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If your business is seriously considering diving into the waters of video production for marketing, promotional, social media, instructional content, in-house human resources or any other reason, know that the journey could be challenging, but the rewards can be great. This is especially so if you not only employ the right tools, but you use them in such a way so as to make your work stand out among an already saturated crowd.

That won’t be easy at first. It starts with having the right content and the right deployment strategy for that content. But even if you have the ideal content to film, if you don’t give it a boost in post-production, that content will fall flat. This can be so even if you use the right software for the job.

SEE: How to build a budget-friendly home video setup with expensive-looking results (TechRepublic Premium)

When I first started producing videos on my own, I was using substandard editing tools. They were open source, free, and helped me learn the very basics of slapping together a video. When I look back on those early efforts, I have to laugh at what little I actually understood about putting together a quality video.

That was then, this is now. Instead of using those free editors, I now work with Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. From my perspective, FCPX is one of the best pro-level editors that has a fairly shallow learning curve so just about anyone can get up to speed on how to create a basic video that looks good and can be played on nearly any platform.

But you don’t want your videos to just look good. You want those efforts to come out looking great. How do you do that? You’re going to need to make use of a few plugins. Let’s dive in and see what you can do to improve those videos.

Start with color

To elevate your videos to a more professional level, you must start thinking about color. You’ve already invested in a camera and enough lighting to sufficiently illuminate your subject. But when you look at that raw footage, you’ll probably find it missing something. It doesn’t look cinematic or maybe the colors of different filming locations are so disparate that it’s jarring to watch.

What do you do?

The easiest thing you can do is start working with LUTs, which stands for lookup tables. The best way to describe what a lookup table is would be to consider them a color preset that you can use to easily convert the look of your video clip. It’s much more complex than that, but in the beginning, the most important thing for you to understand is that a LUT makes it possible for you to quickly color the look of a video.

In film and cinema, LUTs are generally developed specifically for a film. For what you’re doing, you’ll want to download (or purchase) predefined LUTs. There are several companies that sell LUTs, but you’ll need to do some research to find the right LUT to fit the look and feel you’re going for. Just make sure you’re looking for LUTs that can be used in Final Cut Pro X.

Once you’ve downloaded your LUTs, you have to first add the Custom LUT by dragging Custom LUT (from the Color Effects section shown in Figure A) onto the clip.

Figure A

Custom LUT in Final Cut Pro X
Adding a Custom LUT to your clip in Final Cut Pro X.

Once you’ve added the Custom LUT to the clip, click the LUT drop-down and select the one you want (Figure B).

Figure B

Final Cut Pro X
Select a LUT from those you’ve installed.

It’ll take you a while to learn which of the LUTs you’ve installed work best for which types of video. Eventually, you’ll settle on a handful of LUTs you use the most.

Don’t forget the transitions

If you really want to add some panache and pop to your videos, you need to consider the transitions from clip to clip. Final Cut Pro X comes with a number of cool transitions, but none of them is nearly the level of what you can purchase from third parties. When you start searching around, you’ll find some very creative transitions to add to your videos.

There’s one thing you need to be careful of, however. Don’t go overboard with the transitions. It’s like when you’re creating presentations — if you use too many transitions, things start looking a bit chaotic or sloppy. Equally as important, don’t use a different transition for every clip. In fact, I tend to stick with one family of transitions for each video. For example, if you purchase a transition pack that uses very creative zooms, you can apply left zooms, right zooms, diagonal zooms, up zooms, down zooms. But if you start mixing those transitions with fades, dissolves, drop-ins, earthquakes, wipes and more, the look of your video will start heading south of professional.

Use transitions, but use them wisely. And remember, sometimes no transition is the best transition.


There are also effects to consider. One effect I’m very fond of using in my footage comes from Pixel Film Studios and adds a random camera shake to a clip. This makes it possible to turn a tripod-filmed clip into what looks like a handheld, to give it a bit more life.

You’ll find effects for just about every kind of need, including film grain and distortion, overlays, lights, light diffusers, distortions, tilt shifts and even effects that make it easy to develop your own coloration. In fact, with just a quick search, you’ll find effects to cover just about any need.

You could also start with some of the built-in effects found with FCPX. Open the Effects browser and take a look at the Blur, Distortion, Light, Looks, Nostalgia and Stylized sections. You’ll find plenty of effects to use there.

Again, just like with transitions, don’t overdo it with the effects. The goal is to create professional videos, not overshadowing the original intent of the content.

Where to find these plugins

Two of the companies I’ve turned to the most are MotionVFX and Pixel Film Studios for outstanding transitions, effects and LUTs. Its products work with both Intel and M1-based Apple hardware and make it easy to install the add-ons for Final Cut Pro X.

There are plenty of other online stores that sell LUTs, transitions and effects for Final Cut Pro X. But before making the purchase, make sure that you aren’t buying from a scam. The two companies I mentioned earlier can be trusted. If you find something you like, do a bit of research before making the purchase. These days, it’s much better to be vigilant when buying anything that’s installed on your computers.

With just a little extra work and time, you can bring your video work to another level of professionalism. That extra time will be well worth the effort.

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