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Jerry Hofmann reviews Automatic Duck for FCP

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Jerry Hofmann reviews Automatic Duck for FCP



A Creative COW Product Review



Jerry Hofmann reviews Automatic Duck for FCP
Jerry Hofmann
Jerry Hofmann
Bat-Mann Productions
Denver, Colorado USA

Article Focus:
One of CreativeCOW's popular Final Cut Pro™ forum leaders, Jerry Hofmann takes a look at Automatic Composition Import FCP for Final Cut Pro users from Automatic Duck. "I’m a believer. Can’t get over it. Gotta have it." Jerry says these are the words that come to mind after using the new tool...


Once in a while someone comes up a great idea for those who work day-in and-day-out creating programs with Final Cut Pro. FCP is a worthy editor by anyone’s standards, but its compositing capabilities are secondary to its editing workflow. Same thing can be said of any NLE. Their first and most powerful use is editing elements of picture and sound together into a sequence that tells a story of some kind, hopefully. Routinely professionals are adding sound elements and video effects that many of us use third party applications for.

The most-used application for video effects work is and has been for quite some time, Adobe’s After Effects. The workflow to date has been to export from your NLE the clips you want to really get that “professional look” out of into After Effects, a dedicated effects program. In fact there have been shorter projects entirely done in After Effects, because even though it could be used to edit projects together, the “editing” portion of the program was secondary to its effects capabilities. There is a tendency to forgo the use of the NLE to edit with.

Before now any programming you may have roughed out in any given shot would have to be discarded in favor of simply redoing some of it (like a fade up) in After Effects, and then exporting a rendered QuickTime file from AE, then re-importing that file into Final Cut Pro to edit it into your sequence.

The only way to save the programming you might have done in FCP was to render a QuickTime movie and import that into After Effects for further compositing. Depending on the job, you may have to export/import each clip individually. One thing that results though is that any keyframing you may have done in FCP is lost in AE. Cumbersome, tiresome, and at times took just enough of an effort, that editors might even be prone to skip the process all together just because of a lot of time and energy just to move the media files back and forth, etc… “Maybe it would look a bit better with AE, but I just don’t want to go through the machinations” was what would go through their minds. If you wanted to do a series of shots (a sequence) to add an effect done better in After Effects, the editor becomes even less motivated. Each QuickTime Movie had to essentially be imported one at a time then re-edited in After Effects.

No more, Wes Plate and company at Automatic Duck have created pure magic. Their product will allow a Final Cut Pro editor to export an entire sequence in to Adobe’s product, and retain many of the keyframes created in Final Cut Pro when it’s opened in After Effects! Yeah, you read right, you can export an edited sequence, complete with keyframed images into After Effects, and it not only retains the keyframes (meta data in geekish) it imports all of the QuickTime movies and presents you with a composition that includes the shots edited as they were in Final Cut Pro! I told you it was magic…

Automatic Duck has developed Automatic Sequence Export, an OMF export plug-in for Apple’s Final Cut Pro, and Automatic Composition Import FCP, an OMF import plug-in for After Effects to provide you with a powerful mechanism for combining the power of Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects. You will save hours of time, in turn you could save vast amounts of money as you spend your time being creative and not wasting it moving clips and rebuilding your timeline.

Automatic Sequence Export creates a representation of the Final Cut sequence and saves it in a format known as OMF (Open Media Framework), which was an initiative created and started by Avid Technology. In fact speaking of Avid, Automatic Duck has products for Avid folks too.

In addition to the timeline information, this OMF file contains links to the media for your sequence. Since both Final Cut Pro and After Effects are QuickTime-savvy applications, After Effects can use the media directly without any media conversion needed. Cool.

The OMF file is a representation of the metadata contained in the Final Cut sequence. Not everything in your timeline will translate into After Effects. Some FCP parameters don’t have After Effects equivalents, other things are impossible to do programmatically as a plug-in, and other items are translatable- support just hasn’t been built-in yet. It is important to work in Final Cut with the understanding that not everything translates, doing so will ensure the success of your project.

The suggested workflow is to use Final Cut to define the timing of your edit, to set up layers and mock up effects. Then use After Effects to complete the compositing, animation and effects for your sequence. Sort of an Offline effects edit in FCP, then a finishing done in AE.

When you’re finished working in After Effects, render your composition to QuickTime and import the rendered file back into your Final Cut project.

Automatic Composition Import FCP will only import OMF files exported from Final Cut Pro using Automatic Sequence Export.

It’s just not as important to get those effect keyframes back the other way if you really think about it…

Here’s a list of metadata that currently is supported for export from FCP:



So from this chart, you could see what to keyframe in Final Cut Pro, to reliably import into After Effects.

Not believing that voodoo like this was even possible, I gave it whirl. I turned this:


Into This:





"I’m a believer. Can’t get over it. Gotta have it." These are words that come to mind…

Simple, quick and saved me A LOT of work. Think if you had 50 or 100 edits to bring over, to use After Effects as your effects programmer. Cool.

True, FCP 3 can assign an “editor application” to a clip. What happens when you open a clip from FCP into it’s “editor application” is that clip’s entire media file opens in an After Effects project and you have to re-edit down only what you want to effect in After Effects. If you had added an opacity change in your timeline, it won’t be there. It’s better than having to do it the older way described at the top of this review, but you still have to edit down what you want to use, and you can only do this one at a time efficiently from within FCP 3. With Automatic Duck you get the whole banana AND you get the aforementioned keyframes to come across too.

Not an inexpensive plug-in particularly, but if you do this sort of work routinely, you’re nuts not to purchase Automatic Duck’s plug-in. Yes PLUG-IN. When you install the software, it’s added as a plug-in to Final Cut Pro. Shows up in the export menu from the edit menu. Another workflow feature, you don’t have to open it separately from Final Cut Pro. I’ve always liked watching ducks. This duck blew my mind.

-- Jerry Hofmann




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