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Using Photoshop with Final Cut Pro

When building a graphic in Photoshop for Final Cut Pro, there are some important things to take into consideration while building your graphic.

Square vs. Non-Square Pixels

Using Photoshop with Final Cut Pro can be tricky if you do not follow some important steps. The most common mistake is to save a Photoshop graphic as a .psd file at 720 x 534.  This can be very misleading, especially since Photoshop shows DV-NSTC as being 720 x 534 in non-square pixels.


What's even more confusing, If you save your file at 720 x 534, you will be in for a big surprise when you import the file into a Final Cut Pro sequence set at the DV aspect ratio. To be clear, you need to build your graphic as 720 x 534, but save it as 720 x 480.

To add to the confusion, the new Photoshop CS series now allows you to use something called 'pixel aspect correction'. If you select this option, Photoshop simulates what the image will look like when the pixels are converted to non-square pixels for DV. Therefore, you can build your graphic at the standard 720 x 480 resolution that is standard for DV Video.


Photoshop will warn you that this mode is for preview purposes only, since it is performing an interpolation of non-square pixels.

If you accidentally leave your graphic at 720 x 534, two things will happen. First, Final Cut Pro will stretch your 720 x 534 image into a 720 x 480 sequence. Second, you will need to render the graphic, and you will lose any real-time fx functionality with your imported graphic. Notice how the 720 x 534 graphic requires rendering, but the 720 x 480 graphic is green, which means it will play in real-time.


Working with Photoshop Layers


In a perfect world, if you have Photoshop 7.0 (NOT 7.01 or CS) you can save your layered Photoshop graphic as a .tga file and everything will be good! Keep in mind this will flatten all your layers, but maintain your alpha channel and effects. Then import the graphic right into Final Cut Pro, and it should key perfectly. Alternatively, you can also save your file as a .png.

Saving as .png file is your best bet if you are using Photoshop 7.01 or the CS series, this is because the .tga file format no longer embeds the required alpha channel required by Final Cut Pro to perform a key.

If you need to have the the individual layers within the .psd file, you will have to fight one more battle. Final Cut Pro only understands standard Photoshop layers within a .psd file.


It does not understand the special effects layers that are an integral part of Photoshop. Final Cut Pro will simply ignore any effect layers that you built in Photoshop.


Therefore, if you have a graphic that contains any effects such as, drop shadows, glows, soft edges, or bevels, you will need to change these effects into real layers, and then merge them together.

If you have a two button mouse, right click on the 'f’' icon to select the 'Create Layers' menu. If you do not have a two button mouse you will need to hold down the 'Control’ key' while you click your mouse on the 'f’' icon.


Photoshop will then create a series of standard layers that make up the simplified effects layers.


Finally, you need to merge all of these layers together. Simply navigate to the ‘Layers’ menu and select 'Merge Visible'


Notice how all of the grouped layers are now merged into one distinct Photoshop layer. Final Cut Pro will now display this graphic correctly when you save it as a .psd file. The checkerboard pattern will represent the alpha channel which will automatically allow the image to be keyed over video.


Even on a slower system, this particular graphic will play in real-time with no rendering. When your done, you can save your graphic to import into Final Cut Pro. As a reminder, you need to save your graphic with a file format that supports an embedded alpha channel.


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Apple announces Final Cut Studio 2.0 was the previous entry in this blog.

Creating Text in Apple Motion is the next entry in this blog.

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