FCP X tools, Part 1 – Transitions

For the next few blog posts, I’m going to discuss some of the options you have to pimp out Final Cut Pro X on your system. Although Apple threw a monkey wrench into the business model of most FCP developers last year, many have stepped up to the plate with innovative new offerings. The effects in FCP X and Motion 5 are based on FxPlug. Any effects inside FCP X are actually Motion 5 templates. Because FCP X optimization is required, not all FxPlug filters work in either application. In some cases, installed FxPlug filters will show up in the FCP X and Motion 5 browsers, but not work. In other cases, they may work in Motion 5, but not FCP X. This means developers have to create updated versions to have them work in FCP X.

Make sure if you purchase third-party plug-ins for FCP X that they do, in fact, actually work with FCP X. The good news is that many that do, have been designed to install and work in a range of hosts, including FCP 7, FCP X, Motion 5, After Effects and even Premiere Pro. Although I am writing these posts with FCP X in mind, remember that for many of these products, the same pointers apply to using them inside After Effects, unless otherwise stated.

Due to the nature of how effects in Motion 5 and FCP X work, there’s also a burgeoning crop of free effects designed by curious editors. This is a similar situation to many of the free FxScript filters created in the early days of Final Cut. Motion 5 effects can be tweaked and exported as an FCP X effect, so a number of developers have taken to creating and offering custom effects that fill in some of the gaps. These aren’t new filters, but rather modified versions and combinations of existing Motion 5 filters that come with the software. As these are built upon the underpinnings of the software, most are reasonably lightweight and will play in real-time or render quickly.

I’ve decided to write these next few FCP X posts based on types of tools, rather than individual products. So, you’ll see a company mentioned in more than one post, depending on whether I’m talking about transitions (as in this post), effects, grading, etc. Of course, I haven’t and won’t cover them all, as this is just meant to give you a sampling of the growing FCP X ecosystem.

Digital Heaven

Digital Heaven has long been known as a developer of Final Cut-related tools. Not just effects, but a range of productivity applications designed to improve the editing experience. With that in mind, their effects packages aren’t the all-encompassing set of effects offered by the bigger developers. Instead, they design individual effects to meet the common needs that editors face every day. Think of their effects and software as affordable, handy items to have in your toolkit. For FCP X they’ve created the Transitions Pack (FCP X only) – a set of six filters covering commonly used transitions. These include Flare, FrameRoll, LightFlash, LightRays, StretchPan and Shutter.

To apply an effect, simply drag-and-drop it on a cut. To make adjustments, highlight the transition and open the Inspector pane. There, a limited number parameters can be altered, such as angle, direction or whether a lens flare has a warm or cool color temperature. These effects have a nice, organic quality and play well in real-time (unrendered) as well as are easily skimmable on the timeline. It’s not a huge collection, but for a small investment, you get a nice set of transitions to bail you out of that spot when the client wants something other than a dissolve.


Noise Industries was the first developer to leverage the power of Apple’s Quartz Composer technology. The collection of partners under the FxFactory umbrella represents a truly eclectic set of tools, effects and transitions, ranging for basic filters to stereo 3D. Most of these effects run in all versions of FCP, Motion and After Effects, although you have control over that in the FxFactory application, which functions as a common platform for control and installation. Along with its partners, Noise Industries develops its own effects, which includes a useful set of transitions. The usual blur dissolves and flashes are all there, but for something a bit more unique, try some of the geometry-based transitions, like Accordion or Origami. Thanks to their tight FxPlug integration, most of the FxFactory transitions play well on most computers.

Boinx – FxTiles

The next few paragraphs will cover effects offered by some of Noise Industries’ partner developers. Their effects can be purchased and then serialized through the FxFactory application. The Boinx FxTiles transitions are two simple 3D shatter effects. The outgoing image shatters and then rebuilds as the next incoming image. Although that’s a very simple description, given their complexity, image particle effects has never been so smooth in the past as Boinx has been able to achieve.

idustrial revolution – Volumetrix, ParticleMetrix

idustrial revolution (also through Noise Industries) offers a series of volumetric lighting effects that perform as wipes. They can be applied to video, masks and titles. Volumetrix is a light-based package with settings for color, direction, glow parameters and more. ParticleMetrix uses a similar technique, except that particle effects are used. This can take the form of certain shapes (like text) that become a wipe element. Or the image can be broken up in a pixie dust effect. Each filter offers plenty of customizable parameters to create effects that don’t all look like a preset transition.

XEffects Tech Transitions

A different set of transitions, also developed by idustrial revolution is Tech Transitions. This is a set of transitions based on grids, wipes, repeated images and image zooms. The general feeling of these effects is more high-tech and offers a style somewhat reminiscent of the TV show 24.  Like others that are part of the FxFactory filter products, these play well in real-time.

Nattress Film Transitions

Noise Industries has been on a roll adding new partners. One is Nattress, who has ported a number of its popular effects to FxPlug and the FxFactory platform. These include a set of film transitions, including frame slip effects, film burns and film dissolves.

SUGARfx Punchline

Possibly the coolest new transition package from FxFactory is Punchline from SUGARfx. These effects employ montage-style transitions that use wipes and sliding colorized images. Some take the form of grids with multiple images pulled from the outgoing and incoming clips. These all have a very unique look, that would normally take a considerable amount of compositing to duplicate in any other fashion.

Luca Visual FX – Grunge Collection

The last set of transitions I’ll mention that are available via Noise Industries and FxFactory are part of the Grunge Collection from Luca Visual FX. The Collection includes filters, generators and transitions with light leaks, sprocket slips, film leaders and more. Sprocket Slip and Light Kit are the two packs available as FCP X transitions. Each package has a tons of options, with plenty of parameters that can be customized.

The Spocket Slip transitions play better when rendered, because most include some motion blur settings. There are various perf sizes and speed variations. Most of the effects involve seeing the perf  holes on the edge of the frame during the transition, which is a nice touch. The Light Kit transitions are based on simulated film burns with an accompanying wipe between images. I’ll cover some of the other Grunge Collection products in other posts. Although many packages offer similar effects, it’s hard to find one that offers such a range in this single genre, as does Luca’s Grunge Collection.

GenArts Sapphire Edge

Rounding out this entry is Sapphire Edge available from GenArts. Long held as the “gold standard” of effects, GenArts has sought to broaden its appeal through the lower cost Sapphire Edge package. It’s a preset-based effects tool that combines several of GenArts’ filters. The presets you own can be expanded via a subscription to their FxCentral website (first year included) and installation of Edge adds both the filter and transition effects. The latter includes a set of 14 basic transition styles, including flares, glow dissolves, TV channel changes, wipes and more.

Apply the effect in the same manner as the others. In the Inspector, certain parameters can be tweaked. If you want more options, click on the “load preset” button, which launches the external GenArts Preset Brower application. Different options are listed by genres, so you can search by type. For example, holiday-themed looks. The browser thumbnails will be populated with your images at the cut, so you can quickly see how each preset transition will actually look with your video. Load the one you like and exit back to FCP X. The timeline transition will automatically be updated to the preset you have chosen.

Sapphire Edge offers tons of options. If you like to quickly browse presets without having to fine-tune the effect yourself, Edge is the only browser-based tool available for transition effects in FCP X at this time. It doesn’t play quite as well in real-time as some of the others mentioned, so render for best results.

More on “utility effects” in the next post.

©2012 Oliver Peters