Learning to use the NEW features in Final Cut Pro X

The new Final Cut Pro X interface is significantly different from the current version 7 interface –

I was wondering why the jump from Seven to Ten in the version numbers. I guess that Apple see this as a major change that warrants a change in the X naming convention. Maybe that is just what they want us to think.

Anyway whatever the reason for the change of naming convention –

This new version of Final Cut does away with many of the interface items that we are familiar with.


The most obvious change is the colour of the general background tone from the light grey of FCP7

to a much darker grey tint as in iMovie above. this is the most obvious when looking at the new timeline.

The fact is; the visual similarity to iMovie is obvious and not surprising – other than the fact that many will think that this drags FCPX to the consumer level –

THIS is NOT the case though – FCP X is a much more detailed piece of software that uses the power of the computer to do the mundane tasks. The skill of the editor is still needed to develop a story and to make the footage sing.

What else has changed in the interface?

Besides the colour theme changes, you will notice changes in the fixed windows you are used to seeing in FCP7.  The Viewer no longer exists nor does the vertical toolbar or VU meters – the Browser is replaced by a cross between the old browser and the event footage panel in iMovie.

The less obvious change is the lack of fixed tracks – in fact there are NO tracks in the time lines in the conventional sense. What appears to be tracks are in fact layers that are created and removed as the “magnetic timeline automatically adjusts itself. you should perhaps think more of the Photoshop type of layers that automatically appear as needed. Tracks are created to allow clips to overlap each other rather than rippling down the time line as they do in FCP7.

What happened to the Viewer from FCP7?FCP Tutorials from 1.99

Firstly it is partly replaced by the canvas – so that when raw footage clips are played from the Browser they show in the Canvas. (as with iMovie’s single viewing window) To make that easier to understand the raw footage clips are much easier viewed in the new browser – both as a film strip view and as organised footage  in smart keyword collections.

The clips in the new browser are viewed as lists or filmstrips.

Even when viewed as a list the clips show a single strip of thumbnails at the top of the browser.

When viewed as film strips – à la iMovie style, you skim across the clip to show the footage in the canvas area. just as in iMovie you SKIM – CLICK/HOLD and DRAG to make a selection. That selection is outlined in yellow just as in iMovie. remember – SKIM – CLICK/HOLD and DRAG – it is not the easiest thing to adapt to but that is what we have got and with practice – it works.

The other major function for the viewer window in FCP7 was that of viewing the edited footage from the time line in more detail. (Remember when you double click a clip in FCP7’s timeline it opens in the viewer with sprockets showing in the bottom bar). This function is replaced in FCPX – when you double click a clip now it opens in its own floating window so you can complete whatever action you want. When you have finished that action the floating window goes away.

To me this is a much more effective use of screen space.

The timeline not only looks different but also acts very differently.

Firstly all clips are now indexed in a left hand panel in the timeline. this panel has a list of all clips in the time line so when you click on one of these clips in the index, the playhead moves directly to that clip in the time line – whether it is in the current viewing area or not. This is searchable and is a much quicker way of moving to clips that are out of the current viewing area.

Secondly and perhaps the biggest change of the whole interface is the functionality of the “magnetic” timeline. The consequences of the actions of this “magnetic ” time line are numerous and once you get your head around it you will wonder how you ever worked without it. As clips are moved down the time line – if clips are in the way they are simply moved to a lower track. the convention here is that the clip to the right is always moved to the track below.

The “magnetic” time line means that clips will not get out of sync as the audio is fixed with the clip unless you double click the clip to expose the elements of the attached primary and secondary audio – if you move it intentionally out of sync you can at any time double click the clip and move it back into sync and any clips that are affected by the change are magnetically moved out of the way onto another track.

In the new time line the primary audio that comes with the video clip from your camera is treated the same way as it is in iMovie – it is visible as part of the video track – but can be selected or double clicked separately so that it can be adjusted independently. When viewing this footage zoomed in, you will see a lighter opaque line representing a the width of a single frame – It was a dark line in FCP7 – now directly in the time line you can drag the audio sub video frame in the same way as you would do it in FCP7 old viewer window, with the shift key down. You jump back to the normal view by clicking a button just below the timeline’s top bar – on the left. When the clip returns to normal – if there are any clips in the way they are moved as per the convention of the “magnetic” time line.

Audio skimming – This is pitch corrected as you skim across the audio and find the word you want to stat at – clicking moves the video to that audio location.

J & L cuts – these are achieved by double clicking the primary audio – in the video track – it opens in a floating window below the video. Just drag the video or audio in or out points and the magnetic time line takes care of any overlaps.

Clips can be selected in the new time line and when they are moved to new locations in the time line the other clips move apart to allow the clip to be placed in the gap – just as in adding an icon into MAC OS X dock.

There are no fixed or hard tracks in the new time line  as in V1 and A 1 and A2 terms. “B” roll clips can be edited just the same as the primary clips – the whole “B” roll can be moved to new location and can be condensed down into compound clips for the purposes that would have required nesting in FCP7.

Clips are compounded by lassoing them and they are collapsed into a single clip in the time line. (think “nesting” in FCP7) The compounded clip can then be edited as if it were a single clip – trimmed, cut – whatever. Compound clips are double clickable to expand in a separate window so that the separate items can be edited. Compounded clips can be further compounded.

Secondary audio taken from a separate source can be matched to the wave forms in the primary audio so audio from different cameras can be matched up for multi cam editing. These can be locked together – non destructively, of course – and they stay together.

The precision editor also takes its design from iMovie.

Double click on the edit point between 2  clips – you will see both the edited and the unused raw footage from each clip. The clip on the left is shown above the clip on the right. The edited footage is brighter. You can move the top or bottom clip in relation to the other or you can roll the edit point  – blue dot in the (iMovie  representation above) All these functions have keyboard shortcuts.

You can see different views of the time line by clicking the button at the bottom right  of the time line – the overview is the normal view but you can also see wave forms which replaces the detailed view you would have seen in the viewer  window in FCP7. The wave forms view allows direct fades in or our without key frames. Click on the dot at the in or out point of the audio clip and drag to the length of fide  required. – same as in iMovie.

You are also able to select an internal portion of a clip – skim, click?/hold and drag – then drag the levels indicator up or down. This even shows the orange and red peaking as it does in iMovie.

Fades can be achieved with this portion of the audio footage as well.

Re-timing of video, rather than right click in FCP7 and select speed, this can be done by selecting the retiming button at the top right hand bar of the time line – where the snap and linking buttons are – the menu offers different speeds like 4x. The retiming can also be done directly by dragging the clip in the timeline, portions of the clip can be selected to allow variable speed re timing.

Colour matching is brilliant.

By clicking the menu at the top right hand bar of the time line a 2 up display is enabled in the Canvas. Click on the clip you want to change and it appears in the right hand of the 2 up display. Then click on any other clip in the time line and the colour is matched – the colour in the right hand click matches that of the second clip clicked on – voilà – like magic.

A good deal of colour correction – perhaps all that most of us do in Color now, can be done directly in FCPX time line. Again selected from the menu at the top right hand bar of the time line, is show color board. This is a new version of the 3 way colour corrector filter. It will allow adjustment for highlights mid tones and shadows for its primary colour correction. There is also secondary colour correction where you can amongst other things select a colour range, select a shape to isolate an area of the clip – the shape can be changed with convenient pointers. Changes then only occur within the selected area.

The need for Key frames may have been removed for fades but they are still available for cropping and Ken Burns effects, but directly in the time line rather than in the old viewer from FCP7.

Auditions – Various options of edits can be built up and added to a collection of edits in an auditions grouping. Then by selecting the auditions group you can insert the different edits into the time line which then expands or contract to suit the length of each edit as it is viewed. Each group of edits in the audition window is represented by a thumbnail – on clicking that thumbnail that version is added to the timeline at the point directed.

My advice to all those wanting to get some hands on experience with the new Final Cut Pro X is to open up iMovie 11 and start practicing –

SKIM – CLICK/HOLD – and DRAG

ALSO: Check out our FCP PRO tips for both editors and camera operators:

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