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Final Cut Pro and Photoshop Layer Styles

How to create outline text for use in FCP 2 By Paulo de Andrade
There are many reasons to import Photoshop files into Final Cut Pro. But if I had to pick only one, it would be to create title (CG) pages. Let's face it: The text capabilities in Final Cut Pro leave a lot to be desired! We are already in version 2.0, and we can't do a simple outline in most modes! Apple has one of the very best nonlinear editing applications out there, regardless of price. Yet it has separate text generators, each with a subset of features, instead of a single, complete one. While there's an outline text generator, the Lower 3rd generator, for example, doesn't have outline options.

The lack of outlines often makes text very hard to read. FCP 1.x doesn't even give you an outline option. So the most logical solution would be to use Photoshop to create title pages. We like to do this here at DMN TV, anyway, just because composing CG pages in Photoshop is a lot quicker.


Another good reason for us to use Photoshop for tile pages is the fact that we use a Matrox RTMac card. This is an awesome card that gives you a lot of real-time capabilities. But, like most real-time systems, it has a limit on the number of layers it can handle before it requires rendering. In the RTMac's case, the limit is three layers. They can be a combination of two video plus one graphics layer or two graphics plus one video layer. This means that if you have a video dissolve and you want to super a title over a textured bar with a logo over the video, you must render. And this is exactly what happens when you use FCP's outline text generator on a layer plus the textured bar with the logo on another.

While importing Photoshop files with layers in Final Cut Pro is pretty straightforward, we have been very frustrated with another FCP problem: It won't recognize Photoshop layer effects (or styles). Therefore, while we can easily add outlines to text using the stroke layer style in the Adobe's program, we can't see the outlines once we load the files into Final Cut Pro.

I have tried all kinds of workarounds, including exporting the Photoshop files in all sorts of formats, from tiff to tga. Unfortunately none of them worked. Because I don't give up too easily, no matter how late I must end up sleeping, I had to find a solution to this problem. And I did, by resorting to Adobe's other killer application, After Effects.

One of the countless cool features in After Effects is its ability to seamlessly import Photoshop layers while maintaining all their styles. Since After Effects is also capable of exporting movie frames as stills, I figured it would be able to export a file that I could use in Final Cut Pro. Any file format that preserves the alpha channel would work, so I chose tga. This trick worked flawlessly and, as a result, our DMN TV CGs are now outlined.

Here's how the whole process works:




Open up Photoshop and create a new file. If you are working in DV, make sure that the file size is 720 x 480 pixels. If you are working in D1, the file size should be 720 x 486 pixels.


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