Walt Biscardi makes learning about travel mattes fun and easy. You can watch his excellent video tutorials right here, and I recommend you do before I totally confuse you.
The object of this particular article is that travel mattes in FCP are a great way to make FCP a decent compositor, and a viable, quicker solution than using AE for a long-form project.
A more colorful way of summing this up is, if you and I were on an elevator and I had 30 seconds to tell you my story, I’d say:
"Make your mattes for each layer a different color, and do custom animated mattes in AE and render to animation with a straight alpha channel.”
Now, assuming we were both getting off the elevator to go to the same boring cocktail party, here are the gory details. Cheers!
For this article, I am featuring a 4 minute project (see movie excerpt) I did recently for a great client with a great (and demanding) art director. We had initial meetings about 2 weeks before I was to get the project files, to go over storyboards and production. The project was to be built with mostly photos and very little footage.
The base design for the project was a grid made with 10 different color iterations of the client logo.
WHICH HE WANTED ANIMATED!!!!
Here's the original logo:
And here's the grid made from the 10 color iterations of it.
When I heard this, I about had a heart attack, as the budget did not allow for days of AE work, so I began to search for alternatives to animating a gazillion layers. I showed them animating the squares using fractal noise from greyscale images and Colorama, and other digital methods, but he thought it all looked too electronic.
As luck would have it, I put up a comp of Card Wipe in AE on his grid layer and he loved it.
Tthat was a relief, except that there ain’t no card wipe transition in FCP that I know of.
(There is now, thanks to my collaboration with Christoph Vonrhein in this whole process! The plugin he made is still in development, and will be part of his QC collection.)
So, in the few days I had to think about this, I decided to see if an AE card wipe matte would work for this, as there were many photos etc. that had to use this effect.
It works great. I used the same settings in AE as my FCP project, 720p square. I then exported the mattes with the usual Animation Millions+ with a straight alpha channel.
Yes, these had to be rendered in FCP, but the time saved was worth it. I made 2 different mattes that had the card wipe in and out, with about 30 seconds in between, so buy setting markers on the transitions I could see where to cut them in FCP.
The benefits of doing this project in FCP are enormous, as the whole thing had to follow a recorded script, and is 4 minutes long. Not a practical project for AE. So, animating a few of the base matte effects with Card Wipe was easy and fast.
Note that I did an animation of the base layer grid and the Luxian logo as separate files, and then used three matte squares and a couple of animated mattes mentioned above to apply to different images.
The organizational part.
I made a document in Photoshop for my squares in the design, a left square, middle and right.
You can just as easily make these mattes in FCP with the matte generator and use the crop settings, but in a project demanding critical registration of elements like this one, having discreet layers was a good thing.
My contribution to the process is the use of different colors on the different mattes for different layers. I told you this in the elevator, remember?
The color of the matte doesn’t matter, since we’re using alpha mattes, but it does help when it shows up in your layer thumbnail so you can easily keep track of your mattes and layers in the timeline. I used red, green and blue matte colors, but you could use whatever. The three colors referred to three mattes in different positions on the grid, red, left, green, middle, and blue, right.
As you know, travel mattes in FCP allow instant reference to a graphical design, and you can move and size images within each matte, and dissolve between images. So given a strict layout like the Luxian project, making things move in the project within the design limitations is really simple.
Another benefit of using mattes is that objects placed in them can have keyframes independent of transitions, so they don’t move around when you place the transitions.
Here's one transition within the finished, 4-minute piece.
Anyway, this method makes life pretty simple for basic compositing within FCP. I hope you had a good time here.
Nice party eh? What is it you do again? Cheers!