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FCP X & 3rd Party Plugins - 2K VFX

Just wanted to share a little story illustrating one of the great things about FCP X… the capabilities you can add to the NLE with 3’rd party apps/plugins. Of course, some people believe that since FCP X doesn’t come with every option under the sun built in, it’s crippled. I am not one of those people. Case in point, Coremelt Slice-X and Track X.

A little back story… when we cut a trailer, we’ll often do a couple versions and let the client pick one, or combine bits from both. Recently, a version that I cut was not chosen (sad face) but a couple pieces from it were put into our other version. One of these bits contained a phone screen replacement I had done using Slice-X and Track X, so I had exported a comp for the other editor to use for the offline. Now, it’s time to finish it. Clean elements were supplied as 2K dpx files, which I exported from Resolve as 2K ProRes 4444 XQ movies to work with.

In addition to this shot, there were 3 other screen replacements that needed to be done, and the original thought was to do those, and redo this one, in After Effects. But, for whatever reason, AE wasn’t happy tracking this shot and Mocha was being… crashy. So rather than waste more time I just rebuilt it in FCP X with the clean 2K elements.

This was a tricky track. The phone was being typed on, so it was jumping around, not a smooth motion. Also, the actors thumb was of course flying all over the place above the screen. I can’t really show the clean shots until the trailer comes out, so I’ve included a blurred version (above) of what I was dealing with. Obviously there’s more to the shot… When the finished piece is out, I’ll update the post with a link [update: and here it is!], though what’s here will remain blurred and crappy looking..

Let me add a disclaimer in advance of any snide comments… I’m sure this could have been done in AE, (or Nuke, Flame etc etc.) but what I was doing in FCP X, right in the NLE, looked great so it was easier just to keep it there.

In the offline version, the Track X replacement went a little nuts when the thumb moved all the way across the screen, so I redid that and after a little futzing around, got a nice, solid, clean replacement. So I could more easily reposition the screen, I exported just that element as a comped movie. Next, I used Slice-X on the original clip to remove the entire screen, including the actors thumb. Those became the base layers.

I then used a fixed draw mask to cut out just the thumb, and used the built in keyer to get rid of the screen. Luckily, it was all shades of blue, and tweaking the key got rid of it all, while leaving the thumb with a clean edge.

Next bit was a tiny slice of the hand between thumb and forefinger that had a blue glow on it, used Slice X to track it, and got rid of the blue using the color board, the skin tone stayed the same so it blended right in, I just used a portion of it at the end and faded it in.

Finished up by adding an adjustment layer with Color Correction applied to get rid of the blue glow left over from the original screen. Since that made a mess of the color in the rest of the shot, I used Slice X to mask out just the phone section of the original shot in another copy of the clip, and placed that over the whole pile. A little tweaking, and it was done. Exported as a 2K 4444 XQ movie, and delivered as .tiff sequences via compressor. EZ. Here’s an annoying gif illustrating the pile of blurred parts with the complete shot blacked out.

As an added bonus, the client called and wanted the phone’s brand logo above the screen “painted out”. Slice X object remover got rid of it easily. Our AE artist said he didn’t think he could have done it any better, and definitely not as quickly. I also ended up doing 2 of the other 3 screen replacements in FCP X, as he was backed up recreating another temp comp I had made, involving turning a bright daytime city shot into a stormy night scene with lightning striking a building. lol That one was pretty complicated, and the AE version looks awesome. As I said, when the trailer is out I’ll link to it here. [Update: And here it is!]

Anyway… my point in all this is just to say that 3rd party plugins that add functions to FCP X are not a bad thing at all, quite the opposite actually. No jumping between apps, everything can be done – in this case in 2K with real time playback – without ever leaving the NLE. Yes, you need to bolt on the capabilities you need, but in the end it’s actually cheaper than buying or renting a bunch of specialized apps to do stuff like this.

That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of other programs that can do this, there certainly are. But, compared to Premiere and Media composer. FCP X is the only NLE that gives you the capability to do this without ever leaving the timeline. Also, it was easy, and fun.

P.S. I was taking the screenshots for this on my 3 year old MacBook air. The project actually played in real time with 4+ layers of 2k clips, 3 of which had Coremelt effects, masks, color correction applied. It was a little choppy, but the fact it played at all kind of surprised me.

Posted by: Charlie Austin on Mar 26, 2016 at 2:43:51 pm Workflow, compositing, FCPX, Tools

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