My first official question. Could be FCP, could be Motion...
Okay, I've done some searching and not found what I'm looking for. That said, I'll try not to embarrass myself too badly here. Also, for the record, I have already figured a couple of workarounds to the issue, so nothing about this is time-critical, but I have a burning curiosity to see if anyone can confirm what I believe is going on here.
I'm doing what I thought would be a very basic comp in FCP (FCP7 within FCS3 on Snow Leopard 10.6.7 on a drool-worthy Mac Pro, for the curious).
The basic premise is a simple side-by-side video. One video track (V2, again for specificity's sake) on the left half of the screen, one video track (V1) on the right half. No big deal, crop and move each track, both video tracks show up fine, audio's working, everything hunky-dory.
Now, over these two video tracks, right down the horizontal center of the screen, I've dropped a graphics crawl that I exported from Motion. It's a simple, one-color (white) logo that crawls slowly. I've done this sort of thing a hundred times with no challenges until today.
As soon as the logo hits V7 (I like to leave a little space for other stuff - will collapse it down later), I lose visibility on track V2 (currently the left-side video) and only V2 in the Canvas, meaning the left side of the Canvas is now simply black. V1 is still completely visible with the appropriate right half of the crawl laid right over it. The entire crawl track is still visible. All audio still works, and an exported QT movie of the sequence has all video showing up again, but the Canvas simply refuses to show that intermediate track.
Here are some specs and things I've tried:
All video is 720p24 from a Panasonic HMC150. All ingested through L&T with no setting changes between ingest sessions. The footage should be identical.
The sequence is in the HDTV 720p (16:9) preset at 23.98 fps, square pixels, Apple ProRes 422 compressor. Same on I use as a default these days. Nothing new here.
The logo crawl is also 720p24 exported from Motion as a QT .mov file. Here's one place I think might be the catch. The version causing the problem was exported as the default ProRes4444+Alpha. It was *not* exported using the Animation setting. One of my workarounds included switching to that export setting in Motion. That works, but of course now requires me to render the timeline clips to view them in the Canvas.
I have tried moving the clips to different tracks. No matter what combination I use, the bottom track is always visible, and the intermediate track is never visible under the crawl, almost as if there were some perverted Traveling Matte thing going on. I have not designated any tracks as a Traveling Matte.
I have tried altering the Composite Mode of the logo clip. Since it's all white anyway, going with "Add", "Screen", or any of several other modes works fine and restores visibility to V2, but doesn't answer my questions as to why "Normal" isn't working where it's worked so often before. Plus, just like going with an "Animation"-class export from Motion, a different Comp Mode almost always requires a render.
Yes, this whole BG render thing is one thing I'm definitely looking forward to in FCPX. Not to mention actually using all sixteen logical CPU cores to do it.
I tried an uncropped track on V2. That showed up fine under the crawl, but of course defeated the whole purpose by completely covering V1.
So, it would seem this happenstance is narrowed down to one of several possibilities:
1) There is some difference between exporting a Motion project in straight ProRes4X4+Alpha and exporting it in "Animation"+Alpha. Both claim "Millions of colors +Alpha" and seem almost completely similar in the Motion settings window, so any info on this front would be a learning experience for me. The thing is, I've never had any trouble to date using the straight ProRes+A version, and many of my Motion exports have been more complex than this one. But okay, I'm happiliy willing to gain knowledge on this.
2) Maybe it's time to trash my FCP prefs to restore something that's gone wonky in my Canvas. Has it been a week already? Seriously, though, this is actually a refreshingly rare thing for me to have to do. FCP behaves itself ridiculously well on my BeefyMac. I can count the number of times I've had to do this on one hand over the last two years combined. Like I said, ridiculously well-behaved.
3) Something goes wonky as soon as I Crop a track. Couldn't tell you why, but then again, that's why I'm askin'.
4) Something else I'm missing entirely.
So, anything anyone can come up with is welcome. Again, I did try searching, so I apologize if this is one of those "RTFM" situations, but this is kind of unique in my experience after lurking here for the better part of a year and using FCP for over 2 years. Also, again, workaround is already discovered, so it's academic curiosity as much as anything else.
Thanks in advance for any insights,
All-Too-Infrequent Media Guy
Walt Disney Travel Company
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Wow! Long question.
Here's brief question in reply: why don't you simply do the entire effect in Motion? Render once, and you're done!
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA
Thanks for the response.
Yeah, I tend to get verbose in my desire to be complete and anticipate clarifying questions. "Sorry about that, Chief," to coin a phrase. Yes, I'm that old.
The crawl was created in Motion. I have a 20sec exported QT .mov that I lay into my FCP sequence several tracks above my video and then dupe to loop along the timeline.
That crawl will be visible throughout the entire 4-odd minute project. It's a vertical divider for my split screen video halves. Are you suggesting it would be easier to, say, do the whole video bare-bones in FCP and then export/send the entire sequence to Motion, and then lay the crawl down on top in Motion? That would be outside my cushy, sheltered, barely professional little comfort zone, but doable. It also would require me to be a lot less sloppy with my video cropping, since I'm using that logo to cover any seams between the video halves.
I know, rough life, but that's the way the project has come together so far.
[Brian Wells] "re you suggesting it would be easier to, say, do the whole video bare-bones in FCP and then export/send the entire sequence to Motion, and then lay the crawl down on top in Motion?"
I'm going to guess you haven't used After Effects. That's how us FCP/AE folks get the job done, all the time. Once you're used to the workflow, it's no big deal. You can do use Motion similarly. It simply demands that you make a few video editing decisions earlier in the workflow.
The plus in Motion: the scaling algorithms are much, MUCH better than those in FCP. You get a better-looking product. Personally, I wouldn't even THINK about doing any kind of remotely-complex effects work in FCP: too kludgey for my taste.
I use FCP for editing, down 'n dirty color correction, and adding alpha channel graphics -- both animated and still -- made in other applications better suited for the job. Like Motion.
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA
Thanks again, Dave, and you are correct, sir. AE has simply never been in our budget. We were extremely fortunate to get the full meal deal FCStudio two years ago. Fiscally speaking, I'm lucky to have the CS5 apps I do, and AE ain't one of 'em. To coin another phrase, "If there's a bright [budgetary] center to the galaxy of my employer, I'm in the line of business that it's furthest from." Buying a font causes much furrowing of brows and gnashing of spreadsheets around here. I keep crossing my fingers at LAFCPUG to get a copy of AE or Boris or something.
I'm certainly willing to give a new workflow a go, even if I have to be dragged, whining and slouching ("kicking and screaming" just takes too much work), out of the aforementioned comfort zone. Anything to advance my skillset toward a faster, more efficient, more professional rhythm.
But here's my line of questioning: I'm probably missing one or several things, but I'm not seeing that there's anything all that complex about this particular effect, and I've done this sort of thing a hundred times before in Motion: Animated the logo with a fully transparent background, exported a QT.mov clip out of Motion at the same res/rate as my FCP sequence, pulled that clip into FCP, laid said clip down on a high track in FCP, and everything's been hunky-dory. All alpha transparency's been good, etc. etc. Until now. And it's weird to me to see such a difference between exporting the Motion clip as ProRes4444+Alpha vs. Animation +Alpha. Since I often end up re-using my Motion logos in multiple FCP projects, using FCP as the central work hub has previously seemed to make sense, as opposed to making Motion the work hub and using FCP as little more than an editor.
Now again, I'm good with the animation export. It's working, so the project is fine, and I've kludged a substitute black bar to stand in for the full logo so I can edit in FCP until I'm ready to render'N'export the whole schmeer. I'm really just curious as to why the alpha channel should seemingly be so markedly different between the two Motion export settings.
So to get back to your AE insight, if I'm reading you correctly, the standard workflow for FCP/AE folks is to do only editing in FCP, export an edited sequence, pull that export into AE, and then do pretty much all the comp/logo/animation/effects/etc work there, rather than using AE to generate component clips that can then be laid on tracks back in FCP? So, using my earlier visualization, it seems that AE becomes the central work hub and FCP really just an editor that feeds AE?
Yoiks, I've gotten verbose again. Sorry, Dave. I really appreciate your taking the time to go 'round with me on this, and I promise, I'm asking because I realize every day how much I do not know.
Hey, no problem, Brian... we're having a nice discussion.
Y'know, I can honestly say that I have NEVER used FCP to create a file with transparency. I just don't trust the thing to do it properly. I find the exotic controls very cumbersome.
[Brian Wells] "...the standard workflow for FCP/AE folks is to do only editing in FCP, export an edited sequence, pull that export into AE, and then do pretty much all the comp/logo/animation/effects/etc work there, rather than using AE to generate component clips that can then be laid on tracks back in FCP?"
No such thing as a "standard workflow", I fear. Sometimes I'll work on exported clips, sometimes the entire sequence. If you're color grading in AE, it HAS to be the whole sequence. But if you have Color bundled with FCP, you'd use that.
Getting things into & out of AE can be problematic, since Apple & Adobe don't exactly play nice together. There's software called Automatic Duck that converts FCP edit timelines into AE Compositions, i.e. the things in which you do your effects voodoo. I guess the Motion analogue would be a project. Going out of AE, you have but one choice: rendering. You get used to it.
I find it's handy to build a personal library of alpha-channeled standard animations like animated lower-thirds for FCP, plus little-tiny loopable embellishments for use in AE; I call such things gizmos. I expect a library of such things would also be good in Motion.
I get the feeling Motion is mostly used for a couple of shots here and there in a project. Since i don't use it, I could be wrong about that.
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA
[Dave LaRonde] "Getting things into & out of AE can be problematic, since Apple & Adobe don't exactly play nice together. There's software called Automatic Duck that converts FCP edit timelines into AE Compositions, i.e. the things in which you do your effects voodoo. I guess the Motion analogue would be a project. Going out of AE, you have but one choice: rendering. You get used to it."
Lots of people use this workflow all of the time. One other thing I will point out is that users can export XML of their timeline out of FCP, import it into Premiere Pro and then send that to After Effects. You can either right click on the PR timeline to create an AE comp, or you could open AE and import the entire Premiere Pro timeline.
Thanks again, Dave. For a moment there, I was afraid I'd been doing it all wrong. :)
Yeah, so far, given the smaller-scale projects that are our usual fare here, it's generally been a lot easier to whip up graphics, logos, and even the occasional transition in Motion, export each as a complete self-contained clip, and then just bring each clip into FCP. That way, we still have all the clips for future use in other projects, and it's easier to wrap my head around the "top-down" nature of FCP's video track layout rather than the indented "layer-style" nature of Motion. I tend to gravitate toward more "modular" or "granular" approaches like that.
I think the most ambitious comp I've yet tried was a "Brady-Bunch" style 3X3 grid with all nine sections having both video and keyed stuff behind them. I honestly cannot currently remember if I did that in Motion or FCP - I'd have to dig it up and check...
Looks like even that ended up getting comped in FCP, though I can see that I did try it at least once in Motion, and I'm thinking it was due to the easier layering of all those tracks. I also vividly remember being scared silly when the FCP export clip ended up looking all distorted in and of itself, but then somehow was perfectly fine when brought back into FCP for the final stitchup.
As for AE, it is my genuine hope that I can budget that in for our next fiscal year, but I admit to also being interested to see what Apple's plans are regarding other FCS component applications after FCPX hits.
Anyway, thanks again for the insight and advice, Dave. The project's working fine with the Animation codec export clips out of Motion, and seems to be getting good feedback from my clients, and, like pretty much everything else I do, I wish I could post it for at-large feedback or bring something to LAFCPUG, but the copyrights are decidedly not mine.
Also thanks to Dennis for the Adobe plug. Sadly, Premiere's not likely to be on a high-priority list for me soon, but Web Premium is all I hoped it would be, and hopefully I'll get to play with AE soon.