Book Review - FCP Tutorial - Special Effects

March 29, 2004

Review - Motion Graphics and Effects in Final Cut Pro
By Kevin Monahan

List Price $ 44.99 - Street Price $ 31.49
DVD Included
Publisher Peachpit Press - 441 pages
ISBN: 0321179153

The DVD includes:
A project file with exercises and finished examples
Over 250 QuickTime movies
Free plug-ins called Telly's FX
Trial plug-Ins and applications

Review By Ken Stone

About three years ago I took a class with Kevin (Telly) Monahan, it was both invaluable and extremely exciting. His enthusiasm for FCP was truly contagious. When I picked up his new book and began to read I felt that same excitement I had experienced in his class. 'Motion Graphics and Effects in Final Cut Pro' is just what the name implies, a book that teaches how to create special effects using the tools available in FCP. On the back jacket of the book it states that this is a book for the 'Intermediate/Advanced' user. This is correct, but more because what the book teaches is creative in nature, how to create special effects and as such you will get more out of the book if you have a general understanding of FCP. Having said that, a novice can work through the lessons by using the tutorials provided on the included DVD.

The first chapter introduces us to the many new feature found in FCP 4; RT Extreme, Keyframe Editor (in the Timeline), Time Remapping, and other features that will be used to help create special effects. It also covers the new applications that now bundle with FCP 4, third party apps and hardware used with FCP.

In the next few chapters we learn the workflow for creating special effects, how to 'deconstruct' effects that you have seen elsewhere, Previsualizing Effects (Ansel Adams anyone), storyboarding, organizing and importing media for use in your effects. We then move to the many special FCP features that are essential in creating special effects, i.e., displaying and making use the Alpha channel in the Viewer.

By chapter 4 we have worked through all the tools, windows, features and move into the heart of the book, starting with 'Motion' which includes the most complete Keyframing lessons I have ever seen. The book progress with lessons on 'Layer Fundamentals', Nesting, Matting (Masking), Color effects (color correction), Rendering/render order, Compositing, Clip behavior, Ganging and other concepts that are essential to creating special effects.

This is not a book that you flip through when you have a moment. This is a serious book and if you want to learn how to do professional special effects you are going to have to sit down and work through the 50 plus effects building exercises, but they are fun and exciting. Everything needed is provided on the DVD, you supply the elbow grease. As you work through the exercises, which are richly illustrated and detailed in the book, with step by step color graphics, you learn not just how to create an effect, but more importantly, you begin to understand the concepts that create illusions on the screen. As you do the work you will find yourself saying: "So that's how they do it". This is where this book excels, it doesn't give you a fish, it teaches you how to fish.

Okay, I am going to cut to the proverbial 'chase'. Aside from the fact that this book is the first true 'Motion Graphics and Effects' for FCP, it happens to be one the best FCP books that I have ever seen. Full color from cover to cover, excellent art and graphics, coupled with Kevin's understanding, excitement and love of special effects really makes this book shine.

One caveat, the DVD that ships with this book which contains the media files and the main project file (called Effects Project-NTSC) has a couple of problems. The Telly's FX plug-ins do not work. The main project file, called Effects Project-NTSC has also caused a couple of readers some trouble. Kevin is aware of this problem and you can download new plug-ins and a new version of the project at

As I read through this book, I learned in more detail, about the new features in FCP 4, found better ways of working my effects and discovered many new and exciting techniques that I will be using in the future. This is one handsome book and is a doorway into the magical word of special effects. This is exciting stuff!



You can purchase 'Motion Graphics and Effects in Final Cut Pro ' from the lafcpug store.


Review copyright © 2004

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