Final Cut Pro: What is Compositing and Layering?

Compositing is a technique that was once reserved for only large budget productions. It involves stacking two or more video clips or graphics on multiple video tracks. You then blend the clips together into one image. This had once required expensive equipment to accomplish, but now in the digital age, all you need is a non linear editing system to accomplish this task.

Layering

When we do video compositing, we refer to each video track as a layer. The highest layer is always the most dominant. Video on track 2 will always cover up video on track 1. Video on track 3 will always cover up video on track 2, and so on.

Compositing

There are several different ways to composite video tracks together. None of them are better than the others, because they each composite the tracks in their own unique way. Some can be accomplished as an after thought when you're editing, while others require planning out before you shoot. Here are several compositing methods that you can use.

Adjusting the Video's Scale

Adjusting a video's scale is probably the quickest way to composite two clips. All you need to do is adjust the size of the clip on track 2 to make it smaller. As it shrinks, you will be able to see the video that was under the clip on track 1. A great example of this is the split screen effect. This is achieved by changing the scale of two video clips so that they both fit within the frame. 

Changing the Opacity

Another compositing technique involves altering the opacity of the dominant clip so you can see part of the clip that is under it. This can be done with a shot where a boyfriend is thinking of his girlfriend. You can place the shot of his girlfriend above his clip in video track 2. You can then resize the image so it's just her face, and change it's position so that it's not covering his face.

Using opacity effects, we have the shot where he is thinking, and her face fades in from 0 to 50% opacity, stays for a few seconds, and then fades out to 0%.

Keying

Chroma keying is a popular compositing technique that requires planning and technical skills, both when shooting and editing. What you do is shoot your subject in front of a solid color green screen. The screen must be evenly lit so that it is the same consistent color throughout the shot. 

When editing, you will place the green screen shot on track 2 and the background that will replace the green screen is on track 1. Using the chroma key effect, you apply it to the green screen shot and select the color of the green screen. That color should now disappear with the background taking it's place. You may need to add the filter several times if the shot was not evenly lit.

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