Transitions, Effects and Transforming

It is safe to say that you are familiar with the use of titles and transitions. Indeed, they are an important part of every television show, feature film, or educational documentary. Titles tell us the name of the film, who is in it, and sometimes, in the case of foreign films or closed captioning, what an actor is saying. Transitions are often used to create a passage of time or change of scenery or of circumstance. Generators, on the other hand, are rarely seen by the average film goer or TV viewer. They are often used to create placeholder clips during film production, and to create timecode counters in Final Cut Pro

Step 1 – Reframe with Transform

It’s worth looking through your edit to check that the framing is good in every shot. Many shots can be improved with just a small push in, and if you find a shot that could benefit, it’s easy to add. Click on the clip in the Project pane to position the playhead and simultaneously select the clip for adjustment.

Click directly on the clip, at the point you want to see.

In the Viewer, press the Transform control in the bottom left corner, then drag one corner outwards, just a little, then drag on the image to move it into place. If you need to scale it more and the handles are no longer visible, use Command-minus to zoom out, adjust away, then Shift-Z when you’re done to reset the zoom. If you’re going to reframe like this, keep quality in mind. You can likely get away with a small scale-up, especially if you shoot in 1080p and most of your audience sees something smaller. If you’re going to routinely crop your shots be sure to capture at a higher resolution than your final output.

A zoomed-out Viewer

Step 2 – Add appropriate transitions

While it’s likely you’ve added a few transitions along the way, you may wish to revisit your edit and add or remove a few more. While straight narrative productions generally use just straight cuts with the occasional cross dissolve or fade to black, the world of moving video encompasses many kinds of productions that embrace the fancy transition. Corporate video, sports, and kids programs are just three styles of program where many concepts are shown one after the other and fancy transitions are the best way to help it make sense.

Crazy transitions aren’t all bad. Here’s one I designed earlier

That’s not to say that you should go nuts. The golden rule still applies: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Think of transitions as fonts. Just like you shouldn’t use more than three fonts in a document, you probably shouldn’t use more than three different types of transitions.

Find the spots in your piece where you move from one concept to another the equivalent of moving from scene to scene. That’s where a transition of some kind might be appropriate. Open the Transitions Browser, drag one on to the edit point, then tweak the settings: duration and anything else that the Inspector offers. Now Option-drag that transition to duplicate it onto any other edit points that need it.

The good old Option-dragging-copies trick, here shown from right to left

Step 3 – Add appropriate titles

Like transitions, you might have added some titles already possibly subtitles. Now’s the time to open the Titles Browser, find the most appropriate titles for any opening credit, closing credit, and lower thirds throughout. In addition to a large built-in selection, there are a range of third-party titles out there (including some by me *cough* plug over *cough*) and you can change the font, size and position in every one. On top of that, it’s quite easy to modify existing titles or create new ones with Motion. Don’t settle for plain defaults, and even if you do nothing else, change the font to suit your production.

It really is this easy to start making a fancy title

Step 4 – Add generators beneath titles if needed

A simple technique if you want white text on a non-black background, use the Generators Browser under the Solids section to make one, then drag the Title above it to connect there. You could use other generators (Textures or Backgrounds perhaps) if you wanted something fancier.

A few exciting options

Step 5 – Apply effects to clips and/or to adjustment layers

Take a good look at your edit, and decide if you want to lend a certain look to any parts of it. We’ve already used Adjustment Layers to make scenes look as if they were shot at a certain time of day, or give a warmer vibe, but other filters can have a stronger, less subtle effect. If you need film-like grain, an overall sharpening, a sketch, vignette or identity-protecting blur, then add it now. Add directly to a clip, or to an adjustment layer to adjust everything beneath it.

Censor, applied to a clip

Which ones? The Blur section has Sharpen (of course!), Basics has Broadcast Safe, Crisp Contrast and Vibrancy, Light has plenty of artifacts on show, Looks has many heavy-handed grading presets, and Stylise has Add Noise, Film Grain, Censor (a pixelated circle), and Vignette, plus many more.

These are a few of my favourite

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