Working with Layered Photoshop Files

You can create multilayer graphics in Adobe Photoshop for use in a composited Final Cut Pro sequence. This allows you to create a complex arrangement of separate graphic elements and import them as a group, with their position and layer ordering intact. Once you import layered Photoshop files, they appear as a sequence, with each individual layer stacked. At this point, it’s easy to manipulate each layer individually to create sophisticated composites.

You can import multilayer Photoshop files created in any version of Photoshop, but only Photoshop 3.0 features (such as opacity, composite modes, layer order, and layer name) are preserved during import.

Updating Photoshop Files in Adobe Photoshop

Once a layered Photoshop file is imported, you can automatically open it in Photoshop to make further changes by:

  • Choosing View > Clip in Editor

  • Control-clicking the file in the Browser or Timeline and then choosing Open in Editor from the shortcut menu

You can make changes to any of the layers and save the file. When you return to Final Cut Pro, those changes are updated in the corresponding multilayer sequence in your project.

Tip: While compositing, you may need to make changes to different types of clips that you’re using. You can select separate editing applications for three types of files: still-image, video, and audio. For more information, see Choosing Settings and Preferences.

Working with Layered Photoshop Sequences

When you import a layered Photoshop file into Final Cut Pro, all the layers of the source Photoshop file are composited together with a sequence frame size identical to the imported Photoshop file’s frame size.

Figure. Browser window showing an imported Photoshop file appearing as a sequence.

If you want to import a layered Photoshop file as a single clip, you must flatten the image in Photoshop and then import the file into Final Cut Pro.

The sequence Final Cut Pro creates has the same number of layers as the imported file. The background layer becomes a clip in track V1, and each consecutive layer appears in the same order as the layers in the original Photoshop file. If you change the order of the video tracks, the layering order changes. If the background in the Photoshop file is transparent, the background of the new sequence is transparent as well and defaults to black.

Figure. Timeline window showing a Photoshop file as a sequence with its own tab.

Layer opacity settings, layer modes, and layer visibility are preserved, but layer masks are not. If a Photoshop layer mode has no corresponding compositing mode in Final Cut Pro, that layer mode is ignored.

Don’t Add or Delete Layers from an Imported Photoshop File

Final Cut Pro keeps track of each imported Photoshop layer according to its position relative to the bottom layer. While editing a layered Photoshop file that’s already been imported into Final Cut Pro, it’s not a good idea, under any circumstances, to:

  • Add additional layers: If you add a layer, any layer pushed above the topmost layer that was imported into your Final Cut Pro project is ignored when you go back to Final Cut Pro.
  • Delete layers: Deleting previously imported layers can have even more unexpected results. If you must add or remove a layer from a previously imported Photoshop file, do this in Photoshop and then reimport the file into Final Cut Pro. For additional information about importing layered Photoshop files, see Importing Media Files into Your Project.

Changing the Frame Rate of Layered Photoshop Sequences

When you import a layered Photoshop file, the resulting sequence has the frame rate of the current sequence preset. For example, if you choose a DV PAL Easy Setup and then import a layered Photoshop file, the resulting sequence has a frame rate of 25 fps.

If you want to edit this layered Photoshop sequence into a sequence with a different frame rate, you have two choices:

  • Edit the layered Photoshop sequence into the destination sequence and allow Final Cut Pro to automatically change the frame rate of the nested sequence.

  • Manually change the frame rate of the sequence before you edit it into the destination sequence.

It’s often easier to let Final Cut Pro automatically change the frame rate of your layered Photoshop sequence when you edit it into a sequence whose frame rate doesn’t match that of the Photoshop sequence. If the layered Photoshop sequence does not have affiliated copies, Final Cut Pro automatically updates the frame rate of the nested sequence and the master layered Photoshop sequence in the Browser.

However, if other affiliate copies of the layered Photoshop sequence already exist, the following steps happen automatically:

  • A new master layered Photoshop sequence is created in the Browser.

  • The frame rate of the new layered Photoshop sequence is changed to match that of the destination sequence.

  • The name of the new layered Photoshop sequence is changed to indicate its new frame rate.

  • A copy of the new master layered Photoshop sequence is edited into the destination sequence.

To manually change the frame rate of a layered Photoshop sequence
  1. Select the layered Photoshop sequence in the Browser, then choose Sequence > Settings.

  2. Choose a frame rate from the Editing Timebase pop-up menu, then click OK.

If affiliate copies of this layered Photoshop sequence have already been edited into other sequences, Final Cut Pro does not allow you to change the sequence frame rate. In this case, you can manually create a duplicate master clip of this sequence.

To create a duplicate master clip of a layered Photoshop sequence
  1. Select a layered Photoshop sequence in the Browser.

  2. Choose Modify > Duplicate as New Master Clip.

    A new master clip is created whose frame rate you can modify for nesting into other sequences.