Example: Adding Camera Motion to Still Images

You’ve probably seen documentaries that show a graceful camera pan or tilt across a still image, sometimes slowly zooming in or out. These kinds of effects are traditionally done with a motion control camera, which is a device that consists of a static camera and a mobile, programmable photo table. The photo table can be programmed to move slowly past the camera in several directions and rotate around a pivot point. These sorts of camera moves bring life to otherwise static images, greatly enhancing movies that must rely on archival photographs and documents to create a meaningful visual narrative.

Final Cut Pro can achieve similar effects by animating the motion parameters of a high-resolution still image.

Important: To create moving graphics with acceptable quality, the horizontal and vertical dimensions of your still image must be greater than the frame size of the sequence that contains it. If you need to set the Scale parameter of your image over 100 percent to achieve a particular effect, your still image wasn’t created with high enough resolution.

Follow these steps to learn how to create slow zooming and panning effects with a still image in Final Cut Pro.

Note: For more information about learning to use keyframes, see Adjusting Parameters for Keyframed Effects.

Stage 1: Preparing Your Image and Importing It into Final Cut Pro

There are two key things to be aware of before you import the image:

  • Frame size: The still-image dimensions need to be significantly larger than the frame size of your sequence, so that the still image can move about the frame without displaying any edges.
    Figure. Diagram showing the difference in frame size between a 4000 x 3000 pixel still image and a 720 x 480 pixel frame size sequence in the Canvas.

    For example, a DV NTSC (4:3 aspect ratio) sequence has a frame size of 720 x 480 pixels, so any stills used for this effect in a DV NTSC (4:3) sequence should be larger than 720 x 480. The longer you want the pan to last and the more detail you want to show, the larger the still-image dimensions should be. Check the frame size of your sequence and the size of the imported still image by looking at the Frame Size column in the Browser. A good rule of thumb is to make your still image with twice the horizontal and vertical dimensions. Using exact multiples makes it easier to make precise, predictable adjustments to your image within the Canvas.

    If the final destination of your sequence will be SD video, then any scanned images, digital photographs, and HD video images with higher resolution work well. Still images from SD video aren’t recommended because you’d have to increase the size of the still image by scaling it up, which would degrade the image quality considerably and create artifacts in the picture.

    If you’re creating graphics for camera motion effects in an HD sequence, the image dimensions will have to be quite high. For example, doubling 1920 x 1080 results in a graphic that is 3840 x 2160. Depending on the speed of your processor, the real-time effects playback may be limited for these high-resolution effects.

  • Flattened layers: If the still image you want to use is a layered Photoshop file, do not import it as a layered Photoshop file because it will appear as a sequence on multiple tracks. Instead, flatten and save the image in your graphics application before you import it into Final Cut Pro. Make sure you save the flattened image as a copy in case you want to make changes to the original layered graphics file.

Note: Store any imported still images on your scratch disk so that all your media files (video, audio, and still-image) are located in one place. This makes it much easier to locate and move or copy all the project media at once.

Stage 2: Editing the Still Image into Your Sequence

The still image appears as a clip in the Timeline.

Stage 3: Opening the Image Clip in the Motion Tab of the Viewer

You can open an image clip in the Motion tab of the Viewer.

To open the image clip in the Motion tab of the Viewer
  1. Double-click the clip in the Timeline to open it in the Viewer.

  2. Click the Motion tab in the Viewer, then click the Basic Motion disclosure triangle to reveal parameters such as Scale, Rotation, and Center.

  3. In the Motion tab of the Viewer, enter 100 in the Scale field.

    Figure. Viewer window showing the Motion tab and the Scale parameter.

Stage 4: Preparing the Viewer and Canvas Settings

To see the image as it will appear within the frame during playback, you need to make a couple of adjustments. (Otherwise you may, for example, see the frame background where you didn’t mean to show it.) You also need to switch to the wireframe view to position the image visually.

To prepare the Viewer and Canvas settings
  1. In the Canvas, choose Image+Wireframe from the View pop-up menu.

    Figure. View pop-up menu showing the Image + Wireframe command.
  2. Choose Fit All from the Zoom pop-up menu.

    Figure.  Zoom pop-up menu showing the Fit to All command.

    Note: If your final movie will be shown on a television monitor, it’s a good idea to turn on the Title Safe indicators as well so that you can see what will actually be visible on the television monitor. (Choose Show Title Safe from the View pop-up menu.)

Stage 5: Moving an Image by Changing Its Center Location

The Center parameter determines where the image appears (or doesn’t appear) onscreen. You’ll create the image movement by setting a starting and ending Center location with keyframes. To generate the movement path for you, Final Cut Pro interpolates the position of the image between these two points.

To position and keyframe the image
  1. Move the playhead to the time when you want the image pan to start.

  2. Move the position of the image in the Canvas to the starting position of the pan.

    Figure. Canvas window showing the starting position of a pan and the Add Motion Keyframe button.
  3. Control-click the Add Motion Keyframe button in the Canvas, then choose Center from the shortcut menu.

    Figure. Shortcut menu showing the Center command.

    A keyframe appears in the Motion tab in the Viewer, next to the Center parameter.

    Figure. Viewer window showing the Motion tab and a Center parameter keyframe.
  4. Move the playhead to the time when you want the pan to end.

  5. Move the image in the Canvas to the ending position.

    You don’t need to add a keyframe this time because, once a single keyframe has been added to a parameter, new keyframes are automatically added each time you move the clip to a new position.

    You should see a line in the Canvas indicating the interpolated motion path between the starting and ending keyframes.

    Figure. Canvas window showing the new position of the image and the ending keyframe.
  6. To see the effect, remove the wireframe in the Canvas by choosing Image from the View pop-up menu, move the playhead to the beginning of the clip, then play the sequence.

    While you may see only a rough approximation of the final motion effect, you can still see it without rendering. To see the effect at higher resolution, render it and then play the sequence.

    Tip: If the image looks “blocky” after rendering, choose High from the RT pop-up menu in the Timeline and render the clip again.

To create a more realistic camera move, you may also want to smooth the motion at the beginning and the end of the motion path, so that the camera starts slowly, reaches full speed, and then slows down as it reaches the second keyframe.

To smooth the speed at the starting and ending points of a motion path
  1. Choose Mark > Previous > Keyframe until the playhead is over the starting keyframe of your clip. (You can also press Option-K.)

    If you navigate too far past the starting keyframe, you can navigate back by choosing Mark > Next > Keyframe (or pressing Shift-K).

  2. In the Canvas, Control-click the starting keyframe and choose Ease In/Ease Out from the shortcut menu.

    The keyframe now has a velocity handle.

  3. Drag the velocity handle away from the starting keyframe to adjust the acceleration at the beginning of the motion path.

    This causes the clip to start moving slowly and then ramp up to full speed.

  4. Choose Mark > Next > Keyframe (or press Shift-K) to navigate to the ending keyframe of your motion path.

  5. In the Canvas, Control-click the ending keyframe and choose Ease In/Ease Out from the shortcut menu.

  6. Drag the velocity handle of the ending keyframe toward the keyframe.

    This causes the clip to decelerate as it approaches the ending keyframe of the motion path.

    Figure. Canvas window showing a velocity handle being dragged toward an ending keyframe.

    For more information about velocity handles and creating smooth motion curves, see Controlling Speed Along a Motion Path.