When Jordan Smith needed to constantly reframe a conference speaker that had been shot in UHD, he made himself a simple 1080 Motion project to speed up the process. 

I recently recorded a live event. In the past, I’ve used a setup with an A camera on the speaker, run by a camera operator who pans to follow as the speaker walks the stage, keeping her in frame. Then I run a B camera as a wide shot for another option to cut in.

This time I didn’t have a camera operator and I had to capture sessions happening in two rooms at once, so I went with a different approach. The A camera captured 4K, which I then conformed to 1080p HD in post, giving me a close-up of the speaker with room to pan/scan the video as the speaker moved around the stage.

But manually keyframing every move is tedious, especially if you have a speaker who moves around a lot. There had to be a better way. And yes, there is! Here’s how I operated the camera live in post with Motion.

First I set up a Motion project in Broadcast 1080p HD and made sure the frame rate matched my original video file.

Open Project 23 

Import the video file into Motion. It will automatically conform it to HD and crop it to fit 1080p. Use the Inspector to frame up the starting position.

Right-click on the X value for position on the video clip and add it to a new slider rig.

Add to Rig 25 

In the slider rig, position the leftmost value to be the left edge of the frame.

Define Left Edge 27 

Position the rightmost value to be the right edge of the frame.

Define Right Edge 29 

You now have a slider that is constrained to the left and right edges of your video, so now we can start recording.

Before you begin recording, hide the keyframe editor and the timeline. I also had to turn off the animation path overlays in the View menu. Otherwise, Motion had a hard time keeping up as it generates thousands of keyframes, even with my maxed out 2020 iMac.

Disable Animation Path 31 

Turn on keyframe recording, then start playback. As the speaker moves, use your slider to reframe the shot. Motion will record this with keyframes.

Enable Recording 33 

Okay, now you’ve “operated” your camera live and you’ve generated keyframes for the panning. But it still doesn’t feel like a human operator—it’s very jerky and needs to be smoothed out. And Motion has a quick way to do this!

Open the keyframe editor and select all the keyframes.

Lotsa Keyframes 35 

Click the arrow next to the animated parameter and choose Reduce keyframes.

Reduce Keyframes 37 

A dialogue appears with some settings. Crank both sliders all the way to the max and hit OK.

Reduce Keyframes HUD 39 

Motion removes the extraneous keyframes. Play that back and it’s starting to look a lot better.

Fewer Keyframes 41 

But we can make it look even more natural. Select all the keyframes again and set Interpolation to Bezier. Motion now adds ease in and out between each keyframe, making the camera pans ramp up and ramp down like a human operator would.

Interpolation 43 

Now all that’s left to do is export the video. Output it to the Apple ProRes flavor of your choice and you’re all set to drop your animated pan/scan clip into Final Cut Pro for editing.


Written by

Jordan Smith spent his teenage years constantly making short films and video projects. At the age of 17 he collaborated with friends to create an ambitious 70-minute feature length comedy musical spoof that still has a (very) minor cult following. He was an early adopter of Final Cut Pro X, choosing it for his web series Month of the Novel in 2013. He now produces videos for a homeschool publisher based near Atlanta, Georgia, handling a weekly video podcast, live workshop recordings, product videos, marketing content, and more. He lives in Georgia with his wife and three daughters.

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