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The Tower User Guide

The Tower started out as an emulation of the iDVD Revolution theme and originally called Revolution. The project was begun over 3 1/2 years ago — one of the first models attempted when 3D Text became available in Final Cut Pro X. It was plagued with problems. The 3D aspects of the model could be handled easily enough but the “textures” (drop zones and other artwork) suffered. There are technical issues that had to be learned and since there is no documentation, these had to be learned by experimentation. This involved technical experimentation with the very text design used to construct the model, the reason you must install a specific font and all of this took, literally, years. The effort was not a constant involvement with this particular project and it has been alternately abandoned and taken up again about seven times since its inception. A recent, accidental discovery has allowed me to finally put all the pieces together.

There are three preset animations and a “null” to turn the others off: iDVD Revolution (on which this effect was originally based), Rise and Wipe. These preset animations are demonstrated in the video below (I expect less Motion noise from 60fps projects, or try using our SC Motion Blurs effects).

There is a Text Field in the upper right corner (by default) referred to as a “Static Title” which provides the text used in all parts of this effect. Whatever you type there will be copied and repeated in the cylinder effect. This can only be a single line of text. If you need more, use a Basic Title to add additional information.

The position or rotation of the Static Title cannot be animated by keyframing. You can click and drag the title anywhere you need it. Use the Static Title Opacity to fade it in and out of the way when necessary.

[Parameters listed below denoted by ♦ can be keyframed; all others cannot.]

♦ Static Title Opacity — use this parameter to fade the “main title” text or take it out of the scene entirely. Fading the Static Title text has no effect on the text on the circle paths.

♦ Effect Transparency will allow you to fade in/out the cylinder/tower graphics.  The iDVD Revolution preset animation uses a Camera Fade and so produces an entirely different effect for transparency than this control’s opacity will.

Drop Zone — this is ubiquitous across all of FCPX. In order to load video into this, you must select the “source well” then go to the Event Browser or the timeline and mouse over a clip. Find the starting frame (the cursor will skim the clip) you want the effect to display and click on it to load the clip. Select the Apply button under the Viewer. You may repeat this process as many times as you like to fit the precise video display you need.  If you select a starting point that does not allow the full time of the remaining clip to “fit” into the length of this generator, you will need to shorten the time of the generator or find a longer clip. You can make longer clips by fashioning multiple shorter clips into a compound clip and use the compound clip as if it were a regular clip. [Note: using a timeline video clip does not always result in video that “plays”, but displays as a still frame. If this is the case, use the Event Browser version, or if other Effects are required, create a compound clip to add to the source well.]

(Drop Zone) Pan and Scale — these parameters can be used to resize the video/image used in the drop zone and reposition it horizontally and/or vertically. This can be handy if you want to zoom into a portion of the image and change its orientation (e.g., centering.) Scaling smaller than the “view port” will reveal a black background which can also be used for an interesting effect or view of the subject. Pan and Scale for drop zones cannot be keyframed.

Main 3D Params

♦ Position — use these parameters to position The Tower graphics in the Viewer in “3D space”. Dial down the disclosure triangle to reveal the Z position parameter. Manipulating the Z parameter can be used to “scale” The Tower larger or smaller, but it is far more efficient to use Scaling (below).
♦ Rotation — use these parameters to change the orientation of The Tower in 3D space. FCPX only shows the Z rotation (“spin”) by default. Dial down the disclosure triangle to reveal the X and Y rotations. The X rotation parameter will “lean” The Tower forwards (positive) or backwards (negative). A tumbling animation can be built with this parameter. The Y rotation parameter will “turn” The Tower so that it faces offset directions.  The Y rotation can be used to set a starting orientation to be used with Cylinder Spin (below).
♦ Scale offset — This value is restricted at a minimum. If you need to scale The Tower model smaller, then use the Z position parameter listed above.  The default view of The Tower is to fill the screen top to bottom (with slight overhang at the caps). Scale offset can be used to quickly focus in on a smaller region of the cylinder model.

Cylinder (parameters)

Cylinder Turn — this is the amount of rotation that the cylinder (not including the wrapping text) will rotate over the life of the generator.  It is set by default to 45º which is a nice rate of rotation in the “left to right” direction (contra the text motion). Automated motion can be halted by setting this value to 0º and it can be set to negative values (“right to left” motion) by clicking directly on the numerical value and dragging the mouse downward into negative territory. This parameter cannot be keyframed. If you need to animate the rate of turn, set this value to 0 and keyframe the Rotation Y parameter above.
♦ Color — (cylinder core color) set by default to a dark magenta. This can be any color you want: right click on the color swatch and pick one from the picker. This value can also be keyframed to animate from one color to another (a feature exceptionally overlooked in FCPX!)
♦ Brightness — this parameter is not usually found with Color options but is a feature of 3D Text in FCPX. It is keyframable and included for effect with this template.
♦ Shininess — another 3D Text specific parameter that will allow you to alter the light reflective properties of the cylinder “core”. It gives the effect of altering the “texture” of the core surface, more reflective is more glassy, less is more like “plastic”.
♦ Opacity — setting this parameter value to 0% will eliminate the cylinder core from view leaving only the “floating” curved drop zones. It is an interesting effect. Setting this parameter value to 100% will make the core a “solid” (from “glassy” to “metallic”).

♦ Camera Perspective — this parameter was a late addition and it didn’t really have anywhere else to go, so I stuck it in the Cylinder Core section. The default value is 45º which is roughly equivalent to a 50mm (“normal”) lens on a modern DSLR camera. Setting this value to 0º will distort The Tower model, making it look… flatter and somewhat “bent” (you have to see it…). At 15º, the image will look slightly smaller than normal but less flat. At 137º (default orientation of The Tower) the small text ring at the middle will almost completely fill the screen, and going above 140º will start taking you into the inner core of the effect — looking from the inside out! [Reminder: keyframable!!]

The next two sections concern the rotating text sections starting with the larger, Lower Text Ring section then followed by the Upper Text Ring section. Since both sections contain the same parameters in the same order, I will simply put them together as one.

♦ Repeats — how many times text is repeated along the circle path. The defaults are 4 lower/9 upper for the default text of “My Great Film” provided as a “holder”.  The minimum repeats for Lower Text is 1 simply because the text is large enough to completely wrap the cylinder if the text is long enough.  The minimum repeats for Upper Text is two.  The maximum repeats for Lower Text is 12 and for Upper Text is 20.

♦ Spin — This is the auto animation rate of spin of the corresponding circle of text. The amount of spin is in “degrees per second” (roughly). The range of spin goes from -90º to +90º (which are very fast and not recommended). The default values are within the recommended range for use, however, depending on whether you keyframe the Y rotation, you may need higher rates of spin to make the offset to the cylinder obvious. By default, the Lower Text spin rate is 1/2 the Upper Text spin rate. This gives the viewer a chance to read the larger text as it moves which the faster speed for the smaller text makes the repetitions more obvious.

♦ Tracking — distance between characters. Use this parameter to even out any large gaps in the text and use this to help even out the gaps between the vertical bars within the texts. Vertical bars are separate from the actual text and even though their Repeats are automatically duplicated from the text repeats, their relationship to the text on the circle, by default, aligns to the same degree points along the circle (see V.Bar Offset).
♦ V.Bar Offset — allows reposition of vertical bar separators w/r/t text. Usually you will want to reset the degree offset from the text starts to place them in the exact middle of the text repeat gaps. These values are simply offsets and do not affect their synchronized spin with the texts. That said, this value can be keyframed to behave in any manner you prefer (or in conjunction with Path Radius).
♦ Path Radius — This is a “rigged” fixed positive range from 0 to 100%. At 0%, the text’s circle path is as “tight” as it gets around the cylinder. At 100%, it is as far as it gets. This value is quite wide, but not unlimited (and the max value will not be revealed as it really makes little difference.) This parameter may be keyframed to effect. However, if expanding the radius or collapsing it in an animation, you will also want to animate the Tracking values and the V.Bar Offset to maintain the relationships of space and position during the animation. It is *not* recommended to animate the Repeats parameter to fill gaps in expanded path radii.
♦ Offset Angle —set starting angle or keyframe spin animation. The V.Bar and Text are connected in any animated rotation (the V.Bar Offset is “additive” to this animation) and this parameter can be used to offset the starting angle (or keyframe additional animation apart from the Spin parameter).
♦ V. Offset — this sets the vertical location w/r/t its original location upon the column. If you need the circle texts to disappear, this is the only way to accomplish it — by dragging this value so that the text goes off-screen. There is no option for opacity in these circle texts.

Background parameters

There is a solid color background to this generator.

♦ BG Color — Sets the color of the background.

♦BG Opacity — Sets the opacity of the background. Overlaying this effect upon the storyline allows for a fade through the color.


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A good place to see all of my effects as well as several tutorials and other demonstrations in use is on my YouTube channel.