Creative Commons License


In addition to editing tasks, Final Cut Pro allows you to perform basic compositing and motion graphics animation right within your sequences. Using a combination of the Motion tab, the Canvas window's wireframe mode and keyframes you can layer graphics or video on top of each other, scale, rotate and resize your clips, and then animate these changes over time.

As with every task in Final Cut there are several ways to approach the process of changing a clip's motion properties - we'll start with the most precise method, using the motion tab.

The Motion Tab

Once you have a clip, title or graphic on the timeline you can begin to change it's motion properties by first double-clicking it to open it up in the Viewer. At the top of the Viewer are several tabs - click on the one labeled motion and you will be shown this: This is the default layout for the motion tab, with the basic motion section open and all others closed - this is because the basic motion controls are the most frequently used. We'll look at the other sections in a few minutes, but first let's take a look at some of the controls here. In order to see these properties change as you move the controls, make sure your timeline playhead is over the clip you are editing so that it is visible in the canvas window.
1. Scale
This is a pretty straightforward control - it lets you make your clip larger or smaller. You can either drag the slider or enter a numeric value (as a percentage of the clip's original size) in the box next to the slider. Remember, making a digital image or video clip smaller always looks fine, but making it too much bigger can make it look fuzzy and pixelated - the computer can only guess at what the new pixels should look like.
2. Rotation
This control lets you rotate the clip around it's anchor point (which is the center of the clip by default; you can change the center point below if desired). You can either drag the 'clock' hand to rotate your clip or enter a numeric value (in degrees) in the number box. Until you start animating , values over 360 degrees aren't too meaningful because the image will have made a complete revolution (i.e. there's no visual difference between 0 degrees of revolution and 360). However, once we start animating these properties with keyframes you can use higher values to make the clip spin through more than one revolution.
3. Center
This control's name is a little deceptive because what you are actually changing is not the center of the clip but the clip's position in the canvas window (and therefore on the video screen). There are two ways to change this setting. You can set an actual position in pixels using the numeric boxes if you know exactly where the clip should be. These boxes represent the horizontal (left box) and vertical(right box) position of your clip in the canvas window relative to the center of the window. Thus 0,0 is right in the center. a horizontal value of 360 places the clip on the right edge of the screen, and a value of -360 places it on the left edge (this is because our total video is 720 pixels wide, 720/2 = 360). For the horizontal value 240 centers the clip on the top edge of the frame and -240 centers it on the bottom (480 pixels tall divided by 2 is 240).

The easier way to position your clip is to just click on the little crosshairs button next to the numeric boxes, and then click and drag in the canvas window to position your clip. This isn't as precise, but it lets you see and make adjustments visually which is often easier than trying to figure out the exact pixel position you want.

4. Anchor Point
The anchor point is the point at which all the other controls are applied to your clip - the clip rotates around the anchor point, scaling is done around this point, and this point is what is set at the center control position. By default the anchor point is the exact center of the clip, but you can change it here by entering a new value (this works just like the center values, 0,0 is the center of the clip and you go positive or negative depending on which direct you want to move the center point in). Unfortunately they don't give a crosshairs control for this property, so you may need to use some trial and error to find the new point you want.
5. Reset button
Clicking on this button (with the little red X in it) will reset all the basic motion properties for this clip. Each of the other categories (crop, distort, opacity, etc) has it's own reset button so you can reset one without changing the others. This resets the clip at all times, meaning if you have any keyframes for these properties they will be deleted and the clip goes back to it's original state.
That covers the basic motion controls which all clips have. We'll return to this shot in a few minutes to look at some of the other controls, but first lets take a quick look at the other categories of motion controls.


Crop trims pixels off the edges of your clip - each edge has it's own control. You can use this to select just a portion of the clip to be visible, but what you may find yourself using it for more often is to trim off 'junk' from the edges of your video clips. When you scale down a video clip you will often see a few pixels of black or noise along the edges where non-picture information is stored. This is not a problem when the clip is full-screen because these pixels are at the very edge of the screen, but once you start scaling or moving the clip they will be noticeable. The crop controls let you trim off just the few pixels you don't want on just the edge you need to.


These controls let you distort the clip by moving the four corners independently of each other. Unfortunately it can be difficult to get the effect you want numerically - we'll talk about distorting clips visually later in these notes. However, the aspect slider can be useful if you want to make your video appear squashed either horizontally or vertically.


This is basically just a slider which allows you to make your clip more or less transparent so that layers below it on the timeline can show through.

Drop Shadow

While this is more of an effect than a motion property, you can click the small checkbox next to the word drop shadow to add a shadow to your clips. The clip will have to be scaled down for you to see the shadow (otherwise the shadow goes off screen) unless you are using it on text or a graphic which has transparency within it. The controls are pretty similar to what you find in photoshop or other programs with a drop shadow. Offset moves the shadow farther or closer to the clip itself. Angle sets the position of the shadow (i.e. if a light were to the right of your text the shadow would fall on the left). Color lets you change the shadow from the standard black to another color. Softness gives the shadow either fuzzy or sharp edges, and opacity makes it blend in more or less with the layer(s) below. You can also use the drop shadow controls to create a glow effect by setting the Offset to 0, Color to something bright, and then turn the softness up until you get to glow you like.

Motion Blur

When a film or video camera records something the shutter allows light to reach the film or sensor for a fraction of a second, usually around 1/50th of a second. An object that is moving fast will actually change position during that fraction of a second causing the image to blur slightly - this is motion blur. The motion blur setting simulates or exaggerates this effect in your video by blending multiple frames together to create a slight ghosting effect. The samples option lets you choose how many frames to blend together - more samples equal more blur and less of an 'echo' effect, but they also take longer to render. The %blur control affects how far apart in time the sampled frames are taken - farther apart makes for a more exaggerated blur, but it also requires more samples to make it look like a blur and not an echo. While this will create a blur/echo effect within video clips, it's main purpose is to add blur to motion created by animating something like a clip or text, which we'll look at soon.

Time Remapping

This property allows you to change the speed of a clip within the clip itself - parts of it can go fast while other parts play at normal or slow speeds. It's a fairly complex topic so I'll cover it separately in another lecture.


All of these properties can be changed over time using keyframes. I've already covered the basics of keyframing on the timeline in the audio and effects lectures, so here I'm just going to cover a few new controls/options we haven't used before. Returning here to the original Motion tab shot we've got a few things we haven't talked about yet. We'll actually start backwards with number 8 - this is a mini-timeline which lets you see the keyframe dots and lines for each property in the clip. This is the same thing and works the same way as the timeline keyframing we did last week with filters except that you can see all the properties and their keyframes at once (instead of doing it on the timeline where you have to control-click and select the one property you want to view). The dots are keyframes and the line represents a change in value over time between two keyframes. You can change the time or value of each keyframe by dragging it, and you can use the pen tool to add or subtract keyframes from each property.

In the default screen configuration this portion of the window is pretty cramped. If you are doing a lot of effects you may want to make the viewer window wider so that you can see more of the timeline in this area - if you have two monitors you may want to move this window(or even just the motion tab itself) to your second screen so it can be stretched out even more.

The lines and keyframes for individual properties are green - at the top of this area you can see a grey bar which has blue keyframe icons on it - this shows you a composite of all keyframes across all properties. You can use the drop down menu (6) next to each group of properties to choose which ones should show up in the top bar. This area is used for reference only and you don't actually edit the keyframes up there.

Between each property and the keyframe track is a set of controls for creating and accessing keyframes (7). The middle button with a small diamond in it is for adding a keyframe at the current position - you only need to use this when adding a keyframe without changing the value, or for adding the very first keyframe to a track (which you could also do with the pen tool if you choose). On either side of this button are little arrows which let you jump to the next or previous keyframe for that property - this is a much better way to change the value of a keyframe than to try to drag the playhead over the keyframe. Using the arrows means you are right on top of the keyframe, when you try to drag on top it's easy to be off by a single frame and add a new keyframe instead of editing the old one. When there are now keyframes before or after the current point in time, these arrows will be grayed out.

Visually Editing in the Canvas Window with Wireframe Mode

Sometimes the motion tab isn't the most efficient way to edit motion parameters - for instance, you may want to put a title on screen above a person's head, but you don't necessarily know where that position is numerically. In that case you can change things like position, scale and rotation in your canvas window using wireframe+image mode: To switch into this mode use the view options drop down at the top of the canvas window (1) and choose image+wireframe (you can use wireframe-only if you want to speed up previews of motion but you will see only the outlines of layers and not the layers themselves).

Once you are in wireframe+image mode you will see an outline and X on any clip you select. You will also see a small number at the middle of the X (it's a little difficult to see in the screenshot but the number is 2) and this number indicates which track the currently selected clip is on.

If you click and drag on the dots at the corner of the outline (3) you can scale the image up or down just by dragging it. If you click anywhere in the image and drag it you can change it's position on screen. If you click on the edge of the clip you can rotate it by dragging your mouse.

If you have added position keyframes over time you will see a 'motion path' indicating the path the clip will take as it moves (4-5). Green dots on this are keyframes, and you can use the smooth point tool (the third pen tool in the tool window, or press 'P' three times) to change these keyframes between linear (5) or bezier (4) interpolation. You can then move the keyframe handles to change the curve of the motion path.

You can also distort or crop your clip in the canvas window, but you need to switch tools to do so. On the toolbar below the zoom tool (magnifying glass) is an icon for the crop tool (looks like photoshops's crop tool) and if you click and hold on that button there is a second tool available for distortion. You can also use the keyboard shortcuts 'C' for the crop tool and either 'CC' or 'D' for the distort tool. The crop tool works by dragging the edges of a clip in or out to increase the crop amount, and the distort tool works by dragging the corner points of the clip to change it's shape.

I've covered a lot of things here but they all center around the basic idea of changing properties of a clip over time. I'd recommend practicing with just one or two properties at a time on each clip until you feel you've got a handle on how all this works - otherwise it can be easy to end up with a mess of keyframes that are difficult to sort out. Even when I'm going to animate a lot of the properties on a single clip I tend to work with one at a time - for instance, get the basic movement of a clip worked out before you start changing opacity or rotation, etc.

While the basic motion properties will probably preview in real time, once you start using the others you will usually have to render (unless you've got a really fast computer). Remember you can preview your clip (not real time but as fast as the computer can render it) using either Option-P or the Quickview window (see the filters notes for info on Quickview).