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The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, part 1

The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, pt. 1
A Creative COW Final Cut Tutorial

The Ultimate FCP FAQ, part 1

Shane Ross Creative Cow

Shane Ross
Los Angeles, CA US
©Shane Ross and

Article Focus:
Creative Cow Leader Shane Ross is one of a very small handful of the world's most respected FCP experts. Over the course of years answering questions, he's compiled a real-world list of the questions that are truly the most frequently asked. He calls them Shane's Stock Answers. We call them the information you really need for working with FCP. In part 1 he covers lossless QuickTimes, digitizing across timecode breaks, some of his favorite freeware add-ons, and more.

Some years ago, when I first started reading the various Final Cut Pro forums, I was an absolute FCP “noob.” I wasn't new to editing, I had been using an Avid for 7 years, 5 of them as an assistant and 3 as an editor. While I knew how to edit, I was new to Final Cut Pro. I had been playing with it for a while, thumbing through the manuals and exploring the program…an actor demo there, gag reel for TV series there, a couple short films, family home videos…

Like most of the people who post on the forums, I ran into problems. I didn't know many people who used FCP, so I posted a few questions online, got a few answers…but mainly read. Read a lot! I gleaned a lot of information from issues people were having, people asking for and getting editing tips. And I began to learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of Final Cut.

I didn't post much. Not at first. I was a noob, what did I know? I let the experts handle it….people like Jerry Hofmann and Tom Wolsky. I learned a lot from those two. But every now and then a question would come up that I knew the answer to, because I remembered reading the answer the day before, or on another forum.

So I'd chime in and post that answer. Then this started happening rather regularly…the same questions would crop up daily, or every other day, perhaps weekly. And day after day I’d post the same answer, typing out the whole long thing again and again and again…

This became somewhat exhausting. When a question was posted that I knew I had previously answered, I would search for that answer, copying and pasting it into my new response. But soon that became a task. Searching took time, and I don’t have much of that to spare. So, I devised a plan: I would copy the answers to regularly answered questions into one place. That place turned out to be the Stickies application, one stickie per answer, since this is where I stored snippits of information.

Thus Shane’s Stock Answers were born. I started out with 10…and now have 45. Some are timeless, others pertain to specific FCP versions and issues. Many people have asked if they were all located in one spot, so that they could find them when needed. I think it’s time I made them available for all to see…without too much searching.

Here we go with the first 15.

Shane's Stock Answer #1: Trying to add a Transition and get the error "Insufficient Content"

You need to make sure that your clips have enough media (called 'handles') at the beginning of the incoming clip and at the end of the outgoing clip for the transition. For example, if you have a 1 second (30 frame) dissolve, your in and out point need to be at least 15 frames from the edge of the clip.

FCP transition

What you are running into is that you are marking an out point at the end of a clip then adding a cross dissolve, say 20 frames in duration. Since the dissolve is centered on the cut, it will start 10 frames before the cut, and try to go 10 frames AFTER the cut...which it can't do.

What you need to do is plan how long your dissolve will be and back-time your cut so that it works.

A full 1 second crossfade reaches 15 frames into each clip. So, if you want to change a cut to a crossfade, there has to be at least 15 additional frames of each clip.

FCP handles

Say you're trying to crossfade from one clip into the very first frame of a second clip. FCP cannot 'create' 15 more frames of the second clip to do a crossfade. If they're not there, you're out of luck.

FCP has to extend the end of your first clip by 1/2 of your transition length, and the beginning of your second clip by 1/2 of your transition length, so those frames need to be in your system. The nature of a crossfade is mixing two clips together.

Shane's Stock Answer #2: Blurry playback


The Canvas shows you what happens after the codec you are working with has been applied. The Viewer shows you the material in its native format.

1. Disable overlays on the Canvas.

2. Make sure you've rendered everything (no green bars at the top of the timeline).

Video playback requires large amounts of data and many computations. In order to maintain frame rate and be viewable at a normal size, only about one-fourth of the DV data is used in displaying the movie to the screen. However, the DV footage is still at full quality, and is best viewed thru a TV or broadcast monitor routed thru your camera or deck.

Shane's Stock Answer #3: How to output lossless QuickTime movies

To export your project so there is no loss in quality, simply go to the File Menu and select EXPORT>QUICKTIME MOVIE.

Lossless QuickTime export

Not Quicktime Conversion, for this will compress the footage. Make sure the settings match your timeline settings, make it self contained, do NOT recompress the footage, and you are set.

Uncompressed QiuickTime

Shane's Stock Answer #4: What do I need to backup when the project is finished?

When you are done editing your project and have delivered the final master, all you really need to backup are your project file, any music, sound effects and graphics or pictures that were used in your project. To DVD typically, or CD if there isn't that much. The media...the captured material...needn't be backed up, it is impractical to do so. As long as you have the source tapes and the project file, all you need to do is recapture the material by batch capturing. Assuming you captured the tapes with timecode..

It is also wise to keep a copy of the final project as well. Either on tape or as a self contained QuickTime movie.

Shane's Stock Answer #5: Importing music from CD or iTunes

To get music into FCP, it needs to be an AIFF file at 48khz, 16 bit stereo.

So if you want a song from a CD, you go into the iTunes Preferences, click on ADVANCED and set this up under the IMPORTING tab

iTunes import into FCP

Sample Rate - 48.000 kHz
Sample size - 16 bit
Channels - Stereo

If you have an mp3 that you want to use, then you can convert it thru iTunes as well. As long as this is chosen as your import option, when you select a clip and click on the ADVANCED menu, CONVERT TO AIFF will be an option.

FCP iTunes mp3

If the piece of music you want to use is something you purchased thru iTunes, I'm afraid I can't help you there. There are copyright issues that prevent files from being converted into the format that FCP can recognize.

Shane's Stock Answer #6: Digitizing across timecode breaks

Your tape is full of timecode breaks? There are four ways of capturing the footage from this tape.

1) Press play and hit "capture now." When it gets to the break it will stop. Name the clip, go to the next one, do it again. Pre-naming the clip helps to ensure that you don't end up with a lot of UNTITLED files, that can be a pain when it comes to reconnecting or media managing your footage.

2) In your Capture window, set your device to "non-controllable device,' press play and hit 'capture now.'

FCP digitize across timecode breaks

While this means that FCP will capture the footage without referencing the tapes time code, without capturing ANY time code, the fact that you have lots of breaks and possibly time code starting at 00;00;00;00 several times on the tape makes the timecode pretty useless.

3) If you are dealing with TIME OF DAY code, then it would be wise to either do step #1, or LOG AND CAPTURE your footage. Making sure that you have 5 seconds of pre-roll before each clip.

4) You could dub the tape to another DV tape before digitizing. This will give you clean code start to finish and allow for re-digitizing at a later date if you need to.

Shane's Stock Answer #7: Importing DVD footage into FCP

To start, I will state that trying to capture any DVD you bought or rented, be it a Hollywood movie or excessive video, is illegal. I will not give you any tips on how to bypass copy protection. It is there for a reason.

To capture footage from a DVD, you have a couple options.

1) Route the DVD player to your DV camera or deck via the RCA cabling. Then you can put the footage you want onto DV tape and have the benefit of timecode in case the need to recapture comes up.

2) You can get a great application called DVDxDV. This opens up the DVD and allows you to convert the video to DV/NTSC footage. And it allows you to only convert what you want by allowing you to mark in and out points. The free version puts a big watermark across the center of your footage, but if you pay $25 for the standard version, that goes away.

Or you can use MPEG Streamclip. This is free. Not as reliable, but free.

Shane's Stock Answer #8: External Monitor Viewing

If you are working with DV, this is simple. First connect your computer to a camera or deck via firewire, Then connect the camera/deck to your TV/Monitor via RCA or S-Video.

Then start up your camera and TV, then open FCP.

Go to the View Menu, choose > External video > all frames

VIEW>Video playback should be Apple firewire NTSC (If you are using an NTSC set)

VIEW>Audio playback should be Audio follows Video

FCP external monitor

Technically, this should send synched video to your TV

If for some reason you can't view your timeline on your external monitor, there are a few things to try:

1) Make sure that the camera/deck is connected and powered on BEFORE you open FCP.

2) In the Final Cut Pro menu select AUDIO/VIDEO Preferences and make sure your signal is being sent out thru Firewire DV.


3) Go to the menu and select VIEW>EXTERNAL VIDEO>ALL FRAMES.

External monitor with FCP: view all frames

4) Click in the % box above the image and select FIT TO WINDOW.

5) Go to VIEW->refresh A/V devices

6) Make sure the Log & Capture window is closed

If you want it to play in both the canvas and the external monitor you need to go to the FINAL CUT PRO menu and select AUDIO/VIDIO settings and make sure MIRROR ON DESKTOP is selected under the PLAYBACK OUTPUT section.

If you need to view any format other than DV at full resolution, then you need to look into capture cards. Several standard definition and high definition models are available from AJA and Blackmagic Design. With these options you'll need a proper monitor to view full broadcast colors, but all models allow for realtime standard definition downconvert, allowing you to view HD on an SD monitor.

The Matrox MXO is another option that is output only, but allows you to view your footage on an Apple Cinema Display at full broadcast quality.



Shane's Stock Answer #9: How to capture non-DV formats, or formats that aren't capturable via FireWire

FCP's basic design is to capture and work with DV material - either miniDV or DVCAM. To do this, all you need is a DV camera or deck that have a firewire connection, a firewire cable, and your computer (and external firewire drive, 7200 RPM, 8Mbs min). FCP can also capture HDV, DVCPRO HD, XDCAM, RED and AVCHD via firewire, without the need of additional hardware.

There are more advanced ways to capture non-DV material such as VHS, S-VHS, Hi-8, Digital 8, DVD, BetaSP, Digibeta, and HD formats such as HDCAM, D5 and HDCAM SR. Most of these methods require special capture cards, such as the ones from AJA and Blackmagic Design.

Let's say you have a low end format (VHS, S-VHS, Hi8, and DVDs) that you want to capture into FCP and work with...but you need it done cheaply. To do this you need to do one of the following:

1) A digital-to-analogue converter. The Canopus ADVC-110 is the best of the cheaper models (also the ADVC-300). Other people have had success with the Formac. The Dazzle DV bridge is spotty at best.

2) Buy a cheap miniDV camera. They can be had for around $350. Make sure that the model you buy allows footage to be fed to it via the RCA cables and that it can record this footage. What you'll do is transfer your footage from your VHS (or what have you) to miniDV...then capture the footage from miniDV.

Many cameras also allow for the footage to be fed through it as well, meaning that you can capture into FCP without dubbing it to DV.

To do this, you need to make sure that you set DEVICE CONTROL to NON-CONTROLLABLE DEVICE...because it will not be controlling the camera.

DV capture

This means that you need to manually control the camera/deck...and that your footage will not have any reference time code. So if your footage is lost, then you'll have to capture and rebuild your edit from scratch.

Shane's Stock Answer #10: Capture now makes large file, cursor becomes a spinning beachball


1) Set a limit on Capture Now. Never have that box unchecked. If you want to capture a whole tape, set that as the limit.

Allocating disk space for FCP captures

2) Deactivate any anti-virus/filesaver software, including Norton and Virex. For some reason these programs think that the large files created when you capture media are in fact caused by some sort of virus, and they try to prevent this.

3) Do not capture to your main system drive. While this works for some, it doesn't for many and really is not the best way to capture and store your footage. Get a good external hard drive. Firewire or eSATA are good options.

4) Check the format of the drive you are capturing to. If you buy a hard drive that is pre-formatted, it is often formatted as FAT32, the only format which both Windows and Mac users can read and write to.

But for best results, it should always be formatted Mac OS Extended, journalling off. If it isn't, copy your files from it and re-initialize it. If it is any other format, you will encounter problems. If not at first, then eventually.

Shane's Stock Tip #11 - Getting an Avid Project converted to FCP

You will need access to the Avid system to make ALE files from the Bins. This will give you the clips only...NOT the media. Sorry. The media types are VERY different.

Then use the freeware Sebsky Tools to convert the ALE files to FCP Batch lists.

Then use Automatic Duck Pro Import ( to import the sequences (via EDL) to FCP. Automatic Duck isn't free, but will be more complete and have less errors than a regular EDL export/import.

Be aware that any Avid-only filters and transitions will not transfer. If a filter, then nothing will transfer, if a transition, a dissolve might be put in it’s place.

However, many typical effects, filters and timeline formatting transfer fine: nested sequences, audio levels and panning, picture-in-picture, dip to color transitions, freeze frame, speed changes including Time Warp, text from Marquee titles, and more. Check the website for details.

If you are only dealing with a rough assembly, then an EDL may suffice.



Shane's Stock Answer #12: Dropped frames on capture/playback

1) Do not capture to your main system drive. Since it is busy reading the operating system and application files, it will intermittently drop frames during capture. Capture to a separate internal drive, or external hard drive (firewire and eSATA for example).

2) Deactivate any anti-virus/filesaver software, including Norton and Virex. For some reason these programs think that the large files created when you capture media are in fact caused by some sort of virus, and they try to prevent this.

3) Check the format of the drive you are capturing to. It should be Mac OS Extended, journalling off. If it isn't, copy your files from it and re-initialize it. If it is any other format, you will encounter problems. If not at first, then eventually.

4) Trash the FCP preference files. Use the freeware FCP Rescue.

5) Make sure that the hard drives you are capturing to are fast enough to handle the footage being captured to it. A regular firewire 400 drive cannot capture uncompressed HD, or even uncompressed standard definition. A RAID array of drives might be in order for these formats.

Shane's Stock Answer #13: Redigitizing a sequence where the media has been deleted.

Say you have this sequence that you edited quite a while ago, so all the media for it has been removed from your drives.

Now you, or the client, want to go back and make changes here and there and you need to recapture the footage used in the sequence (and ONLY the footage used in the sequence) so that you can add or subtract or make whatever changes you need to make. But when you click on the sequence and hit Batch Capture, it is digitizing the full clips! Not what you wanted.

Here's what you do:

Open your old project.

Old FCP project

Create a new project. Copy the sequence to that new project.

New FCP Project

Click on that sequence and select Batch Capture. Make sure to have it capture the footage with some handles to give you room to open a cut up if needed. 2 seconds maybe.

Media Manager

It will now capture only the clips used in the cut.

Shane's Stock Answer #14: Codec not Found

If you get a CODEC NOT FOUND missing hardware error, check ALL your images in Photoshop and make sure there are in a RGB color space NOT CYMK, LAB, OR GREYSCALE.

Shane's Stock Answer #15: White or Black Canvas

If your canvas is suddenly all white or all black, make sure the canvas or viewer are selected then go to VIEW>CHANNELS and set it to RGB. It might be set to ALPHA.

alpha channel

Check back for parts 2 and 3 of Shane's Stock Answers soon!



Getting Organized in Final Cut Pro

If you found this page from a direct link, please visit our forums or read other articles at


Feedback for The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, part 1
by Uri Geva
The information is terrific and very useful with one proviso: It should include the FCP version on the basis of which each Stock Answer is based and dates of when the answers were written (or the whole page) would also be helpful to determine how current are they. At least give this info for each FAQ page.

Thanks for the great work.

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