Alex Gollner – known to many the Final Cut community as Alex4D – has just released a new set of plugins for working with 360° spherical video: Alex4D 360° Effects. They are on special offer at $49 for the launch, down from $79.

The plugins in Alex4D 360° Effects help editors get up to speed with making 360° videos. Film makers can stay in Final Cut instead of having to fix problems by importing footage modified in separate graphics applications or using complex combinations of multiple clips and effects.

The effects included can he used to highlight, distort, stylise, mask and replicate spherical and flat footage in 360° video timelines. They can also make more of 360° footage in HD and 4K flat projects.

As a special bonus, the demo watermarked trial version of Alex4D 360° Effects comes with three free plugins that can instantly save time in VR video production.

Duncan Shepherd, LA-based editor of major VR Video productions such as ‘Paul McCartney VR’ from Jaunt said: ”I’m very impressed with Alex4D 360° Effects for Final Cut Pro X. Definitely tools I need and can work with.”

The pack of plugins normally sells for $79, but there is a special launch price of $49 for a limited time

Features

  • Most plugins have on-screen controls
  • The ‘360° Repeat Comp Flat 4D’ effect can replicate Final Cut’s 100+ built-in ‘flat’ titles around the 360° sphere.
  • Project resolutions limits are based on power of your GPU. For example the plugins can work with mono 8192x4906 footage on a 2016 MacBook Pro with 4GB GPU
  • Three free plugins give control over order of effect application without having to make compound clips
  • Compatible with Final Cut Pro X 10.4.2, which requires macOS High Sierra 10.13.2
  • Compatible with Final Cut Pro X 10.4.0, which will run on macOS Sierra 10.12.6 (for those who aren’t able to update to High Sierra)

Alex4D 360° Effects is distributed using the FxFactory plugin management system, there is a free watermarked trial available.

Here is a flat video tutorial from FxFactory showing how some of the plugins work: 

360°-aware effects?

In December 2018, Apple updated Final Cut to version 10.4. One of the headline features was the ability to natively work with 360° spheres of video. Final Cut Pro X can now import, manipulate and export VR videos. These are the kind of stories where you can look all around a sphere of video in a specialised headset, or by holding your phone up as you turn around or by dragging in a video window.

The update included ten new effects designed for 360° video production. Alex explains:

“Apple needed to introduce ‘360°-aware’ effects because the majority of standard effects that come with video editing applications can’t properly deal with 360° video. ‘Flat video’ effects are designed to work with rectangles of video, not spheres of video."

“I wanted to create a pack of effects that editors can use as normal in Final Cut when working with spherical video. I wanted to make plugins for editors and filmmakers – not only motion graphics experts. Effects that solve common problems without fuss."

Directing the audience’s view

When people first explore making 360° video, they are frustrated by the problem of making sure viewers notice what they want them to notice. You can’t do cutaways to close-ups of important things, you can’t scale up part of the shot so the audience focuses on the right thing. There is no way to know if the viewer is even looking in the right direction.

There are plugins in Alex4D 360° Effects that help editors direct people’s view. They can enlarge a selected part of the sphere, they can blur everything but the selection or simply draw a highlight circle around important things.

“For example, this footage taken in London’s St. Pancras Station has lots of interesting details. How do you highlight a specific part of the sphere? In Final Cut the pane on the left is the 360° viewer - a simulation of what the audience will see if they look in a certain direction. The viewer pane on the right shows the whole sphere of video mapped onto a rectangle."

"Here are three different ways of highlighting specific features of the environment: small areas of the 360° sphere have been firstly enlarged, secondly emphasised by blurring the rest of the sphere and thirdly been surrounded by a red rectangle:" 

alex4d360effects 01 directing peoples view

Final Cut Pro tools made VR video compatible

In some cases it is useful to overlay part of one video sphere over part of another sphere. The relevant tools to do this in Final Cut Pro X 10.4 and later don’t work properly with 360° media.

The current built-in masking tools are not yet 360°-aware: the feathering they do to soften the edges of a mask isn’t designed to work in spherical video. Alex4D 360° Effects includes 360°-aware tools in the Mask category.

As well as directing people to see what you want them to see, Alex4D 360° Effects also provides 360°-aware versions of effects editors currently use in flat (non-360°) video productions in three further categories: Blur, Distortion and Stylize.

Another way to make sure people see what you want them to see – whichever way they happen to be looking in the sphere – is to have multiple copies of the same graphics, titles, images and flat video appear in different parts of the 360° sphere at the same time. Alex4D 360° Effects includes plugins that make multiple copies of an overlay or part of a video sphere so at least one copy is visible wherever the viewer might be looking.

As well as editing 360° video clips in 360° productions, it is sometimes useful to use 360° footage in traditional flat videos. Alex4D 360° Effects also includes plugins in this category

Alex concludes:

“As in the world of high-end TV and feature films, using Final Cut Pro X to make 360° spherical video isn’t the majority choice. Motion graphics and NLE workflows have remained the same in recent years. However, I believe that Apple’s deeper integration of 360° tools into editing make it the best NLE for VR video production.

As well as appealing to current 360° video production companies, I’m looking forward to Alex4D 360° Effects helping new people get into spherical video storytelling. If you or people you make films for want to explore 360° spherical videos, please check out Alex4D 360° Effects.”