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We have often looked at the animated globe maps in iMovie and wished they could have been included in FCPX. Thanks to a clever trick, you can have access to the maps and globes directly in Final Cut Pro X without having to re-render each one out as a movie.

Whilst writing up the review on the latest Retina MacBook Pro, it reminded us of a great trick we used a year ago to get those great automatically animating globe maps out of the latest iMovie and into Final Cut Pro X.

FCPX imovie maps 1

The range of animating maps available in iMovie.


There are three ways of achieving this. One easy but limiting, one hard but very flexible and the last, very easy, very quick and very flexible. Let's run through them all.


1) Use iMovie to pre-program all cities and moves and then render out a self contained QuickTime and import that into FCPX. Once all the info has been baked in, you cannot change anything, including the duration. 


2) Write a Motion wrapped plugin of the effect. Yes we really thought of doing this. The globe and map effects in iMovie are written in Quarz Composer, a visual programming language using patches and noodles to draw up a 'composition.'

This QC file can be imported into an effect management system such as FxFactory and published to FCPX via a Motion wrapper. A complicated workaround that involves digging into the iMovie program package contents and then re-wrapping the effect. Not easy, not quick and all done at the users' own risk.

FCPX imovie maps 2

The location of the Quartz Composer map files in the iMovie package. (Enter at your own risk!)  Open in window for larger image.


3) Use the generator directly in Final Cut Pro X. 

Yes this is possible and probably the quickest way to get the maps (and background generators) into FCPX.

Simply put your animating globe of choice onto a timeline in iMovie. Here for the example we have put three back to back, one rotating globe, one flat map and the plain zoom. It doesn't really matter as long as you have one on the timeline and don't worry about destinations e.t.c.

FCPX imovie maps 3


Then go to the File menu and select 'Send Movie to Final Cut Pro.' Take your hands off the keyboard and watch the magic happen...

FCPX imovie maps 4


A new Library and Event are made in Final Cut Pro X. In the new Event, you will find a project, and in that project you will find the maps that we made in iMovie.

 FCPX imovie maps 5


Here's the clever stuff. The maps are not movies, they are the map generators from iMovie and we can prove that by looking at one in the inspector.

FCPX imovie maps 6


You have access to every parameter that you would expect if in iMovie. You can change the start and end locations, zoom in to the globe or map and decide to show the animating line and superimpose clouds.

As the clip is now a generator within FCPX you can do everything you would expect. Not only cut and paste or alt drag to make new instances, but you can also lengthen or shorten the globe or retime the generator putting a speed effect such as holds on either end. All without losing quality. We like putting them back to back with holds and dissolves to show flying around the world with stops.

They will also go to 4K, some of the lines have some aliasing, but worth an experiment.

Unfortunately this trick only works with the maps and background generators from iMovie, the trailers do not have the option to export in this way to FCPX.

It is however an example of a Quartz Composer effect being used directly in Final Cut Pro X without a third party wrapper or Motion's help. As iMovie shares code with FCPX that isn't really a big surprise, but it does open another possible door for plugin writing and publishing in the future.

So next time you get a client who wants an animating line around the world in FCPX, you'll know how to do it without having to resort to buying a plugin or stock footage.


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