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Useful Tools for Editors: After Oscars Edition

If you're editing the next Oscar-worthy project then some of these tools might come in handy

By Scott Simmons | February 25, 2013

It’s time once again for a little roundup of Useful Tools for Editors. This is the second one I’ve done since moving this category of posts back home to the Editblog. Today we’ll see a new book about Avid Media Composer, a handy tool to get clips out of Final Cut Pro X, a mask plugin for FCPX, a YouTube downloader and some cool dust particles for all your compositing needs.

mDust

MotionVFX has been around forever selling and blogging for all of an editor’s m needs. They were the “original home of Apple Motion templates” but probably wisely branched out beyond that market as they now develop plug-ins, effects and software. They have a bit of an emphasis on FCPX but there are tools for other NLEs and FX applications as well. One of those products is called mDust. What is mDust? It’s “a collection of 100 high quality Royalty Free organic 2K dust elements designed to be used within any compositing or non-linear editing software supporting blend or composite mode.” I’m not sure if there were any other dust packages available before mDust but I wasn’t aware of any and mDust just looks cool.

You may have heard of mDust not because you needed dust elements to composite but because there was a bit of a brouhaha a few weeks ago as another company apparently used some of the MotionVFX mDusts elements in their own dust package that they were selling. It’s an interesting, and also cautionary, tale that MotionVFX outlined in a blog post. It’s worth a read for sure.

mDust is $69 available at 2048x1152 at 24 fps (and that's actually 24 fps, not 23.98). At nearly 16 GBs it’s a big download but it’s broken down into sections. There is a sample file that can be downloaded to test it out.


Avid Media Composer 6.x Cookbook

The new Avid Media Composer 6.x Cookbook by Ben Hershleder isn’t an application or a plugin but rather a new book that includes “over 160 highly effective and practical recipes to help beginning and intermediate users get the most form Avid Media Composer 6 editing.” That’s a mouthful but there are a lot of good tips in here that most any editor will find useful.

There are a lot of helpful illustrations in the Avid Media Composer 6.x Cookbook

Ben is a longtime Avid editor and I’ve seen his name pop up over the years on forums and mailing lists. His book isn’t just a rewriting of the Media Composer manual but rather has chapter titles like Polishing Gems, Maintaining and Regaining Sync and Editing with Group Clips and MultiCamera Mode. There’s some good stuff in there. You can get the book in both paperback and electronic form. Prices begin at $49.99 for the dead-tree version and head down to (currently) $16.19 for Kindle. Head over to Ben’s site as he has a list of all the places the book is available.

It's not all timeline-based either as there are some helpful things to help editors better understand Media Composer's media management.

CinePlay for iOS

There’s quite a few video playing apps available for iOS but CinePlay is worth taking note of as it comes from Digital Rebellion, the developer of some must-have support tools for our NLEs. Pro Maintenance Tools or Pro Media Tools are two products that have found a place in many an editor’s toolbox so CinePlay might feel right at home on your iPad or iPhone.

Just read the features and you can see it’s a well thought out app:

  • Playback of movies stored in Camera Roll, the Videos app, Dropbox, transferred via iTunes, or H.264 movies located at a URL
  • All timings are referenced by timecode, with 00:00:00:00 as the start point if no timecode track is present
  • Step forward and back frame-by-frame
  • Add markers during playback and jump between them (iPad only)
  • Export markers to common marker list formats (iPad only)
  • Adjustable playback speed and looping
  • Mask and crop to various aspect ratios
  • Flip and rotate video
  • Draggable timecode overlay
  • 4:3 and 16:9 safe area overlays
  • Output timecode to Cut Notes
  • Editmote remote control
  • Export single frames to Camera Roll
  • Download videos from the web to your device
  • Airplay output

CinePlay is $9.99 and available on the iTunes App Store.


ClipExporter for Final Cut Pro X

As much as Final Cut Pro X is often touted as an all-in-one solution there are times when it would be nice to export elements into other applications, like vfx applications. ClipExporter for Final Cut Pro X is for moving clips and edits to things like Nuke, Syntheyes or After Effects. From that description you might expect ClipExporter to be expensive but it’s actually free and open source.

Here’s the bullet point from the ClipExporter website:

  • Export for After Effects. Translates complete projects to compositions.
  • Exports raw video clips as Quicktime reference or self-contained movies. These files can be opened in other applications like Mocha, Motion, PFTrack etc.
  • Exports Nuke files. All in-/out-frames and timeline positions match your exported Final Cut Pro X project.
  • Export for Syntheyes. A custom file format is created for import in Syntheyes.
  • Supports roles for selective export of a single clip or a group of clips.
  • Adds handle frames (optionally). Extends each clip length by a given number of frames.
  • Creates a shot based folder structure with naming conventions and custom subfolders.
  • Sorts all generated files into predefined subfolders.
  • Saves disc space by referring to the original source media. No files are copied.

The interface is simple. Click the little gear icon in the lower left for more preferences.

While the Nuke and Syntheyes support won’t be needed by everyone I can certainly see the After Effects support as being one of the most useful things to come along in a while, especially since FCPX still doesn’t have a Send to Motion feature for sending an edit or a piece of an edit to Apple’s own motion graphics application. I haven’t tried ClipExporter as of yet so be sure an give all the documentation a read on the ClipExporter website. There’s a specific section for the After Effects support.


MacX YouTube Downloader

In the ever sketchy world of downloading YouTube videos there are solutions that seem to come and go. MPEG Streamclip has been able to do this for a while but when I tried with their latest version a few weeks ago it wouldn’t work. The other day I came across MacX YouTube Downloader. We have all had the client request to grab a piece of video off of YouTube and while probably not entirely legal it’s often the only option you’re given. YouTube downloading seems to be a cat and mouse gave in that a solution will work for a while until YouTube breaks it. Who knows how long MacX YouTube Downloader will work (with a name like that I’m betting not forever) but it has worked so if you need to get something off YouTube then this could be one option. Just remember it’s probably not legal so there ya go.

The MacX interface is simple and best if all you can queue up several downloads at once.

SliceX

SliceX is a handy little $79 tool for adding animatable shape masks within Final Cut Pro X. Oh how handy a nice masking tool can be and SliceX includes a number of features like different templates and the ability to keyframe the control points in shape mask. I haven’t used SliceX yet but I’ve got something coming up where it could be very useful so I was researching it the other day (unfortunately I missed the sale CoreMelt had on the product).

SliceX has a lot of nice tools. There's all the preset shapes you see above as well as tools for drawing your own.

Another cool thing is that SliceX includes an Object Remover option that can be used to clone a section of the frame. As the example on the SliceX webpage shows it could be a quick way to remove an object from the frame provided the image is right. SliceX doesn’t look like it can do all that the Avid Media Composer Animatte effect or Paint effect can do but it does look like a quite useful tool for FCPX.

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