Best FCPX Tutorials | Izzy Video

For more than a year now I’ve been telling people on forums, etc. about izzy

When I first starting using FCPX it was obvious that it wasn’t just a “sit-down-and-figure-it-out” program. And I’m not very good at studying thick manuals.

But some people are and we count on them to put together tutorials that show us the fundamental basics in action.

There are many out there, as you all know.

I tried all the usual ones at the time and wasn’t very happy with any of them. Some were too long and drawn out, but most seemed to have an annoying aspect of the presenter trying to sell his own “brand”. By that I mean a bit too much time spend on being an interesting personality rather than just telling you what it is you want to know.

Then someone told me to check out izzy video.

I had a feeling that FCPX was simple and intuitive, but it was obvious that there were a few principles I’d have to grasp before I could run with it. My feeling was that this should be accomplishable in one day.

It was.

Izzy had quite a series of short tutorials on the basics of FCPX. More than a dozen I think. And they were free. But more importantly, he had me up and running and having fun in the very first day.

He didn’t pile it all on.

He took it step by step.

He wasn’t long and laborious. He was concise and to-the-point, easy to follow and listen to.

Then, for a ridiculously low fee, he had an “Advanced FCPX” course, also with tons of short videos, step by step.

With all that I happily edited for more than a year.

Then came FCPX 10.1.

It took Izzy a couple of weeks, but as soon as he announced the new FCPX 10.1 basic tutorials (he’s still got the original ones on his site if you haven’t upgraded), I sat down and watched them all straight through.

Boy am I glad I did!

Because I didn’t just learn about the new cool stuff that I wanted to grasp correctly from the outset, I learned a TON of stuff I didn’t know that’s been there all along. Easy stuff.  Wonderful tools and short cuts. Great advice on work flows.

Hey, maybe everyone else already knew all this (but I doubt it).

FCPX had already doubled my speed and enjoyment of the FCPX editing process right from the start. But I’m sure some of you are familiar with the nagging feeling that you’re being a lunkhead about certain things, but just don’t know another way of doing it so you just carry on being a lunkhead. (I’m not the only one, am I?)

But now Izzy has just inadvertently helped me get some of the “lunks” out of my head.

And, no, this is not an affiliate announcement. I get nothing from this except the satisfaction of helping people which is the purpose of this blog.

Don’t Try This At Home

How to Shoot a Live Concert with One Cameraman

First off, I’m not bragging about this piece as it’s flawed. That said, for the one-man-band and small production companies, there are some things worth sharing.

The video above was a live concert. It was, in fact, an album release event and this was the first time these songs were performed live in front of an audience.

And as I shot it, it was the first time for me too.

The trick was to shoot a live concert with only one manned camera and have it appear as a multi-camera shoot. This can be achieved pretty effectively with two cameramen and two or three unmanned cameras, but budget didn’t allow, so I had to pull it off the best I could with me, myself and I (one manned camera hand-held, two un-manned).

The Cameras

I used three disparate cameras: The Canon XHA1 (tape driven), the GoPro III Black Edition and the Sony HXR NX30. The Sony saved my bacon, despite the fact that I made a fundamental error with it. But more on that later on the “Things Not To Do” list. I could have (and should have) added a fourth–my Canon 600D, but that was assigned to still photographs.

In order to edit, it is necessary to cut between angles which are significantly different either in image size or angle or both. Preferably both. So the first task was to find camera locations where the locked off cameras would be safe and out-of-the-way. So the Canon was relegated to a balcony rail. Framing it was a “best guess” and I only had one shot. Turned out ok. Due to the extreme low frontal lighting level and due to the fact that the Canon is not particularly good at low light levels (unlike the Sony), at the editing stage I pretty much had to leave the image size alone. Zooming it in digitally would have betrayed a lot of grain.

The GoPro was placed at the back of the stage for two main reasons: 1) it is a completely different angle and so easy to cut to (and also dramatic due to the stage lights appearing in frame) and, 2) that rear angle can often be used to cover faults that would be revealed by frontal cameras (which can be anything including the performer having to swat a fly, scratch a nose–or, as happened in this case, sync manipulation). And when shooting a live event that hasn’t be rehearsed, it’s good to have a built-in fall back. As it turned out, it became a vital camera because we didn’t wind up using the live mix. Instead I synced the studio recording to the live event and that required some sliding of picture track here and there which then created gaps in the live camera edit that couldn’t be used. So the rear shots covered those momentary lapses of sync.

The Sony was the hand-held camera and here the task was to not only get the close-up camera coverage, but to run around like mad and obtain as many different angles as possible (to give some variation to the edit). You can imagine that 3 static cameras would give a very repetitive and boring edit. So the hand-held had to do the work of two or 3 other nonexistent cameras.

Sound was taken off the house mix board to a Zoom H2 recorder. Unfortunately it was not a good live mix and it was not a multi-track recording (so couldn’t be mixed in post) which is why it was decided to try to sync the studio recording to the live show.

I mentioned that the Sony saved my bacon. If you haven’t watched it, see the review I did on the Sony HXR NX30. It was the image stabilization and intelligent auto that did most of the work. As far as the “What Not To Do List” is concerned, I should have set it on “spotlight mode” since that camera was mainly shooting close shots of the singer in a spotlight against a dark or black background. That would have given me better exposure control in editing (if even needed). Not having done so gave me over-exposure to the degree that highlights were completely lost and unrecoverable. I could only mitigate it to some degree in editing. Nothing you can do when there’s no picture information there to adjust.

The Game Plan

With the two un-manned cameras and Zoom H2 set, through hard experience I knew that I’d have to start them all well before the show started. Shows rarely start on time, so don’t count on that. The trick is to start soon enough before the actual show start to give you a chance to get ready with the hand-held camera without your heart pounding from running all over the auditorium, but not so soon that batteries or tape will run out before the first act is over. (thank god for card-based cameras)

Also, through hard experience, I knew the value of closer reverse shots on the main performer (remember, the Go Pro is super wide). So I had to plan my route onto stage in order to get there and back as quick as possible. I knew that a reverse shot of the singer (playing guitar, for example) could be used to cover an edit ANY song where she was playing guitar. And sure enough, I needed it for this one–as little did I know at the time that I would be syncing the live performance to a studio recording! I only wish I had done at least one more different reverse with that hand-held.

Finally (also learned the hard way), when shooting hand-held close shots of the performer, you have to resist the temptation to dive out to another angle until an appropriate edit point. If she’s singing a note, let her finish it! Then dive. Re-framing as fast as possible and from as different an angle as possible, is the trick, but not so often that you wind up with only short usable bits. Its the main singer people want to see. Nothing wrong with holding on a close shot for a little while. It will usually be evident when a good point comes to be able to change to a new angle, knowing that while you’re doing that you’ll be cutting to the main frontal wide camera or the reverse.

Syncing Live Performance to Studio Recording

This is how I did it in FCPX:

1) laid down the main frontal camera on the time line
2) added the studio recording track
3) manually found a sync point. Played until it went out of sync and then cut the picture track. Then nudged the picture track left or right until the next portion was in sync. And so on. In this particular case there were about 4 points of sync correction, each of which gave me a 2-6 frame gap in the picture track.
4) Added the next camera track and found a starting sync point.
5) Then went to the exact edit points in the main picture track and made the same cut and shift in the next camera track–essentially creating an identical gap.
6) repeat 4 and 5 for the last camera.
7) If any of the above left a gap at the beginning (by reason of shifting any track to the right) I added slugging to the beginning so that all tracks have the exact same starting sync point.
8) Now I made each of the 4 tracks into a New Compound Clip, naming each one.
9) Then selected each of the new Compound Clips in the browser and created a multi-cam clip.
10) Edited the multi-cam clip in the usual way producing a rough cut of the show.
11) This, of course, left me with about 4 or 5 black flashes where the gaps were which I was forced to cover using my generic reverse angle of the singer or by cheating the GoPro reverse shot. (if the drummer showed enough to betray the sync, I cropped the GoPro shot to exclude the drummer).
12) Added a beginning and end title sequence.
13) Colour balanced.

That’s it.

This next song was a bit more complicated in that there were 8 different points of sync correction. Once it was all fixed up as in points 10-13 above we reviewed the whole thing and determined there were just too many reverse shots for “no apparent reason”. Of course we knew the reason and it was a mechanical one, not an artistic one. Fortunately there was some studio footage taken during the album recording, so we sucked that in and strung it out from a natural break in the song for about a minute.That took care of most of the sync correction edits seamlessly.

Now, the reason for the title “Don’t Try This At Home”, is that to really make it come across as professional (besides not making stupid errors like I did), is simply to have at least one more cameraman doing hand-held work. Better still, add a third static camera at a different angle (and so on). Now you can really start making it look like a large multi-cam shoot. I’m talking low budget high value here.

(I’ve done 14 camera live shoots too, but that’s a whole different ball game and price range!)

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Unshackled Camerawork

Just made up that term. Wonder if it will stick.

As a 30 year career cameraman, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on camerawork for the one-man-band videographers and small video production companies out there.

It’s a many-faceted subject, but like any subject, it has fundamental rules. And while this isn’t meant to be a dissertation on the rules, I thought I mention one that probably isn’t written anywhere anyway as a foundation for my comments, and that is: the purpose of camerawork is to forward the message of the script or production (and that goes for every other department–sets, props, costumes, make-up, lighting, sound, music, editing, etc.).

The corollary might be: The purpose of camerawork isn’t to call attention to the camera or cameraman.

That said, there are probably few camera support systems I haven’t extensively used in both film and video production–from geared heads, the most expensive fluid heads and tripods, dollies, cranes, camera cars and steadicam. But I used them toward contributing to the overall message of the scene.

In the mid-90s I changed over to video, traveling the world in small teams of 2 or 3, self included, with an 18 pound Sony Betacam. The work was fast and often “ninja style”. Little preps, lots of thinking on one’s feet.  My biggest impediment annoyance? Tripods.

So early on I ditched that $7,000 carbon fiber tripod with the Sachler head for everything except sit-down interviews and I learned to do everything hand-held. Not “shakey-cam”, just a nice, steady hand-held. I’d prop that big Sony on my foot, on the ground, on a ledge, on my knee, hip or shoulder, lean against a pole or fence or building or sit it on a small bean bag I carried and shot stuff that few ever realized was hand-held.

But the main point was, I was able to shoot un-impeded. I didn’t miss those fleeting shots on location because I was setting up a tripod and introverted into my equipment.

Then came the digital revolution.

And now most of the cameras we used have built-in stabilization and most of the editing programs we use have camera stabilizer programs to boot.

Better still, the cameras themselves are light-weight with rotatable flip-out monitor screens. What more can you ask for?!

Ok, so now let’s re-visit that fundamental above about the purpose of camerawork.

Camerawork (or lighting or editing or any of those other departments mentioned) is good when it involves the audience in the story; when it helps to impart mood or emotion or direct attention.

And, (corollary), these things are bad when they call attention to themselves, or worse when they call attention to the operator showing off his technical prowess.

In fact my view regarding camerawork had always been that it’s best when it’s “invisible”–when it seamlessly becomes the eye of the audience.

That doesn’t necessarily mean perfect camerawork. It just means appropriate to and not distracting from the message.

It’s quite alright if someone after the show remarks that the cinematography was excellent, but by that they generally mean that everything contributed to the message or story and they were wowed by it all, not distracted or knocked out of the show by it.

Don’t be fooled into the notion that to appear “professional” you’ve got to have all these cool rigs and techniques. You don’t even need it to impart a “cinematic” look.

Think about all the lost opportunities to catch snippets of life and reaction at a wedding or great B roll of people working at their jobs in the office or on an industrial site while you were busy setting up that fancy shot. Instead keep your attention outward. Be invisible. Catch the stuff that only happens when no one thinks you’re watching.

Get your technical expertise up as high as you can get it without losing site of why you’re there.

I’m not saying get rid of all your cool stuff and I’m not saying don’t buy it. Just don’t get the notion that you need it to be professional. Far more important is obtaining total command over your camera so that it becomes an extension of your eye which is always outward looking, and then with it you capture what you came for better than your client ever expected.

Message is senior to technical rendition. In fact it trumps it.

If you capture something in a way that screams the message or mood or emotion, it will resonate with the audience even if faulty.  They didn’t come there to watch and critique your camerawork or technique (unless that’s what your video message is about!).

My two cents.

UPDATE:  While this was the subject of my last post, it occurred to me that it’s, at least, a current sample of an 11 minute video that’s entirely hand-held except for the sit-down interview (as all my videos are , to be honest). I link to it here as, unlike most of the corporate and wedding videos I do, I think it would be of interest to anyone. It’s a mini-doc on the making of a bronze statue by my wife, international sculptor Laury Dizengremel:

Color Temperature, Warts ‘n All

This tutorial was by request of Daren Henderson.  I do appreciate all the feedback on the first two videos in the “Lighting For Video That Doesn’t Suck” series, and particularly requests.

I’m also chuffed that people have started subscribing to this blog. I’ve just added share buttons to the articles, so please share as you see fit.

I called it “Warts n All” because I did this one 100% solo without the benefit of moral support from my assistant/model Gemma. But also I demonstrate and discuss color temperature errors.

For you Americans: “Warts n All” is an English expression that’s sort of self explanatory. So is “chuffed”. The English have a way with expressions that make no sense on the face of it until you hear them in context and suddenly they make total sense. (I live in England)

Don’t miss Part One, Lighting for Video That Doesn’t Suck, Getting Started

and Part Two, 3 Point Lighting.


The Mysteries and Intracacies of Lighting–NOT

I just received the following comment from Claudia Oliveira on the tutorial I posted today, “Lighting For Video That Doesn’t Suck, Part 2; 3 Point Lighting”  

“I’ve been doing 3-point lighting but end up spending too much time tweaking the set up and wasting time. As a lone operator myself, time and agility is essential to most of my jobs. Having rules of thumb such as the ones you shared will definitely improve my ‘thinking on my feet’.”

I told her that made the whole thing worthwhile for me.

It also reminded me of a story.

I used to work with both film crews, and later video crews. The video crews were 2-3 man teams of which I was the director/cameraman.  In both cases, there were gaffers (the lighting people). In the video teams, one of the two or three on the team was the gaffer.

Now I don’t say this critically, because if I was a gaffer, I’d treat my job the same way. But as a director, one has the responsibility of getting things done quick. Yet gaffers had the ability to spend the ENTIRE time of the shoot setting up and fiddling with lights, no matter how much time was available.  Naturally framing the camera comes first. But it would get to the point where there should have been plenty of time to get the thing lit so I could get the show on the road, so invariably my attention would turn to lighting which would often be holding up the show for very mysterious and technical reasons.

Eventually, in self defense, I learned how to light.

Now here I am doing tutorials on lighting. And while I haven’t covered all the bases yet on the subject of lighting fundamentals (which I have referred to briefly in the first two videos so far), one of those fundamentals is something I  haven’t even touched on yet–and plan to in greater detail.

But I’ll mention an important fundamental datum right now. And that’s on the even more basic subject of ART itself.

There is a purpose to art, and that purpose is COMMUNICATION.  I touched on this in the first video.

The reason one composes or lights, or creates sets, costumes, makeup, etc., or records sound, music or edits or any other part of videography or cinematography (not to mention any other formal art) is TO FORWARD A MESSAGE, i.e., to COMMUNICATE something. When all the parts contribute to that communication, you’ve got a screaming communication with emotional impact. You know it when you see or experience it.

Ok, that’s one thing.

But here’s a qualifying datum that is often overlooked:

There can be a wrong target or wrong emphasis in any art–and that would be the seeking of technical perfection.

Technical perfection is NOT the target. Communication is.

So how far do you take your technical application? You take it as far and as high as you can until you achieve the communication. Once you’ve achieved the communication, there’s no point in driving technical any higher (short of self-satisfaction).

In  a practical and business sense, yes, you certainly want to achieve a high technical standard,

Just remember, it’s more important to (the purpose of your activity) to achieve a high level of communication.

Once you’ve achieved that, you’re DONE.

On the other hand, if your technical rendition is inadequate or poor, it will DETRACT FROM THE COMMUNICATION.

So you have to achieve that balance where you have a high communication value.

The question becomes, “how good does the technical rendition have to be?”.

The answer (in any field of art) is: Good enough to achieve an emotional impact with the intended communication.

So back to the gaffer story:

I could, as director and cameraman, light the scene faster than the gaffer. Why? Not because the gaffer was incompetent, but because I knew when to stop. After all, I was responsible for the overall communication of the scene.

Which brings me to the point of what I eventually hope to achieve once the whole Lighting Tutorial series is complete.

By covering the fundamentals of each topic as well as the underlying fundamentals of art itself, I want to help people achieve the understanding and judgment involved with being able to perform their craft rapidly and competently with a minimum of kit (equipment) and to a truly professional result.

In the lighting series (and future camera series, etc.) I’ll eventually get to practical examples of “lighting in the real world”, including a real time set up of an actual live lighting situation. But I want to get the fundamentals in place first. Then we can get into tricks and shortcuts. But, as the saying goes, “you’ve got to know the rules first. Only then can you break them.”

And when you do break them, it’s all toward forwarding the communication. NOT just calling attention to yourself (which detracts from the communication, doesn’t it?).

Here are a couple of earlier articles on “Message: and “The Rules”:


“The Rules”

I’ll take these up and expand on them in a later video.

Thanks Claudia! You’ve got me going.

3 Point Lighting Video Tutorial

Here’s the second tutorial in the series showing the mechanics of 3 point lighting.

(The first in the series, “Lighting For Video That Doesn’t Suck, Getting Started”, is here:

I want to say a little something about who these tutorials are directed toward–which is small start-up video businesses and lone operators.

I notice on YouTube, not surprisingly, there are lots of videos that come up as related videos to this. I have watched a few in the past–which is one of the reasons that prompted me to have a shot at it myself.

Of that quick sampling, some I noted were a bit robotic and dictatorial. Some simply had incorrect information–usually to do with the position of the fill light (too far off-axis) or the backlight (too high spilling onto the forehead).

But mainly these were well equipped instructors in nice large studio situations.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but here’s where I will be a bit different.

I have in the past worked with massive facilities, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment, crews ranging from small to large and budgets that enabled all of that.

A lone video operator or small company might be mis-lead into believing that lots of equipment is required to produce professional work. It’s an alluring thought to obtain and have all these bits and pieces until you have to start dragging it all around.

Even as I operated in the past with a small video documentary crew, the encumbrances of all that equipment started to wear me down, and over time, I shed most of it in favor of a small kit that enabled me to be more “ninja-like” (as we used to call it). In other words, I developed the ability to move in and out very quickly.

When you arrive at a location, previously unseen, with an appointment and limited time, there’s too much to do too quickly without also having to unpack and set up a bunch of fancy equipment.

When I started Video Whisperer, as a lone operator (allowing me to charge less), I cut the kit down to the bare essentials.

So these tutorials are for people like me–lone operators or small crews who want to produce professional quality with minimum kit in the real world.

But I also want to impart an understanding of the fundamental basics of the aspects of video production (lighting, camerawork, how to do interviews, etc.) that enables you to be able to think on your feet in applying this information effectively in the real-world circumstances that you’ll be finding yourselves in.

So, without further ado, here’s the next tutorial. Please do comment, make requests and share it as you see fit.

Rather Than Complain About Amateurs…

(written for a Linkedin Video Group)

Like many of you, I follow quite a few related blogs on Linkedin and elsewhere.

So this is not a criticism of this one.

But doubtless you’ve seen your fair share of soulful but utterly irrelevant chatter about amateurs driving down prices and quality of video production.

If you take a moment to check out the actual work of the complainers (on their sites), you probably won’t very often find the work of a true professional. I’d wager you never will.

So rather than complain, if you are a professional, why not teach what you know?

With some 30 years experience in the fields of cinematography and video, I learned a few things from a combination of study of the basics texts on the subjects, mentoring from a master and then years of working it all out in the real world.

After a year or two of reading too much aggravating drivel about amateurs, I decided to start a blog called “The Video Whisperer” (

More recently I started to focus it more toward exactly what I said above:

Why not teach what you know?

A month ago I started with the first video tutorial series  “Lighting for Video That Doesn’t Suck”.  The first one dealt with the fundamentals behind lighting.  I got some great feedback from professionals and amateurs alike. Many noted that there was information in there that they had never heard before. And so it will be with the rest of them.

This week I’m going to complete several more in that series, the first one specifically on 3 point lighting.

I’d like to invite anyone who wants to learn the basics cinematic lighting to subscribe to the blog so that you are the first to know when the new videos are up (which should be in a few days). Meanwhile you can watch the first one that’s already up.

The Lighting series will cover the fundamentals of lighting, the mechanics of 3 point lighting, lighting in the real world, kit and some vital technical subjects which themselves are fundamental to lighting.

Later series will cover the subjects of camerawork and composition–including, I promise you, things you will probably never have heard before.

And all of it will both give you the fundamentals and techniques which will enable you to produce professional cinematic-quality video without having to spend thousands on kit.


Subscribe at

Warm regards,


The Video Whisperer

“The Rules”

My mentor once told me that there are only really about a dozen or so real basics in any given field of endeavor, including the arts. Entire books and chapters might make it seem otherwise, but you’ll find that all the other countless rules and laws described in laborious detail will be found to stem from those few rock core basic ones. “And”, he said, “when you know those rules, when you have them down cold, only then can you break them.”

I understood that clearly one day when I was composing a shot for a film. The scene had one person in a large room who was going a bit batty at the moment and about to storm out a door at the edge of the frame, but in the last moment just stopped and banged his head against it. I walked up to the un-manned camera during a rehearsal and discovered one of those happy accidents; the idle camera was composed so that the actor was at the extreme right of the frame, seeming to be leaning against the edge of the camera frame itself, the door frame just visible. It was a wildly “mis-composed” and unbalanced shot, yet somehow it seemed perfect. I quickly realized why: the entire message of the shot was one of un-balance and mis-composure. So that’s how I shot it. A lone figure at the extreme edge of the camera frame, with a huge empty room behind him.  It violated all the “rules”, but then what are the rules of composition about in the first place. That’s right--forwarding a message.

I was reminded of this recently by noticing a seeming trend in some wedding videography: Tilting the camera. Actually, it’s a technique that was developed in the early days of movie making, probably popularized by directors like Hitchcock and was called a “Dutch tilt”. It was generally used to forward a message of severe emotional instability.  So what’s it doing in a wedding video?!

Well, that’s an example of gimmick or fad or trend trumping message.  Which is the same as not really knowing that the entire purpose of composition in the first place is the forwarding of a message.

It’s just one of those pesky little rock bottom basic fundamentals in the field of art.

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