Final Cut Pro X editing tips that will take your videos to the next level

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Final Cut Pro X

If you’re using Apple’s Final Cut Pro X as your primary video editor, you’ve probably reached the point where creating fast, professional looking videos has become second nature. However, the more you use the tool, the more you realize how little you know about it.

It’s so powerful.

Hopefully with every project you create, you learn something new. I have found this to be the case several times. Even after using the software for a few years, I find that there is still a feature I was unaware of that would have made my previous projects easier and/or more efficient.

SEE: Home video setup: What you need to look and sound professional (TechRepublic Premium)

I want to share with you some of these tips that I discovered along the way that should help you become a better editor.

That said, let’s get to the tips.

Don’t neglect the sound

Most of your projects will include sound. Unfortunately, most people tend to overlook sound in their videos. It’s a shame because it’s a crucial aspect of almost all videos. Once you’ve added audio to your videos (or your video clips already contain audio), you probably think you’re done.

Robbery. Let’s make it sound better.

One of the tools I use is the built-in EQ, which can really help you make fine adjustments to your sound and make those clips look even more professional. To make these adjustments, select the clip you want to adjust, click the Sound tab, then click the equalizer icon under Audio Enhancements. The EQ adjuster will open (Figure A), where you can modify the sound with a 10 or 31 band equalizer.

Figure A

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Adjusting the equalizer of a video clip can improve the quality of your sound.

Know the Magnetic Timeline

When working with the Final Cut Pro X timeline, you’ll find that the start of each clip automatically aligns with the end of the previous clip. It’s great and allows for a very efficient workflow (because you don’t have to work too hard to manually align these clips). And while you’re probably still working with the Magnetic Timeline, there may be times when you could use a little more flexibility. With the snap timeline turned off, you can get a bit more granularity with your clip placement.

While disabling the magnetic timeline completely doesn’t work exactly as you might think, you do have options. The best solution is to use the Position tool (Figure B). Once you’ve selected the tool, you can drag and drop a clip anywhere on your timeline.

Figure B

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Use the Position tool to be able to place the clips where you want them in your timeline.

Use the keyboard

You don’t have to keep reaching for that mouse every time you need to do something. Instead, take advantage of these handy keyboard shortcuts:

  • New project – [Command] + [N]
  • Delete clip — [Backspace]
  • Blade – [Command] + [B]
  • Background rendering — [Command] + [9]
  • Import — [Command] + [I]
  • Show in Finder — [^] + [Command] + [R]
  • Library properties — [^] + [Command] + [J]
  • Keyword Editor — [Command] + [K]

Use find and replace

Do you add a lot of text to your videos? If so, you know how tedious it can be to have to manually locate that text for corrections or edits. Fortunately, there is an easier way. Like many desktop tools, Final Cut Pro X includes search and replace for text in titles.

To use the Find and Replace tool, navigate to Edit | Find and replace title text. This will open a dialog window that should be immediately familiar (Figure C).

Figure C

Final Cut Pro X Fig C
Final Cut Pro X’s find and replace tool is an easier way to make changes to title text.

Familiarize yourself with the Range tool

This little trick will save you a lot of time and frustration. Suppose you have a section of a video clip that includes audio, but you want to add a voiceover over it, without losing the audio of the original clip. Instead of pulling your hair out trying to find a way to do this seamlessly, just use the Range tool.

The Range tool lets you select a range in a clip and then easily lower the volume of just that range. This is the best way to lower or raise the volume of a small section of the clip. Even better, it gradually fades up/down the range so it doesn’t shock.

To use the Range tool, press the R key on your keyboard, select the range you want to use on the timeline, then lower/raise the volume of that clip as needed (Figure D).

Figure D

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It’s easy to lower the volume of a small section of a clip with the Range tool.

Color grading made easy

Color grading is not easy. In fact, that’s why there are professionals whose only job is to color correct the video. But Final Cut Pro X has a tool that can help you make quick color and white balance adjustments, which can save you a lot of time.

To use this function, select the clip to modify then go to Modify | Balance color. This will add a new entry in the Effects Inspector titled Balance Color (Figure E).

Figure E

FinalCutProX FigE
Balance color has been added to the Effects Inspector for your clip.

From the drop-down list, you can click Auto or White Balance to make quick adjustments to the look of your clip.

Use adjustment layers

Adjustment layers are a very important feature that is not included in Final Cut Pro X (which is why I added it at the end). First, let me explain what an adjustment layer is. Think of it like this: you’ve added tons of clips to a project and find that you need to add the same effects, presets, and adjustments to each clip. It may take time.

Instead of doing it manually for each clip, you add an adjustment layer that contains all the effects/colors/adjustments/etc. you want all your clips to contain. Once you’ve added the adjustment layer, you can stretch it over each clip that needs those same adjustments.

It’s really practical. But how do you do that? If you have Motion, you can create a new adjustment layer like this:

  1. Open Motion and select New Final Cut Title.
  2. Delete the text layer.
  3. Save the project as an adjustment layer.

The adjustment layer will automatically be published to Final Cut Pro and is located in the Titles browser. Add the adjustment layer above the timeline (over the clips you want to affect), then add the effects, colors, transitions, etc. which you need.

You just saved a lot of time.

Conclusion

And There you go. With these tips added to your Final Cut Pro X workflow, you’ll find yourself editing more easily, efficiently, and reliably. As you start using these tips, you’ll likely find even more ways to make your video editing process more efficient.

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