Final Cut Pro X: Create an Adjustment Layer

Posted on by Larry

An “adjustment layer” is a video object on a higher layer in the timeline which, when an effect is placed into it, affects all the clips below it. These were first introduced by Adobe years and years ago in Photoshop; then expanded into Premiere around the Creative Cloud release.

Final Cut Pro X doesn’t have them, however you can create your own using Motion. Here’s how.

CREATE THE MASTER CLIP

Open Motion and create a new project. While not critical, set the Motion presets to match your typical video project for both format and effect duration. (You can always change the duration in Final Cut Pro X when you apply the effect.)

NOTE: The Preset menu sets the frame size. Motion always works at the highest image quality, essentially ProRes 4444.

Then, click the Final Cut Title option. (This step is really important because it allows the effect we are creating in Motion to work in Final Cut!)

Motion opens, displaying the standard title creation template.

If the Layers panel is hidden, open it (shortcut: F5), select the “Type Text Here” layer and delete it. This is the only change you need to make.

Choose File > Save As, then give the effect a name. Here, I’m using “Adjustment Layer” and storing it in a custom category named “Larry.” You can name this effect anything and store it in any category you prefer. You can create a new category from within the Category menu.

I like being obvious with my effect names so I can remember what it does.

APPLYING THE EFFECT IN FINAL CUT PRO X

I’ve found, when I create new templates, that FCP X does not always know something new has been created. So, if FCP X is running, I generally quit Final Cut and restart it. That way, it refreshes the list of templates available in each browser.

Open the Titles browser and select the Larry category. The Adjustment Layer effect is visible in the icons on the right, generally near the top. Now, let’s put it to use.

Here’s a stack of three clips in the Timeline…

That looks like this in the Viewer.

Drag the Adjustment Layer effect from the Titles Browser and put it on TOP of all three clips.

Adjust the length of the Adjustment Layer clip to run whatever duration you need. Because there are no timed elements in this effect, we can stretch it to whatever duration we need.

Now – and this is the magical part – add any effect to the Adjustment Layer and it automatically applies to all the clips under it!

For example, here’s the Black & White effect. When I drop it on top of the Adjustment Layer effect…

This is the result. ALL the clips under the Adjustment Layer effect now inherit the Black & White effect.

NOTE: This technique works for any effect – including Broadcast Safe. In fact, using this Adjustment Layer effect for the Broadcast Safe effect is faster and more flexible than combining all your clips into a compound clip.

SUMMARY

This is a very fast, very easy technique to use whenever you want the same effect to be applied to multiple clips. AND, you can even use masks on an adjustment layer to mask all the clips under it!


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