FCPX & HDSLR | Shooting & editing Cinemascope

This 2 minute short confronts monstrosity in 21st century nature. It is not intended to shock – merely to educate ;-)

It is also the product of figuring out a Cinemascope workflow for FCPX. The workflow is similar to the Cinemascope workflow for Final Cut Pro 7, but relies on a different set of tools.

When I originally wrote this up, I found I had to create a 1920×816 mask for editing to allow me to replicate what I saw in the camera viewfinder. If you shoot with a mask, it’s very difficult to judge the quality of the images without a complementary mask. The Widescreen filter which we used in FCP7 for this mask is not available in FCPX.

Or so I thought. A day or so after posting this workflow with a workaround, I notice the Widescreen filter is actually available. But it’s not called “Widescreen” anymore. It’s called “Letterbox.”

FCPX’s Letterbox filter has one major difference from FCP7s Widescreen filter. With the FCP7 version you could use the filter to vertically recompose shots. The Letterbox filter is fixed and centred. That’s perfectly fine though: since we shot with a mask which was fixed and centred, we don’t need to recompose shots.

However, there is now an even better solution: Alex4Ds Widescreen Matte. Aside from providing settings for every conceivable format, this matte is a title generator, not a filter. This means instead of having to apply and adjust it for every single clip on the timeline, you can lay it across the entire timeline above all your clips. This makes management much simpler. You can disable the matte across the entire project in one click, which is recommended prior to sending it to Compressor, where it will be cropped.

FCPX > Share > Send to Compressor…
Without getting too deep into it: the settings in Compressor have a Geometry tab where you can set cropping as well as frame size. This works both for creating a ProRes master as well as a H.264 viewing copy.

The image below shows Compressor’s Geometry settings for 2.4:1 Cinemascope cropping (1920×800). Crop 140 pixels off the top and bottom and specify a 1920×800 frame. You’ll notice Apple has supplied pre-made 2.35:1 crop presets.

Apple Compressor Cinemascope Geometry

You can then use Quicktime and the ProRes master to make viewing copies without having to worry about frame sizes or cropping. You might also want to create a new Mp4 setting in Compressor using the geometry above.

About the video, UnNatural, at the top:
When I first saw the unnatural abomination of nature which is the subject of the movie above, the first thing that came to mind was Sleeper, by Woody Allen. The next thought: I should take a photo. Next thought: might as well film it. It was particularly odd as it came by internet groceries. I found it difficult to imagine a whole crop of Frankenberrys on the supermarket shelves, each identical to every other. Stepford wives numbly pushing their carts, smiling at the frozen peas. Mmmmn. Peas.

“Oh my god. I beat a man insensible with a strawberry.”

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One Response to “FCPX & HDSLR | Shooting & editing Cinemascope”

  1. Bob
    August 22, 2011 at 1:19 PM #

    FYI, in FCPX, in order to add a letterbox mask and have the ability to reframe, do this:

    Add a black solid at the top of the timeline. Add a mask filter to the solid. modify the letterbox shape. Transform the clip underneath. Done.