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Using Motion Templates in Apple Final Cut Pro, Part 1

After shooting, color-correcting, editing, sweetening the audio, and performing other similarly time-consuming project tasks, it’s intimidating to think about adding customized animated text or other effects to your projects. Fortunately for all of us, Apple makes these types of garnish fast and easy by enabling Final Cut Pro to deploy and customize Motion templates. You don’t even have to know how to use Motion to do so.

In this edition of Final Cut Pro Insider, I’ll detail that workflow. Next edition, I’ll take you inside of Motion to create a custom title therein, and show how to import that title—without rendering—into Final Cut Pro. It’s one of the nicest and most useful bits of integration in the Final Cut Pro suite.

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Using Motion Templates in Apple Final Cut Pro, Part 2

Back again working with Apple Motion. When I last left you, you had just finished customizing a Motion template in Final Cut Pro. You liked the effect, but decided that you wanted to change the font and font color, activities that you can only perform in Motion…

About Motion templates

Let’s spend a few moments discussing Motion’s templates. Apple ships a bunch of them—some SD, some HD, and some in families with templates for opening titles, transitions, lower thirds, and the like. This makes it very easy to put together a polished, cohesive look. Not surprisingly, if you Google “Apple Motion templates” you’ll find a host of third-party sources for additional Motion templates for $10 to $50. Before you go off and start creating your own templates, you might search and see if you can find one that you can adapt for your own use.

You can access Motion templates from within Motion, of course, or from within Final Cut Pro. If you access a Motion template from Final Cut Pro, you can customize the text, font size, and tracking, and add your own content to the drop zones as I’ll detail below, but you can’t change characteristics such as font or font color. For that, you’ll have to use Motion itself, and I’ll detail how to do so at the end of this tutorial. Next time, we’ll make those changes and create a custom opening sequence using Live Fonts.

Figure 1. Choosing your Motion template from within Final Cut Pro.

Choosing a Motion template in Final Cut Pro

By way of background, I’m creating an opening sequence for a recital video that I shot of my two daughters; one played piano, and the other sang and played the piano. Let’s get started.

In Final Cut Pro, click the Viewer window to select it, and then choose Sequence > Add Master Template, which opens the Master Template Browser shown in Figure 1. By selecting the Viewer before opening the Browser, any template that you choose will load into the Viewer first, where you can customize the options and then drag it into your project. There are other workflows, but this is the most straightforward.

In the Master Template Browser, you can scroll through the Themes in the box on the left, with templates shown in the window in the middle. Click any template to play it in the preview window on the upper right.

Note the “Show” list box on the top left of the preview window. Click the category that you’re interested in (All, NTSC, PAL, HD, or Other), and Final Cut Pro will only show those in the browser. On the bottom right, beneath the preview window, are the specs for the selected template. The Cracked template works perfectly for this project because there are three drop zones and it’s 1280×720 resolution, which matches my source footage. To add it to the project, I’ll click Open on the lower right, and Final Cut will open the template in the Viewer. Click the Controls tab in the Viewer to open the options you can configure from within Final Cut Pro.

Figure 2. Customizing the Motion template, before and after views.

Figure 2 shows a before-and-after view of the customizable controls. I added frame grabs to the drop zones, though you can also add video clips. Either way, to add content to the drop zone, simply drag it from the project Browser into the drop zone and release. To customize the text, click the text to make it active and then type in the desired letters. Again, you can change the size and tracking (which is the spacing between the letters), but you can’t change the font or color; for that, you have to take the project into Motion.

After customizing the template, you can click the Video tab in the Viewer to preview the template, though playback won’t be at full speed. Or drag the template into your project and render the sequence, and you can watch it at full frame rate. Here’s the intro that I just created.

Figure 3. Click the Video tab in the Viewer to preview the completed Motion template.

Once you’ve dragged the customized template into your project, you can access the controls at any point by double-clicking the template on the timeline, which will load it back into the Viewer. As an aside, note that if you have the timeline selected when you open the Master Template Browser window (as opposed to having the Viewer selected, as I recommended above), Final Cut Pro will insert the selected Motion template directly into the timeline. If you choose this workflow, double-click the template on the timeline to open the Controls in the view.

Figure 4. Opening a copy of the template in Motion.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like either the font or the font color in this template. Again, I can change these, but only in Motion. To get there, right-click the deployed template on the Timeline and choose Open Copy in Editor. You could open the original, but since it’s an original Motion template, it’s locked, and you can’t save any changes.

After you choose Open Copy in Editor, Final Cut Pro will prompt you for a file name for the copy, and then open it in Motion. Note that you’ll be opening a copy of the bare template itself, not the template as customized in Final Cut Pro, so any changes or customizations won’t appear in Motion. Don’t worry, though; any changes that you make to the template in Motion will automatically update in the Final Cut Pro timeline after you save the Motion project.

But I get ahead of myself. I’ll cover all that and more in two weeks.