Importing Numbered Image Sequences

Numbered image sequences are the lowest-common-denominator method for exchanging video across editing and compositing platforms. Image sequences are movies, but instead of storing all the video frames in one file (such as a QuickTime movie file), each frame is stored in a separate, sequentially numbered file. Although QuickTime is increasingly used to exchange video clips between platforms, image sequences are still very common.

Note: If you are exchanging media between Final Cut Pro and other post-production applications, you should use a QuickTime file format for your movies unless there is a particular reason not to.

Some applications may be capable of exporting only numbered image sequences. In this case, you can use one of the following methods to import numbered image sequences into Final Cut Pro:

Converting a Numbered Image Sequence to a QuickTime Movie

You can use QuickTime Pro to convert a numbered image sequence into a QuickTime movie. This is useful if you want to convert all your images into a single clip. You can then import the movie into Final Cut Pro and use it the way you use any other clip.

To convert a numbered image sequence into a QuickTime movie
  1. Open QuickTime Player.

  2. Choose File > Open Image Sequence.

  3. Locate the first numbered file of the image sequence you want to import, then click Open.

    Figure. Open dialog showing how to locate the first file in an image sequence.
  4. In the Image Sequence Settings dialog, choose a frame rate, then click OK.

    You can choose any frame rate, but there is almost always an intended correct frame rate based on the original format. If you aren’t sure, check with the person who generated the image sequence to make sure you choose the proper frame rate. NTSC uses 29.97 fps, PAL uses 25 fps, film traditionally uses 24 fps, and HD might use any of the above, as well as 59.94 or 60 fps. For more information, see Frame Rate and Timecode.

    Figure. Image Sequence Settings dialog showing the "Frame rate" pop-up menu.

    Your image sequence is imported into QuickTime Player as an uncompressed video file.

  5. Choose File > Save.

    Note: You can also choose File > Export > QuickTime Movie. This gives you the option to customize the dimensions and codec of the movie. For more information, see Exporting QuickTime Movies.

  6. Choose a location and enter a name for the file.

    Figure. Save dialog showing options for entering a name in the Save As field.
  7. Choose an option for how you want to save the movie, then click Save.

    • Save normally: If you choose this option, QuickTime Player creates a reference movie that points to the original folder of image files. No data is actually duplicated, so the reference movie itself is very small, takes very little hard disk space, and is quick to create. The resulting movie file is the same as a QuickTime movie file and can be imported into Final Cut Pro just like any other QuickTime file.

      Note: Since a reference movie needs the original source material for playback, if you give this clip to someone else, you must give them the original image files as well.

    • Make movie self-contained: If you’re going to be giving this clip to someone else, the easiest thing to do is to make it self-contained. This type of movie takes longer to save and consumes more hard disk space than a reference movie. However, a self-contained movie isn’t dependent on other files and is a better option for exchanging and archiving files.

Because no compression is applied (other than any that may have been used in the original image sequence files), the saved movie is uncompressed and may not play back in real time. After you import the movie and edit it into a sequence, Final Cut Pro rerenders this clip using the codec specified in your sequence settings.

Importing a Numbered Image Sequence into Final Cut Pro

You can import a numbered image sequence as a set of individual image files. This gives you more flexibility because you have control over which files are imported and which of those are then edited into your sequence.

To import image files from a numbered image sequence
  1. Choose Final Cut Pro > User Preferences, then click the Editing tab.

  2. Set the Still/Freeze Duration value to one frame (00:00:00:01).

  3. Open the project where you want to import the files.

    For more information, see Opening and Closing Projects.

  4. Import all the image files associated with the numbered image sequence you want to use in your project.

    For more information, see Importing Media Files.

    Figure. Browser window showing a list of image files.
  5. Do one of the following:

    • Choose File > New > Sequence.

    • Control-click in the Browser, then choose New Sequence from the shortcut menu.

  6. Double-click the new sequence to open it in the Timeline.

  7. Select the newly imported bin with all the image clips in it, open it, and press Command-A to select all the clips.

  8. Drag the clips to the Insert section of the Edit Overlay in the Canvas.

    Figure. Canvas window showing the Edit Overlay.

You can now edit this sequence into other sequences.

Making Movies from Still Images

You can use one of the methods above to create your own animations as visual elements in your movie. You can even make a whole movie this way, although it takes patience to create 24 or more frames for every second of your finished movie.

Sources for still images include:

  • Digital cameras (including your Aperture Libraries)

  • Scanners

  • Freeze frames exported from Final Cut Pro

  • Hand-drawn computer graphics created with a graphics application

All of your images should be the same dimensions, and should ideally match the dimensions of your output format (for example, NTSC DV is 720 x 480, HD is 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720, and so on).

After you collect a group of still image files together in one folder, name them sequentially, such as AbstractBackground0001.jpg, AbstractBackground0002.jpg, and so on. Then import the files into Final Cut Pro following the steps for importing a numbered image sequence.