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Create wild weather effects in Final Cut

Enhance your footage by using grading tools to turn day to night and add flashes of lightning

Sometimes we’ll need to use Final Cut Pro X’s grading tools to alter a clip’s colours and tones so that they look like they do in real life. This helps us overcome colour and exposure problems produced by incorrect camera settings. At other times we might desire to make more creative changes to colour and tone. In this walkthrough we’ll demonstrate how to add atmosphere to a scene by changing day to night with a little post-production grading.

We’ll also add weather elements that would be challenging to shoot for real, such as sheets of rain. We’d be reluctant to shoot during a thunderstorm despite the dramatic results we might capture on camera. Fortunately, Final Cut Pro can unleash a digital deluge on our location courtesy of its Effects browser.


1 Import clips

Import our Wild Weather clip into Final Cut Pro and add it to a new project. Go to Window>Show Inspector. In the Color section of the Inspector, click the Show Correction icon.


2 Adjust colour

In the Color panel, drag the Shadows control point up to 32%. Drag Midtones up to 38%. Drag Highlights up to 32%. This adds a bluer nocturnal hue to the clip’s colours.


3 Tweak the tone

Go to the Exposure panel and drag the Shadows control point down to -13%, leave Midtones at 0% and drop Highlights to -10%. This creates gloomier lighting.


4 Add rain

Click the Show Effects browser icon. Go to Stylize. Drag Rain onto the clip. Drag the arrow to change the direction of the rain. A larger circle creates longer streaks.


5 Split the clip

Place the cursor at 5:00 sec. Press B to activate the Blade and click to split the clip. Scrub forward to 6 sec and split the clip again to create a 1 sec section.


6 Add lightning effects

Press A to go back to the Select tool. Go to the Light section of the Effects browser. Drag Flashing onto the split 1 second section to add flashes of lightning.


7 Shake things up

Go to the Distortion section of the Effects browser and drag the Earthquake effect onto the split 1 second section. This makes the camera shake as the lightning strikes.


8 Fine tune properties

Go to the Video Inspector panel. Reduce the Earthquake Amount slider to 5 to create a more subtle camera shake. Drop the Flashing Intensity slider to 85.


9 Add sound effects

Go the Sound browser and open the Final Cut Pro Sound Effects Ambience folder. Drag Thunder and Lightning 1 below the lightning clip. Add some Rain too.