More Reviews




Review: Secrets of final cut pro 2 - Volume one

May, 2001

Secrets of final cut pro 2 - Volume one

Presented by DV
Hosted by Steve Martin
20 tutorial projects - CD ROM
Cost: $79.95
Available at:


Review by Ken Stone

I found Secrets of Final Cut Pro 2.0 CD Rom to have the highest production standards of any tutorial I have ever seen. The interface, art work, and on screen images are full sized, sharp and clean. The movies are high resolution and the audio is superb. Steve Martin narrates the lessons in a slow paced comfortable style. The learning environment is very friendly, much like having an instructor standing right behind you giving you instructions.

So who is it for? Both the beginner and intermediate. This might sound like too wide a gamut to cover but this tutorial teaches in two different ways. It offers 20 techniques (tricks) that are mostly built around compositing that are targeted for the intermediate, but it teaches in such away that the beginner will learn not only the tricks but in the process learn basic editing. More on this later.

This tutorial offers two approaches to learning it's Secrets.

The first approach is to simply watch the lessons. Each lesson is broken into what DV Creators call 'chunks', the lesson stops at various stages so you can go back and repeat the last 'chunk' or move ahead. You can also play each lesson like a movie, play straight through and watch the entire lesson without stopping.

Using the second approach you to have FCP open and running along with Secrets. You play a 'chunk' in Secrets then switch to FCP and do it yourself, back to Secrets for the next step and then back to FCP. You work your way through each lesson going back and forth between Secrets and FCP. All of the material necessary including audio is provided on the CD. You drag this folder (containing 63 clips at 232 megs) to your HD and then bring the clips into your Browser for use in FCP.

So lets take a look. When you open Secrets you get a splash screen and then move on to the main menu.


Main Menu open with 'flash to white' movie being shown.

When you select one of lessons on the left a movie opens up in the 'show me' window on the right. A movie plays showing the completed effect. If you want to move on to the lesson you click the 'show me the secret' button and the tutorial opens up and the lesson begins. We are presented with a full FCP screen; Viewer, Canvas, TL, Browser, Tool palette, and VU meters, shown below.


As each lesson begins the necessary clips are in the Browser and the Timeline is empty. As you move through the lesson each and every step is shown on the screen and Steve talks you through the process, there is even a bit of humor.

So what are the 20 'Secrets' on this CD?

tutorial project listing
Filmlook Using the effects and tools built right into Final Cut Pro and QuickTime, you will be amazed how easy it is to achieve that elusive "film look" for your videos.
Color key Who needs bluescreen or greenscreen? We show you a simple alternative to live-action keying that is much easier, and produces more satisfying results.
Gradient overlay Think you can't do ramped opacity with FCP? You can now! A cool technique for any graphic separation behind titles.
Selective focus One big advantage of film is shallow depth of field. Here's how to simulate this in post with remarkable results.
Animated PIP PIP, also known as picture-in-picture is a fairly common video effect. However, on this CD we show you how to animate your PIPs to get uncommon results.
Timeline split edit This is one little "secret" that is worth it's weight in gold. And that's what you'll be worth when your clients see how fast you can manipulate sound and video without ever losing sync.
Grunge typewriter text Using the cool new typewriter effect that comes standard in Final Cut Pro 2.0, we will show you how to squeeze the most out of it.
4-Up Nesting We'll show you how to create an amazing video wall effect using Final Cut Pro's powerful nesting features.
Match Frame & Replace Many editors still wonder what the match frame button really does. After we show you this killer secret you'll never stop using it.
Flash to white It's an effect you see all the time in commercials and movie trailers - white bursts between shots of intense action. When we start seeing even more of this effect, we'll all know why.
Logo/I.D. bug Those little network I.D. "bugs" that sit there "inconspicuosly" on the bottom corner of the frame are simple to create using Final Cut Pro's powerful compositing tools.
Multi-clip level control Manipulating the sound levels on a single or multiple tracks was a big challenge before Final Cut Pro 2.0. Let us show you how powerful and flexible this new feature is.
Mondo titles Learn how to make your text HUGE without having to go to Photoshop. We show you an innovative way to use nesting that you probably haven't thought of yet.
Swap Clip A great little secret that will move you quickly into "power user" status.
Highlight pass A terrific eye-popping effect you can add to almost any title to give it more polish and shine - literally.
Gradient wipes If your tired of using that heart wipe for the hundredth time, let us show you how to create dazzling transitions using black and white gradients that can be created easily from within Final Cut Pro or Photoshop.
Mysterious text This one secret alone is worth the price of this CD. A spectacular text effect that would be at home on X-Files.
Video filled title Learn variations on a theme of putting moving video inside your type.
Photoshop Nesting You'll discover the valuable secret of compositing your Photoshop artwork in Final Cut Pro. As an added benefit, you'll learn some new ways to use the particle generator.
Steve's exploding head After finishing this CD, this is what I felt like. Learn some new ways to apply Final Cut Pro's amazing filter and matte tools to do just that... blow off my head.

(note - I stole this table from the DV Creators' web site - ken)

I mention above that while it seems that these lessons are targeted to the intermediate user, this CD would work very well for beginners. As you go through the lessons there are many basic procedures that are involved over and over again. Seeing these procedures repeated over and over and then doing these procedures as you learn the 'secrets', is an excellent learning tool. For example, it would be impossible for you to go through the Secrets CD and not use the 'f-10' and 'f-12' keys in your daily work.

Price at $ 79 the Secrets CD has good value for the intermediate user. It has a number of tricks that would find their way into on going Projects. The intermediate user would learn not only the tricks but would be able to customize these 20 tricks to hundreds of new tricks. For the beginner I believe that this CD has greater value as not only will the beginner learn these tricks but would, at the same time, learn many of the basic of FCP.

There are few problems.

One of the lessons, 'Color Key', has a flaw - stalling out two thirds of the way through the lesson and returns you to the start of the lesson. I contacted DV Creators about this problem. I was told that they are doing two things. First they have posted the 'Color Key' lesson at their web site. Second they will replace for free any CDs that have this problem.

When you are viewing a lesson using the 'chunks' method, it is possible to move ahead or back one 'chunk' but you can not move back more then one 'chunk', you'll have to go back to the start of the lesson. Lastly, when viewing a lesson it is not always obvious when the lesson is over, some type of 'sign off' would be helpful.

Except for the one lesson that stalls, I consider these complaints to be minor. What makes 'Secrets' such an excellent tool, aside from it's really cool tricks and high production standards, is that it's fun.



copyright © Ken Stone 2001

This article first appeared on and is reprinted here with permission.
All screen captures and textual references are the property and trademark of their creators/owners/publishers.

copyright © Michael Horton 2000-2010 All rights reserved