Simple Video Effects in Final Cut Pro 7

Thunder was a story on my 2011 Editor of the Year entry.  This is an effects-driven story; you just don’t really see the effect.  That’s what you want when you use effects, you don’t want the viewer noticing them.  When you go to a movie, and the effects aren’t believable, the effects become a distraction, and the audience isn’t watching the story. The audience says to themselves, “That’s not real.” Effects affect viewers.  Think about that next time you want to go overboard with effects.

I’m a big fan of NFL films.  The stories they create are simply visual candy.  I wanted to create a film effect for the story on Thunder in the spirit of NFL films.  I  wanted to create my own look and feel, as well.  I have an effect on every clip in this story.  It’s not flying boxes.  It’s not crazy wipes.  It’s not picture in picture.  It’s something more subtle.  I’m creating an entire feel for the story.  What I’m doing is never distracting to the viewer.

Our story for this post is Thunder, which can be found on my Youtube page (

The story starts off with shots you would see at the beginning of a Bronco game.

Fireworks going off.



Fans Cheering.

The Broncos running onto the field.

You’ll see the first 14 shots in the story. I applied a motion effect.  All these shots are at 50% speed.  When your motion affects a shot, it tends to create a film effect all by itself.  I didn’t want to apply a motion effect to every clip, I needed to do something else to the video.

At [:22] Thunder and the video is moving at 100% speed. This shot is a screen-grab in the finished story.

This shot is of the original video.

I suggest you click and open each picture to see the difference between the two screen-grabs.  Toggle back and forth between these two shots.  Notice the differences?

I’ve done several things here.  The one most noticeable is I crushed the blacks, meaning I darkened areas more than they originally were.  See the blue on Thunder’s face mask and the blue on the rider?  They are a vibrant blue deep blue in the original video.  In my treated video, they are an intense blue almost to the point of being black.  Look at the NFL films logo, same thing there. The original video is that rich deep blue.  The affected video is still blue but closer to black than in the original video.

Now, look at the whites like on the banner in the background or the whites around Thunder’s exposed head.  Notice how much richer the quality of the whites is. Look at the smoke from behind Thunder in the upper left.  It has a slight blue tint to it in the original video.  My affected video it’s much whiter.

It took me a while to achieve the exact look I wanted for this story.  Just crushing blacks wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to enrich the whites as well.  It was mostly trial and error.  If you’re going to create a look like this, I suggest you play around with how I’m about to explain how I did this.   From what I did, you could create an infinite amount of looks for your video.

So how did I create this look?  First of all, I’m sure there are many more ways to do this.  This is simply one way, my way (at the time). The first thing I did was to create two video layers for this story.  The second layer being identical to the first layer as you see here is this screen-grab, click on it to see it bigger.

Here is what the first layer looks like, all alone.

This story was edited on Final Cut 7.  The way I did this can be achieved on other non-linear systems as well.  I applied a 3-way color corrector to video layer one.  I color corrected the shot like I would typically do.  After I color corrected, I turned the saturation all the way down, so the shot turned black and white.  You’ll notice my screen-grab is not entirely black and white.  I’ll explain that in a minute. Here’s a screen-grab of what my color corrector looks like with levels if you want to try and imitate the look.

You’ll want to play with your black levels, the midrange levels, and your highlight levels.  That’s the 3 slider bars below the color wheels.  Notice my black levels are slightly lowered, my midrange levels are up significantly, and my highlight levels are reduced somewhat.

Then I moved to the identical clip-on video layer two.

The first thing I did with the identical video on layer two drops the opacity to 50% so the I could see through video layer two and down into video layer one.  Now it can see both clips together but manipulate each layer independently.  Doing this allows for greater control of your final look.

The clip I have on video layer two, I add the 3-way color corrector onto that clip. Again I color correct like I usually do.  Once I get the shot color corrected the way I like, I started to drop the blacks levels on this clip.  Then, I played with the highlight levels (that’s the slider bar underneath the white color correction wheel). Here’s a screen-grab of what that color-correction looks like.

I went back to the clip-on video layer one and started increasing the saturation on video layer one, so just a hint of color appears.  This really brought out the flesh tones on people. You don’t need to increase the saturation too much as you can see here.

As I went clip by clip, I made several adjustments.  Depending on the video, I often decreased midrange highlight levels, whereas, on other clips, I increased levels.  This is really just how I did it on a few clips.  Once I got my look, I needed to tweak each clip, and I’m sure you will too.

So in review.

  • Create your story.
  • Copy all of your clips on video layer one and paste them on video layer two
  • Add a color corrector 3-way onto the clips on video layer one
  • Color correct to your desire
  • Using the slider bar lower your black levels slowly, you won’t need to move the slider much
  • Increase your midrange levels using the slider bar below the mids color wheel
  • Drop opacity on the clips on video layer two
  • Add a color corrector 3-way onto the clips on video layer two
  • Color correct to your desire
  • Lower your black levels
  • Increase/decrease your mid-levels
  • Increase/decrease you highlight levels

I hope you can take what I did for this story and apply it to something you do.  I love to take a look at what you do with this idea.  Send me a link to I’d like to see your work.  Thanks for reading.
Shawn Montano

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