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Final Cut Pro: Adding Lighting Effects in Post demonstrates how to use any version of Final Cut Pro to easily add animated lighting effects to existing footage. Going beyond basic techniques, Chris Meyer shares his personal experience and uses many examples to teach the best way to select and fine-tune lighting clips to enhance a variety of underlying shots. He presents techniques for subtle enhancements that will help hold the viewer's attention while adding production value to virtually any shot.
Now let's work with some clips that were shot very nicely, but which we'd like to add even more excitement too. Here's a clip of a businesswoman slowly turning around while removing her glasses. Someone did a nice job composing this. They have a nice blurred out background. They have her in silhouette against the background. But there is just not a lot going on in here, there is no light change going on in the background, and frankly her face is a little underlit for my taste. So let's see what we can do with the scene. Go back to home. Let's try this lighting clip. This is a nice bit of cloudy footage slowly moving. It has a nice center focus with darkened edges. This looks like a good candidate.
I will right-click, choose Composite Mode, and we'll start off with Overlay mode. Now we've got some more color going on. This was before and after. So if nothing else, the color in my lighting clip has made this scene look richer. I'm at Home, let's Play. Now I've got some animation, there is something subtle going on in the background. We haven't changed the basic character of this clip. We've just enhanced it by animating the lights rather than the lights being static. Let's try another idea.
Now here's another clip that is basically the same as the previous clip, cloudy footage, blue, out of focus, but you'll notice this orientation is quite different. It's bright in the corner; it's dark in the upper corner. It has this kind of a diagonal orientation to it. But our underlying footage was very vertical. She is in the middle, vertical bright parts in either side. These two clips don't really match in their composition. Let's put it in Overlay mode and I'll just show you how this works. Overlay, Home, and Play, and you'll see what my problem is here. I'm very dark. I have not enhanced her. But meanwhile, I've got too interesting of a corner happening down here in the lower right. My lighting footage is adding lighting in the wrong place. It's moving my focal point away from her. It just doesn't work.
That's why the selection is so important. Let's try another lighting idea. This is a fun clip. It has lights streaming down from the top of the frame. Go ahead and Play. You'll see how that one works out. There's a strong vertical orientation, which kind of matches my underlying footage, which is also vertical. Let's put these together. Now when I have a shot that's basically black with white added, I'll try a composite mode of either Add or Screen. If that's too strong, I'll open up its Motion tab, pull down Opacity and reduce its opacity so it's not quite as strong of an effect. Home, Play, and now you'll see I've got some nice light streaming across this image, as if this light was present in the original scene.
It's a nice enhancement. It just adds some excitement to the scene. It's kind of fun. Of course, you can try out other blending modes as well. For example, you might try something like Overlay mode. Increase the Opacity, so it's a much more severe effect. That's too much. Maybe try Soft Light, which is a lighter version of Overlay. That's interesting. Home and Play, and that's a nice final result. We have not changed the idea of the original clip, so you are not going to get your client angry with you. You've just enhanced the underlying clip. Let's try another one.
Here is a nicely shot industrial scene of some gears. You'll notice that the gears have nice motion. They have nice lighting on them, nice highlights, dark shadows behind, but there is just not a lot of motion in this clip beside the gears rotating. There is just no movement or light play going on. So let's make this more interesting. I'm going to turn on this lighting layer that we looked at earlier. You notice that it has nice, subtle motion, and again, it has a color, a slight clay, reddish tint, which complements my underlying footage. I'm going to suggest a mode, such as, again Overlay, just as the starting point. So drag my time marker through here, you'll see it's adding some various enhancements, bright areas and shadows to the scene.
I'm going to preview this first at full strength just so you can see what it looks like and now you see that I just have some very simple subtle movement of light and dark going across these gears. It's nothing too severe, nothing that changes the shot. It just adds some interest because the shot is changing over time, subtle and a nice enhancement. Let's try something a little bit more obvious. Here is another lighting background that might work. Again, it's very orangish, which kind of goes that red clay background. I'm going to go ahead and preview it for you here, nice wandering swirling motion. Let's go ahead and try that one.
Again, I'll select Overlay mode as my first shot. Add lot of very rich tones to the underlying footage, Home and Play. Now you'll see I've got some much more obvious light play going on across the metal bars on the top and the bottom, and across the gears themselves. I haven't changed the shot; I've just enhanced the lighting on the shot. If it's too severe, I'll double-click it, open its Motion tab, drop its Opacity and back it off, so it's not quite severe. There is the original shot, and there is with just a bit of enhancement in the scene, a little bit more color, and a little bit more shadow and light play across it, just adding interest to the shot. I'll turn that one off and try another one.
Now here is a color that's different than that background. The motion is interesting and it does have flashes of colors similar to background, but it's mostly blue. If I was to put that in Overlay mode, on top of my clip, you see now it's something that's quite cold and there are some strange color shifts going on them, bluish through here and bluish through here, but my original gears are red. So this was the case of a clip that does not work as well. Picking a color to complement the source clip is a big part of this game.
Now when you have good motion but the wrong color, well, you can Hue-Shift your lighting clip. Finally, let's move on to a couple of scenarios where we have a really fun clip to begin with. We just want to make it even more exciting or even more hyped up. Here we have this trumpet player, really nicely composed, strong diagonal across the scene. What can we do to this with lighting? Because again, if I play it, his face stays in shadow, it doesn't change. I have some shadows from him playing the trumpet, but nothing much going on. Let's try some lighting, diagonal source footage. Let's try a lighting clip to this diagonal.
Now remember, this clip did not work earlier because it had that diagonal orientation when we tried it on a very vertical shot. Well, here it's going to be more appropriate. Bright in the corner, light in the middle, dark up in this corner, let's go ahead and try this one, Composite Mode > Overlay. It makes it moody, adds a lot of color. Maybe to brighten it, I'll try a brightening mode such as Add, instead. That's much harder. If I think that's too strong, I'll double-click it, Motion > Opacity, back off the Opacity just to blend it in.
Let's go ahead and go Home and Play, and now you'll see, I've got some light playing across his face and playing across the trumpet, whereas before, it was a relatively boring static shot. Now this shot is bright in this corner and dark in this corner. Let's go back and look at our original unmolested lighting layer. Again, I'll turn up its Opacity. It is bright in this corner, dark in this corner, but notice my underlying footage is oriented differently. The hand is kind of a highlight. I'm not so interested in making his jacket more exciting. So this is the case where we might want to play around, say the rotation on this layer. I'll open it up in its Motion tab, go to Rotation and flip it around 180 degrees. So now, I'm bright where the hand is. Go back to Composite > Add Mode, and now I maybe have an effect that's more appropriate for my underlying shot. Home, Play, and now the focus is much more on his hand than down on his jacket. Again, I can always reduce the Opacity to reduce the impact of this shot.
Let's try a couple more ideas. This is backed with a nice gold clip. A lot of interesting movements, little sparkly highlights again, really nice sparkles that appear and disappear and nice turning motion that maybe will complement the action of the guy playing. Select it. Pick a mode of Overlay to start with. Very rich now. The orange goes along with the tones of his trumpet and his face to create a very rich final composite. If I find that's too much, Composite Mode > Soft Light, so less severe version. Now I have something that's not quite as obvious, it is very appropriate, and Play.
Now I have a very subtle enhancement of this shot. You don't really notice lights flashing, you just have a very richly colored shot that's more animated, more fun, more shadows playing across his jacket, shadows playing across his face, it's just a more dynamic shot and that's the goal of this technique. One more idea, here is a footage of a woman working out. Again, it's already pretty dynamic, strong vertical orientation, nice camera pan down, the person who shot this has spent some time with focus, nice water drop background in the first place, but again, we can add lighting to make it even more exciting.
One candidate would be a layer like this. It already has tones that pretty much match the pitch tones in the original footage. It has interesting animation to it, swirling lighting effects going around. If anything, it's more exciting than I might use in most cases, but in this case, my underlying footage already has lot of motion to it. So I don't mind using a more exciting lighting layer. I'll try Overlay mode as the starting point, much richer colors, more interesting background. Instead of it being kind of a solid tone, it's much more interesting and modeled. Let's go ahead and render it and Play.
Now I've got a lot of animation going on in the background and lighting across the overall layer. If I find that to be too strong, that's okay. I can either choose a different mode, such as Soft Light, which is a more subtle effect, or I can double-click it, Motion tab, Opacity and back it off so it does not have quite a strong of an effect.
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