime Movie will, in fact, change the timecode of the clip, there is a way for you to preserve your timecode (making it safe to recapture your footage if needed) while still making self-contained QuickTimes.


Since you’ve already created subclips, highlight all of your subclips and choose File > Batch Export. In the Export Queue window that appears, choose the Settings button, choose a Destination for your new self-contained QuickTime movies, and make sure Make Self-Contained is checked. I also suggest clicking the “Set Naming Options…” button and making sure Add File Type Extension is checked. Click OK on the settings window and then click Export on the Export Queue. Your subclips will be exported as QuickTime Movies and timecode will be preserved!


The one caveat I will point out using this method, is that if you happen to have long names for your clips, Final Cut may abbreviate the name of the resulting QuickTime movie and replace some of it with garbage, resulting in a file name like “Xmas Plants OSR_#B88800.mov”. If this happens, I’ve also noticed that the timecode is NOT preserved and instead starts in that clip at 00:00 – just like using File>Export>QuickTime Movie.


But most importantly, a successful Batch Export means you’ll be able to use Smoothcam on the resulting clips and they’ll be analyzed much quicker.

Larry replies: Eric, thanks for taking the time to send this in. I don’t use Batch Export, so I never think about it. I appreciate this detailed response.


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