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Getting That Old, Grainy Film Look in Final Cut Pro

Attention is hard to get in a media-crowded world. Not everyone or every project needs to go high-tech with films that look like something from the 21st century. Some projects make more sense looking old or oddly out of fashion. A film with a different look — if it fits the film and its message — can get the right kind of attention from the viewers.

Say you got this cool inspiration from a short film you viewed on the Sci-Fi Channel. But how did the film get that gritty, grainy look? Probably a Noise generator in Final Cut. Here's how you can create the same effect:

1. Drag a clip from the Browser to the Timeline into a video track.

2. Click the Effects tab in the Browser window.

3. Click the triangle next to Video Generators to open it and then click the triangle next to Render to open it. In the Render bin, locate the Noise generator.

4. Drag the Noise generator (which works just like a clip) to the track above the clip in the Timeline.

5. Drag the ends of the Noise generator so that the clip stretches out to cover the entire clip or sequence on the tracks beneath it. (See Figure 1.)


Figure 1: Drag the Noise generator from the Effects tab to the track above your clip in the Timeline.

6. In the Timeline, drag the playhead over the Noise clip in the Timeline.

7. Double-click the Noise generator clip in the Timeline so that it loads into the Viewer window.

8. In the Viewer window, click the Motion tab and click the little triangle next to the Opacity setting.

9. Move the Opacity slider, as shown in Figure 2 to get the grainy look to your liking.

This effect is shown in the Canvas window as you move the Opacity slider. Keep moving the slider until the amount of grain you want is generated.


Figure 2: The Noise generator clip's Opacity can be modified under the Motion tab to create a grainy look for your project.

10. Select the Noise generator clip in the Timeline and choose Sequence --> Render Selection.

After the rendering process is complete, move the playhead just before the clip in the Timeline and press the spacebar to play the clip.

Noise looks considerably different on your tiny little computer Canvas preview window than it does on a TV. You need to experiment with the final product to find the right opacity setting to get the effect you want in your project. Having a TV hooked up to your Final Cut workstation is a big help here. If you're generating a movie for the Web, skip the noise if you can. It doesn't compress well and tends to pixilate (develop a checkered pattern) if you reduce the dimensions.

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