Cut Lines: Creating Cool Compositions With Nested Sequences in Apple Final Cut Pro
In this installment of Cut Lines, we’ll look at cropping and rotating several images at once and how nesting your composition can make it easier to manipulate your images together.
We’ll start by finding the images we want to work with. In this example, we are placing three bridesmaids, two flower girls, and the bride all on the screen at the same time, each in their own little window. Because we have five video clips to work with, we will make a composition where the bride is in the center and the other girls are on the left and right of her.
Next, trim the clips so they are all the same length, as they will be appearing in the same composition together. If you’re changing the speed of any of the clips, you will need to make sure they all look good together; for example, if one of the girls is in slow motion, they should all be in slow motion. The color balance should also match, and if this is too much of a problem you can always make the clips black and white. Your clients will think you are being artistic—only you will know that the color balance didn’t match.
Step 1: Set Crop Points
To begin nesting your sequences, open up your first clip and set your crop points. I like to do this numerically by entering my crop values directly rather than using the crop tool. In this example, I have set a crop values of 30 for the left and right and 10 for the top and the bottom (Figure 1, below, top). This creates a nice, centered, rectangle-shaped crop (Figure 1, below, bottom).
Step 2: Copy the Attributes to the Other Images
The next step is to select and copy the first video clip then paste the attributes onto the remaining four images (Figure 2, below, left). To do this, select your remaining four images (but not the image you just copied) and then right click or control click. This opens up a little window from which you select paste attributes (Figure 2, below, right). When you select these attributes, another window will open. This allows you to specify exactly which attributes you will be pasting onto your images.
In this case we want to copy over just the crop parameters, so we select the crop checkbox and select OK (Figure 2, below, right).
Step 3: Adjust Additional Crops as Needed
As you can imagine, what works for one image may not work for all of your clips, and you may need to adjust the crops on an image-by-image basis. The image in Figure 3 below (bottom left) needs to be adjusted, so we open up its Motion tab by double clicking on the clip and then adjust the parameters. In this case, I adjust the crop to 40 on the left and 20 on the right from the original positions of 30 and 30 (Figure 3 below, top). This way the image stays the same size but the crop is centered on the bridesmaid (Figure 3 below, bottom right).
Step 4: Adjust Scale and Position
To create the final image, we need to change the scale and position of some of the images. Since we have five images, I have decided that the bride should be centered and larger than the other clips. To do this I reduce the scale of all of the other images to 50% and manually place them to each side of the bride.
The resulting image shown in Figure 4 (below) allows you to display all of the women in the wedding party at the same time. Not every wedding is the same, and you can change the positions and scale to match how many images you are using.
Step 5: Open the Nest Items Window
The next step is to select all of your clips and press Option-C to open up the Nest Items window (Figure 5, below). This combines all of your clips into one sequence from which it will be much easier to manipulate your composition.
You can still make adjustments to each individual layer at any time by double clicking on the nested sequence, which opens it up into the original prenested configuration.
Step 6: Rotate the Nested Sequence
In order to make changes to the nested sequence, we control click or right click on the sequence and select Open in Viewer from the pop-up dialog that appears (Figure 6 below, left). The viewer now sees this composition as one clip, so anything we do affects everything in the sequence. In this example, I apply a rotation to the sequence and, as you can see, the whole sequence rotates (Figure 6 below, right).
Step 7: Add a 3D Effect
If we want to add a 3D effect, it’s a simple matter of selecting Basic 3D from the effects menu (Effects > Perspective > Basic 3D). This allows us to move the graphic in 3D space. Each of the three parameters X, Y, and Z rotates the graphic on a different axis.
The best way to figure it out is to just play around with the three controls yourself and find a look that you like. You can even animate the effect with keyframes so that the image rotates over time, which is very cool (Figure 7 below).
Step 8: Create Other Looks
There are many more cool things you can do with nested sequences. By duplicating the same sequence we just created, dropping the opacity, adding a blur to the bottom, and adding a drop shadow to the top sequence, we create the look shown in Figure 8, below.
You can apply motion to one or both sequences to create a professional-looking motion graphic. This busy-looking graphic is perfect for a DVD menu, title sequence, or any other part of your video that needs a little extra polish, and it’s all done within Final Cut Pro without any extra plug-ins.
Joe McManus (joe at fvpro.com) is co-founder of Future Vision Productions, an award-winning wedding and event videography outfit based in London, Ontario. He was named to the 2005 EventDV 25. Contact Joe with Final Cut Studio-related questions and he’ll try to address them in Cut Lines.