On Thursday, Dec 19, Apple released an important new update to Final Cut Pro X, its flagship editing program. The update is free for all current users of FCP X and available through the Apple App Store. We’re updating our Essential Training course to include this version. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of things you need to know about the update.
First, FCP X 10.1 requires OSX Mavericks, so if you’re on an older system, you’ll need to download and update Mavericks before you can update FCP X. Mavericks is also a free update from Apple, and we’ve got a great course to get you up to speed with the new features of this latest OS from Apple. As with all updates, it’s crucial that you back up your important data before proceeding. I’ve had no problem on my system, but there have been reports of problems with Mavericks upgrades, and it’s always better safe than sorry!
Efficiency and flexibility are not just marketing terms, they’re what make motion graphics achievable. Creating moving images is incredibly labor intensive, and once all that labor is done, you still have to hit the render button and wait to preview the result. Being efficient is crucial to meeting deadlines.
Creating a workflow that allows you to swap and modify key elements at any point in the production process is what XRefs are all about. An XRef is a special object that points to a scene file much in the same way a print program, like Illustrator, points back to a master image and uses the original file from the hard drive for printing. Visually, the XRef appears to you as a single object, but it actually represents all the objects in the scene that it’s pointing back to. This means that you can make changes to that scene file, and any XRef that points back to it will automatically update. This also means, since R13 XRef objects allow you to reference a CINEMA 4D file as a single object, that you can manipulate an XRef from an entirely different scene, thus allowing for distributed workflows where one person is modeling while another person animates. This makes for a very flexible way to work.
In this week’s Design in Motion video, I’ll show you how to add an XRef into your animation, and I’ll show you a real-life scenario where having XRefs set up allows me to easily swap two cars in a chase scene, with two completely different cars—all without having to update my animation. If you’re new to XRefs, this tutorial quickly breaks the process down to help you get started. XRefs have made last-minute director swaps quick and easy for me many times, and they can save you, too!
The overall XRef experience has been significantly improved in CINEMA 4D R13. To learn more about those improvements, check out my full CINEMA 4D R13 New Features course on lynda.com. If you are a lynda.com member, make sure to check out chapter five, where I discuss R13 workflow additions, including a specific video on the Xrefs format rewrite.
Floors create a sense of visual depth and give your designs a sense of space by giving your graphic elements something to ‘sit on.’ Making a reflective floor can be a great way to add an elegant look to your motion graphics layout. When you first see a reflection on a graphic element, trying to recreate it can seem like a daunting task. Really though, there are some techniques that have been carried over from the world of Photoshop that are simple to do, look great, and render fast.
On this edition of Design in Motion, we’ll see two different techniques for creating a reflective floor, one that explores transformation of a duplicate layer, and one that creates your reflective floor with a mirror. Both techniques yield final products that look very similar. The real difference in the two will be the amount of control you need. Using the reflective mirror route allows you to finalize this technique using only one layer, but this route gives you less control. Using the transformation of a duplicate later route you will end up with more layers, but also more control.
Controlling how your objects look in 3D really boils down to asking yourself one important question: What is my object made of? How you answer that question becomes your guide for how you will create the materials that you apply to your objects in 3D. The Material editor in CINEMA 4D has an array of buttons that can be confusing until you start thinking of them as answers to that one most important question.
In this video I dig into the Material editor and show you how to add texture and color to your object using the Color channel, and Specular highlight. To add the distressed look, I show you how to use a Bump channel (found in the Basic tab of the Materials editor) to add in gritty noise, Diffusion to simulate light reflection, and Displacement to add physical surface indentations and deformations. Together, these properties can be manipulated to create a great looking metal material that can be applied to standard type.
Workflow, speed, and efficiency make for a strong CS6 update to veteran production applications Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. Next week, Adobe will be revealing the updated Premiere and After Effects apps at the NAB convention in Las Vegas, and lynda.com authors Chris Meyer and Rich Harrington have created two lynda.com tutorials that walk you through the important new CS6 features.
In After Effects CS6 New Features, Chris Meyer explores the brand-new 3D camera tracker, which analyzes a piece of video footage and reconstructs a virtual digital camera that matches the scene perfectly. With that camera and tracking data, motion graphics and visual effects artists can seamlessly place digital elements into moving video. In addition, there is also a completely redesigned Global Performance Cache that dramatically speeds up interactions by saving crucial information about layers and how they’re put together into a locally stored data file. This locally-stored data allows After Effects to quickly undo changes, and present ram previews much faster. It can even reload cache after quitting and relaunching the application.
In this clip from After Effects CS6 New Features, Chris Meyer shows you the process of exporting 3D tracking data to CINEMA 4D:
Looking at our second featured course, Rich Harrington sums up the big changes to Adobe’s flagship editing application in Premiere Pro CS6 New Features. The elegant new Premiere Pro editing interface is exciting, but it’s the introduction of adjustment layers that will make heads turn. Adjustment layers have long been a part of After Effects, but the accelerated effects of the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro mean that editors can now use adjustment layers to apply effects like color correction to an entire timeline, and make changes in real time without stopping playback.
In this next movie from Premiere Pro CS6 New Features, author Rich Harrington shows off the new three-way color corrector in Premiere Pro CS6:
These two New Features courses are great for long-time users of Premiere and After Effects. For a ground-up introduction to each, keep an eye out for our Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6 essential training courses coming soon.
In After Effects Apprentice 15: Final Project (the fifteenth, and final, course in the After EffectsApprentice series based on the second edition of Trish and Chris Meyer’s book After Effects Apprentice) you will pull together skills you’ve learned in the previous After EffectsApprentice lessons to create a real-world video promo. In the first half of the course Trish leads you through building the artwork and components used in the final piece, and then Chris demonstrates how to assemble your precompositions into a 3D world, timed to music. Skills covered include how to use masks, effects, shape layers, text, layered Illustrator files, blending modes, track mattes, collapsed transformations, nested compositions, motion blur, expressions, animation presets, audio, a 3D camera and light, and more.
Throughout the course, Trish and Chris share with you their process and thoughts as they design component elements, work towards assembling a final composition, and deal with handling change requests from clients. Chapters 11 and 12, the final two chapters of the course, are essentially mini-courses in themselves. In chapter 11, Chris breaks down several strategies for efficient rendering, including how to create versions for archiving, non-linear editors, widescreen, center cut, and the web, and chapter 12 dives into the process of recreating a dial Illustrator logo using shape and text layers inside After Effects.
Although After Effects Apprentice 15: Final Project concludes the After Effects Apprentice series, this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of Trish and Chris as they’ve already promised to update their After Effects Apprentice book based on the next version of After Effects, and afterward will release additional Apprentice videos covering the new features, plus a new final project.
Animation has a way of connecting with a viewer that is very different than a still image. The power of a still image or illustration lies in its composition and content. Animation on the other hand, adds timing and movement into the mix, and these elements are an important tool you can use to communicate with your audience.
The speed and direction that your graphic elements move in tell your viewer information that adds to the overall content and composition of your piece. If your object moves quickly and comes to a sudden stop, then, that could be combined with a dark, intense composition to communicate a sense of drama and action. Smooth, fluid movements could work well for romance, or even a somber mood. Sharp, punchy moves are great for comedy.
This kind of subtle animation is all about control. Both After Effects and CINEMA 4D have excellent graph editors that will allow you to really express emotion through your animation. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out this week’s Design in Motion tutorial titled Styling animation to communicate emotion (embedded up top), then check out my CINEMA 4D R12 Essential Training course, or After Effects Apprentice 03 by Chris and Trish Meyer. Both courses have chapters that go into detail about controlling your animation with curves.
The tracking tools in After Effects allow you to select a spot in a video clip, lock onto it, and then use that movement for effects and compositing. This week on Design in Motion, we’re going to take a look at 2D tracking, a tool that gives you position information for elements moving on X and Y—or left right (X), up down (Y).
Tracking this kind of movement in clips is often the first step in the effects process, and the information it generates can be used to place elements into the footage to match camera movement. 2D tracking information could also be used to drive a particle effect that adds “magic” to the end of a magic wand. Today we are going to specifically work on selecting a spot in a video clip, inserting a piece of type into a piece of video footage, and having the inserted type stick to the motion of the spot we selected to track.
When you’re ready to do a 2D track you need to ask a few questions: What do I want to accomplish with the track? Is the object or spot I’m trying to track moving or is it moving and rotating? Another important question is whether or not your feature is moving in Z space as well. If your feature is moving in Z space, then you’re going to need a different type of tracking and tracking tool that we’ll dive into in a future edition of Design in Motion.
2D tracking is an important part of many visual effects and compositing workflows. If you’re interested in learning more about the tracking tools in After Effects, watch After Effects Apprentice 12: Tracking and Keying, from Chris and Trish Meyer. If you’re specifically interested in learning more about how to stabilize jerky handheld video footage, check out After Effects CS5.5 New Creative Techniques, also from Chris and Trish Meyer, to learn more about a great new tool called the Warp Stabilizer. Chris and Trish Meyer will help you become a tracking master!
Design in Motion is a weekly series of creative techniques featuring short projects using After Effects and CINEMA 4D. Taught by motion graphics expert Rob Garrott, the course covers how color correction, expressions, rendering type, lighting, and animation are used in each program, and the topics are updated weekly. Using these tips and tricks, motion graphics designers will find designing to be a more efficient process. Exercise files are included with the course.