The community behind FCPX is like no other NLE. An example of this is the help filmmaker Emmanuel Tenenbaum received when editing his short film 'Sans Plomb.' The film has just been awarded a Staff Pick on Vimeo to go along with its many film festival showings.

Sans Plomb (Unleaded) is a Canadian/French shortfilm I released in 2015 and that has since been selected in 45 festivals around the world and won the Best Shortfilm award at the Motovun Film Festival in Croatia.

The film was shot within the Kinomada lab, an organization in Québec City which invites around 100 filmmakers with different skills (directors, actors, editors, sound engineers, etc.) and provide them with food and lodging, giving them only one mission: make shortfilms in 10 days, from writing to first cut, in a non-competitive way. In those 10 days, 60 shorts were made !

sans plomb 02

The main challenge is that I had extremely little time for everything, especially given the fact that I didn’t know anyone there and it took me time to gather a crew... The other challenge is that the actors participating in the lab were highly demanded and they had to act in three other films that day, so I had only 4 hours for the whole shoot. The DoP was so sleep deprived from shooting 10 films in 3 days that he would fall asleep every time I would talk the the actors !

The film was shot on a Red Scarlet in natural light, I received Red Raw (R3D) footage from the cameraman. It was edited on FCPX 10.1.4 on a Macbook Pro Retina late 2013, using some external HDD plugged in USB3, which could be too slow sometimes but I survived. Several plugins were used, essentially Coremelt Lock & Load, Coremelt SliceX, Revision Effects RSMB, and I should not forget Backups for Final Cut Pro which saved my life a few times !

For the post-production, I sent the audio to ProTools via X2Pro, which worked like a charm, and did some round-tripping to Davinci Resolve for the grading. Note that before exporting my timeline to Resolve, I made sure that I disabled most effects and plugins. Eventually, I brought all back to FCPX, re-applied all the effects to the graded clips, added some grain with FilmConvert, and subtitled with Digital Heaven.

I delivered all kind of formats, ProRes and H264 for internet, DCP 5.1 for festivals (done via a post production house), and some XDCAM for the Dutch public television.

As you can see, the idea of the film was to appear as one take. It sounds really fun but for this kind of things, you need a lot of rehearsal time, and then make many takes until you get THE ONE. And as you can imagine, in 4 hours I didn’t have that magic take. So I asked the DoP to make nervous moves with the camera, hoping to be able to stitch different takes later on in post. (At that time Birdman had not yet been released so I only knew about the theory of this kind of stitching).

In the end, there are 7 cuts in the film. Will you be able to spot them ?

sans plomb 01

After the shoot, the difficulties started. I had never done a full “professional" workflow by then, and since it ultimately had to be delivered in DCP 5.1 and for TV broadcast, I still had to learn a lot of things... The other issue is that this was 2015, FCPX was less popular than it is today, so I didn’t really have a lot of friends who could help me out. That’s when fcp.co became the best spot on earth !

I’ve received INCREDIBLE HELP from the people here, by Ronny Courtens, Andreas Kiel, vidGreg, Ben Balser, Tom Wolfsky, (and I’m sure I forget so many of them please forgive me)... so fcp.co is in the credits !

What really blew my mind is that everything could be done with a single FCPX licence and a few plugins... We only had to go to Pro Tools and Resolve to finish the post-production (a huge thanks to Blast Production who allowed me to do that part).

Before I start, I’d like to say that I edited this film 2 years ago and as I said, I was on my own. It is very possible that there were better ways to do it, or that they appeared since then.

So how did I make it appear as one take ? Let's go:

First of all, we were lucky to find a location with white walls and many windows in the room. This is not something you can do anywhere: I think it’s important that the audience doesn’t understand the space too well, so you can do a trick. White or dark walls, too many details or no details at all, both can work, it's important that the background is not TOO recognisable.

Obviously, the style of filming had to be shaky and nervous, otherwise it wouldn’t work. But, if the right conditions are there, there’s a lot you can do.

Let’s look for example at what happens at 04:53. If you pause the film on that transition, can you see how obvious and poorly manufactured it is ?

 sans plomb fcpx

Yet I can tell you that there are several thousands of people who saw the films in festivals and no one ever noticed. So that’s the good news: the human brain is our friend ! Before you do this kind of work, you need to know where is the attention of the audience: if it’s on the face of the main actor, you can do some weird stuff in the background, no one will notice ! (Remember the awareness test that went viral a few years ago ?)

The basic principle is to superpose clip A and clip B: at the beginning, clip A is visible and clip B is not visible because it is completely offscreen on the left.

Then, we rapidly move clip A towards the right until it is offscreen, and at the same time we bring clip B to fill the screen. However, in order to give it a natural look, you still need to keyframe it a little so it doesn’t appear too mechanical.

The next step is to improve the transition. For this, we only have to add an adjustment layer with the RSMB motion blur plugin on it. In this case it doesn’t make a huge difference, but in other cases I can assure you it will improve your transition dramatically.

And that’s it ! Tadaaaa.

Emmanuel TenenbaumEmmanuel Tenenbaum is a French filmmaker based in Amsterdam and Paris. Sans Plomb is the first chapter of his "office trilogy", a collaboration with the Canadian scriptwriter Guillaume Fournier.