Free Final Cut Pro plugin: Alex4D Magic Lantern HDR effect

This Final Cut Pro X effect is for combining HDR footage produced using the Magic Lantern tool for Canon DSLRs. Magic Lantern is open-source firmware that adds many useful features to cameras.

HDR-logo-480w

This effect is for HDR clips recorded with Magic Lantern. High Dynamic Range imagery relies on taking two pictures of a scene using different exposure settings: the first underexposed, the second overexposed. Combining these pictures results in more detail in the brightest and darkest areas. Magic Lantern does this for video by modifying exposure settings for alternate frames. Alex4D Magic Lantern HDR gives you control on how these frames are combined.

Visit the Magic Lantern site to find out more about the many features it adds to Canon cameras.

Here are the controls:

controls

This is an effect that you apply to an Magic Lantern-recorded HDR clip.

Prepare the clip

Before you work with this effect, make sure the frame rate of the clip matches the project you are using it in. It is best to edit ML HDR clips in projects with matching frame rates i.e. 59.94 fps clips in 59.94 projects and 50 fps clips in 50 fps projects.

If the frame rate of your HDR clip doesn’t match your project, once you have added it to the timeline, select the clip and choose Conform Speed from the Retime menu:

conform-speed

The effect should be in the Alex4D section of the Effects Browser.

in-titles-browser

With the HDR clip selected, double-click the effect to apply it, or drag it onto the clip.

In the effect, choose the frame rate of the project you are using:

frame-rate

Choose composition settings

Depending on your footage you can choose whether you want to compose, or ‘comp’ the lighter frames over the darker frames, or vice versa. You can also choose which blend mode to use, opacity, contrast for each set of frames. You can also ‘key out’ or not to include the brighter or darker areas of the frames.

The effect defaults to showing the even frames overlaid on the odd frames using the Lighten blend mode with an opacity of 50%. This adds some detail from the overexposed frames on top of the underexposed frames.

For each set of frames have their own composition controls:

processing-panel

The blend mode controls which parts of the frame are visible based on the brightness and colour values of the layers below. Here are the blend modes:
blend-pop-up

For more on the differences between these modes, visit the Motion online documentation on the subject.

The next section is the Luma Key section – you choose whether to include the darkest or brightest parts of the frame. If Luma Low = 0, the darkest parts are included. If you increase this value, more and more of the darker parts are not composited. Higher values of Low Smooth soften the edges of the darker keyed out areas. If Luma High = 1, the brightest areas are included. If you reduce this value, more and more of the brighter parts are not composited. High Smooth softens the edges of the brighter keyed out areas.

You can use Levels section change the brightness and contrast of the frames using Adobe Photoshop-style controls.

You can use the View pop-up menu to show the source frames, the even frames composed over the odd frames, the even frames without processing, the even frames with processing (showing blend mode, opacity setting, luma keyed version and contrast using Levels controls), the odd frames without processing, odd frames with processing and the odd frames comped over the even frames:

view-pop-up

Which frames are which?

This effect counts its frames from the start of the clip as used in the timeline. Be careful about choosing your first frame. If you trim off a single frame from the start, the even frames will become odd, and the odd frames will become even.

Installation

Download this disk image:

disk-image

It includes an installation script for Spherico’s Motion Template Tool application, if you don’t have it on your Mac, download it. It is a freeware/donationware tool that simplifies effects installation for Final Cut Pro X users. MTT installs effects for Final Cut Pro X in the correct folders, creating them if need be.

You don’t need to have Motion 5 or MTT installed for these effects to work.

If you have MTT installed on your computer, double-click the ‘Install Alex4D Magic Lantern HDR 1.0′ file.

If you don’t want to use the Motion Template Tool, install these effects in Home / Movies / Motion Templates / Effects / Alex4D:
disk-loc

Check out my other effects and articles on my Final Cut Pro X home page.

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49 comments
  1. gambler said:

    The installation does not show

    • Alex said:

      What method did you use to install the effect? Did you look in the Alex4D section of the effects palette?

      • gambler said:

        That is installed in accordance with the above tutorial

    • gambler said:

      Thanks to Alex reply me I am a Chinese user tutorial to install on your article

  2. gambler said:

    That is installed in accordance with the above tutorial

  3. Hi Alex. I installed both manually and then with MTT and both ways I did it, it shows up as an effect but it’s just an empty effect bar and makes the clip solid blue. There are no visible controls at all for the effect. Any advise?

  4. john ricca said:

    Already figured it out from your post about this issue. Need to update. I pretty much shelved my FCP X after trying so hard to love it and went over to PP CS6. I have NOT regretted that decision. It is an amazing program. It’s the true FCP 8. Anyways, at least this nice looking filter you made here can give my FCP X some purpose again for my 5dMkiii HDR footage. Thanks so much for your work on this!

    No chance that you could make a 10.0.6 compatible version is there? Looks like this requires 10.0.7 and I have major issues with updating my App Store stuff lately. Thanks again!

    • Alex said:

      This effect works with Final Cut Pro X 10.0.6 and newer.

  5. J. gerstel said:

    Thanks Alex for the great work! I created a small HDR video test on youtube here: http://youtu.be/c8a1uHhiNIg , hope it will promote you and Magic Lantern.

  6. Robert said:

    Hello Alex, HDR effects has been install and can see it on final cut pro x, but will not let me add it to the selected video and shows me a red screen with a yellow warning sign FINAL CUT PRO X version 10.0.4. Please let me know

    • Alex said:

      The effect I created only works with version 10.0.6 or newer.

      The current version is 10.0.7. The update from 10.0.4 is free – if you are logged into the Mac App Store with the Apple ID that bought your copy of Final Cut Pro X.

      At the beginning of December 2012 I wrote a blog post on how to modify some newer Final Cut plug-ins so they work with older versions.

  7. Miha Brodarič said:

    I have some ghosting issues, maybe beacuse of ALL-I codec? You siggest using IPB over ALL-I for HDR? thanks for answeres

    • Alex said:

      There is ghosting because Magic Lantern on Canon cameras cannot take two exposures in the same frame. Ghosting happens because the underexposed picture and overexposed picture are 1/25th or 1/50th second apart (in PAL countries).

      • Miha Brodarič said:

        Ok, I understand. Do you think that in future this could be solved somehow?

      • john ricca said:

        It won’t ever be completely fixed. Alternating every other frame method will always do this. Faster frame rates will make the ghosting better but at the loss of the nicer slow shutter speeds. Only true HDR won’t ghost where each frame is exposed 2 or more times per every instance. There’s a way to do real HDR with 2 identical cameras and a beam splitter. Google beam splitter HDR 5d.

      • Miha Brodarič said:

        thanks for explanation

    • Alex said:

      Thank you for the video. It shows that you didn’t put the folder in the correct place. The ‘Magic Lantern HDR’ folder must go in a sub-folder of Motion Templates/Effects/ …such as ~Home/Movies/Motion Templates/Effects/Alex4D

      Hope this helps.

  8. LL said:

    Can’t get FCPX to recognize and install the plug in.
    I even upgraded to The current version is 10.0.7.
    Installed in the folder mentioned but nothing shows up in the effects pallet.
    Macintosh HD-Arts-Movies-Motion Templates-Effects and entire folder as downloaded here!
    Whats wrong?

    • Alex said:

      The folder needs to be one level down – inside a folder named ‘Alex4D’ for example:

      Macintosh HD / Arts / Movies / Motion Templates / Effects / Alex4D / Alex4D Magic Lantern HDR

  9. LL said:

    Perfect!
    Got it to show, now will try it out.
    So far got ghosting in my images (big time) will try different footage.
    Shot a lot of footage but never took notes on settings.
    Seems like this will be by far my best option to edit my HDR Footage!!

  10. daniel said:

    Hi Alex! Thanks for your effort with your plugin. I tried it out but it seems it could benefit with some sort of alignment before exporting. This would heavily reduce ghosting och all the wobbly effects that takes place. Is it possible do you think?

  11. Tony said:

    Helloo! I downloaded and installed the plugin succesfully. The alex4d effect shows up in effect library correctly, BUT when I am adding it into a ML HDR clip (which has the same fps than my project has – 25fps), it only gives me an error sign in the preview window (also tried it in 720p/50fps clip in 50fps project, didn´t work). It won´t even show me in the inspector any of the controls for the effect you showed above. I am running on an iMac, version 10.8.2 and I am trying to get this thing working on FCP X. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks :)

      • Tony said:

        THANKS MAN for the fast reply! I am using 10.0.3 version and the effect started working right away after doing the changes your link guided! Awesome:))

  12. Tony said:

    Hi again! I have another problem now! My ML HDR video and FCPX project are 25fps. I added alex4d effect and set the 25fps also into the effect. The picture looks good, its not flickering or anything, but I think its now 12,5fps. Thats bad! What to try next?

    • Alex said:

      In practice with this kind of footage, you need to shoot at twice the frame rate you’ll need. As Magic Lantern can only capture the highlights at half the frame rate of the movie and the lowlights at half the frame rate, the composition of two series of shots at half the frame rate ends up being at half the frame rate.

      The only thing I can suggest is to use two copies of the clip, one on top of the other with the top clip offset by one frame. Set one clip to show the odd frames, the other the even frames.

      • Tony said:

        Thanks for the piece of advice! But how can I set a clip to show only every second frame since the “blink” effect was dropped from FCPX?? Thank youu!

    • Alex said:

      Tony, you can set either odd frames or even frames by apply this effect to two copies of the clip and setting one instance to ‘+ frames’ and the other to show ‘- frames’

  13. Pancho said:

    Hi Alex,
    I’m not finding that the ‘effect’ shows up in the Effect Browser in FCP X 10.0.6 Trial Version that I’ve just downloaded and installed from Apple’s site.
    Is this a know limitation to the Trial version of the software or perhaps I’m missing something.
    (have followed your instructions above very carefully a couple of times already)
    I needed to create the ‘Motion Templates’ & ‘Effects’ folders within the ‘Movies’ folder.
    Of course I placed the downloaded ‘Alex4D Magic Lantern HDR’ folder within a new ‘Alex4D’ folder as specified above.
    Would really appreciate your help on this!
    Thanks heaps…

    • Alex said:

      I don’t know of any limitation in the trial version of Final Cut Pro 10.0.6.

      Please reply if the following works:
      1. Quit Final Cut Pro.
      2. In the Finder, select the ‘Motion Templates’ folder,
      3. Choose ‘Get Info’ from the File menu
      4. Edit the Name & Extension field to rename the folder to ‘Motion Templates.localized’ – the ‘.localized’ will not be visible in the Finder.
      5. Use the same method to add the same invisible name extension to its ‘Effects’ sub-folder
      6. Restart Final Cut Pro

      • Pancho said:

        That’s marvellous Alex…
        Thanks for your super-speedy response!
        Yes, that worked… the effect is now visible & functioning correctly in the Effects Browser.

        Now all I need to do is refine my manipulation of the effect’s controls to achieve the image-blending quality that we require. (after a little trial & error I realise that this may take some time!)

        Are there any specific on-line tutorials that you would recommend to help with my learning curve?

        Thanks again Alex… We are now a big-step closer to achieving our HDR video production objective I feel!!

  14. Kyle said:

    First off, thanks for what you do. Your a champ.
    So I installed the plugin and it didnt work(I figured it wouldn’t because my version is too old). So I did the workaround you suggested and it worked but then fcpx began having a hard time and lagging bad. I didn’t have a lot of time with it so I will try again tonight but I figured I would let you know and see if it sounded familiar. I just threw the effect on a normal clip(non HDR/24fps) I shot to see if it even worked.

  15. k said:

    Hi Alex

    Will this plug in work on my FCP 7.0.3 and/or Latest Adobe Premiere Pro?

    THX

    K

    • Alex said:

      No, plug-ins for Final Cut Pro 10.0.0 and newer are made using Motion 5. These plug-ins don’t work in other apps.

  16. siggi said:

    Hi – anyone tested this on 10.0.8? Does not seem to work…any tips? Many thanks.

    • siggi said:

      installation works but when applied on clip nothing happens – still seeing the flickering video.

      • Alex said:

        Have you tried all the options in the View pop-up menu? Do you get flickering with all of them?

        Have you set the Project Frame Rate to to match the frame rate of your project? Due to a limitation in the Final Cut Pro plugin system, there’s no way for me to determine the frame rate in the plugin itself.

        @Alex4D

      • siggi said:

        Thanks Alex,

        yes, frame rates are matching (25p) – I get flickering at source only view (+,-,+/-) and black video at processed (+/-) and –frames comped over+ view. Also the parameters/levels have no effect on the image.

        I also tried to conform the video to 50p and project and plug-in frame rate. – no change.

        Am I missing something?

      • Alex said:

        siggi, when set to + source frames, the effect will show each even frame twice – based on the frame rate you choose. If you are using 50 fps footage in a 25 fps project, try conforming the footage to 25fps (making its duration twice as long), of course you need to set the Project Frame Rate to 25 fps.

      • siggi said:

        hi alex, ok…maybe i don’t understand the system. i am shooting ML HDR video with a 5DM2 at 25fps (50fps not possible). I put this video in a 25fps timeline and set the plug-in to 25fps. right? how should i proceed now to view the effect working?
        many thanks.

  17. To make this work properly you need to make a compound clip with the source footage first…
    In my case I did this with my 5d mk3:
    -recorded at 1280×720 59.94 (ALL I) with ML HDR (ISO 100/1600)
    -imported a copy of the clip to FCP X, with no transcoding
    -right click on the source clip>New Compound Clip…>set based on common clip, and >audio default settings
    -open up the compound clip and throw the HDR effect on the clip of the project
    -change the effect setting >project frame rate>59.94
    -create a new project 720p HD – 1280×720@29.97 – ProRes422
    -place the compound clip on the project
    That’s it!
    Cheers

    • frank suero said:

      This have been the only way i have found to make the plug in to work. Thanks Julio. And Alex thanks a lot for this amazing plug in. you should make it more extensibve and start charging even low but it is a great tool.

  18. Cody Puckett said:

    Hey Alex,

    I’ve downloaded the disk image, but there is nothing in the media folder.
    Any idea whats going on?

    • Alex said:

      In most cases Final Cut Pro plugins (which are delivered as folders) have media subfolders that are empty. This plugin’s media folder is empty on purpose.

  19. Great work! Installed and up and running..did a couple of tests and can see massive potential. Many thanks.

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