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Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!

Getting fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
A Creative COW Tutorial

Get fast in Final Cut Pro - FAST!

Dustin LauDustin Lau

©2008 Dustin Lau and All rights reserved.

Article Focus: It doesn't make you a better FCP editor, but no matter what kind of work you do, speed still matters. Cow author Dustin Lau shares some tips and tricks to accelerate your work in Final Cut Pro that even the old dogs haven't used before.

Let's get one thing straight.

Being fast does not make you a good editor. There are certain situations in which speed is the premium, either due to deadlines, workload or budget, but in the long run, being fast isn't quite enough.

Bearing that in mind, speed is still an important part of your arsenal.

What gets you on your way is mastering your tools so that you have the quickest translation of what you see in your mind to what you execute to the cut. This tutorial won't cover the more obvious basics of getting faster in FCP. I think there's plenty out there that covers that. Hopefully, there are enough tricks here that even the old dogs haven't used before.

How to approach binding keyboard shortcuts (and useful non default bound keys)

There are many opposing views on keyboard shortcuts. Everyone has a preferred configuration so there's no point quibbling about which is right. Some people try to get their config as similar to avid as possible. A person that takes over the station immediately after finds this out quickly when they try to mark clip with x and finds their in to out ripple deleted.

My preference and approach when I started on FCP was to use the default config for a while before adding my own custom keys. There's no point spending half an hour setting keyboard shortcuts for an application I hadn't used. Instead, I used FCP for a few weeks before starting to add commands that I used with some regularity.

Here are some commands that are not bound by FCP by default that I recommend you bind.

Navigate tabs

cmd shift [
cmd shift ]

Don't click tabs any more! What a time waster!
Export   cmd e
Normalization gain ctrl shift g
Fav video effect ctrl shift numpad
use all 9 keys of the numpad to bind your 9 most used effects
Fav audio effect ctrl shift numpad
use all 9 keys of the numpad to bind your 9 most used effects
Reveal in Finder ctrl r
Send to Motion ctrl shift m
Deselect cmd d
cmd shift a by default, but this is more intuitive. I use it often enough that I don't want to hold 2 modifier keys to use it.


Find the find tool

The FCP find tool is one of the biggest timesavers of the software. It's perfect for finding the media/effect/part of timeline you need.

There's a reason why I bind my deselect key to cmd d: the find tool searches from the selected file on the browser/effects palette/timeline. Deselecting forces it to search from the top.

Basically it's a rapid fire movement of holding cmd then hitting:

3df        for files in the timeline (See my article Become Replaceable, Have a Life for useful applications of this)
4df        for files in the browser
5df        for effects in the effects palette
6df        for effects in the favorites palette

This helps most if you know exactly what you are looking for. So for Gaussian Blur, instead of opening the effects palette, expanding the Blur folder and double clicking Gaussian Blur it's

cmd 5df    (open effects palette, deselect, open find dialog)
gaus         (use a unique part of the full name of effect you need)

The effect you want is then highlighted.

If you want the Chroma Keyer, you might put "chroma" as your search term but this will bring up chroma key transitions first and you'll have to scroll down. It's more effective to use "keyer"

Here are some phrases for commonly used effects to skip similar situations:

gaus  gaussian blur
keye chroma keyer
3-  3-way color corrector
flicke flicker filter
spill spill suppressor
interl  interlace flicker

This, of course, varies depending on the 3rd party effects you have installed. To get around this, you can "Favourite" all the effects you absolutely always use, and search your favourites instead with
cmd 6df phrase enter

Changing durations of files but retaining keyframes across new duration

We've all been there before. We've painstaking used the motion tab to make a file move/crop/rotate on a motion path to perfection and now it needs to be 16 frames longer/shorter.

Instead of opening the motion tab and dragging keyframes around, copy the current file, extend/shorten it,
then paste motion/distort/crop attributes with the interpolate keyframes to fit checkbox checked.

Changing motion effect to fit to fill without affecting sync

Whenever I had to speed effect a clip to fit to a duration, I used to create a new video layer,
move the file up, lock all others, change speed effect, unlock, move file back down, delete video layer.

Now, I've realized how slow that was after I starting doing it this way.

  1. Set playhead to start of clip
  2. set in point (i)
  3. set out point at desired NEW end of clip (after speed effect)
  4. go to canvas window (cmd 2)
  5. select in/out duration (tab)
  6. copy (cmd c)
  7. select  clip
  8. cut (cmd x)
  9. go to end of sequence (end)
  10. paste (cmd v)
  11. speed effect (cmd j)
  12. paste (cmd v)
  13. enter
  14. cut (cmd x)
  15. go to in point (shift i)
  16. paste (cmd v)

Autosave Duration

Hopefully, there's been something in the article above that you've never used before and it has been useful to you in some way.

If you're working faster, that means if FCP crashes 29 minutes after your last autosave and you left the autosave duration at its default value of 30 mins, you've lost a lot more work that you need to do again. That's terribly demoralizing.

It's slightly irritating to be interrupted every 5 minutes by an autosave but less irritating than redoing that complicated key, secondary color correction, multicam cut from 29 minutes ago.

Have some tips of your own? Post them in the comments below!


Re: Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Jiggy Gaton
i could work faster if there was an effects search like in motion...i have one machine with hundreds, so i have to open motion to do a keyword search on the same effects loaded in the suite...arg!

but nice article!!!

Phoenix Studios Nepal: A small A/V Production House in Kathmandu.
@Jiggy Gaton
by Dustin Lau
With Leopard and Snow Leopard
use ⌘shift /
this will open the search help dialog

you can search for any drop down menu item here
Re: Changing motion effect to fit to fill without affecting sync
by Shahane Bn
I don't quite follow the steps in this section. I don't see how a 16 step method is faster than the 7 step method in your description.

Plus there seems to be a lot of unnecessary steps in your 16 step method, like, why would you copy in step 6, then select a clip and then cut. Why copy something and not use it?

All your other tips were very helpful, thank you.
@Shahane Bn In step 6 when
by Dustin Lau
@Shahane Bn

In step 6 when I copy, you can see in the previous command I selected the Canvas (Cmd2) then tab.

So what I was copying was actually the duration marked in the timeline and not the clip itself.

Actually, there's another way to do it which is faster.

You set the in and out points to your ideal duration in the timeline.(either longer or shorter)
Then select the source clip and match frame to open it on the viewer.
Then use Shift F11 to Fit to fill.

*if the speed of the clip is at 100%, you can directly drag it onto the canvas and drop it on fit to fill to overwrite itself with the speedchanged version.

however, if the clip has already been speeded up or slowed down, this will cause a freeze frame instead, it's a bug.
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Dustin Lau
Another note about autosaves, FCP V6.0.2 and 6.0.4 had problems that caused saved projects to be corrupted and impossible to open.

So if you didn't use the autosave vault at all, your only copy of the project would be corrupted.

Because of my autosave vault, I only lost a day and a half of work. Even the autosaves were corrupted from a certain time (which is when the application started corruptting project files). The only way to avoid the problem would have been to export an xml every time instead of saving, which is infinitely slower.

Another situation where it helps is if you set a long render to go and take a break or have lunch. If the long render completes, but the application crashes after that for whatever reason, you lose the render because the last saved project file does not even know it has render files to point to. Autosave prevents this.

On a side note, I don't know why autosave seems to provoke the "I save often so should you, if you don't you're a n00b" attitude. It's a good feature built into the software and while you shouldn't be relying on it, I don't understand why people would be so uppity about using it.

It's like refusing to use a UPS because 'you should have saved before plugging that hairdryer in' or eschewing a rope when climbing because you know what you're doing.
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Dustin Lau
@ Aaron, yep that's the fastest way to do it. You have to match frame back to the viewer, though, because when you drag a clip from the timeline which has already been motion effected, the results are unpredictable or downright weird. Another on the 'to fix' list for the ProApps team.
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Stephen Utaski
I try to bind as many keyboard short cuts as possible to the left side of the keyboard... No need to keep constantly reaching across the keyboard, with right hand on the mouse. Also, I try to bind my fav shortcuts with letters that will make memorizing them easier. A few favorites:

Q Key - "Quick, back to start" Takes me to start of my timeline. Ideal since 90% of my work is a few minutes or less.

W Key - "Watch what you just did" It's mapped to "play around current frame"

D Key - "Darken It" It's mapped to toggle clip enable. Faster and easier than deleting since the clip stays there if you change your mind.

Y Key - "Yawn, it's time to render" I do a ton of compositing within FCP. Rendering should not be a two-key function..
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Aaron Brown
Nice one Dustin, speed is everything - who isn't always up against a deadline from a client, colleague or nagging girlfriend?! Just a thought on adjusting the speed of a clip in the timeline. A way I do it quite a lot (if it's already in the timeline) is just matchframe back into the viewer. Adjust the in and out as required in the timeline (or drop in a piece of slug with the appropriate duration) then fit to fill the original clip back into the timeline. Nice.

Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Dustin Lau
@ Jerry

Absolutely, you should be saving every time you do something complex, but since the Autosave only activates from your last manual save, if you're saving every 5 minutes, this setting does not affect you.

On the other hand, if you're 6 minutes from your last manual save and FCP crashes just as you're about to hit save, it saves you 5 minutes of work, complex or not.

It's a win, win situation and as mentioned, if you save more often than the interval duration set, it won't even affect you.
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Don Smith
I too don't like to open Final Cut only to have to figure out how someone else has changed it, that's why I expanded on another person's idea of refreshing the preferences to turn it into simulating user profiles. Imagine launching FCP to be already set up your way and yet the next person can immediately launch FCP to be set up his or her way. See it at
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Zach Mull
I save a lot of time using the timeline trim commands. The [ and ] keys trim one frame at a time, and Shift + [ or ] trims multiple frames. You can set the number of frames under the Editing tab in User Preferences (look for Multi-Frame Trim Size). For most purposes, I find the timeline trim, using the roll, ripple, slip and slide tools, faster than using Trim Mode, even when I'm working with lots of tracks.

Great tutorial by the way. I thought I had the key shortcuts down, but I learned a lot.
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by chris Sillitoe
change your v key to add edit.

no more razors - or double razors.

you can add edits really quickly and is great for dialogue editing when you can cut right after you hear a word without even pausing for breath.

use the burger menus on the left to decide which layers are edited.

+ change the audio gain shortcut plus and minus 3 to the plus and minus keys on the numeric keypad for quicker audio adjustments than the audio mixer or

+ use the
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Andrea Stewart
I make a template project that has all the bins I need and my favorite effects stored in it. Then I just do a save as and I'm off and running on my new project. To save favorite effects by the way, you can create a bin in the project window then drag the effects over to it. This way when I need to trash preferences, I still have all my favorites handy.
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Joey Burnham
Yep. And it's nice to map cmnd-s to Save All, no more "Do you want to save" if you have multiple projects open.
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro -- FAST!
by Jerry Hofmann
I never have needed nor opened an autosave. Why? Becuase I SAVE often... cmd+s should be used every time you make a complicated move or edit or effect or whatever...


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