Free Final Cut Pro plugin: Alex4D Time Remap effect

Last year I made a set of generators that could be used on video clips to get more precise control over speed changes using an animation graph similar to that available in older versions of Final Cut Pro.

Since the 10.0.6 update to Final Cut Pro, the generators I uploaded in March 2012 no longer work. Here is an effect you can use instead.

Here’s a comparison between a time remap graph in older versions of Final Cut Pro and my effect:

Final Cut Pro Classic retiming vs Alex4D Time Remap

With these graphs, the steepness and direction of graph determine the speed and direction that the video clip frames play. The Y co-ordinate of the graph controls which source frame is displayed.

In this case the clip will play back in slow motion (because the angle of the graph line is shallow between the first and second keyframe – the Y co-ordinate is changing slowly), then in faster than normal motion. The video will then freeze between keyframes three and four (because the Y co-ordinate of the graph isn’t changing – the line is horizontal). Between keyframes four and five the video will go into reverse, as the Y co-ordinate is getting lower over time. Between the fifth and last keyframe the video will play back very quickly because the value of the graph’s Y co-ordinate is changing quickly.

As this is an effect, it is used in a different way from last year’s generators.

1. Once it is installed, apply it by going to the Alex4D section of the Effects palette and drag the Alex4D Time Remap effect onto your video clip.

Alex4D Time Remap effect in Final Cut Pro effects browser

2. In order to get the animation graph which you can edit, you first need to set animation keyframes for your clip.

In your timeline, move to the last frame of your clip. With the clip selected go to the video tab of the clip inspector and click the ‘Add Keyframe’ button of the Show Frame % control:

set-end-keyframe

3. In the timeline, go to the first frame of the clip and set the value of the Show Frame % control to 0:

set-start-keyframe

4. Due to a limitation in the way Final Cut Pro effects work, you need to enter the length of the clip into the controls of the Time Remap effect. To find out the length of your clip in frames, change your editing preferences to show time displays in frames instead of timecode. Choose Preferences… from the Final Cut Pro menu and select the Editing tab:

Change editing display preferences to 'Frames'

Now if you look at the Video panel of the clip inspector, you’ll see length of your video clip shown in frames. Set the value of the Clip Length control to match the length of the clip:

Copy the length of the clip to the effect parameter

5. This has set up the time remap curve for your video clip. To see it, choose Show Video Animation from the Clip menu,

6. Choose Solo Animation from the Clip menu,

Choose Solo Animation from Clip menu

7. The small downward-facing arrow next to Compositing: Opacity in the Video Animation panel is a menu control. Use this control to go to the Alex4D Time Remap submenu and choose Show Frame %: 

Show the Show Frame percent graph

8. The panel will then show an unexpanded version of the time remap graph, so click the expand control at the right-hand end of the clip:

click-expansion-triangle

You’ll see an unaltered version of a time remap graph:

Unaltered Time Remap graph

9. You can now use the inspector (set differing values for the Show Frame % control at different times) or Option-clicking the graph line to add keyframes that change the speed at which the frames from the clip are displayed:

Add keyframes to time remap graph

In this case the angle of the graph between the first and second keyframes is the same as the unaltered graph. This means the clip will play back normally (at 100% of its normal speed). The graph is then steeper, which means the video will play back more quickly. Between the third and fourth keyframe, the Y co-ordinate of the graph doesn’t change, so the video freezes over this time period. Between the fourth and fifth keyframe then video goes into reverse – almost back to the beginning – because the value for Y reduces down to almost zero. The video frames will then play back very quickly until the sixth keyframe before slowing back down to normal speed until the end of the clip.

10. If you want to control the shape of the curves between keyframes, right- or control- click the line and choose between the options in a pop-up menu:

Control-click to set curve shapes

Drag on a curve from left to right to control the curviness of the curve (between linear and the kind of curve you’ve chosen in the pop-up menu).

11. Note that the graph doesn’t have to start at 0 and end at 100. If you want to start at the middle of your source clip and reverse to the beginning before spooling forward to the end and back to the middle, set the first and last keyframes to 50, and set the middle keyframes to 0 and 100:

start-in-middle

Limitations

Due to a limitations in the Motion effect that this plugin uses, you can only retime clips that are up to 1,000 frames long. Also you cannot use any frames that are in the event clip that aren’t displayed in the timeline. That is, if you trim a clip so the first and last frames from the source effect don’t appear in the timeline, adding this effect will not let you ‘rewind back past the beginning’ or ‘forward past the end.’ Also video effects cannot modify audio, so any audio your clips have will play back as normal.

Installation

Download this disk image:

disc-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 (the application that I used to create this effect)  installed for this effect to work.

Once you have MTT installed on your computer, double-click the ‘Install Alex4D Ribbon 1.0.mtt’ file.

If you don’t want to use the Motion Template Tool, this effect will still work. Install the plugin in Home / Movies / Motion Templates / Titles / Alex4D:
Where to install the effect using the Finder

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

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7 comments
  1. Jeremy Santella said:

    you’re the man! love all the stuff you put up and honestly cant thank you enough

  2. Lee Faulkner said:

    Awesome …. your efforts are really appreciated!! Thanks!

  3. Kit Haskins said:

    Where do you download the plugin of Alex4D for the character generator? I see your page that explains how to setup the plugin and use it with FCP, but I don’t see where I can download the plugin to install it …

    • Alex said:

      Click ‘disk image‘ in the phrase ‘Download this disk image‘ in the Installation section.

  4. Bret said:

    Does this have a limitation of 1000 frames total? When I put in a frame length for the clip larger than 1000, it just snaps back to 1000.

    • Alex said:

      Yes, that’s due to a limitation of the Motion-based filter that this plug-in relies on. If you want to remap longer clips, you’ll have to slice your source clips into less than 1,000 frame parts or use compound clips.

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