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Exporting Video with an Alpha Channel from Final Cut Pro X

In this post we’ll learn how to export video with an alpha channel out of Final Cut Pro X, great for taking footage into other applications for compositing work.

For those unfamiliar, a very simple definition of an alpha channel is a “transparent” area of a video or still image (for the full technical definition check out the Wiki on “alpha compositing“).  With regions of the frame removed you can layer graphics and footage, as well as place backgrounds behind your video.    In FCPX you can create easily alpha channels in your video using keys or mattes.  For instance, one common way to create an alpha channel is to use a chroma key filter to remove a green-screen background from video (see our recent post for a video on how to effectively chroma key in FCPX).

Although you are able to do some basic compositing in Final Cut Pro X, it may be necessary to bring your footage into another application for more complex work (Motion and After Effects for instance*).  Both Final Cut Pro X and previous versions of FCP have the ability to export video with an alpha channel…however it’s not obvious unless you know the correct settings to apply to export.  The key to preserving an alpha channel when exporting in Final Cut Pro X: Apple ProRes 4444

ProRes 4444 is the highest quality codec in Apple’s ProRes family.  It’s a versatile intermediate codec that supports SD, HD, 2k, and 4k resolutions, as well as alpha channels. 
  • Open the timeline you’d like to export and use the shortcut COMMAND + E
    (or from the menu bar choose Share > Export Media…)

  • In the Video Codec drop-down choose “Apple Pro Res 4444.”

*ProRes 4444 is supported in Apple Motion and in Adobe After Effects CS5.5 (a bug in earlier versions of CS5 didn’t preserve the alpha channel, but has since been fixed).

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  • MistyFied

    Ahh, I see. I tried .h264 and 4222 and both did not show the alpha when importing into fcpx (from motion). The 4444 codec works great. Thank you!

  • filmnerd

    Make sure when exporting the first frame has a present alpha channel. I had 1 frame of a full frame clip underneath and the export didn’t work (using range tool to selective export part of a clip/project.

    • JK

      Wow, you just saved me big time. Couldn’t figure out why CS5 wasn’t seeing the Alpha. Now I know!

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