Integrating Titles and Broadcast Design Elements During Editing

Most editors begin integrating titles and broadcast design elements into their projects during the offline edit. In some cases these clips are temporary placeholders, and in other cases the final titles are created right away. If your program requires animated design elements or effects, Final Cut Studio provides two environments in which these can be created.

If your needs are more specialized than either of these applications can accommodate, you can also create graphics and animation in third-party applications and export them into one of a number of compatible formats for import into your project. For more information, see:

Using Design Elements from Motion

Although Final Cut Pro has many built-in compositing and animation features, Motion offers many more tools and capabilities for creating sophisticated broadcast design graphics and animation. The Motion application’s behavior-driven animation, Curve Editor for complicated keyframe editing, advanced text design tools, particle systems, replicator, 2D and 3D compositing tool set, and other features are ideal for the experimentation and refinement that creative design requires.

Final Cut Pro and Motion are closely integrated, making it easy to incorporate titles and design at any stage of your editorial process. For more information, see the Final Cut Pro and Motion documentation.

Editing Media from Motion into a Final Cut Pro Sequence

If you’ve already created a Motion project that you want to use in your Final Cut Pro sequence, there are two ways you can edit it into your sequence.

  • Edit a Motion project file into a Final Cut Pro sequence: You can import any Motion project file into a Final Cut Pro project. Motion projects (with the file extension .motn) appear just like any other clip in the Browser and can be opened in the Viewer, have In and Out points set, and be edited into a sequence just the same as any other piece of media. This option is an excellent way to handle Motion content that may be subject to revision, because it’s easy to modify it as often as necessary. Simply select the Motion clip you need to revise and use the Open in Editor command to open it in Motion, where you can make whatever changes you like, save, and then reopen the Final Cut Pro project to see the updated result. Keep in mind that Motion clips are processor-intensive to play in Final Cut Pro, and the RT pop-up menu needs to be set to Unlimited RT to play them at all.
  • Export a QuickTime file from Motion to edit into your sequence: You can also export a QuickTime file (with the file extension .mov) from Motion for editing into your Final Cut Pro sequence. This is a more efficient solution for real-time playback in Final Cut Pro, but it makes revisions a bit more involved, because changes require reopening the original Motion project and reexporting a new version of the clip. You can export clips from Motion using any QuickTime codec (high-quality codecs are best to maximize the quality of your compositions), but if you need to preserve regions of transparency in your composition, you need to use either the Animation (8-bit) or Apple ProRes 4444 (10-bit, the default choice) codec.

Using Send To Motion Project

If you have one or more clips that you want to incorporate into a Motion composition, you can use the Send To Motion Project command. There are three ways you can send media to Motion from Final Cut Pro.

  • Send one or more clips from the Browser: You can select one or more clips in the Browser and use the Send To Motion Project command. A new Motion project is created with an empty Timeline, and the selected clips from Final Cut Pro are placed in the project’s Motion Media tab. This strategy is useful when you simply want to send a group of unedited clips that you’ll assemble into a composition within Motion.
  • Send one or more clips from within a sequence: If you select one or more clips in an edited sequence and use the Send To Motion Project command, a new Motion project is created with those clips already placed in the Timeline. Each clip’s In point, Out point, and position relative to the others match those of the original Final Cut Pro sequence. (The selected clips can be either contiguous or noncontiguous.) Each clip appears on its own layer along with any clip and sequence markers, and all Motion tab settings, linear and Bezier keyframes, composite modes, and SmoothCam filters are translated into their Motion equivalents. This is useful when you want to use a partial section of a Final Cut Pro sequence as the starting point for a Motion composition.

    When you send one or more clips from within a sequence, you have the option (turned on by default) of immediately embedding a Motion clip in your sequence to replace the media being sent. This way, once you finish working in Motion, all you need to do is save the project and return to Final Cut Pro to see the results already there in your sequence. For safety, the original clips are also nested into a separate sequence bearing the name of the Motion project you created, so you can easily go back to the original clips, if necessary.

  • Send an entire sequence: You can also select an entire sequence in the Browser and use the Send To Motion Project command. This is similar to sending one or more selected clips from within a sequence, except that every single clip from the sequence is sent to Motion, each on its own layer, along with all compatible attributes. This is useful when you want to move an entire edited sequence of clips into Motion to use as the foundation for an effects-intensive treatment.

Using Master Templates in Final Cut Pro

You can create a template in Motion to use as a generator from within Final Cut Pro. Your templates can be designed using whichever media and Motion features you like and can contain text and media drop zones that you define, which can be edited from within Final Cut Pro. Master templates are especially useful for title packages and lower thirds that will be edited into your sequence repeatedly but that may be subject to change. You can edit as many instances of a master template into your Final Cut Pro sequence as you like, customizing each as necessary. When you need to make a change to the look of these titles, you need only modify the template in Motion and save your change, and the change is applied automatically to every instance of that template in your sequence.

For more information about creating and using templates in Motion to use in Final Cut Pro, see the Motion documentation.

Using Graphics and Animation Files from Other Applications

If, for whatever reason, you need to use third-party applications to create either still-image or animated media, you can easily import files from applications like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Maya, and Cinema 4D into either Final Cut Pro or Motion.

If you need to make a change to an image or animation file that you’ve already imported, the Open in Editor command opens any file using the application specified by that file’s creator code. You can also choose the specific application with which to open still-image, video, and audio files in the External Editors tab of the System Settings window. See the Final Cut Pro documentation for more information.

Note: Whenever you make an alteration to a still-image file, you need to save it in the application you’re editing it in before returning to Final Cut Pro, so your sequence is updated to reflect the change.

Compatible Still-Image Formats

All Final Cut Studio applications that can import graphics files are capable of supporting a wide variety of image formats. However, because of their high quality and prevalence, the following formats are the ones most commonly used for post-production media interchange. (All these formats support alpha channels for preserving transparency.)

  • TIFF: The Tagged Image File Format is a commonly used image format for RGB graphics on a variety of platforms.
  • PICT: A common image format used on Mac computers, PICT files can use any of the standard QuickTime codecs for compression in color or grayscale.
  • TARGA (TGA): An uncompressed file format that’s been in use for many years.
  • JPEG: A highly compressed image format created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. The amount of compression that may be applied is variable, but higher compression ratios can create visual artifacts, visible as discernible blocks of similar color. With minimal compression, this format can be suitable for an online workflow.
  • PSD: Both Final Cut Pro and Motion support the import of layered Photoshop files, either with layers preserved or with layers collapsed into a single item.

Image Sequences

Some workflows use image sequences to move animation from application to application. An image sequence is a collection of individual image files in which each file is a frame of a movie or animation clip. The filenames contain the frame number, which is used to organize the sequence for playback. Image sequences are used frequently in digital intermediate workflows and are also used for rendering computer animation and high-end compositing. The various applications in Final Cut Studio handle image sequences differently.

  • Image sequences in Final Cut Pro: Final Cut Pro can export image sequences (using the Export Using QuickTime Conversion command) but cannot import image sequences for use as media clips. If you have one or more image sequences you need to use in Final Cut Pro, it’s best to convert them to QuickTime files using Compressor or Color first.
  • Image sequences in Motion: Motion can both import and export image sequences. You can specify that imported image sequences be treated as a single clip by clicking the “Show image sequences as collapsed” button in the File Browser.
  • Image sequence conversion in Compressor and Color: Compressor and Color are both capable of importing image sequences, for purposes of converting them to other formats of QuickTime for ease of organization and use. To preserve maximum quality, convert image sequences to QuickTime movies using the Apple ProRes 4444 codec. Compressor and Color are also capable of converting QuickTime media to image sequences. For more information, see the Compressor and Color documentation.

Compatible Media Formats for Animation and Effects

The format you choose depends on whether or not you need to preserve regions of transparency in the media file. For example, if you’re creating a lower third graphic, you need to preserve the transparent background so that you can superimpose the actual title graphic over the video image in your edited sequence. On the other hand, if you’re creating a graphic or effect that’s designed to fill the entire screen, preserving the alpha channel isn’t important, and you can choose from a wider variety of codecs. (However, it’s still smart to pick the highest-quality codec that’s compatible with your workflow to preserve the maximum image quality in your graphics.)

  • Codecs that support alpha channels: Apple ProRes 4444 (a newer, lightly compressed, 10-bit, variable bit rate codec) and Animation (an older, lossless, compressed, 8-bit codec) are both RGB, 4:4:4:4 codecs that are capable of preserving alpha channel data that’s written to the file.
  • High-quality codecs with no alpha channel support: Apple ProRes 422 (a 10-bit, variable bit rate, compressed codec suitable for standard definition mastering), Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) (a 10-bit, variable bit rate, compressed codec suitable for high definition mastering), and 8- and 10-bit Uncompressed (suitable for either standard or high definition) are all Y′CBCR, 4:2:2 codecs that are suitable for media exchange between applications.

If the application in which you’re creating your media cannot write to these QuickTime formats directly, you can probably use one of the available third-party QuickTime components or utilities, in conjunction with Compressor or another media-processing application, to convert the exported media as necessary for use with Final Cut Studio.

Tips for Designing Graphics in Third-Party Applications

When you design still images or motion graphics clips to use in a film or video project, you need to consider the sequence into which they’ll be edited.

  • Resolution and pixel aspect ratio: If you’re creating a motion graphics or animation clip, the resolution (width by height, in pixels) and pixel aspect ratio (square versus non-square) should match those of the destination sequence to maximize real-time performance once the clip is edited into the program. If you’re importing graphics, this is not strictly necessary. In fact, graphics are often brought in at a larger size than the sequence size in order to create animated pan and scan effects using the Final Cut Pro Motion tab settings.
  • Action and title safe: For both still images and motion graphics clips, keep in mind the action and title safe guidelines to prevent important text or images from being cut off around the edges of the frame. Many image editing and animation applications provide overlays to indicate the outer portions of the frame you should avoid. If you’re working on graphics for a film, inquire what the recommended aperture is for the film format being printed to.
  • Broadcast safe luma and chroma levels: Even if you’ll color correct your images later, it’s useful to keep the maximum broadcast safe levels for color and brightness in mind when your titles and graphics are being designed. In particular, text should never use 100 percent white, as the high-contrast edges around pure white text can cause unwanted spikes in the signal. All text should be limited to 95 percent white or lower. (Don’t worry, this is plenty bright for white on a television.) It’s also common for regions of the picture where highly saturated elements intersect with objects that are very bright to cause problems with broadcast legality. Many third-party graphics editing and compositing applications have “broadcast safe” filters that can be used to legalize your compositions in advance so there are no surprises, but you can do the same thing by being mindful when choosing the color palette of your graphic.

For more information about designing graphics for broadcast, see the Final Cut Pro documentation.