Smooth Moves on Stills

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the December, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Updated July 2008. Click here to subscribe. ]


Wow! Nothing has generated comments like this next question. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts.

Steve Heffner, from NY, writes:

I am working on a project that has a lot of motion on photos (luckily, basic push ins). We don’t want the motion to come to an abrupt stop. We want a smooth braking of the push in.


The problem seems to be that if we use (on a keyframe) “EASE IN/EASE OUT” in the canvas or “SMOOTH” in the motion tab viewer, we are getting an unsatisfactory result (the image seems to do an additional, albeit slight, side to side or up and down movement). I’ve tried many adjustments and can’t get a successful (what should be simple!) result.


Any suggestions? We just want a nice, smooth landing into the resting point of the push in on the graphic/photo.


Oddly, the EASE IN/EASE OUT works great in FCP if you are doing a direct push or pull. Once you change the center point (say to focus on a single subject on the push in), FCP gives the photo a “sway” before it stops. ANNOYING.

Larry replies: This has been a long-time problem with Final Cut. I spent some time on the Web looking for a good third-party filter that smoothes out working with stills in Final Cut, but couldn’t find anything. So, I asked our readers for help.

UPDATE – Dec. 27, 2007

Lee Berger writes:

As it’s included in FCS I recommend Motion for moving stills. Motion’s timeline makes it much easier to set the key frame interpolation and doesn’t produce unwanted movements. The only drawback to Motion is its 2K pixel limitation. I also use Boris Red (I believe it can handle up to 10K pixels). Boris FX and Graffiti can also do this animation. After Effects also has excellent ease in and ease out interpolation and can handle even larger pixel resolutions. Finally there is are plugins from Stage Tools “Moving Picture” and “Moving Parts,” but I haven’t tried them. Visit

Michael Scott adds:

Maybe sending to Motion is a way to solve the problem with final cut pro rendering funny smooth moves, also opening the final cut pro keyframes into motion might also be a way to refine more.


The other thing to remember is to set Render Motion Projects at Best in Sequence > Settings > Render settings tab.


Finally, adding a little motion blur in the Motion tab could help out but then rendering takes ages

Tom Wolsky adds:

CGM’s Roll/Scroll Title plugin works very well for this. One of the best things about this is that it allows you to move an image to a certain point, hold, and then move it again, which you simply cannot do properly in FCP. Lyric’s PanZoom plugin is good too. There are also standalone applications like Moving Picture and Photo2Movie (I think they’re called) that work quite well.

Loren Miller sent this:

I find MovingPicture to be a stable, mature product with a friendly interface, at least in 5.x and earlier., the vendor, generally keeps its products up to date.


MP comes as a plugin “filter” or standalone “producer” version, which allows a bit more power. The only curve ball is the extra charge for the “Rotation Tool”– but this has the added function of being able to skew the “platen” of the image in 3D space, as well as spin it in 2D.


The workflow is a little odd, in that you must filtrate a clip you select in the timeline as a placeholder. To make this practical, I often title a color matt clip “photo of…” and I can actually rough in the pacing of the clip prior to loading a rich scan photo and animating inside MovingPicture. You don’t have to; any clip can work as a placeholder; I think even Slug will work. The original image content is removed when the animation is rendered.


You apply the filter, then open the filter controls pane to get the photomotion stage. Here, you load a photo scan, and it’s very straightforward and you can control eases predictably. Also, it’s got a rendering engine which allows 8000 pixels square– I suspect more than FCP’s native Quicktime graphic import– although the newest dimensions are not known to me (even after some digging). MP allows you to take in a very rich scan– which of course supports really close zoom-ins which don’t go soft — and a simple ease in/out checkbox, and as I recall, the acceleration/deceleration can be numerically tweaked as desired. Creating intermediate holds are a snap. Just duplicate a keyframe. We are currently nowhere near this elegance in FCP photo keyframing.


There are other third party solutions, (PhotoMagico, Still Life, even Motion is cool for photomotion) but MP allows you to stay inside FCP. The only time cost is rendering the animation clip, once you step out of the stage and back into the timeline. Another advantage is, you don’t lug around a keyframed rich scan– it’s been made into a rendered movie, and MP supports 32-bit subpixel rendering for smooth moves. The original photo is part of a proprietary MP file you save to hard disk.

Cal Deal adds:

I bought Pan & Zoom to deal with the Ken Burns effect in Final Cut. Tried it once, found it cumbersome, but never gave it a fair shot because I was too busy at the time. So maybe it will work. I definitely want to experiment with it and will be very happy if it does work.


Here’s a tutorial:


Another wonderful program is Photo to Movie. Easy to use, nice smooth pans. But you have to export the movie and pull it into Final Cut in order to use it. I prefer a more direct route.



Robert Sink writes:

For smooth moves on stills I have been using Pan Zoom Pro, a FCP plugin from Lyric Media, and it’s the best I’ve found so far.


Read more here:

Stuart Math chimed in:

The problem he is seeing one I’ve struggled with for awhile – it is the result of an s-shaped motion path that is generated by the ease-in ease-out keyframes. As Steve noted, it is more obvious in certain situations than in others.


Boris FX has a new filter in their Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) filter collection called “Pan and Zoom” that may help him. A trial copy of BCC can be downloaded from the Boris website. There is a BCC version for AE and a version for FCP. Go to: for a trial download.


Each comp is going to be a little different and he will have to experiment to find the right workflow for him. The Boris “Pan and Zoom” filter has a lot of power and it has a learning curve, but it is worth it if he does a lot of this work and wants more control.

Buddy Englett provided another solution:

What I do is place the keyframes beyond the In & Out points of my image. Like so:


  1. Place the image in the Timeline
  2. Double-click the image to open it in the Viewer
  3. Click the Motion tab in the Viewer
  4. Press Shift > i to go to the In point of the Image, then press Shift > Left Arrow to move one second before
  5. Press Control > K to add a keyframe
  6. Press Shift > O to go to the Out point of the Image, then press Shift > Right Arrow to move one second after
  7. Press Control > K to add a keyframe
  8. Make your adjustments on these keyframes and you’ll have smooth movements coming and going

Larry replies: I’m floored by the response to this question. Thanks, everyone, for sending comments!

UPDATED – June 2008

Pam Copus sent in a follow-up:

I have a terrific (and inexpensive) work-around for this. I use “Photo To Movie” software and bring in the .mov to FCP.


I used this on our May release “Deep Still Blue” by 2002 which charted on Billboard:

Larry replies: Thanks, Pam!

UDPATE – July 2008

I just finished recording a new tutorial for on how to do moves on stills in Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Moving Picture. As I was researching this, I discovered some new techniques that can simplify this process as you set up your file in Final Cut Pro. If you are a Lynda subscriber, this new training should be out in early August.

– Larry

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