If you've used iChat or seen the screenshots on Apple's website, you may have noticed a neat reflection effect used for the live video feeds. This effect has now popped up in iWeb, the newest component of iLife. I liked this effect so much that I decided to try to recreate it in Final Cut Pro.
Here's how it works.
Step 1: Reduce Your Clip
We start with an image of the bride's dress being laced together, as shown in Figure 1 (left). This is our main clip and will also be used for the reflection.
The first step is to click on the Motion tab in the Viewer and, using the Scale scrubber, reduce the scale of the clip to about 60-70% of the original size (Figure 1, left). There is no rule on how small you have to make the clip, but we do need to leave enough room for the reflection underneath, so keep that in mind.
Step 2: Duplicate Your Clip
Once you have the clip scaled down to a size you are comfortable with, go to Modify > Duplicate as New Master Clip and duplicate it. Then place the new clip on the video track directly above the first clip. For now, it will look like there is only one layer in the Canvas.
For this effect to work properly, make sure both clips are synced together (Figure 2, left).
Step 3: Apply a Flop Filter
Select the bottom (V1) layer, and select Effects > Video Filters > Perspective > Flop to apply a Flop filter (Figure 3,left).
Flop applies a mirror-image effect to the layer, which is the first step in making our reflection.
Step 4: Rotate the Clip
Now, select the bottom (V1) layer, and choose the Motion tab. In Motion Parameters > Rotation, rotate the clip 180 degrees. This turns the image upside down.
The bottom layer is now upside down and reversed, and the top layer is normal (Figure 4, left).
Step 5: Align Your Layers
It's time to see what the top layer has been up to. Drag the bottom layer down until the top edge of the bottom layer lines up seamlessly with the bottom edge of the top layer.
You can see the start of the reflection, but it still needs something to make it look more natural (Figure 5,left).
Step 6: Perfect the Reflection
Select the Distort tool from the toolbox at the right-hand edge of the Timeline (Figure 6, left). It is hidden under the Crop tool; hold the left mouse button down to select it.
This tool lets you grab the edges of the bottom layer and drag them out to create a realistic perspective. I have chosen in this exercise to drag out the bottom points equally and leave the top points alone, but you can have fun playing with different combinations.
You can further customize or enliven your reflection in two ways. You can keyframe the perspective over time so it looks like a moving reflection, or you can add rotation. For now, we will keep it simple and just create a basic, static reflection.
Step 7: Create a Custom Gradient
Now we are going to create a custom gradient. You can do this in a graphics program such as Photoshop or in Final Cut itself. There is really no reason for us to leave Final Cut for this exercise, so we are going to create it here.
In the Canvas, select the Video tab and click open the Title/Generator drop-down menu (it looks like a letter A in a little box on the right-hand side of the viewer). Choose Gradient from the Render submenu (Figure 7, left).
Once you have created your gradient, select the Controls tab in the Viewer and fine-tune the gradient. To create the effect we're going for here, it should fade from white to black, top to bottom. Select Horizontal from top to bottom from the Gradient Type pull-down menu and set the Start and End color pickers to white and black, respectively. If you haven't already customized these controls, you're in luck—these are the default color settings.
When you are happy with your gradient, click the Video tab, and drag the gradient over into the browser (just as you would if it were a video clip), where it will appear with all your other clips.
Now it's time to go back to the bottom reflective layer (V1) again. Select Effects > Video Filters > Matte > Image Mask, and apply the Image Mask to the bottom layer.
From here, click on the Filters tab of the Viewer, and you should see the Image Mask filter there. Drag the gradient you just created out of the browser and into the placeholder in the Image Mask filter (there is a small rectangular box at the right-hand side of the Mask parameter just waiting for us to drag something into it).
Step 8: Lower Opacity or Apply a Gaussian Blur
The final image is now taking shape. Select both layers on the timeline, and shift them up so they occupy V2 and V3. There should be no clips on V1 underneath—at least not yet.
While the two layers are still selected, you can move them in the canvas to show more of the main image than the reflected image.
Depending on the impact you want the reflection to have, you may want to lower the opacity of the reflection layer (Figure 8, left) or add a Gaussian blur.
Step 9: Add a Background Image
We want to add another image in the background, slid directly under the other layers (Figure 9, left). I've found a similar clip from the same segment of the wedding (so that the lighting and color will be similar).
Using the same clip again would have a strange effect, because you would see too much similar movement across the three layers, so even just a slightly different clip will do.
We won't be able to see much of this layer, so it can really be anything.
Step 10: Add a Soft Edges Filter
This new background layer needs some softening up, so I'm going to add a Soft Edges filter (Effects > Video Filters > Matte > Soft Edges). From the Viewer, you can adjust the parameters of this effect.
I always check the Gaussian box and usually increase the four settings to at least 16 using the scrubbers provided.
That's just a matter of personal preference; play around with those settings until you find one you like. We've just added a soft background layer to make the image look a little nicer.
Select all the layers that we've worked on, hit Option+C to nest the sequence, and you're finished!
There are many different things you can do with this effect. Have fun with it!
Joe McManus (firstname.lastname@example.org) is cofounder of Future Vision Productions, an award-winning wedding and event videography outfit based in London, Ontario. Founder and president of the Ontario Professional Videographers Association (OPVA), he was named to the 2005 EventDV 25.