Furthering Final Cut Pro X: Plug-Ins Extend Editing Possibilities

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Apple’s Final Cut Pro X uses an effects architecture based on templates tied to the underpinnings of Apple Motion 5. Even if the user hasn’t purchased Motion, its engine is the one that drives effects in FCP X.

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Dashwood’s Editor Essentials is a toolkit of useful effects, including this camera horizon leveler.

Users and developers can create innovative effects, transitions and titles simply by building an effect inside Motion and publishing it as an FCP X effect. This capability has enabled the Final Cut ecosystem to blossom with useful effects that would be difficult to replicate in most other editing or compositing applications.

While it is impossible to cover all of the new offerings, I’ll focus on a few that are partner developers with Noise Industries. These are plug-ins that can be purchased individually but are managed through the free version of FxFactory. That application now functions like an iTunes Store, with in-app downloads, purchasing and installation tools, and central access to tutorials and help documentation.

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PHYX’s Flarelight filters add glows, anamorphic glares and lens flares.

Some of the newest tools are even free, such as the Andy Mees filters. Mees is well known in FCP circles for his older FXScript plug-ins; now he’s developed a handful of useful effects for FCP X. Of particular interest is Better 3D—a 2.5/3D DVE—and Elastic Aspect filter. The latter stretches 4:3 content to fit a 16:9 frame. It stretches the outer portions of the frame more than the center in order to leave talent (usually in the center of the frame) less distorted.

The folks at Ripple Training are known for software training, but of late they’ve also become plug-in developers, with products that include Callouts, Optics, Timelines and Tools. All but the last are design themes with graphic overlays. Timelines is a set of templates for animated timeline charts. Tools (and Tools 2) is a mix of useful effects to augment FCP X. These include masks, 3D text, guides, color balance and certain stylized looks.

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Stupid Raisins’ Slide Pop is one of a series of transition effects. Slide Pop mimics the look of changing slides in a projector.

A similar offering is Tim Dashwood’s Editor Essentials. Dashwood develops stereoscopic 3D tools for Final Cut, but like Ripple’s Tools, this group is an editor’s toolkit that enables users to easily accomplish a number of effects and editorial tasks. Included are letterbox/pillarbox masks, color correction adjustments, camera horizon leveling, a quick slate template, a dead pixel fixer and more.

Tokyo Productions developer Simon Ubsdell got into the effects game with FCP X. Some of his newest effects include Chrominator and PiPinator. The first filter turns flat titles into shiny, metallic, extruded text complete with sheens and glows. PiPinator (as in “picture-in-picture”) is a set of preset DVE moves to fly images in, out and through the frame. Other effects include ReAnimator for repairing dead pixels and image artifacts and Split Animator for various split-screen effects.

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Luca Visual FX XOverlays is a group of pattern overlays for a range of stylized looks.

I’ve mentioned Luca Visual FX a few times in my reviews. Luca VFX is a great resource for grunge and distressed looks. New filters and transitions include Impackt and Lo-Fi Look. The latest, XOverlays, deviates from grunge by using a set of patterns and graphics as effects overlays. These plug-in filters include image wells, so you can alter the look by dropping in your own images. Luca has extended XOverlays by releasing a set of bonus motion graphics that may be deployed in these image wells. Design styles include bands, grids, high-tech elements, ripples and visualizers.

Stupid Raisins has focused on transitions using blocks, panels, shapes and slide effects. Their latest release is a series of title generators with built-in motion graphics reminiscent of Apple’s LiveType. Although these animations have been integrated into Motion, it’s nice to have them easily accessible as an effect within FCP X. There are 50 titles with a variety of text animation effects. Apply the clip to the timeline and then you can easily modify fonts, text information and style.

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PiPinator from Tokyo Productions is a set of DVE move presets.

I’ve only touched the surface of the available tools, but I’ll wrap up with PHYX’s Flarelight filter. The package includes three glare, lens flare and glow filters, plus noise and star field generators. The lens flare in particular is very nice. It has a ton of parameters to customize the flare and keyframe its movement. Actual adjustment felt a little slow as I was doing it, but the clip played reasonably well in real time without requiring me to render just to see the effect.

I’ve mentioned these offerings in the context of Final Cut Pro, but many will also function in Motion, After Effects and Premiere Pro with the same installation. Its growing ecosystem of tools makes FCP X a very interesting environment to work in.



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