Reviews, Video

The wildest Picture-in-Picture effects with PiPinator 2

One of the most appealing video effects must be Picture-in-Picture (PiP). I have seen it used in feature films as well as in news reports. In Final Cut Pro X you can easily create a PiP effect using the built-in Resizing, Rotation and Skewing effects, but if you also want to animate the effect and give it a really nice PiP look, you’ll be busy for a couple of days tweaking and keyframing. And perhaps you’ll end up deciding to do it all inside Motion. In contrast, the Final Cut Pro X plug-in PiPinator 2 does it all with sliders, reducing your two-day nightmare to a gratifying process that needn’t take more than a quarter of an hour.

FxFactory sells the PiPinator plug-in through its desktop store system. Tokyo Productions developed it. Of PiPinator you can also get a free version, which does basic PiP. However, the paying version does a whole lot more than just showing you a picture in your main video frame. The creative capabilities of this plug-in are virtually endless. Version 2 adds the Elasticator to its tool chest, but I’m running ahead of myself. Let’s start with the beginning.

PiPinatorIn the Final Cut Pro X Inspector, PiPinator 2 shows itself as a group of six effects, including the Elasticator, PiPinator Technical, From:To, To:From, Hold and Lite. The Lite module is the easiest one. It is not much different from the free version you can download from within the FxFactory store. The others are a different matter altogether. The Elasticator (used to be called PiPinator Pro, but has some more tricks up its sleeve) is the most complex module.

There are two variants that resemble each other: From:To and To:From. This module takes a full-frame clip and reduces it to a smaller size, then restores it back to its original size. You can set a whole bunch of parameters, except for the location of the centre point. Also, the special features of the Elasticator aren’t present in this module (they’re really unique to the Elasticator module).

The Hold module doesn’t animate at all. If you want to have a PiP effect without “much ado” and precise starting, hold and departure points, this is the one to use. The Technical module looks much like the Elasticator one, except for the travel lines. In the Technical module, these lines are straight. And there’s no bounce or elasticity functionality.

Elasticator is the most complete effect and the one that has all the features of all the other modules at the cost of you having to go through a much higher number of controls — obviously. Elasticator also uses B-spline travel lines for you to create the arrival and departure paths.

The more complex modules support all kinds of parameters that are a boost to your creative desires. For example, you can set rotations for arrival, hold period and departure. You can set a drift, so that it looks like the smaller frame drifts towards a position (and rotation and skewness…) that you define with the x-y-z sliders. With Elasticator you can also set an elasticity, which makes it look as if the smaller frame is dangling from a rubber band. Bounce makes the frame bounce, etc.

All parameters can be set for three axes and for arrival, hold and departure locations. The frame itself can have a border, which in turn can have varying thickness, rounded corners and be feathered. You can change the default animation starting, holding and departure points either with the on-screen control lines, or with the Inspector sliders. Reflection is possible, as is a drop shadow.

Summarised: there’s nothing you can’t control with PiPinator 2 when it comes to creating PiP effects. But that leaves the question: how hard is it to get a good-looking result. The answer is that it’s not that hard at all. First of all, there are overlays as well as grid lines (that you can turn off) to help you with the positioning of the frame in 3D space. To see how it all comes together when playing the clip, you can scrub forward and backward with Final Cut Pro X’s own controls. I expected the effects to make the playback slower — as I often experience when colour grading clips with some plug-ins — but playback remained crisp no matter what silly exaggerated stuff I threw at PiPinator.


Even cropping the PiP frame and then offsetting the clip within the frame didn’t cause speed lags when scrubbing or preview-playing.

What the results look like in the end comes down to your creative talents. PiPinator 2 sure isn’t going to hold you back in any way. The only reason why I see you could lose a lot of time over PiP effects with PiPinator is when you don’t know exactly what you’re aiming for. It remains to be seen if you would care, as PiPinator is a lot of fun to be working with.

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J.D. – Copywriter – Tech. Writer – Editor at Visuals Producer – Contributor at Photoshop User, Studio Daily – Sub-editor at RedShark News