The Basics - PhotoShop Images for Import into FCP

Preparing Stills in PhotoShop for Import into FCP
By Ken Stone

This article is being displayed here until the 2-pop Library is restored at the 2-pop web site.

Photoshop and other bitmapped graphics applications use square pixels in the formation of images and for display on the computer monitor. FCP and video in general (digital video formats DV, D1) use rectangular pixels, taller than wide, officially called 'non-square' pixels to display the image. When Photoshop files with their square pixels are imported into FCP, FCP converts the square pixels to a rectangular pixels to match the video format. This conversion process will change the proportions of the art work causing the image to distort. Your PS image in FCP will now be taller (stretched up). As we spend a lot of time designing our art work, images and type, to look just right in PS we will want it to look the same in FCP as it does in PS.

In order to have our art work look the same in both applications a 'work around' is needed. We will adjust the image size in Photoshop to compensate for the conversion process between square and rectangular pixels when the images are imported into FCP.

This 'work around' process, performed in Photoshop, starts with the creation of the file and the setting of a special file size. From the File menu > New File. In the 'new file' dialog box set your width to 720 pixels, set the height to 540 pixels, dpi to 72 and 'Mode' (color space) to 'RGB'. In the 'contents' box, set the type of background (white, background color or transparent) this choice will be discussed below as there are several options.

Now create your artwork in this file. When finished save the file. From the Image menu > Image Size. In the 'image size' dialog box first UNCHECK the proportions box. Now change the height setting from 540 to 480 (Targacard users, should change it from 540 to 486) and click save. If you look at your image in PS you will see that the above process has squashed down your image making it look fatter. This is what we want, as when this file is imported into FCP and the PS square pixels are converted to FCP rectangular pixels, the image will once again look correct. *Note; If you check the image in the Canvas window it will still look distorted but if you look at your NTSC monitor you will see that the image is now correct. The NTSC monitor is where it counts.

There are several options for setting the 'Background' in the 'new image' dialog box and the selection will depend on what you want your final results to be. If you want your art work to have a background, i.e. a photo or other art, then choose 'white' or 'colored' background. You can use layers if you like. When you are done, from the 'Layers' palette ( diamond upper right) choose 'Flatten Image'. This will collapse all your layers and merge them into the background, yielding a single layer.

It could be that you need your PS image to have a transparent background. You will use this approach when you want to have titles, art, logos, etc., that you can superimpose over video in FCP. Titles superimposed over video or a logo 'bug' displayed over the video for example. In this case, choose ' Transparent' as your 'Background' in the 'new image' dialog box. Again, you can work in layers to adjust and position the different elements in your art. When done, from the Layers palette choose 'Merge' layers. This will combine all layers into one but will still leave the background transparent. You might use this for a single title 'plate'. *Note, if you do use 'Flatten Image' PS will turn your transparent background into a white background and you will not be able to superimpose your image over video in FCP.

PS and FCP work well together so there is another option. If you want control over each layer when working with the image inside FCP, then when done with your art work in PS simply 'Save'. Do not flatten or merge layers. When you import this un collapsed image into FCP you will see that FCP will treat your layered PS file as a new sequence, inside this sequence FCP has put each layer on a separate video tract. You will now be able to work each PS layer as a separate video element in FCP.

A few other tips:

If you plan to do a 'Ken Burn's effect', enlarge or move around inside your image (a photograph for example) you will need more digital information to avoid pixillation. There are two different ways to do this. You can increase the overall dimensions of the file and leave the dpi at 72. For a 2X enlargement create your file at 1440 x 960 or for a 4X 2880 x 1920. Another way to achieve the same results would be to increase the pixels per inch of the file from 72 to 144 dpi for a 2X enlargement or 288 dpi for a 4X enlargement, leaving the document size in Inches the same (often 10" x 6.667" -- this can be set to any size, just don't change it!).

'Title Safe' area in Photoshop.

When you are creating your titles or art work in your 720 x 540 file there is no way to know where your 'title safe' area is. You will need to leave a top and bottom border of 70 pixels each. On the left and right hand side of your image leave a border of 67 pixels each. To help facilitate this in PS; from the menu > Window > Show Rulers. The default setting for rulers in PS is inches so; menu > file > preferences > units. Set 'Ruler Units' to pixels. You can place your cursor inside your image and the rulers along the top and left hand side will show your position.




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