Final Cut Pro X: Create a Tilt-Shift Blur

Tilt-shift blurs create the illusion of depth of field, along with other interesting visual effects, by emulating in software a special kind of camera lens called a “tilt/shift lens.”

Here’s what a tilt-shift lens looks like – it shifts from its principle axis; yet still places an image on the sensor. I don’t know how it works – it’s magic.

What’s interesting to me is that we can emulate the effect of these lenses in Final Cut.


Source image on the left, with the effect applied on the right. (Drone image courtesy: Terry Holland)

When applied to high-wide shots, this creates the illusion of looking at a model, as you can see from the screen shot above. However, we can also use this during post to emulate depth-of-field. What this does, essentially, is apply a variable amount of blur to different portions of the frame.

Final Cut includes a tilt-shift effect, but they didn’t call it that. They called it: Focus. Here’s how it works.


This is our original image. A low-angle, wide shot of the Bow River near Banff, Canada.

In the Effects Browser > Blur apply Focus to the clip.

Determine which part of the image is in-focus by dragging the small white circle. In the image below, I put it low-center.

In the Inspector:

NOTE: Be careful not to over-soften. Look carefully at the edges of the river image and see almost a bevel effect caused by blending image pixels with black from outside the frame. This can make an image look more 3D – or “button-like” – than you might want. The only way to prevent this “rounding” is to scale the image slightly. I found about 105% works.


This is a very cool effect to play with, especially for high wide shots.

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4 Responses to Final Cut Pro X: Create a Tilt-Shift Blur

  1. Thanks for the rundown!

    I didn’t know it can be done in post. I tried a TS lens it didn’t look as good as your post effect.

    You always have top shelf articles.

  2. Mark Suszko says:

    The way I used to do this was to stack a blurred duplicate of the video track above the regular one, then add a gradient in an intermediate track and keyed/or blend mode thru the gradient.

  3. Philip Snyder says:

    I keyframed the Focused center of my shot that contained a left-to-right moving figure so I was able to track it.
    Excellent, Larry!

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