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Introducing Photoshop Layered Images in FCP X
David Smith on Mon, February 20th 0 comments
Working with layered Photoshop images was one of "those missing features" which has now made it into FCP X. David Smith paints a picture of how it has been implemented in 10.0.3.

If Apple had released Final Cut Pro X last summer looking something like that (which it does now) then the world would be a better place I hear you say? I cannot pretend that I do not agree with you.

One of the new features that's included in the .0.3 release that has really got me excited is the welcome return of layered Photoshop image support. It’s not a particularly tricky workflow—at Final Cut Pro X’s end anyway—but there are some areas that deserve further exploration. So, let's explore.

Firstly it’s important that we get our Photoshop image right; that will make life much easier in FCP X. 

Step 1 - Create a new Photoshop file

It's imperative that any Photoshop image that's intended to be delivered on a TV screen is created with that in mind from the outset. In Photoshop choose File > New or press Command-N and from the Preset options choose Film & Video. 

File new options

File > New options

Normally for an HD project I’d recommend setting the Color Profile to Rec 709, however I’ve noticed that FCP X doesn’t appear to support this yet (perhaps a bug) so I am using sRGB for now. 

Tip: For a more detailed article on creating graphics for TV using Photoshop read my MPVHub article here

Step 2 - Build a Multi-Layered Photoshop file

I’ve created an image that contains 3 content layers plus Masks, Adjustment Layers and Layer Styles (all 3 of which will not be supported in FCP X). 

finished Photoshop image

The finished Photoshop image

It’s your turn to create something similar. Once you are done save it and move on to Step 3.

Step 3 - Merge Adjustment Layers

Start by selecting any layers that have Adjustment Layers above them, plus their Adjustment Layers. Then Choose Layer > Merge or press Command-E

This will flatten those layers into one and in effect rasterize the adjustments and the effect of the layer will now appear in FCP X

Step 4- Rasterize Layer Masks

Any layers that might contain Masks or Clipping Masks must be either Merged as with step 3 or Rasterized. 

Rasterize mask

Rasterize mask

To Rasterize a Mask, select the layer and choose Layer > Rasterize > Layers.

Step 5 - Flatten Layer Styles

Layer Styles such as Drop Shadow or Outer Glow are a little trickier to rasterize. The secret here is to place a blank layer below the Layer containing styles. Select both layers and choose Layer > Merge Down or press Command-E

Merge Styles

Merge Styles

Once all the Masks, Layer Styles and Adjustment Layers have been Merged or Rasterized save the Photoshop file as a .PSD

Step 6 - Import to FCP X

Nothing too complex here: Select the event the Graphic is to be added to and choose File > Import > Files or press Command-Shift-I.

Select photoshop file

Select Photoshop file

Select the layered Photoshop file and press OK. The file appears in the Event Browser as a Compound Clip.

Step 7 - Open the Compound Clip

This can be done from the event browser, or after the clips have been edited to the Storyline. Either way the Compound Clip opens in the Project Timeline and appears in the viewer. 

Compound clip

Compound clip

The clip is separated into 3 story lines, one for each Photoshop layer (this is very similar to a nested sequence of tracks that Photoshop images created when imported into FCP 7).  

Step 8 - Show Video Animation

I want to start adding animation to some of the Photoshop layers so they will fade in and/or fly in from off screen. To help make this easier Right-Click on the Adjustments pop-up menu of the top track (in my case the text “2012”) and choose Show Video Animation or press Control-V

Animation timeline

The Animation timeline

Step 9 - Edit the Opacity

Double click on the timeline titled Compositing: Opacity to open it. Grab the handle at the start of the timeline 24 frames to the right. 

Opacity TL

The Opacity Time Line

This will create a 24-frame fade in, as indicated by the Black opacity line. 

Step 10 - Create a Second fade in

Repeat step 9 for the second track (in my case the text “Curling”). Only this time drag the handle to 48 frames, so the text takes twice as long to fade in. 

2 fades in

2 fades in

Once done, double-click on the opacity timeline to collapse it back down again. 

Step 11 - Add a Motion Path

Select the first track again (“2012”) and set the Animation Timeline to Transform: Position. This makes it easier to add and edit keyframes for the Position parameter. 

Transform: Position TL

Transform: Position

Step 12 - Modify the Position

Open the Inspector (Command-4) and in it click on the Transform Effect button to turn on the transform controls.  Use the Transform Controls to drag the layer containing text off screen. 

Modified Position

The Modified Position

In the Animation Timeline Option-Click on the timeline at the first frame to add a keyframe for that position.  

Step 13 - Create a Motion Path

Click in the Dashboard to move the Playhead position and type +58 and press Return. The playhead moves forward by 58 frames (10 frames past the second layer's fade in). This is where the “2012” text will stop moving along its path. 

Motion path

The Motion path

This time, just for a change, click on the Add Keyframe button in the Viewer to add a keyframe at the Playhead position. Drag the text layer to its final position (notice the red broken line indicating the motion path).

If you want to try a bit more experimentation, try adding some rotation to the animation, or scale...or maybe even both!

Step 14 - Modify the Timing

If the timing feels odd, then try dragging the keyframes forward and back in the Animation Timeline until it feels/looks right. 

Move keyframes

Move the keyframes

Just like legacy versions of Final Cut, FCP X has numerous ways to add and edit keyframes. For me, just like previous versions, the ability to Add, Remove and Move keyframes on a timeline is still the best method to use.

Step 15 - Playback

For the best preview experience press Cursor Up or Home to move the playhead to the start of the animated compound clip. Then press Shift-Command-F to view Full Screen. 

I hope you find the reintroduction of support for Photoshop Layered images in FCP X a useful tool. I’m sure you will, just like you always did right? 

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