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March 2009 Archives


What is Blender?

Blender was first conceived in December 1993 and born as a usable product in August 1994 as an integrated application that enables the creation of a broad range of 2D and 3D content. Blender provides a broad spectrum of modeling, texturing, lighting, animation and video post-processing functionality in one package. Through it's open architecture, Blender provides cross-platform interoperability, extensibility, an incredibly small footprint, and a tightly integrated workflow. Blender is one of the most popular Open Source 3D graphics application in the world.

Aimed world-wide at media professionals and artists, Blender can be used to create 3D visualizations, stills as well as broadcast and cinema quality videos, while the incorporation of a real-time 3D engine allows for the creation of 3D interactive content for stand-alone playback.

Originally developed by the company 'Not a Number' (NaN), Blender now is continued as 'Free Software', with the source code available under the GNU GPL license. It now continues development by the Blender Foundation in the Netherlands.

Key Features:

  • Fully integrated creation suite, offering a broad range of essential tools for the creation of 3D content, including modeling, uv-mapping, texturing, rigging, skinning, animation, particle and other simulation, scripting, rendering, compositing, post-production, and game creation;
  • Cross platform, with OpenGL uniform GUI on all platforms, ready to use for all versions of Windows (98, NT, 2000, XP), Linux, OS X, FreeBSD, Irix, Sun and numerous other operating systems;
  • High quality 3D architecture enabling fast and efficient creation work-flow;
  • More than 200,000 downloads of each release (users) worldwide;

you can download blender here

The Distort Tool in Final Cut Pro, is a great tool that allows you to expand and change the edges of pictures to make some really neat effects.  For example, you can fit your footage into a picture frame that exists on another layer of video. 

First you'll want to set the Canvas to Image+Wireframe mode.
Thumbnail image for imagewframe.gifThe Distort Tool is found in the Tool Palette within the Crop Tool tray.  You can also turn on the Distort Tool by pressing the D key on your keyboard.

Update:  Several of you have written to suggest that I do the videos for this series.  Thanks for your input -- I'm working on the videos and project files, and I'll post them at the top of the related blog entries as soon as they're ready!

In the previous part of the 3D in Motion series, we discussed the very basics of manipulating Motion layers in 3D space.  We moved them and rotated them, and now it's time to go one step deeper.  Our goal in this lesson is to understand how to "fly around" in 3D scenes, using cameras and 3D layers.

Background and Concepts

To get the concepts down, let's step back a little bit.  As you were moving objects around in 3D space in Part 1, it might have occurred to you that the X, Y, and Z arrows are a little bit pointless (or at least awkward, when you're trying to get things where you want on the screen).  I mean, think about this situation: I've rotated my layer in 3D to where it takes the perspective I like, and it's in the top-right corner of my canvas, where I want it.  But I just want it to be a little bit ... bigger.  I could use the object's 3D Transform Arrows to move the object closer to me in 3D space -- but why not just use the Scale controls to "zoom it up"?
The Tool palette in Final Cut Pro has a few hidden gems that many people don't realize are there.  One in particular is the Hand Tool.  From the Tool Palette in the third from the bottom tool tray you can select the Hand Tool, or turn it on with the H key on the keyboard.


What the Hand Tool does is that it allows you to move the canvas around the viewing area of the canvas when it is zoomed in.  If you don't use the Hand Tool when zoomed in you will have to use the zoom sliders individually.  If you try to move the Canvas when the Hand Tool is not turned on, when you try to move the Canvas within the viewing area, you will actually move the top layer if the Image & Wireframe is turned on.  If Image & Wireframe is not on, nothing will happen.

The Hand Tool allows you to move the Timeline back and forth within a sequence, if you have a Mighty Mouse, you can achieve the same function by rolling the scroll wheel left and right.

In the process of building a project, it is very likely that your video will be partially constructed or influenced by every application included in the Final Cut Studio line.  You may cut and edit in Final Cut Pro, sweeten the audio with Soundtrack Pro, add some high velocity motion graphics with Motion, export as a high quality MPEG 2 file thru Compressor, then build a complex DVD with DVD Studio Pro.  Becoming aware of the nuances of the workflow between applications is key to getting the most bang for your buck from your Final Cut Studio Investment.

It is possible, while in Final Cut Pro, to open a clip from your sequence directly into the Motion application for manipulation.  After you are finished tweaking the graphic, simply save it and the changes you have made to the clip will be updated in your sequence within Final Cut Pro.

Do you ever have trouble with your RAM preview being slow?  Or do you ever get an Image Buffer Error, such as this one?


It could be because you have your Cache (pronounced cash) set too low.  Here is a good way of how to set up your Cache preferences:

If you're not accustomed to working in 3D space, you might find Motion's 3D features intimidating.  You shouldn't.  Motion's 3D capabilities strike a great compromise between simplicity and power -- and just a glance at some of Motion's pre-built 3D templates will convince you of the power.

The Very Basics

The first step in understanding Motion's 3D space is to rewind to high school geometry: what are those three dimensions?  Remember that flat surfaces (like graphs, or TV screeens) have a horizontal "X" axis and a vertical "Y" axis -- and that an "axis" just means that an object can move in that direction without changing its position in the other direction.  So if I were to take, say, a piece of text, and make it scroll from the bottom of the screen to the top, I'd be moving only along the Y-axis of the screen: it's in the same place horizontally.

If you the viewer are looking directly at the screen, then that third dimension -- the "Z" axis -- just describes objects on the screen moving closer or farther from you.  In and of itself, this doesn't mean much: if an object is moving only along the Z-axis, it's staying in the same position vertically and horizontally.  Essentially, you'd just see it appearing bigger as it comes closer towards you or smaller as it goes farther away.

3D space begins to become cooler when you realize that, once you've pulled objects off the flat space of the screen, you can start spinning them around and treating them like objects in the real world.  The most basic example of this is the age old "3D Spin" transition: picking up a layer and rotating it where it "flips" towards you or away from you.  In the practical exercise for today, we'll see that you can use Motion's rotation controls to do this easily.

Read on for the practical ...

Adobe Photoshop is such an essential tool that I thought it would be a good idea to share some shortcuts today:

PS.gifTip #1:  When creating a graphic or trying to add elements to a graphic, it can be very useful to find the center of your layer.  First press Shift+Command+; (Shift+Ctrl+; on a PC) to turn  Snapping on.  Now press Command+R (Ctrl+R) to make your rulers visible.  Simply click on a ruler and drag into the image:  you'll see that you're pulling out a blue guide which will snap to the center of the layer.  Now you are centered!

Just like most of the Foreign Films you see, you too can add Subtitles to your movies using DVD Studio Pro.  Adding Subtitles is not as hard as you might think. 

The Subtitle Streams (streams look like Tracks in the Track Editor) are found in the Track Editor Window, just below the Audio Tracks and are numbered from S1 to S32 (orange).  To add a Subtitle Stream, Ctrl+click in the S1 track and select Add Subtitle or Add Subtitle at Playhead.  This will place your new subtitle, shown as a yellow clip, in the S1 track with a default of 5 seconds.  You can change the duration by placing the cursor on either end of your subtitle clip and extending it or shortening it, or you can change the duration in the Inspector window.  You can also click and drag your clip to move the position of your subtitle, or trim it like a clip in Final Cut.


Timecode is the set of numbers assigned to each frame of video. Timecode is usually measured at 30 fps (frames per second), and looks like 00:00:00:00, translating to Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Frames

Suppose someone hands you a tape full of footage and needs it cut and returned the next day; you decide to capture the whole tape as a single clip, but unfortunately you find out it has a ton of timecode breaks.  The main reason we get timecode breaks is because the person filming was watching playback in between takes.  If you do not stop the tape while there is still timecode, the time will reset and you get a timecode break.  To avoid this during filming, try "Blacking out" the tape first.  Simply record the entire tape with the lens cap on; this will lay out the timecode for the entire tape.  Then rewind and film as if it were a brand new tape. 

So, if you just learned this little trick and still have Timecode Breaks while you are capturing, you can tell Final Cut Pro to either Warn after Capture, or to Make a New Clip each time it encounters a timecode break.  You can find this setting under Final Cut Pro's User Preferences and under the General Tab.  On the right hand side, half way down you will see On Timecode Break: and then you are given the choices, Make a New Clip, Abort Capture, or Warn after Capture.
timecode.gifBy choosing Warn after Capture, you can avoid the separation of clips and get a full tape as a single clip.  By choosing Make a New Clip, it will create a new clip each time a Timecode Break is encountered.  Some users prefer one over the other, but it's really a matter of preference.

The LiveType interface consists of 4 windows:  the Canvas, the Inspector, the Media Browser, and the Timeline.  The 4 windows float freely, and can be moved or resized to your preference.
livetypeinface.gifWe will talk briefly about each of the 4 windows.  Note that this is only a short discussion about the LiveType interface.  Each window can be hugely expanded upon, but let's face it,  your head will start to spin if I went into anymore detail than this today!   Don't forget that we offer full instruction on LiveType as part of our Final Cut Training.
Bezier curves are used to adjust keyframed effects and to create curves in motion paths.  In Final Cut Pro, when the Image+Wireframe mode is turned on within the Canvas, a visual path displays based on keyframes that have been created.  Small green dots within the path represent keyframes.  Note that the default path is somewhat rigid when moving around corners.  You can smooth out those  corners by using Bezier Curves.


You can turn on Bezier Curves by right clicking on a green dot and choosing either Ease In/Ease Out or Linear from the contextual menu.  You are now able to drag the Bezier curve handles to create a curved path.  Notice that both handles move together.


There are several ways to adjust your audio and volume levels within the timeline in Final Cut Pro.  Today, we will discuss using the Pen Tool.  You can use the Pen Tool in the timeline when Clip Overlays is turned on to create keyframes.  Keyframes allow you to change the volume in any point in a clip.

To adjust the audio levels of clips using keyframes, first turn on the Clip Overlays feature.  Clip Overlays is found in the lower left corner under the timeline.  This will display the pink lines within the clips of your sequence.
Thumbnail image for clipoverlays.gif

Next, activate the Pen Tool by using the keyboard shortcut, the P key.  You can use the Pen Tool to add a series of keyframes within the clip.  To add a keyframe, move the cursor over the audio level line until it changes from an arrow into a Pen icon.  Click on the mouse to add individual keyframes.  The keyframes will be shown by pink diamonds on the audio level line.  If you have linked tracks, the keyframes will show up in both tracks.


If you need to create a stand alone still image file from video in Final Cut Pro, it is an east process. You don't even need to create a Freeze Frame to export a Still Image. Just make sure the quadrant of the Final Cut interface that is displaying the image you wish to export is highlighted, go to the File menu, select Export, and choose Using Quicktime Conversion.

After adding a real-time effect in while working within a Soundtrack Pro Audio File project there is a very important final step. Remember,  must go to the Process menu and choose Render to Action. This will cause the effect to be applied when you listen to it in a Soundtrack Pro Multitrack project, or Final Cut Pro. This little nugget of information can be enough to drive you crazy if you don't have it.

A great portable way to show off your video projects is through your very own iPod.  We accomplish this by exporting movie files to iTunes first. 

First choose your sequence in the bin.  Enable all tracks for the sequence.  Mark the entire sequence in/out then right click expert render in/out.

Next, right click on the sequence in the bin and choose Export.  Choose Save As:  project_name.mov on the Desktop.  Now for your Export Setting:  Send to QT Movie, then Options.  Export As:  Quick Time Movie - Use Enabled Tracks


It's very easy to import a LiveType project file directly into Final Cut Pro. Simply drag a LiveType project file directly into the Final Cut Browser Window or Timeline from the LiveType interface. Bang! The LiveType project file will appear as a clip! No rendering required. Instant access! *Make sure you are using the RT unlimited option so Final Cut Pro will play the LiveType titles in 'real-time'. At some point, you'll still need to render the title, but you'll be able to preview everything in real-time until that point.


Make sure Final Cut Pro is already running in the background, so you can move the LiveType interface window over a bit to reveal the Final Cut Pro application running underneath it.

Alternatively, you can also drag the Project File from the Mac OS X finder. Either way will work fine.


You won't be able to drag the LiveType project icon directly from the LiveType interface until you have saved your project. When you Save your LiveType Project, Make sure you are saving it to a special place on your hard drive to stay organized. This is important when it comes to media management within Final Cut Pro.

Now, what happens if you change your mind about something you have created in LiveType and have already imported it into Final Cut? Easy. Simply right click on your LiveType clip in your timeline and select Open in Editor and LiveType will open, let you change what you want to in your project. Make sure you re-save the project while working in LiveType so it will automatically update the changes in Final Cut.


From the Tools Menu you can select Keyboard Layout, and then Customize. The keyboard short cut to customizing the keyboard is option H. To make changes to the keyboard layout, you will need to unlock the keyboard, by clicking on the lock in the lower left corner. Next you will want to select the keyboard combination. At the top of the keyboard layout are the modifier combination's. These tell us what modifier keys need to be depressed with the operative key to cause a result. We see that under the no modifiers tab the only unassigned key is the Y key.


We questioned Mike Willats, a member of the GeniusDV team, about how he deals with the tens of thousands of clips he uses when editing Disney projects here in Orlando, Florida.  His answer, not surprisingly was, stay organized!  Here is one method he uses:

Whether you are using Avid or Final Cut, a large portion of the battle is staying organized.
For some, this is second nature but for others it comes with a lot of arm-twisting. No matter what your style as an editor the process by which you get to the end product has several organizational elements along the way.
Non-destructive simply put means that anything that you do to a file/clip in Final Cut Pro will not affect the source file. For example if I apply a sepia filter to a clip in Final Cut, it will not affect the actual Quicktime file in the Finder. To have the Quicktime file in the Finder affected by the applied filter, you would have to output a new Quicktime movie.

The same non-destructive relationship exists between the clips in the File Browser and the clips in a Sequence. If you apply a filter to a clip in a Sequence it will not affect the source clip in the File Browser. However you can make a change to a clip in the File Browser, those changes will stay with that clip the next time you access it from the File Browser. For example if you had a 15 minute interview clip that you were going to be using numerous clips from, and the clip needed color correction. You would perform the color correction to the clip in the File Browser instead of having to apply it individually to the numerous references in your Sequence. 
Just one of the advantages of upgrading your iLife application today, is Apple's newest feature in iPhoto; Faces

I'm all about organization when it comes to my pictures.  Do you ever have a problem of trying to find all of the pictures you have of Mom or Dad or best friend?  Well now you can with Faces.  iPhoto uses face detection to identify faces of people in your photos and face recognition to match faces that look like the same person.  Then you can add names to your photos and be able to find the people you're looking for. 

Once you've put a name to a face in just a few photos, iPhoto will sort them by matching photos to names.  iPhoto then creates a Corkboard with all of your faces.  Click on a face, and iPhoto will show you all of the suggested matches of that person.  You can also flip over the picture to add other information or even their Facebook ID


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