Steep Gradient (Wipe) Ahead

All trucks use low gear!

Seriously, though. Recently, I learned about a very neat transition in Final Cut. Introducing… The Gradient Wipe!

(Disclaimer: Remember when I talked about cheesy transitions? A gradient wipe can be just as cheesy if you overdo it. Don’t.)

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s jump in. First of all, what is a gradient wipe? My local dictionary says nothing on the subject, so you can make up your own definition based on the explanation. Let’s play with a gradient wipe.

point-outAdd a gradient wipe between two clips just like you would any other transition. Now, for basic experimentation, find the second clip in your browser and drag it into the slot I’ve pointed out in the picture. Drag the softness slider up a bit, play the video, and you should see something pretty interesting. Here’s what I got:

Gradient Wipe from Phantom Moose Films on Vimeo.

Pretty neat, huh? Let me explain how it works. When you added the clip to the slot, you added a matte. Final Cut uses this matte to decide which areas of the shot to transition first. Darker areas at the beginning, lighter areas last. We can use this to our advantage to make a very artsy transition.

cloudsYou’re going to need Photoshop or some similar photo editing application for these next examples. Launch Photoshop and create a new image the size of your video. Make sure your foreground and background colors are black and white, then do Filter>Render>Clouds. Save that image and bring it into Final Cut.

Drop your new cloud picture into the matte slot on your gradient wipe. Play it and see what happened. Here’s mine:

Cloud Gradient Wipe from Phantom Moose Films on Vimeo.

Let’s make this even more interesting. Remember the movie National Treasure? When Riley is explaining to Ben the security surrounding the Declaration of Independence, there’s a really neat shot of “kids on their eighth grade field trip.” The kids come in first, and then the background fades in behind them.

The filmmakers probably did a lot of motion tracking and matting and such to pull off this shot. Here’s a low-budget/lower-time way to get the same effect with a gradient wipe.

stillFirst, shoot some video of your people walking in front of something. Plan ahead more than I did and make sure they stand out against the background. The key to making this work without too much hassle is to have your subject stay still for a few seconds before they start to move.

Bring that video into Final Cut, and then export a frame of the part where your subject is standing still. Open the image in Photoshop.

matte-webDo a nice cutout job of your subject and get them on a separate layer. Get rid of the background and make it white. For the foreground, you have two options. You can either shade your subject all black to make them fade in all at once, or, as in the National Treasure effect, paint your subject in gradually lightening shades. Remember, darker fades in first.

Once you’ve saved that, bring it back into Final Cut and drop it in the matte slot. You may have to do some adjustments, but you should come out with something like this:

Complex Gradient Wipe from Phantom Moose Films on Vimeo.

As you can see, the possibilities are nearly endless. If you come up with anything interesting, leave a comment linking to your video. I’d love to see it!

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