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First Look: SmoothCam & Background Processing - The Future of Final Cut Pro

By Kevin McAuliffe

About a month into the launch of Final Cut Studio 2, I thought I would take an in depth look at one of the best new features of FCP, which is SmoothCam and Background Processing. Both these features go hand in hand and with what I have seen, this could be giving us a glimpse of the future of Final Cut Pro.

We have Shake to thank for giving us the SmoothCam effect, and the engineers at Apple couldn't have given us a better "first look" at what Shake had to offer. SmoothCam is a great, very easy to use effect that gives great results on it's presets almost every time.  Here's how it works.

Select a clip that requires smoothing out due to camera bumps and shakes.  Next, select EFFECTS>VIDEO FILTERS>VIDEO>SMOOTHCAM.


Once the effect is applied to your clip, you will immediately notice a new window open called "Background Process" (BP). Basically, what is now happening is that Final Cut is "analyzing" your media to properly correct the bumps and shakes. For me to analyze an 11 second DV clip took about 2 minutes, but the best part of this feature is that you can keep working while the BP is happening. You can add effects, alter shots, and pretty much do whatever you need to do, and the only time the BP will pause is when you hit play in your timeline. Once you press stop, the BP will continue until it is done.

Once your BP is done, you will notice that you will have a green preview bar over top of your footage. The great feature of this effect is that the two minutes it took to process the clip was just that. Processing. It wasn't actually rendering anything, so you can now feel free to double click on the clip, go into the Filters tab, and fine tune your effect by adjusting the Translation, Rotation and Scale Smooth. No "Reprocessing" is required. The filter even automatically scales your footage for you so you don't see all the "repositioning" that was done to smooth out your footage.  

I have to say that SmoothCam is probably one of the easiest filters I've used for what should be a complex effect, and it is an awesome addition to Final Cut Pro. It delivered excellent results in a short amount of time (keep in mind I was using DV footage), and required very little tweaking when the analyzing when done. Take a look at a sample below.  (As you can probably tell, I didn't shoot this!)

Original movie


SmoothCam applied

I want to close with this thought for everyone, and hopefully everyone at Apple is reading. I think that what is even more exciting than the addition of SmoothCam is the addition of background processing, which is a major leap forward, and a leap in the right direction. This is a feature that Avid has offered with DS for awhile now, and the fact that Apple has snuck this into FCP 6 is truly remarkable. I hope that Apple will take what they have done with SmoothCam's background processing, and begin to integrate that into other effects and rendering to truly take Final Cut Pro to the next level.


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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com


Related Keywords:smoothcam, video editing, videography, NLE,

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