Hidden Final Cut Pro X Techniques

1. Adjustment Layers for video

Open Motion. Create a new Text title. Select, then delete the Text Layer. That layer that’s left behind represents everything underneath the text, and we’ll use it to our advantage. Save. Call the title Adjustment Layer and pop it in a new category called “Experiments” or some other unique name.

In FCP X, add that Title from the category you gave it. Put it above another series of clips — anything at all. Now, apply an effect or a colour correction to that Title, and it will apply to every clip below. You could even apply multiple copies in an Audition and switch between different looks for your whole edit. Fantastic. [Credit: Tapio Haaja on Creative Cow]

2. Audio-only transitions

Open Motion. Create a new Transition. This transition is a straight cut, but the standard audio transition is applied when you use it. Save, into a new “Experiments” category or similar.

In FCP X, just apply it when you want an audio-only transition. Standard controls in the Inspector will let you adjust the audio fade type.

3. Use advanced timeline features

A few related tips for those struggling with the new magnetic timeline. Remember: if you get frustrated with the default ripple-style behaviour of the timeline, just select the Position tool, and it’ll be just like FCP 7.

Connected clips are great, but you can’t apply transitions between two neighbouring connected clips. To make this work, select them both and choose Clip > Create Storyline or press command-G. Now you can transition between neighbouring clips, and there will be only one point of connection for the whole storyline. Leave gaps (shift-delete) to reveal the primary storyline underneath.

Limitations: three-point editing (choosing in and out points on the timeline) and Appending a clip only target the primary storyline. You’ll also have to specifically select the secondary storyline if you want to Insert or Overwrite there. Yes! Overwrite works; there’s no button, but the shortcut is D.

Lastly, you may sometimes wish to send clips up or down in the stacking order. Command-option-up or down will do this nicely, and will create gap clips if needed.

4. Use Ken Burns with Timelapse footage

The workflow here might not be too different, but it’s certainly easier than before. In QuickTime Player 7 (Pro), Open Image Sequence as usual, and choose the preferred frame rate. But rather than just cropping off the top and bottom of the image by exporting to 1920×1080, export a tall 2K QuickTime Movie. For Settings, choose ProRes 422 as the codec. For Size, choose custom, 2048×1556, and tick maintain aspect ratio with Letterbox. This is a 4:3 aspect ratio, a little squarer than a DSLR shoots, so you’ll have mild letterboxing top and bottom that we’ll crop off in FCP X.

Import the movie into FCP X. 2K is a supported resolution, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with playback. Drop the clip into a timeline, select it, and press the Crop button in the Viewer. Crop will work if you only want to reframe, but Ken Burns should work well to allow a simple pan, tilt or dolly move. Zooming in a little is OK, but too much will cause blurriness, so if you want to blow the video up quite a bit, export from QuickTime Player 7 in 4K: 4096×3112. This will be slower, but you should be able to zoom it to 200% without quality loss.

5. Use hidden color correction keys

In FCP X, choose Final Cut Pro > Commands > Customize. In the search field in the top right corner, type “color”. You might like to add some keys to the top three commands: Apply Color Correction from Previous Clip, from Three Clips back, and from Two Clips back. You might also like to add keys to select the next or previous puck, and to nudge these pucks about.

6. Use Disk Images for extra media control

I was thinking this would work, yet Steve Martin thought a little faster and quicker. The quick version: use Disk Utility to create a huge “Sparse” image (sparse means it only takes up as much space as the media on it). Mount that image, then import your files to the image. When you unmount the image, any Events or Projects on that image will be inaccessible — good for projects you don’t want visible all the time when you don’t want to put them on an external drive. This is also a potential workaround for using unsupported disk types like Xsan. For much more info on this, read this article by Steve Martin.

If you have any more tips, send them on. If you’d like to learn the new Final Cut Pro X and you live in or Brisbane, Australia, head over to my training site, TrainingBrisbane.com.

2 thoughts on “Hidden Final Cut Pro X Techniques”

  1. Great tip about audio only transitions. Those who don’t have Motion 5 can download the file at

    http://www.alex4d.com/plugins/fcpX/Home-Movies-Motion Templates-Transitions-Dissolves-Sound only.zip

    Extract the archive, go to the Movies folder in your home directory.

    Create the following folder hierarchy in the Movies folder:

    Motion Templates

    and put the ‘Sound only’ folder in the Dissolves folder.

    I’ve added a pop-up menu so you can specify the audio transition timing: audio first, at the same time as video or video first.

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