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Creating an FCPX Generator with Motion 5

A few weeks ago, we explored Apple Motion 5's new Rig primitives.  Today, we'll use Motion's new "Generator" project type to create a custom Generator for Final Cut Pro X.

In Final Cut Pro, you create most of your source video by using a camera or compositing software.  The exceptions are FCP's Generators: they create brand new pieces of video on the basis of parameters that you set in Final Cut Pro.  For example, you might create video of a title slate by using a Title Generator and specifying the text, font, and style.

In this tutorial, we'll build an FCP Generator that automates one of our favorite Motion techniques: using Replicators to simulate 3D depth in Motion.  By the end, you'll have a Final Cut Pro Generator that lets you create a spinning, 3D version of any logo graphic that you choose in Final Cut Pro X–without ever opening Motion.

If you'd like to follow along, download this Motion project.  We'll pick up with the Motion 5 project file named "Logo Generator Start."  It contains a 3D Replicator system that simulates 3D depth on a PNG version of the GeniusDV logo.  To use this project for a Generator, you'll still need to start a clean project in your copy of Motion; otherwise, Motion won't know to save the project as a Final Cut Pro X Generator on your specific user account—see Steps 1 and 2 below.

Step-by-step after the break--
  1. Launch Motion 5.  In the Project Browser dialog box, select Blank > Final Cut Pro Generator as your project type, then click OK.Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 3.44.38 PM.png
  2. At this point, you would build out your project using the same techniques you'd use for a regular project.  In other words, build your project using placeholder media—you'll generalize this project into a Generator in the next few steps.  If you're working along from the pre-built project file for this tutorial, open that project file, select all of the layers in the Layers palette, and press Command+C to copy them to the clipboard.  Switch to the blank Generator project you just started, then press Command+V to paste the layers into the Generator project.Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 4.12.23 PM.png
  3. You'll see that this is a fairly simple project—it contains an image layer that has been replicated, plus a Spin behavior that causes the entire faux-extruded logo to rotate about the Y-axis for the duration of the project.  This is nifty as a standalone project, but to make it useful as a generator, we need to think about what exactly we will want to change between this video project and the next one.  We'll publish those parameters so that we can manipulate them directly from Final Cut Pro, without going back into Motion every time we want to use the Generator.  For starters, let's make the logo a Drop Zone, so that we can swap out which logo is getting the 3D treatment.  Click to select the "gdvLogo-trans copy" image layer in the Layers palette (refer to the screenshot below).  Then, click the Inspector tab, and the Image sub-tab, to display the controls below.  Check the box marked Drop Zone to make the image a Drop Zone accessible from FCPX.Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 4.14.26 PM.png
  4. Drop Zones have been around for a while, but Motion 5 radically expands the controls you can publish to FCPX.  In fact, you can publish basically any parameter that shows up in Motion's Inspector.  For this project, suppose that we want to control how fast the extruded logo spins.  Click the Spin behavior in the Layers palette, then click the Behaviors subtab in the Inspector.  The Spin Rate controls how quickly the logo spins.  Use the drop-down arrow beside the parameter, and click Publish on the fly-out menu.  It's as simple as that—you can now control Spin Rate directly from FCP!Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 4.14.45 PM.png
  5. Let's make this new Generator available from within Final Cut Pro.  Since you started the new project as a Generator project type, it's as easy as pressing Command+S to perform a Save.  The Save Generator dialog looks a bit different from the usual file browser—instead of specifying a physical location on your disk, you're telling Final Cut where to organize this generator in its menus.  Generators are organized into Themes, which are organized into Categories.  For example, you might place sets of lower-thirds, namebars, and titles in a "Christmas Show" theme and a "Normal Show" theme, both of which are in the "My Great Show Graphics" category.  For this example, we've saved the Generator as "Spinning Extruded Logo Generator" in the "GeniusDV Generators" category.Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 4.12.46 PM.png
  6. Motion saves the Generator to the folder where Final Cut Pro looks for generators (your user home folder > Movies > Motion Templates > Generators).  Note that this means that this generator will only be available when you run FCPX as your current user.  Launch Final Cut Pro X.
  7. The Generator Browser lives down by your Media Browser in the lower-right corner of the FCPX interface.  Click the Toggle Generator Browser button that's highlighted in the screenshot below (or choose Window > Media Browser > Generators).  Browse to the GeniusDV Generators category, and drag the Spinning Extruded Logo Generator into your Timeline.Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 4.13.42 PM.png
  8. With the generator selected in the Timeline, click on the Generator tab of the Inspector (the Inspector is at the top-right of the interface.  If it's not visible, press Command+4 to toggle it on).  Click the Published Parameters heading to expand it—you'll see a drop zone and the Spin Rate control that you published earlier.  Try dropping another logo that has transparency into the drop zone, and adjusting the Spin Rate.  The Generator updates immediately in your FCP project, no Motion required!Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 4.41.49 PM.png
Screen shot 2011-09-30 at 4.45.37 PM.png



Creating a generator for FCP really is that easy!  If you'd like to practice refining the Motion Generator, just right-click on the Spinning Extruded Logo Generator from the Generators Browser, and select Open In Motion.  The changes you make will carry back to FCPX as soon as you hit save.  You might try publishing additional parameters to give yourself more control over the extrusion.  For example, the Replicator system's Replicator Inspector > Replicator Controls > End Point > Z parameter controls how far the logo is extruded, and the Points parameter immediately below that controls how dense the extrusion appears at steep angles of view.  The Logo Group's Properties Inspector > Transform > Scale parameter controls how big the logo appears on screen.  These could be nice to have available directly from FCPX... 

We teach all this and much, much more in our newly-revamped Apple Motion 5 course.  That's part of our Final Cut X 8-Day Travel Package, or you can stop by for just the 3-day Motion section.  Can't travel?  We'll come to you!  The next Orlando class starts October 24th, and you can see all upcoming dates on the Orlando Class Schedule.  Learn more about our packages, send an email, or call today—866-566-1881!
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Using the Range Selection Tool in Final Cut Pro X was the previous entry in this blog.

Configuring go to next edit buttons in Avid Media Composer is the next entry in this blog.

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