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Jittery Film Effects in Final Cut Pro

Creativecow.net / Apple Final Cut Pro Tutorial

Jittery Film Effects in Final Cut Pro -- by Steve Miller

Steve Miller


Steve Miller
Runaway Training
www.runawaytraining.com

©2004 Steve Miller, Runaway Training and Creativecow.net. All rights are reserved.


Article Focus:
In this tutorial, we'll like to welcome RunawayTraining.com's Steve Miller who joins the Cow team and offers this tutorial for Final Cut Pro users who want to know how those TV commercials and music videos make their footage look like there is a malfunctioning projector running amuck, serving up the footage with the kind of jitter and jump that was once so common in the silent movie era. This tutorial uses only the stock plug-ins that come in the box with Final Cut Pro HD.


Jumping the Sprockets: Film projector jitter effects in Final Cut Pro


As an editor/compositor it always amazes me to what lengths we go to make good footage look bad. In the name of our good buddy “art”, this mini-tutorial will show you how to apply a film damage/bad-projector-jumping-the-sprockets effect to your good looking, well shot video footage. Though there are 3rd party effects packages and compositing applications that can accomplish this effect, we are going to use good ol’ Final Cut Pro HD, with no optional plug-ins or nuthin’. All the stuff you need to complete this lesson came in the box.

Though the techniques we’re showing you look pretty good on their own, consider this basic tutorial a jumping off point for your own creativity. Add other elements, effects and noise to this basic recipe and you’ll soon have some seriously artistic, nastily (is that a word? It is now!) damaged looking footage to add to your next project!


1. The Base Layer

The first step is to edit your footage, unaffected, in the timeline. Put in all the cuts, speed changes, etc. BEFORE doing the effect. This makes things go a lot faster than doing one cut, applying the effect, doing another cut, applying the effect, etc. etc… Think Henry Ford's assembly line concept.

In this particular case, we have a piece of footage I shot for a recent commercial I did for a local casino. In this example I’m only effecting one shot, so no edits here. I placed it on V1 in my timeline.


DOWNLOAD MOVIE FILE A:
MOVIE A - 584k (Right click and choose Save File as...)


Final Cut Pro Movie Clip
HERE IS A LOOK AT THE MOVIE A CLIP PLACED ON V1



2. Blow Out that Beautiful Bean Footage

Now, a big part of this effect is a harsh, over-exposed look. I hear the DPs and LDs cringing out there… To do this, we’ll need to monkey with the “exposure” of the clip. I know. I know. There are 3rd party filters for this too. If ya got ‘em, use ‘em. The rest of us cheapskates are going to fake it with existing FCP filters.

To get the effect we want, we need to create a new video layer that will ride on top of our lower footage. Since this layer is really just our original footage with some effects and miscellaneous whoopty-doo added to it, we can start by copying the footage layer, and placing it in V2 on our timeline, all lined up in sync with the original.


FCP Copy Clip
OPTION-DRAG TO COPY CLIP TO V2


Once you have completed the option-drag copy of the clip to V2:
  • 1. Apply the “Levels” filter to your V2 footage. Effects>Video Filters>Image Control>Levels

Final Cut Pro Levels

  • 2. Adjust the “Input” to around 60, the “Input Tolerance” to around 25, and the “Output” to around 30. (Once again, the exact settings might be different for your footage.) Leave everything else alone.

Final Cut Pro Adjustment

  • 3. Drop a value 5 “Gaussian Blur” on the footage to give it sort of a “halo” effect.

Final Cut Pro Gaussian Blur

  • 4. Change the composite mode of the clip to “Add”. This, essentially, superimposes the highlights (or “over exposed”) sections of the picture on your original.

FCP Composite Mode Add

  • 5. Drop the opacity of the V3 clip to around 65. If you want more over-exposure, adjust opacity upwards and vice versa.

Final Cut Pro Opacity

UNDERSTANDING THE STEPS SO FAR...
I know this seems like a lot of steps, and it’s pretty easy to get lost in the process, so I’ll sum up what we’ve done here. We’ve essentially separated out the brightest or hottest elements of the picture (Add Mode), made them even hotter (Levels Filter) and given them a soft, halo appearance (Gaussian Blur). The opacity is so that we have complete control over how much or how little of the effect we want to apply to the original footage below. This upper layer will also be the jittery, jumpy layer that will enhance our effect.

Still with me? Cool. Hang on. We’re heading for the home stretch.


Jump, Jive and Keyframe

Time to make the upper layer dance around for your amusement. The basic concept here is, “Less is More”. Unless you’re working on some sort of extreme sports thing, or music video for your buddy’s garage band, you’re not going to want to apply this effect to minutes and minutes of your footage at a stretch. You’ll have your audience on the floor foaming at the mouth. Punctuate certain pieces of the footage, here and there, with the effect. It’ll be more dramatic, you can use it as a transitional device, and nobody will get a headache -- well, almost nobody.

To accomplish the jittering:

  • A. Double click your V2 clip so it’s active in your viewer.
  • B. Before setting any keyframes, adjust the scale to 103 or so.

Final Cut Pro Keyframes

  • C. Play through the footage. Decide where you want your jumps to start, and place "center" and "scale" keyframes there. Also, place a marker at the same point.

FCP Marker

  • D. Now, advance the playhead 1 frame. With “Image and Wireframe” turned on in your canvas window, nudge your picture out of skew. Try not to move it too extremely. Think tremor, not earthquake. Within 30-50 pixels of center or so will do nicely. Don’t worry if the top picture is off the frame, and you see some of the unaffected bottom layer. We’ll fix that in a minute.

FCP Image and Wireframe

  • E. Repeat step D., scooting the picture to a random area in one-frame increments, until you decide you’ve had enough jittering. Place center and scale keyframes there as well. Set the scale to 103 or so (as you did in step B.) and set the center to “0 and 0”. Place a marker here as well.

Keyframes

  • F. Moving your playhead, go back to each keyframe position you created with your jittering, and adjust the scale of your V2 footage so that it completely fills the screen raster, and covers the bottom layer completely. This may be a substantial increase (200% or more) but it’s necessary to sell the effect. Leave some of the scale settings the same over a few of the keyframes, so long as they cover the raster. Adjust others so that the picture just barely covers the raster. The key here is to think random and frenetic. (For all you After Effects heads out there, think “The Wiggler”)

Image Scale

  • G. With your V2 clip still open in the Viewer, switch to the Filters tab, and cue up to your first marker. Place a keyframe in the “Input” section of the “Levels” filter. Now do the same random number cha-cha that you did for your center and scale keyframes to your “input setting”. This time, however, try not to go too far above your initial value of 60 (or whatever you’ve set it to), and space your keyframes apart a little farther (3 or 4 frames, randomly across the clip). Continue until you reach your second marker. Then, set a final keyframe to your original value. See how helpful those markers are?

Timeline

  • H. Repeat steps D, E and F, only this time apply your jitter keyframes to the bottom base layer (V1). This time, however, don’t be so frenetic. If your range of motion/scale for the V2 or upper clip can be thought of as 100% frenetic, dial this back to about 40-50%. Also, space the keyframes out a bit more. About 4-5 frames should be fine. Remember that your first and last keyframes should be set to scale 100 & Center 0 & 0, and line up with the markers you set earlier, (That keeps everything in sync temporally).
  • I. Play through your footage, decide where the next jitter spell is to take place, and go through steps a. through g. as many times as your brain and viewing audience can stand it.

DOWNLOAD FINISHED MOVIE:
FINAL MOVIE - 584k (Right click and choose Save File as...)


THE FINAL RECAP:
Once again, let’s explain what we did: We increased the size of the footage a bit, so that our halo stands out more (step B.) and then made the over-exposure highlight jump around as if it were falling off the sprockets of the film projector, (steps C. through F.). Then, we randomized the over-exposure over the same period of time (step G.) to sell the effect of the film bumping closer and farther away from the projector bulb. We then moved the base layer (step H.) so that it adds to the randomness of the effect. Though it is time consuming, and a little multi-step intensive, it provides one heck of an effect.

As I said earlier, this is only a jumping off point. You might want to adjust other parameters over time. Try increasing the Gaussian Blur and Opacity to go even more extreme with the highlight effect. Adjust the Levels filter to blow out the footage more. If you have a 3rd party film grain filter, (or know how to fake it with FCP filters. But that’s another tutorial…) apply liberally to the bottom base layer. The sky is the limit on this one. Also remember that this effect works with nested sequences, too. Sometimes nesting the sequences can help, especially if you have a lot of edits in your base layer and need to apply the effect several times.

Most of all, have fun with it. There’s really no wrong way to do this effect. You are, after all, imitating a mistake! Good luck, and happy compositing!


-- Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a freelance Producer/Editor/Compositor working out of the San Francisco Bay and Las Vegas areas. He’s also co-founder (with Creative Cow combustion forum leader Lee Roderick) of Runaway Training (www.RunawayTraining.com). Look for an expanded version of this tutorial, and several other treatments like it, in his upcoming training DVD “Compositing in Final Cut Pro: When Good Footage Goes Bad” to be released later in the year. ©2004 Runaway Training & Steve Miller



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Comments

no key-framing on position
by Kenneth Kidwell
If you export the clips to motion you can bypass the tedious key framing on the position. Just export the clips to motion and use wriggle on the position. I then added keyframes the beginning and ending of both clips at 0, 0. I also increased the scale in motion before exporting back to FCP.


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